Serial (1980)

Serial (1980)

“You-ness. Me-ness. Us-ness. We-ness.”

A Marin County husband (Martin Mull) and wife (Tuesday Weld) struggle to keep their marriage and family together in the midst of New Age temptations.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Christopher Lee Films
  • Counterculture
  • Marital Problems
  • Sally Kellerman Films
  • Satire
  • Tuesday Weld Films

I’ll admit to a fondness for this silly but frequently giggle-inducing satire about California’s post-hippie culture in the late 1970s (based on a novel by newspaper columnist Cyra McFadden), which mercilessly skewers some of the era’s more far-out fads and phenomenons — from teenagers joining Moonie cults, to psychobabbling pseudo-therapists, to “free love” in its many forms — all within the very particular socio-cultural milieu of upper-middle-class, primarily white Marin County. While the motley ensemble of characters (including Christopher Lee as a closeted gay weekend motorcyclist!) never emerge as more than simply iconic representations, they’re not really meant to: Martin Mull’s put-upon lawyer-husband-father is simply a representation of a “sane” reaction to the crazed-out world he finds himself and his family immersed in.

Not all the vignettes are equally humorous, but many are inspired — particularly those involving Sally Kellerman as a happily spaced-out mom whose son (Anthony Battaglia) is in continual psychotherapy with a coke-sniffing shyster therapist (Peter Bonerz); who asks her African-American maid (Ann Weldon) to shuck her uniform in order to look like an acquaintance rather than an employee; and who thinks nothing about engaging in casual serial marriage as a hobby. I wouldn’t call Serial a must-see comedy for all film fanatics, but it remains a personal wacky favorite.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Numerous humorous vignettes

Must See?
No, but it’s definitely recommended — and a personal “must see”.


One thought on “Serial (1980)

  1. Not a must.

    Saw this again recently (first time since its release) so it’s somewhat fresh enough to comment on. I say ‘somewhat’ cause it wasn’t making much of an impression this time. Did I find it funnier in 1980? Hard to say.

    The assessment does point up some of the film’s better bits. Martin Mull’s persona is enjoyable, and each segment of Sally Kellerman’s consistent delivery is fun to look forward to. (Tuesday Weld was seeming oddly uncomfortable to me.) But a fondness for the film probably would have to tie-in somehow with being from California or simply recalling some of the pretentious nonsense the film roasts.

    I remember reading the novel those many moons ago and laughing myself silly. I’m not sure if it’s in print or still packs a punch. But I do seem to recall the film being much less effective overall.

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