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From Ozzie and Harriet's 1950s "nuclear family" to the Bradys' 1970s family merger to today's father/lesbian/partner family on "Friends," TV families have run the gamut of lifestyles.

So long, 'Ozzie and Harriet'

Nuclear families no longer dominate cinema, TV

May 5, 1998
Web posted at: 3:45 p.m. EDT (1545 GMT)

From Correspondent Ron Tank

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- It seems the nuclear family has gone the way of the Cold War -- at least, according to the creators behind the shows and movies entertaining millions of Americans today.

From the silver screen to the small screen, the traditional family of Mom, Dad, and 2.3 kids has given way to an updated version: divorced couples, gay significant others, and, of course, their offspring.

For proof, viewers need look no further than the current entertainment fare. In the Twentieth Century Fox flick "The Object of My Affection," Jennifer Anniston plays a pregnant woman in love with a gay man.

And Anniston's TV sitcom "Friends" features two unconventional families.

Perennial "Friends" puppydog Ross (David Schwimmer) has a baby, but is divorced from the mother because she came out of the closet. Meanwhile, absentminded new-ager Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) is playing surrogate mom, carrying triplets for her brother and his wife.

"The Object of My Affection"

'It's a good thing'

Do these type of relationships simply offer more interesting plot lines, or are these cases of art imitating life?

"There are many unconventional families in the '90s," Mary Murphy of "TV Guide" said. "I think it's a good thing that television is doing this. It sensitizes people to the fact that there are other choices and that people are making them."

And it could lead to life imitating art.

"By putting it on the screen, with millions of people seeing it, it becomes the norm and it influences people to have that kind of lifestyle," media psychiatrist Carol Lieberman says.

Celebrities are certainly making their own lifestyle choices.

Melissa Etheridge and her partner, Julie Cypher, are expecting a second child. Jodie Foster is an expectant single mom, and Madonna's already there. Rosie O'Donnell has adopted two children.

"Father Knows Best" seems lost in the 1950s, along with other traditional families seen in "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Leave It to Beaver."

Of course, the 1990s version of family life has been in development for some time. The 1970s classic sitcom "The Brady Bunch" made the relationships between step-parents and their kids seem as pleasant as a slice of apple pie.

"Labor of Love"

'Labor of Love'

But 1990s plot lines are going to new extremes, and they're attracting an audience, as well as actors.

Marcia Gay Harden starred in the Lifetime Channel's "Labor of Love," which, like "Object," features a pregnant woman involved with a gay man.

"That's actually what attracted me to it," Harden said, adding that the woman who wrote it had a baby, with the help of a sperm donor.

Art in life, life in art. It's the 1990s family.

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