Jonathan McBurnie takes us through some of the more questionable parts of his already-dubious pop culture diet.
The following is a true story.
It was 2001, and, as ever, the world was changing. It was my first year of art school, my first year living away from home. I was a naïve 17 year old with a head full of awkward thoughts. While I was quickly discovering a variety of wonderful zythological and philosophical opportunities of the pub, the ritual Saturday night experiment in human misery and abject failure of the species known as the ‘club scene’ did not appeal to me one iota. So, while after-class beers were pretty tops with my art school cohorts, the club experience was not for me (nor will it ever be). So, Saturday nights in a new city where I knew about five people outside uni were pretty quiet.
Fortunately for me, I discovered a show on Channel Ten that was so hilarious, so acidically satirical, so scathingly vindictive of the American Christian right, that my Saturday nights became not only a joy, but eagerly anticipated. The show in question would go places no other shows would go, making me giggle hysterically in the process. The show was about a ‘hip’ church minister, his ‘charming’ wife and their family of little shithead kids. The acting was brutally patronizing of American Christians, their problems were so laughably middle class, and the production values landed it somewhere visually between the Bold and the Beautiful and Little House on the Prairie. It was political dynamite, and tore the decaying, corrupt shroud of Bush’s patriotic, surveillance-state USA in a time the world needed to see it, and it made me laugh like a madman every Saturday night.
The show was called 7th Heaven.
Now, yes, I know now that I may have misinterpreted the intentions of the series a little. Well, a lot. It wasn’t until a few years later that I figured it out. I was talking TV with a couple of friends, and it happened to be a Saturday night. Somebody was flicking around the TV set while I was bitching about how crap commercial TV was, and I was going on and on about HBO’s OZ, to date one of my favorite shows ever, which was about up to its fourth season at the time. Whoever had the remote flicked past Channel Ten, and from the corner of my eye, I saw Daddy Camden, rabbiting on about safe sex or drugs or what have you, and I said with an affectionate smile ‘oh, 7th Heaven. I love that show!’ Now, I am used to my friends being puzzled by my cultural tastes, but they looked at me with absolute bewilderment. ‘What? It’s hysterical… I don’t care if it’s a bit off-colour sometimes, it’s a crackup,’ I said, defending the credibility of what I thought was my favorite comedy. I think it took them a while to realize that I wasn’t joking. One of them said, devastating in its coldness, ‘Jonathan… 7th Heaven is a Christian show. A sincere Christian show’. Balking, dubious, I flipped the channel back to Channel Ten, and slowly watched my future Saturday nights crumble into a pile of ash and sorrow.
Every now and then, I come across 7th Heaven, and it reminds me of those bygone Saturdays, getting drunk and laughing my arse off at what was (never actually) the greatest satire the world had ever seen.
7th Heaven is still on (!!!) at 10am and 2am every weekday, just in case you’re into that kind of thing…