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Western Animation / Wait Till Your Father Gets Home

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"I love my Mom and Dad and my brothers too
And the groovy way we get along
But every time the slightest little thing goes wrong,
Mom starts to sing this familiar song.
Wait till your father gets, until your father gets,
Wait till your father gets home."

Ladies and gentleman, the most controversial animated television series of The '70s. Before The Simpsons and Family Guy, there was this.

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 and does charity work, but won't get a job. His high-school aged daughter, Alice, is a sexually liberated feminist who, despite her weight, isn't afraid to wear skimpy clothes or be interested in sex (much to her parents' shock, who think she's too young and naïve to fully understand sex in the modern age or the fact that not everyone is appreciative of overweight people). 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 paranoid neighbor Ralph (comedian Jack Burns) masterminds an anti-communist organization so far to the right that they make the John Birchers, Archie Bunker, 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 a lot of modern-day animated sitcoms also about semi-dysfunctional families trying to cope in a socially and politically unstable America, from The Simpsonsnote  to King of the Hillnote , to the Netflix series, F is for Family. Even Seth MacFarlane's shows borrow from Wait Til Your Father Gets Home, albeit on a shallow level, as Harry, Irma, Chet, Alice, Jamie, and Julius the dog are similar to Peter, Lois, Chris, Meg, Stewie, and Brian (Family Guy); Stan, Francine, Hayley, Steve, Roger, Klaus, and Jeff (American Dad!); or Cleveland, Donna, Cleveland Jr., Rallo, and Roberta (The Cleveland Show).

Like Happy Days, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home started life as an episode of the anthology Love, American Style called "Love and the Old-Fashioned Father," about a dad who worries that his daughter's upcoming lake trip with her free-love hippie boyfriend and his friends will lead to an orgy. The first season is available on DVD.

This show provides examples of:

  • A Day in Her Apron: In a variant, in one episode Harry attempts to take control over the grocery shopping when he sees how much his wife Irma wastes in seemingly inconvenient items. Said attempt goes even more wrong and wastes even more money (he decides to drive to another county to buy a huge sack of beans that cost 50% less than the brand Irma buys… the huge sack's weight blows out two of Harry's tires and ruins the suspension).
  • 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.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: The older Boyles (especially Harry) try to not be this but their children of course insist they are the moment that they are the slightest bit annoyed for any misunderstanding. Harry manages to solve the problem about Alice wishing to go to a dinner with a see-through shirt and no bra (and insisting that the beauty of the human body should not be shameful) by invoking this trope: he pretends he is going to go to the dinner only wearing his boxers and shoes and says that his body is a beauty and should be admired when Alice obviously refuses to let that human body be in exhibit.
  • Aside Comment: Very often with Harry.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Well, Plump Pretty Teen Girl: Alice is the second rotund person in her family and yet is drawn prettier than her parents and older brother and doesn't have much trouble getting dates; she also wears bikinis, mini skirts, and a see through dress with no qualms about her figure.
  • Big Eater: Alice, she even eats chocolates while doing her exercises.
  • 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.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Chet all over. On one episode Harry has had enough of him lazing around and tells him that from that point onwards he will have to pay for his room like any guest, hoping this will make him work. Chet starts working for a local store and revolutionizes the whole thing, even creating a special candle that is selling like hot cakes... and then he quits, after making sure that the dividends of the candle's rights will be enough to (at the price Harry set for his room monthly when it all started) cover his rate until he's sixty.
  • Catchphrase: Alice's "male chauvinism" speeches and any variation thereof.
  • Child Soldiers: One episode has Irma having a pregnancy scare and Harry having to deal with their children hating the fact that a new child may be coming (because they believe this is their parents cooperating with the "demographic explosion"). Ralph's (Creepy Awesome, although Harry obviously finds it more "creepy") idea is to raise the child from the cradle to be ultra-patriotic, with his help.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: 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 political views. In the third season and of the only four episodes, she disappeared completely.
    • Jamie did not appear in the Love, American Style installment.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Ralph believes in a lot of these. For a Cold War-era militant, he believed in way too many of them.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: One of the mechanics at the Honest John's Dealership where Harry buys his new car only works with windshield wipers.
  • Crossover: 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: Ralph, a guy so far off the deep end that he once turned down a membership in the KKK on the grounds that it was "too liberal" for him! His regular attribution of every single thing that goes wrong to some kind of Communist plot makes just about anything the fairly conservative businessman Harry does in any given situation look like the moderate approach. Ralph is so paranoid 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 Ralph's group in the mail (and when questioned on it, Ralph 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.
    • On one episode, Ralph proposes repurposing Liberty Island as a high-security prisoner camp, and when Harry sarcastically says that the statue's torch could work as a place to put a spotlight for the guards, Ralph wholly agrees.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Harry mentions that his African American secretary was called "A negro" when he hired her. This term had already fallen out of use in The '70s.
  • Dirty Old Woman: On the episode "The Prowler," before taking the real prowler to the cops, Old Sara Whitaker wanted to take the prowler home for some wine and mood music. The prowler was unconscious.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Harry's delivery driver repeatedly bumps into buildings with the delivery truck.
  • Dom Com: A downplayed example, in that it was more focused on the politics of the day than skewering suburban lifestyles.
  • 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).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the pilot, Chet was introduced as having finished college instead of dropping-out (though he's still unemployed), the family had a maid working for them, and Jamie is nowhere yet to be seen. Design wise, everything looked the same though Harry had a small brown patch of hair in contrast to his Charlie Brown Baldness in the series proper.
    • Harry Boyle was also drastically different. While still conservative, he was much more hotheaded, difficult to be reasoned with, yelled a lot and was even prone to threats of violence when he lets his anger get the best of him.
  • 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: Subverted. Harry is encouraged to file one when he has a minor car accident that coincides with a tight time in the family finances. The subversion comes when he ultimate decides not to go through with 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.
  • The Ghost: Ralph mentioned his wife several times, but she did not appear throughout the series' run.
  • Granola Girl: Alice is a parody of the 1960s and 1970s version of the sexual liberation going on during that time. She's convinced that everything wrong is because of male chauvinism, and is a very left-leaning daughter of a right-leaning father. The parody comes from when she's also portrayed as ignorant of how the world works.
  • Half-Hour Comedy: It was a "primetime" comedy show.
    • It was syndicated and mainly aired during the "Primetime access" slot (7:30 Eastern) in many markets. It may have aired in primetime on independent stations.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Ralph and Whitaker. He is somewhere shy of six feet tall while Whitaker only reaches to his waist.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Where Harry buys his new car, which then turns out to be a lemon.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: Harry is amazed to find out he is the only one to want to return a computer error tax refund check for $947,000.
  • Jerkass: Old Sara Whittaker is a Dirty Old Woman and pretty trigger-happy (or tackle-happy). Even Ralph had to tell her to cut it out a couple of times.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Ralph tends to be a lot of talk and no action.
  • Ms. Red Ink: In one episode, Harry gets upset that his wife Irma wares too much money on grocery purchases, leading herself by how look the can looks (even if it costs five times more and holds only half of the content that other brands). He even has a nightmare in which Irma does a reverse version of Supermarket Sweep in which she has to pay the stuff she buys and it totals half a million dollars. Harry's attempt at inexpensive grocery shopping is a complete failure.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Ralph and Whitaker, to an infuriating degree. It didn't mattered how much Harry tried to keep things private, next thing he knew Ralph was there to try to "help".
  • Parental Fashion Veto: In one episode, Harry Boyle wins a Salesman of the Year Award, which includes a speaking dinner. Harry's daughter Alice decides to wear a sheer top for the event, which Harry deems too risque. Alice remains adamant until Harry uses Alice's ploy against her by going shirtless himself.
  • The Pilot: Was an episode of the Love, American Style anthology as mentioned above.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: The third season had one for an attempted animated spinoff of Car 54, Where Are You? with this version of Toody being Irma's brother-in-law.
  • Precious Puppies: The family dog, Julius, doesn't speak, yet understands English and reacts to things said around him, usually with aside glances.
  • Richard Nixon: Ralph is designed as a Nixon caricature.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: Ralph was this before they really were widely known (and mocked). Anything from overkilling neighborhood security to try to catch a burglar to turning the child Harry possibly was going to get (although turned out that it was just a pregnancy scare) into a hyper-patriotic Tyke Bomb to talking about repurposing Liberty Island as a political prisoner camp.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: In one episode, Harry gets two unwanted visitors — a colony of bees and a bumbling live-in exterminator played by Don Knotts.
  • Scenery Censor: Done in the episode where Alice is a nude model for an artist.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Alice and Chet take turns being this (or double-team on Ralph), depending on the episode and whatever if the "hot political issue" of the week (and that Ralph has managed to stir up accidentally). Anything from a decision to be a nude model up to raging against having a new baby brother or sister because they are against overpopulation.
  • Status Quo Is God: A number of episodes have Chet finally getting a decent job and/or making enough money to start living on his own, but something always happens to ensure that he's back living with his parents again in the end.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: A couple of episodes make it clear that Chet has become this for Harry, notwithstanding the fact that he's Harry's son. The one episode where Harry actually asks Chet to pay for room and board in the hopes he will look for work actually ends up Gone Horribly Right... because he works, and marvelously so, but just enough to make sure he will be able to afford room and board until he's an old man, and then instantly quits. Another episode has an exterminator who lives with the family for awhile.
  • Title Theme Tune: "Wait till your father gets, until your father gets, wait till your father gets home..."
  • Ur-Example: Nearly two decades before The Simpsons, this show would set the standard for the modern adult animated sitcom, and be highly influential.
  • 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?").
  • Vigilante Injustice: Played for Laughs with Ralph's neighborhood militia, who are supposedly trying to prevent communism from spreading (on that end they are The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything) but in practice they just cause mayhem and intrude in people's lives unnecessarily.
  • Vigilante Militia: Ralph's neighborhood militia, although Ralph and Old Sara Whitaker are the only members who constantly appear. Also Played for Laughs in that they are completely ineffective (they are completely unable to stop a cat burglar who has started to roam the neighborhood in the episode "The Prowler") and just come off as a bunch of more-crazy-than-usual Nosy Neighbors.
  • Weight Woe: One episode had Alice despondent that a new boy at school wouldn't notice her due to her weight, so she ends up dieting miserably, and her parents get in on the act. Harry is miserable without burgers (thin Ralph talking about his meals doesn't help), and the slimmer Irma notes that if she dieted in high school, she would've gotten a cute boy.
  • Young Entrepreneur: Jamie was typically this in contrast to Brilliant, but Lazy Chet and Granola Girl Alice. Episodes giving him focus tended to have him looking for ways to make money, such as using an old camera to take pictures of people and charge them for the service.