by Johnny Web (aka Uncle Scoopy, aka Greg Wroblewski)

Serial is a light-hearted look at all of the crazy "consciousness expansion" fads of the late 70s. That era was the first time in which psychiatric care became not only therapeutic, but fashionable as well. Those who bragged about their therapy seemed perfectly sensible compared to those who trod the more outre paths to enlightenment: Asian mysticism, cult religions, self-help books, primal therapy, communes, EST ... you name it. It was a time when the leftover 60s hippies were trying to find a way to assimilate into mainstream society without renouncing the counter-cultural spiritual values they had come to treasure. When they entered the consumerist world they found themselves side-by-side with people with very different value systems, some of whom had hypocritically co-opted the symbols and slogans of 60s idealism to suit their own personal aims, others of whom were old-fashioned folks simply having a good laugh at what they perceived to be a rash of New Age bullshit. The film portrays that uneasy amalgam of disparate value systems as it was reflected in a group of suburbanites in Marin County.

I went to see this film when it came out in 1980. My first wife and I were still together and we were on vacation in Toronto, where we watched this flick in an exotic urban multiplex consisting of a couple of large rooms for the blockbusters as well as several tiny theaters connected by various winding and intersecting corridors and staircases - an anfractuous maze which one had to navigate by following handwritten signs containing hastily-scribbled arrows. Katie and I had been inside a few multiplexes before that, but never one in a city center ("centre," actually!), and we found the experience totally enchanting, a perfect display of everything we loved about Canada: a certain understated elegance partially undermined by quaint, low-tech eccentricity. You may think, "Why go to a movie when you're on vacation?" Well, we had read quite a bit about this film and liked many of the cast members, especially Martin Mull, so we were really looking forward to it, and were quite pleased that it was playing within walking distance of our hotel and our main entertainment for the evening, which consisted of a Second City show at The Old Firehall and an excellent late dinner at Three Small Rooms.

And let's be honest. After years of watching Dobie Gillis as a kid, I couldn't wait to see Tuesday Weld nekkid.
I guess I remember all of these details because it may have been our last really good night together.

Oops. I'm rambling.

I guess I was leading up to the point that we were disappointed in Serial, despite our good mood in general and our predisposition to enjoy this film in particular. And yet now, watching it today, I really enjoyed the film. Is that because it brought back those pleasant memories which I just shared with you? Well, maybe, but I think there's a better explanation, or at least an additional one.

Serial is a film which derives its humor from a slight exaggeration of the characters and fads of the post-60s hippie diaspora. The word "slight" is, I believe, the key to why the film seems better to me now. Because it was only slightly exaggerated, Serial seemed in 1980 to be too close to reality to be effective satire, but too silly and too fond of its characters to be effective social criticism. I felt at the time that the film gave only a gentle loving ribbing to many things that deserved a contemptuous sneer. As time goes by, however, I tend to forget all the subtleties and nuances of the past and just remember the big picture. Memory tends to encapsulate an era by using mnemonic devices - handy symbols that make one particular time stand out from every other time in the past. When the memories fade, the extreme emotions "in the moment" always seem to be tempered. Looking back on Serial now, I seem to share its point of view about that era: that it was all kinda silly, but many of the worst parts of it can be remembered not with contempt, but with a fond nostalgic smile, the kind of sheepish grin that says, "I can't believe we used to be that way."

Oh, I still found the film's jokes tepid and obvious, yet this time it gave me a great deal of pleasure.


Unfortunately, I can't say the same about Tuesday Weld's topless scene, which is still as disappointing as ever.

On the other hand, Sally Kellerman's scene is both sexy and funny. Sally has made a great career out of one character - the pretentious ass who's also kinda hot. She has pretty much spent her entire adult life playing Hot Lips Houlihan.

by Tuna

Kate: "Carol, gay or straight, you still have that certain something ... you're a cunt."

Carol (sadly): "Still?"

Kate: "Work on it."

I first became aware of Serial in book form. I stopped at a book store during lunch and found it on the bargain table. I spent the rest of the day reading it from cover to cover, ignoring work, absorbed in a brilliant send-up of life in the late 70s in Marin County, California.

The film is true to the book, so one cannot truly appreciate its satirical insights without knowing something about Marin, which is directly across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and is where all of the hippies migrated when Berkeley and The Haight declined. The real die-hard freaks moved into remote communities and/or communes, but the bulk of the so-called counter-culture assimilated into straight middle-class lives and became co-opted into the capitalist system. The men donned suits and ties and bought BMWs, the women joined consciousness-raising groups, and the kids were raised permissively and sent to trendy pop shrinks.

As Roger Ebert notes: "The dialogue is jammed with code words, catch phrases and fashionable pseudo-psychological jargon: everybody in the movie seems to have learned the language out of the back issues of Mother Earth News and Psychology Today."

There is still a good deal of this culture in Marin County today.

As the film begins, Tuesday Weld, Martin Mull, and their daughter are installed firmly in the culture of fern bars, Beamers and "I'm ok, you're ok," but Martin is sick of relationship talks and would like to get laid a little more often, while Tuesday feels they don't really communicate. Their teenaged daughter is chafing at parental restraint, and Tuesday is usually on her side. Their world includes Tommy Smothers as a new age minister, Peter Bonerz as a POP psychologist, Sally Kellerman as a free spirit into serial bigamy, and a host of others.

Then their lives start to collapse. Their daughter runs away to join a San Francisco religious cult; Martin has an affair with his secretary (at an orgy); and Tuesday has an affair with her dog groomer, then moves out.

"Kate left me."

"'Right on' your ass. This is serious. She even took the Cuisinart."

It is one of my favorite films from the 80s, and it's finally available on DVD.


* widescreen anamorphic








1.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)


6.6 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It grossed ten million dollars.



  • Tuesday Weld - one breast.

  • Patch Mackenzie and Sally Kellerman - breasts

  • Extras: breasts and buns in the orgy group.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a: