Take heart, all you unhappily married couples out there. Even the happiest marriages on earth–those on TV–sometimes result in the perceived need for marriage counseling. In most cases, of course, these marriages are far away from any actual need for such therapy, but, hey, why mess with a tried-and-true plot device that has worked so well in the past? If you think you are in need of marriage counseling, check out these TV episodes first. You just may learn–like many of them–that counseling was just oh so much modern snake oil.
Monstrous in appearance, the marriage problems experienced by Herman Munster and his wife Lily were so tame as to verge into “Leave it to Beaver” territory. One night Herman stays a little too long at an office party, much to Lily’s consternation. Okay, maybe more than a little. Herman Munster doesn’t make it home until after midnight. For many married couple, as long as one of the other makes it back home within 24 hours of leaving the house would not be enough for marriage counseling. The heated argument turns into a Cold War and both husband and wife are advised to visit a counselor. Two different counselors giving the same bit of advice: be the one who apologizes so you can be viewed as the Bigger Half. Well, when both try to be first to apologize, all that counseling backfires so it is up to the non-professional marriage counseling of Grandpa to save the day by painting sickly dots on little Eddie Munster. The two come back together as one when they share concern about their son’s health.
King of the Hill
If ever there was a couple on a TV show that should seek counseling it is Dale Gribble and his wife Nancy Hicks-Gribble. After all, Dale is unknowingly raising as his own son the offspring of an affair between Nancy and John Redcorn that had been going on more than a decade. The counseling they undergo might be more intense if Dale went into knowing about his son. At any rate, Dale Gribble recommends his marriage counselor to Hank Hill who suggests it only because he thinks the therapy is going to take his side. The very idea of Hank and Peggy Hill needing counseling is absurd as they are the only two people in the world who could possibly put up with the other. The marriage counseling advice in this case is enough to set your teeth on edge against the whole industry: take what savings you have putting away for a retirement journey through America on motorcycles and buy the one motorcycle right now. Things don’t go well.
The Bob Newhart Show
You would think that the last couple on earth to need to see a marriage counselor is a psychologist and his wife. But boredom is boredom, no matter how you slice it. And if Bob Hartley isn’t smart enough to pick up on his wife Emily’s feeling of malaise taking over the marriage, then he must face the music and visit someone he considers less of a professional than himself. The fact that the marriage counselor is a woman does not sit well with Bob.
On TV, marriage counseling is like a virus. Or a fungus. Or a Reality Show idea. In other words, it spreads like fire. The interracial couple who replace the Bunkers as the neighbors of “The Jeffersons” when they move on up to the next strata of social mobility in American are seeing a marriage counselor and experiencing wonderful results Or so they tell Louise. But when Weezie suggests to George that perhaps their own marriage could benefit from seeing this magical counselor, she is met with resistance. If it ain’t broke, trying to fix it could be what makes it all fall apart. George doesn’t say those exact words, but that’s his perspective on the issue. And, one must admit, he’s got a point. If the marriage is not on its last remaining wobbly wheel, there seems to be a good chance, if you go by TV, that seeing a marriage counselor just may result in the first lugnut flying off into the air.
What’s the deal with marriage counselors who are themselves trapped in bad marriages? Susan DeRuzza is not only a successful marriage counselor to others, but a successful writer on the subject as well. What she is not is a successful marriage veteran. Yes, her husband cheated on her and yes she leaves him. Then she sets herself up in a new office next to a divorce attorney who thinks he’s hit the jackpot because of the steady stream of bad marriages pouring into the office of the marriage counselor next door. Which, when you think about it, is not entirely a bad idea if you are a divorce lawyer.