If you thought that Fox’s laid-back, “realistic” cartoon sitcom King of the Hill was an innovation, you haven’t seen one of its unacknowledged predecessors, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. Produced by el cheapo cartoon kings Hanna-Barbera, it was an unusually pointed prime-time series that originated as a segment on the variety series Love, American Style; like the live-action sitcom All in the Family, which appeared the year before Father’s 1972 debut, it mined the clash between the conservative World War II generation and the more liberal boomers for droll comedy.
Tom Bosley, Pop Cunningham on Happy Days, was the voice of family patriarch Harry Boyle; Joan Gerber was his loyal wife, Irma. Kristina Holland, the secretary on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, played the Boyles’ overweight, feminist teenage daughter, Alice, who bickered but also colluded with her younger brother James (played first by Willie Aames and then by future Little Children Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley). And there was older son Chet (David Hayward), who got drafted into Vietnam service and had to say some surprising (for a cartoon) good-byes until he was inevitably rescued by a deferment.
Although there were obvious limits on what a broadcast network could depict (there was no drug use or sex, except by implication), it’s surprising how frank Father could be, from its arguments over race, class and gender at the dinner table to the bigoted braying of jackass neighbor Ralph Kane (Jack Burns). It was neutered, like so much ’70s television, yet it still managed to be real. — Matt Zoller Seitz