Friday, March 31, 2006

Summerland


"Summerland" was run on TheWB (now CWTV), weekly (usually Mondays) two series, in 2004 and 2005. It was created by Lori Loughlin and Stephen Tolkin. Spelling Television (from Aaron Spelling) was a major production company; it also produced "Seventh Heaven" and "Charmed."

This miniseries went two seasons and creates an interesting premise: A single professional woman Ava Gregory (Lori Loughlin), with a rewarding design career, takes on raising her sister’s three kids when the sister is killed in a tragic car accident. Family responsibility is not always voluntary. The kids move in with her in her house on the California coast, somewhere near Malibu. The oldest kid is Bradin Westerly (Jesse McCartney) takes up surfing and seems to have world-class competitive ability. Bradin’s growing up (and dealing with girls) becomes a major plot generator, as well as his communication with his aunt, who has her own boy friends. McCartney has since become a pop singer. Ava at one point falls in love with a middle school principal, who walks away from the wedding. Zac Efron plays super nice kid Cameron Bale, just moving into high school, but his episodes seem to have little with the plot. (Efron would later go on to do the "High School Musical" movies, as well as "Hairspray").

The shows started with a theme song that had a nice lilt, and showed a merged family on the sunny California beach, somewhere around Malibu or perhaps Santa Barbara and Goleta, coming together with a degree of psychological cohesion.

The idea of "involuntary family responsibility," where one winds up raising a sibling's kids while still unmarried, has been tried in the movies, as with "Raising Helen" or "Saving Sarah Cain".

I wonder how a movie or television series like this would go if the adoptive parent and adult sibling were gay. The character could be in a committed relationship (and bring up the gay marriage debate), or be single and bring up the gay adoption or singles adoption debate. "Family responsibility" can be something that pre-exists sexuality, a turnaround from the usual way of thinking about these things.

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