Film poster
Directed byBill Persky
Written byRich Eustis
Michael Elias
Produced bySidney Beckerman
StarringMartin Mull
Tuesday Weld
Jennifer McAllister
Sally Kellerman
Bill Macy
Pamela Bellwood
Peter Bonerz
Christopher Lee
CinematographyRexford L. Metz
Edited byJohn W. Wheeler
Music byLalo Schifrin
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 28, 1980 (1980-03-28)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$9,870,727[1]

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 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 quickly losing his patience. He is also enduring something of a mid-life crisis.

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. To make matters worse, it seems that Harvey and Kate's sexual relationship is seemingly over, as expressed in the film's first scene.

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. In a parallel, Sam and Angela's sexual relationship is seemingly also over. Sam and Harvey chat about Harvey's mid-life crisis which Sam puts down to the lack of sex.

As marital problems persist, Kate and Harvey separate. The catalyst is a wild party thrown by Joanie while her parents are out at a friend's wedding. 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.


Critical reception

Vito Russo wrote that "the film is permeated with hatred for gays" and that it was "the perfect antifeminist, homophobic statement to usher in the age of Ronald Reagan."[2]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 60% of 5 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.1/10.[3]


  1. ^ Serial at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Russo, Vito (1987) [First published 1981]. The Celluloid Closet (Revised ed.). Harper & Row. p. 262. ISBN 0-06-096132-5.
  3. ^ "Serial". Rotten Tomatoes.