Thursday, June 16, 2005

And Then There's Maude

I’m watching Maude, episodes 203 & 204 (from 1973). In episode 203 we see a great comic scene where a drunk Maude and Arthur try to decorate grandson Philip’s birthday cake with whipped cream and throw a great big yellow candle in the middle to disguise their mistakes. Even though we can see it coming from a mile away as a very poorly mimicked Lucille Ball routine, they still do a great job. Drunks are always funny, and it’s always funny to mess up a kid’s birthday cake. Walter has three or four drinks at lunch every day and three or four at dinner, as well as a brandy after. They finally must alert him that he might be an alcoholic. That part of it is funny just as an anachronism. The end-of-show morality play is priceless.

In the next episode we see Maude and Florida (Esther Rolle) in the kitchen. Maude tells Florida that the soup “kicks her butt.” Florida feigns ignorance about the meaning of this statement, and Maude informs her that this is a compliment in Black English. Florida says, “Well, you must have been Black longer than I have.” So, Maude reaches over to get her Black slang dictionary and asks Florida what to say to impress her in her “Black Ghetto slang.” Florida says it would be, “you can take the rest of the day off.” Maude says her signature phrase, “God will get you for that.” The scene is really icky.

The race thing gets left aside other than the performance Rolle gives around changing the sheets in the confusion around whether the boyfriend will sleep in the daughter’s bed or in the guest room. Maude tells Florida to change the sheets in the guest room; Carol, the daughter tells Florida to prepare her own bedroom. Florida makes a big joke about the problems about to arise—and says she’s glad she’s about to leave on the bus. You have to hand it to the writers for entering the idea into the consciousness of America that the black woman has to go home on the bus while the white family relaxes at dinner (tension or not).

So of course this ridiculous tension does occur while Maude goes through her ridiculous denial about her ambivalent feelings over her 27 year-old daughter sleeping with a 30 year-old boyfriend. After the issue is ostensibly resolved, then Maude and Walter have their requisite heart-to-heart that lays out the issues. Says Walter: “these feelings that you have are just as honest and valid as they were 100 years ago.” Ugh. Then Maude: “I refuse to be upset about the two of you in this house. I mean lord only knows what happened in that camper….STRIKE THAT….C’mon Walter….let’s you and I stay in the camper.” Ultimately, Adrienne Barbeau chickens out too, saying that the thought of sleeping with her boyfriend in her own mother’s house makes her uncomfortable. They’re going to a hotel. Maude, incredulous, asks her to explain. In the resolution, Maude gives her best one-liner of the show: “Some people take laxatives, I take guilt.”

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