Love American Style: Season One, Volume One
Fans of cultural signifiers in old TV shows should have a field day with Love American Style: Season One, Volume One, which offers as many swingin' bachelor pads, wood-paneled family rooms, hi-fi sets, TV aerials, ceramic cooking pots, and groovy miniskirts as retro-freaks can stand. And not only that: The 12 hourlong episodes also sport circa-1969 jokes about infidelity, divorce, free love, and the pill, delivered by the likes of Rich Little, Regis Philbin, and a 20-year-old Harrison Ford. It's easy to spend many happy hours just enjoying the time-warp.
Which is good, because there isn't much else to recommend about Love American Style. Between the constant low murmur of the laugh track and the Laugh-In-esque blackout gags, Love American Style trots out pretty much every terrible trait of late-'60s TV. Designed as a hybrid of a sitcom and an anthology series, the show typically wedged three to four stories into an hour, with no recurring characters or overlap. (Like Love Boat without the boat.) Later in its four-year run, Love, American Style became known as a place for producers to repurpose failed sitcom pilots—most famously in the episode "Love And The Happy Days," which was later turned into a series—but in its first half-year, the show tried to reproduce the precise combination of sophisticated subject matter and Borscht Belt gags that made Neil Simon rich.
Still, even though most of Love American Style's segments feel padded-out, and even though the writers often strained for poignancy via blunt metaphors—like using skydiving to represent a wedding, or an antique bed as an example of what a divorcing couple shouldn't let go—every now and then, the series came up with something legitimately smart and funny. It's hard to top the dry humor of "Love And The Dating Computer," in which a newfangled dating service matches a lonely man with another lonely man (Broderick Crawford, no less), and they spend an evening comparing notes on the swinger scene while going through the awkward process of becoming friends. Those rare moments when an era-specific situation met layered writing make it all the harder to watch the more common episodes that have, for example, Arte Johnson trying to make his girlfriend jealous by buying a TV-friendly inflatable "love doll." A sex toy with no orifices—now that's a metaphor for Love American Style.
Key features: None.