Growing up in the 90s, divorce narratives were never far from reach. I absorbed movies and TV shows about divorce with no qualms. After all, my first set of parents divorced before I was old enough to speak.
I never had to ask questions about divorce. When I watched The Parent Trap, I didn’t question the idea that divorced parents might split up a pair of twins out of selfishness. I could read The Baby-Sitters Club and go unfazed by mentions of divorce and separation. No emotional reaction. Divorce was normal. My second set of parents was divorced before I could even read.
This wasn’t necessarily the case for people who grew up in the 1970s. So much so that afterschool specials helped tame the choppy waters of divorce and separation.
My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel was one of these specials. In the hour-long special, Joe learns what it means to have parents who are separated. The trailer for the November 1973 special depicts two extremely reasonable parents who split up, prompting the titular father to move into the titular hotel.
Here’s the trailer:
Unfortunately, I’m not able to find a copy of the special itself. It looks amazing.
The title is the real kicker. Clearly, these specials were named so that children could easily identify with and understand the specials. It’s just such a euphemism.
“Did you hear about Chad’s parents?”
“Yeah, his dad totally lives in a downtown hotel.”
The ominous music. The outfits, The 70s. It all provides what must be an entertaining precursor for the media we consume about divorce today.