Series focused on an American history class at the fictional Walt Whitman High School in Los Angeles.
112 episodes of 30 minute duration. ABC 1969 - 1974
Room 222 was a half-hour series about teaching. But it was a show that was as far from Our Miss Brooks as you could get. It was part comedy, part drama and dealt with topics Miss Brooks couldn't even begin to imagine in 1952. Room 222 also paved the way for more realistic and topical US sitcoms in the years to come.
The creation of young producers James Brooks and Allan Burns, it focuses on fictional Walt Whitman High, an interracial school in Southern California. (The show was actually filmed at real-life Los Angeles High School.) Much of the action focused on four main characters. They included handsome and well-liked Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes), an African-American history teacher; guidance counselor Liz McIntyre (Denise Nicholas), who also dated Pete; the somewhat sarcastic school principal Seymour Kaufman (Michael Constantine); and fresh-faced student teacher Alice Johnson, played by newcomer Karen Valentine. Much of the action in Room 222 centered on the school; little of the characters' home lives were seen.
But Room 222 dealt with important topics such as racism, dropping out of school, drugs, student violence, homophobia, teen pregnancy and illiteracy. Others in the cast included students that stayed for the show's five-year run (!), including Judy Strangis as Helen Loomis; the actor Heshimu as Afro-coifed Jason Allen; Ta-Tanisha as Pam; and future actor/director Eric Laneuville as Larry. There were also a number of future stars that would pass through Walt Whitman's halls, including Chuck Norris, Teri Garr, Rob Reiner, Richard Dreyfuss and Cindy Williams.
Room 222 also indirectly led to some groundbreaking series. Grant Tinker was head of 20th Century Fox Television, the studio that produced the show. He tapped Brooks and Burns to help develop a new situation comedy that would star Tinker's then-wife. That series turned out to be The Mary Tyler Moore Show, one of the most influential comedies of the 1970's. Though not as topical as Room 222, MTM used the workplace as a setting for part of its comedy. Another producer on Room 222, Gene Reynolds, would later go on to produce the television version of M*A*S*H and the Mary Tyler Moore drama spin-off Lou Grant.
Seldom seen in syndication today, and never broadcast in the UK, Room 222 was a true artifact of the late 1960's and early 1970's that would lay the groundwork for more grown-up sitcoms in the future.
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