There was a time, decades ago, when television was considered a weekly or nightly family event. Though the argument can still be made that today’s programs have the same impact, I mean, look at Game of Thrones, the idea of a shared collective experience with others when it comes to consuming television shows has fragmented. With Viewer Direction Advised, director Ben Kaplan follows his father Marshall, who still revels in his love for the programs he watched growing up, such as The Brady Bunch, The Golden Girls, and Fantasy Island, like a nostalgic cocoon that looms embarrassingly over his family.
What starts out as a portrait of his father’s eccentricities, from looking at hundreds of hand drawn caricatures to attending a Brady Bunch convention in New Jersey, turns into a story about how the cultural shift of viewing pop culture creates a disconnect of clashing personalities between a father and son. The documentary cuts between Ben and Marshall in Los Angeles, with Marshall taking Ben on a sightseeing tour of famous places from (his) television history, and interviews with directors and creatives behind Seinfeld, The Bob Newhart Show, and even All In The Family’s Norman Lear, to comment on their work, technology, and how the television of yesteryear compared to today’s have had differing impacts on their respective generation’s culture.
Kaplan’s documentary is something that I personally relate to on a familial level. Similar to Marshall, there are conversations that I’ve had with an uncle, who feels like his identity revolves around television, where he tells me useless trivia facts or quotes television programs that he grew up on, and like Ben, I do get frustrated by how much I don’t care about it. Regardless, if you like dysfunctional pairings and reminiscing about television, this is a fun time.
- Release Date: 5/5/2019