My little girl Vivian has a fever of 101.7, so naturally I did what any good mother would do under the circumstances: I poured some liquid Tylenol into her and parked her in front of the TV. What the hell else are you supposed to do, aside from bringing her juice and rubbing her head? There’s this idea that as a parent, there’s something you can do about everything. And you can’t.
So I settled in next to her on the couch and we began to watch this new Scooby Do-like series on the Cartoon Network about three teens who solve–you guessed it!–supernatural mysteries, albeit sans canine. The two guys and the girl were up in the bedroom, pretending to be doing homework but instead decoding the clues they’d discovered so far…something about a Spanish coat of arms and Ponce de Leon, the conquistador who supposedly searched for the Fountain of Youth, on which billions continue to be spent by the beauty industry to further the quest. The meddling kids are putting the pieces together, when in barges the dorky, clueless father reminding them to finish up their homework before dinner.
That dorky, clueless father, complete with a navy cardigan, middle aged paunch and fleshy, jowly face? Andrew McCarthy, formerly of Pretty in Pink fame. He looked like Fred freakin’ MacMurray on My Three Sons, only minus the cancer-causing tobacco pipe, and nowhere near as wise. Today’s TV teens are 30 times more clever and clued in than their dorky dads, and let’s just say Andrew McCarthy–rich boy with no lips and no backbone who was nonetheless somewhat appealing, although not nearly as appealing as Jon Cryer’s Duckie, who Molly Ringwald left licking his wounds–is no Fred MacMurray.
I turned to my 7-year-old, opened my mouth to include her in some of the subtleties of what I was experiencing in seeing the quintessential sullen prepster heartthrob of my youth playing a stock character I’m sure in his heyday he would have been horrified at the thought of himself portraying, and then of course thought better of it.
I do like how our relative roles have remained constant–I watched him then, when I was 18 and hotter than I am now and never imagined I wouldn’t be the same way forever, when he was hotter, and probably felt likewise. I’m sitting on a sofa doing something I don’t particularly want to be doing (taking care of a sick child) and so, I imagine, is he. “We’ve got rice and beans for dinner, but no hot sauce!” his dorky dad character announced to the teens, and they humored him with a transparent lie about studying for an exam that he might have delivered himself if there had been a Cartoon Network back then and he was in just such a show.
Isn’t the circle of life breathtaking?
UPDATE: Nadya, a Formerly Hot reader, pointed out that the guy on this show, which is called Natural History, is NOT in fact Andrew McCarthy but that Formerly Cool actor from the Hal Hartley movies, Martin Donovan. They don’t look dissimilar, especially now that they’re both Formerlies and have drifted into that mushy-faced dad-in-the-cardigan look, but I needed to correct the record. Thanks, Nadya.