Bargain Bookshelf: Charles in Charge

Scouring thrift store bookshelves so you don’t have to!


Unearthed at the fabulous Grand Ol’ Trunk Thrift Shop & Bookstore, located in a house where the closets are full of books! I was instantly smitten.

The Cover

Hello, 1984! Can you imagine a more wholesome boy next door? At the time, we (meaning the giddy pre-teens swooning over his visage) had no idea Scott Baio was sloring his way through Hollywood. But can you blame him? First Chachi, now this. His stock must’ve gone through the roof! Of course, you can take care of my children. You can take care of everything I have.

The Story

Charles (whose last name is never given) is a struggling Frosh at Crawford College. After a summer slaving at Pizza Hut to earn money for school, he’s learned that there’s no available housing and his financial aid package is smaller than a personal pan pizza. He needs money. He needs a place to live. He probably smells like cheese. Enter a listing on the Student Center bulletin board for a live-in au pair. Room, board, and Central Casted-kids in the suburbs? Cue the hi-jinks!

Buddy, Gwendolyn, and The Pembrokes 

Charles meets Buddy Lembeck on his first day at college. Buddy’s blond curls, LaCoste polos, snappy surfer-guy patter, and utter disdain for his wealthy parents makes them fast friends. He tells Charles he’s going to date every girl he sees. How, you ask? With the help of the campus Face Book (I know, right?!), a visual guide map in which he’s circled the photos of girls he intends to introduce to the Walk of Shame. Gwendolyn Pierce is wearing a slinky prom dress in her photo which means she’s the hottest of them all, naturally. Buddy wants her but we all know Charles has it on lock. The show’s called Charles in Charge, not Buddy’s Got This. In true sitcom fashion, Charles arrives for the au pair interviews and kicks the all-female competition to the curb. He charms the kids (Jerky Youngest Son, Dorky Middle Son, Overly-Aquanetted Oldest Daughter) and when the boys fight over him–it’s much less pervy than it sounds–Mr. and Mrs. Pembroke give each other knowing glances and say, “Would you like a job?”

Telling Quote

He stood there, holding his tray, watching her walk across the cafeteria. Her tray! What a jerk he was, he could have offered to take her tray. He’d never get a chance like that again. Shaking his head, he carried his own tray over to the table where he and Buddy and whoever else was around usually sat.

Final Thoughts

I can’t imagine the challenge of trying to stretch an extremely anemic pilot television episode into 142 pages. Elizabeth Faucher tries hard but she doesn’t have much to work with. Some novelizations of TV shows are awesome (I remember being stuck on The X-Files fiction for a long time) but even the totally fabulous Reagan-era veneer can’t save this one. I suppose this book was written to help the show gain traction, but it was cancelled before airing a full season. 80s Children will most likely recall Charles in Charge‘s second life in first-run syndication in which an entirely different family has no problem whatsoever with the fact that one of the amenities of their subletted house is a strange man living in the basement.

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