Serial marriages: from ‘Little House on the Prairie’ to ‘State of Union’

Stars of ‘State of Union’.

It was difficult to find series that approached life as a couple with a realistic and wise look

Pink stick

My dear Spain, this Spain of mine, this Spain of ours, which Cecilia sang, gave birth to a radio program that ended up lasting more years than the singer lived. Between 1947 and 1984, the ‘Elena Francis Consultation’ was the cloth of tears for women who, in need of advice, consolation or relief, sent letters to the program recounting their sorrows. And the response to those women who suffered infidelity, abuse, mistreatment or everything together was always the same: they had to endure and suffer in silence.

That was part of the education? sentimental of a country stuck to the radio until it began to stick to television. Curiously, there was no room for marital tragedies in her anymore, only for the cloying, syrupy archetype of a happy and perfect marriage that solved problems, if any, with an extra sugar. From ‘Little House on the Prairie’ to ‘Family Matters’, everything was ideal. But, as according to Tolstoy, all happy families resemble each other, we soon get bored of these irreproachable couples and prefer to laugh at the open-grave fights of ‘The Ropers’.

Cast of ‘Hill Street Blues’. /

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‘Hill Street Sad Song’ had to arrive to show us a relationship between adults told in an adult way, that of Captain Furillo, divorced with problems, with the lawyer Joyce Davenport. Seeing an unmarried couple getting into a bathtub or ending the chapter in bed chatting about how their day had gone was not common in the 80s. Luckily, Steven Bochco was there, opening doors for new, rougher fictional models. and authentic. And things began to change.

Teenagers are ahead of us

But he did it slowly, that in this, as in fiddling with cell phones, teenagers have an advantage: converted into the most coveted audience for the chains, they went from being educated by reading ‘Super Pop’ (and the much more daring ‘New Vale’ , although now it seems to us the parish sheet next to ‘Elite’) to do it by watching countless series. Meanwhile, those of us who had already experienced the first love to stay with the second (or with the third, or with the fourth), did not find our reflection in fiction: if you did not have pimples, or were not a twenty-year-old who linked like a dog crazy or not you had an unresolved sexual tension with a co-worker, you could hardly scratch there. It was difficult to find series that approached life as a couple with a realistic and wise look. That they deal with how to make the path that goes from maturity to old age in company. Or about monotony, disappointment, tiredness, indifference, lethargy. Or about the end of one relationship and the beginning of another. Or about why you stop loving what you loved before.

Image from ‘Soulmates’ /

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Now, and as each family is unhappy in its own way (we return to Tolstoy and ‘Ana Karenina’), there is a series for each case. For those who wonder if there is someone out there waiting for them, or if they could find a better partner than the one they have, there is ‘Soulmates’ (Prime Video): located in the future just around the corner, a company manages to find your average orange with a simple genetic scan. The flirt is going to end because you do a fixed ‘match’. But what if your soulmate is a psychopath? Or is he dead? Or is he the same gender as you, who are straight lost? Or if you are married? An almost endless amount of possibilities opens up and is explored in six separate stories. Irregular, yes.

If your better half doesn’t work out and you’re in the midst of a marital crisis, it’s best to go to couples therapy, even if the sessions don’t even appear: ‘State of the Union’ (HBO Max) focuses on the conversation held by a marriage before entering the consultation; ten ten-minute episodes of acid talk over a pint and white wine. The series brings together everything that is good in this world: brevity, writing by Nick Hornby, direction by Stephen Frears, and performances by Chris O’Dowd and Rosamunde Pike. And a second season with the hulking Brendan Gleeson and Patricia Clarkson.

In the event that therapy doesn’t work, you can always call one of the Defoes, the family of divorce lawyers from ‘The Split’ (Filmin). Possibly more than one is needed: when Bergman narrated the decomposition of a couple in ‘Secrets of a Marriage’, he did so with such unbearable realism and cruelty that, after its broadcast on Swedish television in 1973, the breaks. And the version starring Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac (HBO Max) lives up to its predecessor.

It may be because of that, and because of what I like to eat, that I prefer ‘Julia’ (HBO Max), the series about Julia Child, the Elena Santonja of American television. At last, a happy marriage that does not cause hyperglycemia. That they support each other, that they respect each other, that they love each other, that they like each other, that they understand each other. Tolstoy is not right: not all happy couples are alike either.

Serial marriages: from ‘Little House on the Prairie’ to ‘State of Union’