The enormous success of 'All in the Family' inevitably spawned a flurry of imitations. 'The Montefuscos' -- created by Persky and Denoff, both of whom had done excellent work on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' -- was an attempt at an Italian-American version of the Bunker mentality, as in Archie Bunker. Instead of Archie, the paterfamilias here was Tony Montefusco. He is the absolute boss in his home (I feel sorry for his wife), but of course there are -- as in so many Yank sitcoms -- those usual "Awwww" moments which hint that, deep down, Tony is just an old softy.
For some reason, it seems to be permissible on American television to invoke ethnic stereotypes providing the stereotypes are favourable. So, here we avoid the negative Italian stereotypes but we get all the positive ones: they have huge families, they love to eat, they quarrel among themselves but stick up for each other, yadda yadda.
At this point in his life, Tony's children have mostly grown and flown the coop (understandably), but they've given him young grandchildren. So, in every episode, we have the big Sunday evening sit-down dinner of the whole Montefusco clan at Tony's house. (I feel sorry for his wife, who has to do all the cooking beforehand, all the serving during, and all the wash-up afterward.) Tony's daughter Angela has married ... which would be fine with Tony, except that Angela has committed the unpardonable sin of marrying a man who (gasp!) is not an Italian. He isn't even Catholic! Angela's husband is Jim Cooney, a bland and hapless schlub who is Episcopalian, a fact which scandalises Tony. He constantly addresses his son-in-law as 'Cooney' and refers to him contemptuously as 'my Episcopalian son-in-law'. Meanwhile, anything Tony's wife has to say about this situation doesn't count ... because she's an Italian wife, which (in this sitcom, at least) means she should shut up and stay in the kitchen, except when she's serving food. Jim Cooney is constantly depicted as the family's jerk: apparently Episcopalians are the only minority group whom it's safe to ridicule.
This sitcom was horribly unfunny, which (I hope) explains why it didn't last very long. I found it offensive, not so much because it gleefully perpetrated ethnic stereotypes, but rather because it seemed to think that it was celebrating the richness of Italian-American culture. This show was about as Italian as Chico Marx, but not remotely as funny. Basta!
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