Western Animation: Wait Till Your Father Gets Home

Hanna-Barbera produced this 1972-1974 animated prime time series. Harry Boyle (voiced by a pre-Happy Days Tom Bosley) is a conservative businessman whose elder son, Chet, is a hippie who dropped out of college. His high-school aged daughter, Alice, is a sexually liberated feminist. Only his younger son, Jamie, shows any signs of sharing Harry's values, and his wife, Irma, stays out of the conflict (though she has dreams of finding her own identity and being more than just a wife and mother). Meanwhile, his neighbor Ralph (comedian Jack Burns) masterminds an anticommunist organization so far to the right that they make the John Birchers (and more importantly, Harry) look pinko. Convinced of the imminent arrival of the godless Red hordes, Ralph and his followers have turned one end of the block into an armed camp. Poor Harry finds himself forced to navigate his life safely between all the extremes that surround him.

A deft, almost cynical, social commentary disguised as an animated Dom Com, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home had fun skewering targets from all over the social and political spectrum. On a deeper level it satirized the polarization of American society, as viewed through the bewildered eyes of Everyman Harry.

For two years this was Hanna-Barbera's second most popular primetime animated show, and as a result a number of celebrity guest stars appeared in the second season, including perennial favorites such as Jonathan Winters, Don Knotts, Don Adams and Phyllis Diller. Though it didn't last as long as The Flintstones, it was the inspiration for FOX's dysfunctional family animated sitcoms that became popular in the 1990s and the 2000s (The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and all of Seth MacFarlane's dysfunctional family shows, with King of the Hill being the most like it in tone and characterization. The Simpsons uses the show's penchant for guest star appearances and creating stories based on social issues of the day while Seth MacFarlane pretty much redesigned and exaggerated Harry, Irma, Chet, Alice, Jamie, and Julius the dog as Peter, Lois, Chris, Meg, Stewie, and Brian for Family Guy; Stan, Francine, Steve, Hayley, Roger, and Klaus for American Dad!; and Cleveland, Donna, Cleveland Jr., Rallo, and Robertanote  for The Cleveland Show).

Like Happy Days, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home started life as an episode of the anthology Love American Style. The first season is available on DVD.

This show provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: Old Sara Whittaker who provided most of the ensuing hijinks in the series barely appeared in the second season episodes wherein the first season, she's in almost every episode and was just as important a character as Ralph who she's mostly alongside due to their shared views. In the third season and of the only four episodes, she disappeared completely.
  • The Alleged Car: Harry buys a new car from an Honest John's Dealership in one episode, but it doesn't start after being delivered to his house (from a defective fuel pump, distributor and ignition wires), the tires burst on the tow back to the dealer, and the dealer has horrible service, taking days to make minor repairs.
  • Aside Comment: Very often with Harry.
  • Big Eater: Alice.
  • Bland-Name Product: While never actually mentioned by name, Harry's car looks an awful lot like a Chevrolet Corvair sedan, and the car he buys from a crooked dealership looks just like an Oldsmobile Cutlass coupe.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The dog, Julius, does it on a regular basis. Harry does it on occasion as well, although it could be explained that he's just Thinking Out Loud to make sense of this week's problem.
  • Catch Phrase: Alice's "male chauvinism" speeches and any variation thereof.
  • Crippling Over Specialisation: One of the machanics at the Honest John's Dealership where Harry buys his new car only works with windshield wipers.
  • Cross Over: The last episode featured Car 54, Where Are You?'s Officers Toody and Muldoon with Gunther introduced as Irma's brother-in-law, and was a Poorly Disguised Pilot for an animated Car 54 series.
  • Deliberately Bad Example: The purpose of the militantly paranoid rightwing Ralph; to make Harry look moderate and reasonable
    • Ralph is so far over the edge that he does a lot of objectionable things oppressive regimes do for the claimed purpose of ensuring the opposite. For instance, he once showed Harry photographs taken by Jamie that were (extremely illegally) intercepted by his group in the mail (and when questioned on it said they went through everyone's mail to make sure their privacy was being protected).
    Harry: You should get a freedom medal for eye strain.
    Ralph: No medals. All I want is the ultimate victory over the pinkos. And maybe a little torch by my gravesite when I go, when I go.
  • Draft Dodging: When he gets his notice, Chet considers running to Canada.
  • Dysfunctional Family: A downplayed example. Harry does love his family, but since this show takes place in the late 1960s into the early half of the 1970s (which was the time of a lot of social and political unrest), there is going to be some friction, especially with a hippie college drop-out son (Chet), a naive teenage daughter who wants to be a sexually liberated woman (Alice), and a wife who wants to expand her horizons outside of the home (Irma).
  • Everything's Worse with Bees: In one episode, Harry gets two unwanted visitors — a colony of bees and a bumbling live-in exterminator played by Don Knotts.
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: The intro has a variation: While Irma sings the Title Drop, Harry is seen driving his car over a bumpy road formed by the words.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Harry is encouraged to file one when he has a minor accident that coincides with a tight time in the family finances. Ultimately, he decides against it.
  • Game Show Appearance: To earn money for an anniversary gift, Irma appears on Let's Make a Deal, complete with Special Guest Voice Monty Hall as himself.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Lots of the subject matter on this show was meant for adults, despite being a family-friendly show (for the late 1960s/early 1970s). The first episode centered on Harry being accused of cheating on his wife, and there are a lot of episodes centered on sex and nudity (one where Alice wants to wear a dress with a see-through top, one where Alice is asked to pose nude for a painter, one where Harry threatens to press charges against a man who is sunbathing nude on a public beach, one where the entire neighborhood is on the lookout for a Peeping Tom, among others).
    • In "Sweet Sixteen", when Irma tells the lisping, metrosexually-dressed caterer that her husband is not completely sold on the idea of a catered party, he answers: "Oh, don't worry. I get along very well with fellas" (cue laugh track).
    • In "Alice's Dress", during their drive discussing how sexual images seem to be everywhere these days, Irma and Harry drive down a red light district, featuring a lot of X-rated movie theaters, adult bookstores, and racy billboards. Later, when they watch TV, they see a lot of ads showing scantily-clad women or women initiating sex with men. One of the ads of note shows a woman in a see-through nightgown. She's clearly not wearing a bra underneath but it managed to get away with it because she lacked visible nipples.
  • The Ghost: Ralph has mentioned several times about his wife, but she has not appeared throughout the series' run.
  • Granola Girl: Alice
  • Precious Puppies: The family dog, Julius, doesn't speak, yet understands English and reacts to things said around him, usually in aside glances.
  • Reactionary Fantasy: Harry, a moderate conservative, typically wins his arguments with his liberal children.
  • Richard Nixon: Ralph is designed as a Nixon caricature.
  • Scenery Censor: Done in the episode where Alice is a nude model for an artist.
  • Vapor Wear: On the second episode, Alice buys a dress she wants to wear to her father's special dinner. The problem is, it has a see-through top (and when told that she can't wear it because everyone will see her bra, Alice replies, "What bra?").