I wasn’t supposed to love 7th Heaven. First, it’s a generally conservative show, and second, it always ranked high when Parents Television Council named the ten most family-friendly shows on television, alongside snoozers like Dancing With The Stars and Touched By An Angel. Most of my liberal friends loathed it, and more or less openly looked down on me for falling into the conservative trap. At a certain point it stopped bothering me, however. I calculated that the ridicule would wear off more easily if instead I embraced the show, wholeheartedly, publicly and repeatedly. Once I found a decent rationale, it turned out I was right.
Early on I explained my continued viewership by claiming to be fascinated with the conservative mindset of the Camden family. Put simply, I claimed that I watched 7th Heaven for sociological reasons. I’m not sure anybody actually bought that, but I kept insisting so fervently that the questions soon disappeared. This explanation might have held some clout at some point, but by the time I started using it in public, I was in fact already way past that phase of my fandom. What started out as a mix of boredom and curiosity had matured into a real emotional connection to the ups and downs of the Glenoak community. I actually cared what happened with family rebels Mary and Simon. I wanted my daily dose of Lucyness. Heck, I even wanted to see what would come of Sam and David Camden, the less-than-gifted twins that were added to the family tree a couple of seasons in. By the time I admitted this to my friends, they had probably written me off as a lost cause, and possibly even a closeted conservative. They were right about the lost cause part.
When I first realized that I didn’t want to go back to my pre-7th Heaven days, I soon realized the perks that came with being a Camdenite; most notably a steady stream of cute guys. So steady was that stream, that one could suspect showrunner Brenda Hampton of subscribing to what Slate recently dubbed Sexy Puritanism in describing Republican veep nominee Sarah Palin. The moral outlook of the show is no doubt quite conservative – sex before marriage is seen as an outrage, abortion is never discussed as an opportunity for pregnant teens, and there are never ever any mentions of homosexuality or other controversial culture war topics – but that conservatism is brought to the viewers by the best-looking blood boilers the casting company could find. If the storylines went off the tracks at times, at least you could concentrate your attention on smashing regulars like David Gallagher, Tyler Hoechlin and Adam LaVorgna, and the show had a very impressive list of guest-starring hotness as well; whatever your taste, Thomas Dekker, Kyle Searles, Aaron Carter, Andrew Keegan, Will Estes, Erik von Detten, Jeremy Lelliot, Colton James… they’ve all been there.
I don’t know which of these perspectives offer the most compelling reason for you to give it a chance the next time you catch an old rerun on cable, but they all worked for me, at different times. I suspect I’m not done with the show just yet, even though the show itself folded years ago.