Your House is HOW Big?

Pamela Chan,

I’ve been asking this question for longer than I can remember. Why do homes on US TV shows look so ridiculously large?  Why does this family’s lifestyle look so grand? Who lives like that? Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian. Maybe I just don’t get how affluent Americans are.  I’m always hearing that if you want the great job and big salary, you should head south. I realize that realestate can be much more affordable in many parts of the USA compared to British Columbia but it also seems that housing is just as expensive in urban centres near places like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Along comes a new show on TV and I’m still asking this question. I don’t have any issues with how the new ABC show `black-ish addresses race.  I champion the right of the individuals involved to unpack it as they see fit. My own household is firmly Eurasian (Chinese-Canadian dad and mum with European roots and many international influences). The depths to which we go to unpack race and identity topics would probably make some people’s head spin.

I do love the three featured stars.  Forget our new-found media obsession with Amal A-C, Tracee Ellis Ross is equally as fabulous and fun.  I loved Anthony Anderson in his previous show and Laurence Fishburne needs no introduction.

Shows like Modern Family and – it seems – `black-ish are all about introducing themes.  They don’t show how the family wake up, have breakfast and get on with their day.  For a solid introduction to what the producers and actors on the show endeavour to achieve, check out the Anderson/Ross interview with Wendy Williams. (See link below.)  I’m realistic about the agenda.  But I still have to ask the questions and provide the running commentary.

Woa. Look at that house.  Pretty swank.  Great size.  Wow – now that’s a kitchen!  It’s the size of a small Japanese flat. Those are pretty sweet decorations in the dining room.  Everything looks so… well dusted. So in place.  So neat and tidy.

So far there has been a reference to folding piles of laundry (or avoiding the task) on `black-ish. Why would this show be referred to as a story about an upper middle class family?  A household income of $100,000 is considered to be the upper reaches of the middle class income bracket.  If the parents work as an ad executive and ER surgeon, respectively, wouldn’t that blow their combined income well into the upper income bracket?

Who’s cleaning this house?  Maybe I missed that part.  Thinking back to the Brady Bunch, shouldn’t a housekeeper be front and center in this family’s life? How do you balance busy work schedules with cleaning and cooking and still look relatively relaxed and unfrazzled? Because that dinner the parents pulled out last minute for their guest on (presumably) a work night, looked pretty choice.  What about the younger children?  Are the parents driving them to school and events?  Do they have a flexible work schedule? Do they use before and after school day care?  Did they have extra help looking after the twins’ comings and goings? If you’re pursuing careers as a doctor/surgeon and ad executive going flat out in the advertising world, raising four children is going to require some juggling and outside help.

Is it demanding of me to expect some clarification of these details?  Why don’t popular TV shows address the issues that commonly affect family life?  On Modern Family, Gloria – had her second child at age 40.  There has been, pretty much, almost no story lines that dealt with the reality of being pregnant at 40 and having a baby at that age. (As a so-called “older” mom, I’m well primed on all the topics that can come up.)  Would Gloria’s glamorous image on the show be diminished by these conversations centered around age?

Just as celebrities’ faces are air brushed using photoshop, there’s a certain amount of glossing over that takes place when US families are presented on TV.  I’d like to see this type of show take a realistic approach to the daily reality of running a busy household in a high functioning, urban (suburban if you will) lifestyle.

How do you juggle childcare and your career?

How do you afford to live in your home, buy food, clothe your children, purchase programmes for your children and do everything that you do on your salaries?

How do you get everything done that needs to be done?

How do you stay on your upwardly mobile career track while having for children?

How do you navigate your relationships with service providers who do take over tasks such as housekeeping, childcare and other family logistics? (This is a big topic.)

What other questions would you insert here?

I can see some funny story lines coming out of these lines of inquiry.  Even within the scope of `black-ish, honestly addressing what life would really be like for this family on a day-to-day basis would add a heavy dose of authenticity that viewers would love.

Or maybe I’m just over thinking things.

Maybe I really am the only one sitting in my family room saying “your house is THAT big?”.

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`black-ish trailer (Anthony Anderson stars as a father who begins to worry maybe his family have assimilated a little too much into their suburban lifestyle.)