Friday, January 6, 2012

Sister, Sister (1982)

Couldn't find a poster for this TV movie, so here's a title card.
Sister, Sister (1982)
seen online via YouTube

I've never been big on poetry, so I'm not too familiar with most of the writings of Maya Angelou. I've read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, of course. I own a copy; it's a marvelous book. I'm probably more familiar with her career in Hollywood. As an actress, she was in Roots, which everyone's seen. As a director, she made a film called Down in the Delta with Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes, and that was pretty good. And as a screenwriter, she's mostly written a bunch of teleplays, including the adaptation of Caged Bird and a film called Sister, Sister that aired on NBC in 1982, three years after it was filmed. Supposedly the network was worried about low ratings - 'cause, y'know, who's gonna watch a black drama?

Basically it's about three sisters with family issues: uptight Jesus freak Diahann Carroll (who also starred in Caged Bird), struggling single mother Rosalind Cash, and oppressed little sister Irene Cara. Angelou's teleplay is more than a little too literary in places - certain lines that may sound one way on the page sound different when they're actually said out loud - but it's good overall.

To us 70s-80s kids, we remember Carroll from Dynasty (yes, I watched the nighttime soaps - Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest - even though I was probably way too young to understand much of them), but of course, she had a long career in mostly television before that, most notably for the TV series Julia. She was even in the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special, if you can believe that. (She was also in Carmen Jones.)

For all the craziness of today's reality TV, the 70s and 80s were a pretty trashy period for TV as well. You'd think a little kid wouldn't have much interest in adult shows like the aforementioned nighttime soaps, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, etc., but I did, and I'm sure there were plenty of others like me who watched them also. Why? Partly because we were little TV sponges who would soak up anything and everything on the boob tube, but also, I suspect, to catch a glimpse of adult life, or at least a distorted representation of same.

Fortunately, Sister, Sister is much more down to earth than the antics of the Carringtons and Colbys. I don't remember seeing any ads for this movie on NBC or in TV Guide, though I'm sure I must've come across them, especially in TV Guide. That's unfortunate, because I think I would've got something out of this, even as a kid. Better late than never, I guess. (BTW, here's a blog about TV movies from the 70s and 80s, if you're interested.)

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