Category Archives: family responsibility

“7th Heaven” on TheWB provided an evolving picture of family values, over a decade


The WB series “7th Heaven” (or “Seventh Heaven”) did grab my attention for a few years, about the time I returned to Arlington from Minnesota, particularly from about 2003 until it ended in 2007.  It had started in 1996 and was one of the longest running evening series in history (usually running on Mondays, almost as if to fit the LDS idea of a “family home evening”).  At the same time I often watched “Everwood” on Mondays and “Smallville” on Wednesdays.

The story (created by Brenda Hampton) concerns a protestant (mainstream, not LDS) minister Eric Camden (Stephen Collins), his wife Annie (Catherine Hicks) and seven children, all of whom except Lucy (Beverly Mitchell) is named after a Biblical character.  Some commentators find evidence that his denomination is Disciples of Christ.

One of the sons, Matt Camden, played by Barry Watson, is a medical resident.  There is a scene in a hospital operating room where Matt doesn’t know how to turn off his cell phone, and the lead surgeon smashes it.  The actor playing him developed Hodgkin’s Disease around 2002, but wend into remission.  This particular lymphoma got a lot of media attention in the late 1970s around NYC, in the years before AIDS and HIV became known, and it may very well be related to a virus (of the herpes family) itself.

Another prominent role was the teenage son Simon, played by David Gallagher, who grew up in the role.

Toward the end of the series, the Camden’s took on looking after a neighbor’s teenager, Martin Brewer, whose father is challenged by combat in Iraq.  Brewer is played quite charismatically by Tyler Hoechlin. Brewer aspires to become a major league baseball player, perhaps an appropriate character to remember at this time of year.  Some episodes relate to his emotional breakdown over his relationship with his father, which affects his play in the field.

Although the political stance of the show is rather moderate, there are a few moments of outright social conservatism, such as when Eric says “Sex is only for married people.”  Think of the implications of that statement (uttered well before gay marriage had made the progress in the U,S. that it has recently).

(Published Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at 5 PM EDT)



The unfinished documentary “American Lynching” by Gode Davis; also, controversial films on abortion

lynch4On New Year’s Day, January 1, 2003, a Wednesday, while I was staying with my mother in Arlington over the holidays (I was still living in the Churchill in Minneapolis) I drove my rented car to West Warwick, RI (very near Providence) to visit filmmaker Gode Davis, who is since deceased.  It was a mild day, with rain and fog but no snow on the way up (but wind-driven flurries all the next day as I came back).

We met first for dinner in a Friday’s restaurant, and he said immediately, he could tell from my artificial body language that I, like him, have at least mild Asperger’s syndrome.  We had spoken on the phone numerous times.  He had said he had been an Army officer, had been married and was also bisexual and was very concerned about “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

Then we retreated to his modest Cape Cod home on St. George St., and watched all the footage of his documentary “American Lynching”.  I think about 40 minutes of interviews and various narratives had been assembled.  I actually spent the night before driving back.


In June 2005, he came to Washington to tape some interviews at the Capitol about a Senate resolution to apologize for the government’s not doing more about the past wrongs associated with lynchings since the Civil War.  Senator George Allen (VA), Mary Landrieu (LA) and victim James Cameron were interviewed.  Gode took a lot of footage, and I took my own footage of some of the same material.


My own footage:





To play these in Windows, click once, and then click when the box appears on your screen,  These were taken with an older Sony Camcorder.

Gode had called to ask if he could stay at my home, but at the time my mother was in charge (as I was looking after her) and I could not return the favor.  That is an idea that I ought to be able to address now.

In fact, there are several sites in Alexandria, VA where lynchings occurred in the late 19th Century, such as this




and this.


The estate has a website “” which right now Google warns as possibly being hacked. It comes up cleanly in Firefox with Webroot Secure Anywhere in a Windows 8 environment, so I am having Webroot check on the reason for Google’s warning (link)  Note: Webroot’s initial reply is that it did not find anything wrong with the site.

Gode’s one YouTube video, from 2006, about ten minutes, also appears on my Blogger Movie Reviews blog, Dec. 24, 2013, but I’ll re-present it here for convenience.

The logical next step is to contact the estate and see what is being done with the materials and if some sort of effort can be assembled to fund and finish the rest of the project.

In February 2003 there was a fire at the Station Disco in West Warwick, RI.  David did become involved in a city’s investigation of the disaster.

There’s another controversial film around, “South Dakota” (no relation to “Nebraska”) by Bruce Isaacson, a long drama about two young women dealing with abortion. The production company is Lionheart, and it is very difficult to find out any information in when it will show up. I would wonder if the controversy of the film’s subject matter is provoking concerns.   I have reviewed both “Lake of Fire” and “After Tiller” on my Movies blog (look for the “Right to Life” label).

Update: March 9, 2015

A disturbing incident with a University of Oklahoma fraternity, now closed down with students likely to be expelled, shows the problem is still with us, CNN story here.   The expulsion letter published by ABC on Facebook is quite graphic, here.

 Update: March 15, 2015

I have had some occasional discussions with the estate about my past contact with Gode.  I can’t report details now, but I believe that there will be more news in the reasonably near future.

Update: April 2, 2015

There are reports of a noose incident on the Duke University campus in North Carolina, story on Jezebel here.


Update: August 15, 2015

I recently visited the executor of Gode’s estate in Rhode Island.  More details will be available in the reasonably near future, I hope.  It is apparent that the focus of Gode’s work was “extra legal violence” that has neighborhood or peer social approval, and isn’t limited just to race.


“Summerland”: brief WB series explored “involuntary family responsibility”; so do many indie films


The Spelling Television series “Summerland” ran for just two seasons (2004-2005) but it made an interesting point about unelected family responsibility.

Lori Loughlin (who, with Stephen Tolkin, created the series) plays Ava Gregory, a struggling fashion designer living nicely but frugally somewhere around Malibu Beach, in a village called “Summerland”, with a best friend, Susannah Rexford (Merrin Dungey).  When her sister and husband are killed in a car accident, she suddenly gets custody of the sister’s three children: teenage Bradin (Jesse McCartney), Nikki (Kaya Panabaker) and Derrick (Nick Benson).

The Pilot sets up the series well, laying out the issues.  In California, Ava balks at her boss, who doesn’t like her design concepts and wants her to travel to Japan, and wants to go solo.  Her boss reminds her that he owns the rights to all her work.  On the beach, she plans with Sue to go to Paris and cold-call to start her business.  In Kansas, Bradin is to look after his younger siblings as his parents go out to volunteer to throw sandbags to stop a river flood.  Fifteen minutes into the episode, Bradin calls Ava, crying, that he has lost his parents to a car wreck/

Lori and her friends, who include some in-and-out males (one of them played by Shawn Christian) are hardly prepared to raise OPC (other people’s children).  But Brandin, while sometimes flirting with trouble, becomes an impassioned surfer, doning wetsuits.

In the second season Ava falls in love with a middle school principal (a male around 40) and the wedding ceremony fails as it starts.

The second season also introduced Zac Efron as the very likeable teen Cameron Bale.

The series had some lilting music, and tended to replace “Everwood” in the same timeslot on the WB in the summer.  It’s interesting that the genesis of the plot concept is similar.

The idea that people wind up raising relatives’ children has been presented in film a few times, such as with “Raising Helen”, “Breakfast with Scot”, “Saving Sarah Cain”, “Gracie’s Choice”,  “The Conrad Boys“, “In from the Night” (where the parent is a writer), “Abel’s Field”, “Any Day Now”., and Jeff London’s little known “Regarding Billy“.  A few films on this issue have aired on Lifetime or Hallmark, and their sources range from Christian groups to LGBT.  The idea comes up in the soap “Days of our Lives”, which will be discussed here later.