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Friday, December 30, 2011

TGIF: Silver Spoons

Have you ever heard of the expression ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouth’?

Quite the expression, isn’t it?

The expression is best used to describe somebody who was born into a life of privilege and wealth.  Someone who has not known a life of poverty or hardship.

But do you know how the phrase was coined?

If we take a look back at the time period in which the Korean Joseon Dynasty, silver spoons were used as a way to detect poison in various substances.  Because silver is a metal with high reactivity, if it makes contact with other elements, such as sulphur for example, the silver will tarnish.  This made it very easy for people to tell whether their food had been tampered with via poison.  As one of the most common poisons used during that time was arsenic sulphide, the silver spoons were necessary to prevent assassination attempts on the nobility of the dynasty.

Kind of a rather morbid way to look as that expression, but it does make sense, doesn’t it?

Of course, in a less morbid fashion, silver spoons are a symbol of high class, as many people who lived during the Middle Ages would have them as a sign that they were doing well in life.

So, now that you know a little bit about the use of silver spoons in the historical sense, I ask you this question...have you ever known anyone who acted or lived as if they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths?

I know in my life and times, I’ve known a couple of people who certainly seem to fit that description.  And while I’ll readily admit that the thought of poisoning their food never once came to me, I’m sorry to say that my experiences with these people weren’t exactly the most positive.

As someone who isn’t normally a braggart by nature, sometimes when I hear people blabbing on and on over how much they have, how they have the latest gadgets, wear the most expensive clothing items...well, it annoys me, to tell you the truth.

Believe me, it isn’t jealousy.  It isn’t jealousy at all.  I just don’t understand why telling people how much you have, and how you can afford anything that money can buy is all that important.  If it were, I suppose I should find it in my heart to worship the very ground that Kim Kardashian and her siblings walk on, I guess.

I suppose that I find it difficult to understand how the other half lives because I’ve never been on that other half.  They say that some people were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.  In my case, I think even a tin spoon is too valuable for my situation. 

Well, okay, maybe my financial situation isn’t that dire.

But you know something?  Rich or poor, we’re all human, and we all have our problems that link us together.

Even those of us who are snacking in a different bracket than everybody else.

And I can’t think of a better example of this to showcase than today’s TGIF blog post.

Have you ever heard of a program called Silver Spoons?  Don’t worry if you haven’t.  Sometimes the show is hard to find considering that it was first released almost thirty years ago.

The show’s history was not unlike other shows that aired during the wonderful decade known as the 1980s.  Debuting September 25, 1982 on NBC, Silver Spoons ran for four seasons on that network until May of 1986 when it was cancelled alongside Punky Brewster. 

But Silver Spoons and Punky Brewster managed to find new life in syndication, and in the case of Silver Spoons, it ran for one final season in syndication, ending for good in 1987.

The sitcom is probably best known for its young star, a young Ricky Schroeder.  Some of you who may not have been old enough to remember Silver Spoons might remember Ricky Schroeder from his other high-profile role on the ABC dramatic series NYPD Blue.  But back when Ricky was a pre-teen, he ended up getting lots of recognition (as well as thousands of fan letters from pre-teen girls of the program) from his role as Ricky Stratton.

The series was produced by Embassy Television and was created by Martin Cohen, Howard Leeds, and Ben Starr.  These three men also worked on other sitcoms of the 1980s, including ‘The Facts of Life’ and ‘Who’s The Boss?’. 

The sitcom’s premise is made immediately known right from the pilot episode.  In that episode, Ricky Stratton is about to meet his father for the very first time since he was born.  You would think that the father-son reunion would be incredibly touching, and that Ricky would naturally have a lot of questions for him.  Questions such as, ‘who are you?’ or ‘where have you been?’.

What Ricky finds out is that his father apparently lives a life of luxury.  Upon setting foot at the front steps of the mansion belonging to his father, Ricky is excited to meet him.  He wants nothing more than to finally reunite with him and get to know him better.

But what Ricky doesn’t count on is that his father is more or less a 10-year-old boy trapped in the body of a 40-year-old man.

I’ve managed to find the first part of the pilot episode of Silver Spoons, which probably best introduces the main characters of the show.  Get a load of the pop culture references inside this clip while you’re at it!

Go ahead and click HERE to watch the video.  Go on.  I’ll wait.

Have you finished watching it yet?  Great!  Let’s continue.

So, judging by the fact that we’re introduced to Edward Stratton III (Joel Higgins) through him riding on a toy train track, dancing along to the Pac-Man theme music each time he plays the game, and the fact that he seemingly has a traffic light on his wall like Mister Rogers did in his neighbourhood house, it’s clear that he is a man who doesn’t like the responsibilities that come from adulthood.

I mean, the guy basically ignored all warnings from financial institutions and lawyers and seemed genuinely shocked that his cash flow was pretty much non-existent.  No more Pac-Man for him.

And then there’s the whole idea of Ricky suddenly walking back into Edward’s life, which stuns Edward immensely.  He isn’t even aware of the fact that he even had a son.  But then, Edward doesn’t seem aware of a lot of things.

The fact that Edward seemed oblivious to the fact that he was broke was just one of the many adult responsibilities that he ignored.  Of course, this wasn’t the only one.  Did you see the woman who made an appearance in the clip I posted?  That woman was Kate Summers (Erin Gray), who was probably the most level-headed person in the whole show.  She worked as Edward’s personal assistant, and more often than not, ended up being the person who encouraged Edward to face up to his responsibilities.  She also seems to have a bit of a crush on her employee, but it doesn’t seem to go noticed for quite some time, much to her frustration.

At any rate, Edward seems to be reluctant at first to accept Ricky into his life as his son.  Having had shirked off his responsibilities onto other people his whole life, the last thing he wanted was to bring his son into his messed-up life.  But when Ricky tells Edward about how his mother remarried, and how she sent him off to military school, he seems to have a change of heart and decides to let Ricky stay for a bit.  But, it becomes painfully clear to Ricky that the more he gets to know Edward, the more he realizes just how not ready he is to grow up and face the truth.

You know, I think it’s time to post part two of this pilot episode right HERE.

Because in part two, we see some conflict resolution happening.

Let’s begin with the case of the missing money.  Turns out that Edward wasn’t quite as big the louse he was with the company books.  In fact, Edward seemed to want to do the responsible thing by donating money to charities.  It was just unfortunate that the ‘charities’ he donated to were completely fraudulent.  One of Edward’s associates was stealing every penny, dime, and dollar away from Edward until he had nothing left.  And he would’ve gotten away with it too...

...if it wasn’t for Edward’s newly-found meddling kid of his.

After overhearing the business associate’s nasty plans, a clever Ricky manages to pull one over on him, and outs his criminal activity to Edward once and for all (although Edward’s obliviousness to it all was incredibly frustrating to watch).  At any rate, the business associate presumably gets his pink slip, and a grateful Edward wastes no time in thanking Ricky for everything he did.  Ricky seemed quite pleased with it too, for he thought that by saving his father’s fortune, it would help him see that he could be an asset, and that Edward would change his mind about letting him stay.

But, unfortunately, he asks Kate to drive Ricky back to the military school where he came from.  When a shocked and saddened Kate asks why, he blames himself for being a terrible son and a rotten husband to Ricky’s mother (it is later revealed that the two of them got married and lasted a week before pulling off a Britney Spears like annulment).  He feels as though if he lets Ricky stay, he’ll only end up hurting him more than he already had.

The thing is, he didn’t realize that he was also hurting himself by letting Ricky go again.

Which is why the last scene, where Edward disguises himself as a monster in hopes of scaring everyone else away to bring Ricky back to his home, was quite touching.  It was true what Edward said, you know.  Edward could sense that Ricky was miserable at the military school, and that all he wanted to be was just a regular, happy child.  Certainly with his child-like manner, and his having every possible toy ever made up to 1982, Edward could provide that for Ricky.

But having Ricky with him would also help Edward learn a few things about himself.  While it was true that Edward may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and had everything handed to him, he didn’t have to continue living that way.  With Ricky in his life, Edward knew pretty quickly that he would have to get his act together.  After all, he was a parent now, and he had to assume the responsibility of acting as one, no matter what.  But having the proper and mature Ricky as a son also contributed to Edward finding that mature side of his personality and developing it further.

By the end of the series, both Edward and Ricky ended up becoming well-rounded men.  Edward grew a little more serious, while Ricky discovered his playful side.

And they also discovered something else.  That they had a father and son relationship that most would be honoured to have.

So, if you’re looking for a comedy that has heart, humour, and all the 1980s references you can think of, I recommend Silver Spoons.  And, it’s a show that people of all economic backgrounds can enjoy!

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