Serial (1980 film)

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Directed by Bill Persky
Produced by Sidney Beckerman
Written by Rich Eustis
Michael Elias
Starring Martin Mull
Tuesday Weld
Jennifer McAllister
Sally Kellerman
Bill Macy
Pamela Bellwood
Peter Bonerz
Christopher Lee
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Rexford L. Metz
Edited by John W. Wheeler
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • March 28, 1980 (1980-03-28)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $9,870,727

Serial is a 1980 American comedy film produced by Paramount Pictures. The screenplay, by Rich Eustis and Michael Elias, is drawn from the novel The Serial: A Year in the Life of Marin County by Cyra McFadden, published in 1977. Produced by Sidney Beckerman and directed by Bill Persky, the film stars Martin Mull, Tuesday Weld, Sally Kellerman, Christopher Lee, Bill Macy, Peter Bonerz and Tom Smothers. The original music score was composed by Lalo Schifrin.


In trendy Marin County, California during the late 1970s, uptight Harvey Holroyd is losing patience fast.

On one hand, his wife Kate and her friends are thoroughly caught up in the sexual revolution and new age consciousness-raising and psychobabble. On the other hand, his rebellious teenage daughter Joanie is about to join a cult.

Harvey’s best friend Sam, meanwhile, is having marital troubles, and Harvey is trying to land a higher-paying job with his corporate recruiter Luckman.

As marital problems persist, Kate and Harvey separate. Each becomes sexually involved with someone else, albeit rather awkwardly. Harvey tries to avoid the advances of his newly hired secretary, Stella, who lures him to an orgy, but he does begin seeing Marlene, a free-spirited, 19-year-old, strictly vegetarian supermarket cashier. Kate links up with Paco, a bisexual Argentinian aspiring to be an artist, whose profession for now is to trim her dog's hair.

Being unhappy at home, Joanie is lured by "concerned" members of a flower-peddling cult. She goes voluntarily at first and finds peace and tranquility there, but eventually finds herself virtually imprisoned in their house in the big city.

Harvey and Kate manage to patch up their differences for Joanie’s sake. By means of a little blackmail that ensues from a surprise revelation involving Luckman, a gay motorcycle gang joins forces with Harvey to rescue Joanie. Thus, the Holroyds are reunited and prepare for Harvey’s new job in Denver.


Other information[edit]

  • Tag lines:
    • Honor thy wife, and everyone else's.
    • One mellow movie about creative divorce, group jacuzzis, organically-fed mistresses, and therapeutic adultery.
  • The film is framed visually by having the camera approach the setting from the clouds at the beginning, and returning to the clouds at the end, as well as plot-wise by means of parallel, but contrasting, open-air wedding scenes near the beginning and end.
  • The main theme song of the film, "It's a Changing World", was composed by Schifrin with lyrics by Norman Gimbel, and is sung during the credits by singer/songwriter Michael Johnson.
  • During the motorcycle trip to rescue Joanie, Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" plays in the background.
  • Certain scenes or lines have been included in presentations of this film on broadcast television (albeit with overall censorship applied), but are lacking on the commercial VHS tape (issued by Paramount Pictures Corp., 1989).
  • Amidst an abundance of plot twists, cultural references (e.g., Star Trek), and wacky situations and characters, the film contains many memorable lines, beginning with the wedding vows near the start.
  • The family dog is named Elton John.


At the time, some film critics felt that the film was endorsing sexist and homophobic attitudes. Of the film, Vito Russo wrote "the film is permeated with hatred for gays" and that it was "perfect anti-feminist, homophobic statement in to usher in the age of Ronald Reagan" (Celluloid Closet. Vito Russo. Revised Edition. 1986 pg. 262)

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