US TV shows not broadcast in the UK
It was never a ratings blockbuster, nor was it a show critics loved. But The Facts Of Life was one of the best-remembered and most loved US sitcoms of the era. Part of the reason was that at a time when comedies seldom tackled issues important to teenage girls, the series dealt with everything from alcohol use to sex - and did so years before teen-oriented dramas such as Beverly Hills 90210 and Dawson's Creek. A spin-off of Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts Of Life starred Edna Garrett (the Drummond family maid) as housemother of a group of girls at the exclusive Eastland School near Peekskill, New York. The show had a trial run in the summer of 1979, then came back as a midseason replacement in 1980 with little success in the ratings. In the fall of 1980, four of the seven original girls were let go, and Garrett became the school's nutritionist. Only three of the original girls stayed: snobby and rich Blair Warner; plump and wisecracking Natalie Green and young roller-skating gossip Tootie Ramsey. To add some spice to the cast, a new character was introduced: Jo Polinaczek, a tough-talking girl from the Bronx with the required heart of gold. New writers were brought in to generate stories that young women and girls could relate to. Aided by a better time slot, The Facts Of Life reached the top-30 and stayed there for the next several years. The show was cancelled in 1988 because of declining ratings. In an unusual move for a US sitcom, NBC aired two made-for TV movies with the cast: Facts Of Life Goes To Paris (1982), and Facts Of Life Down Under (1987). The Facts Of Life may not have been groundbreaking comedy, but it was pretty good entertainment with some life lessons thrown in. That's probably why the show still has a following in reruns around the world.
Producer and creator Don Fedderson, who hit the jackpot with the successful domestic comedy My Three Sons (ABC/CBS 1960-1972) scored again with this pleasant sitcom about a bachelor who takes in his late brother's three orphaned children. Family Affair was a series that looked at raising kids through the eyes of the adults, and that helped make the show popular with both older and younger viewers. Bill Davis was a successful consulting engineer who lived the single life in a posh Fifth Avenue apartment complex with the aid of his English "gentleman's gentleman," Giles French. But his life changed after his brother and sister-in-law were killed in an accident. That's because Bill's relatives felt he was the best-equipped to care for the couple's children - six-year old twins Buffy and Jody, and their 15-year old sister Cissy. Both Bill and "Mr. French" had to get used to the fact that they had children under their roof, but the adults and the kids made the best of the situation and both Bill and French came to love and protect the kids. Family Affair became an instant hit on the CBS' schedule; it landed in the top 20 soon after its September 12th, 1966 premiere. It ran for a five-year stretch until it succumbed to the very popular Flip Wilson Show on NBC; the final episode came September 9th, 1971 before the show went into reruns. It wasn't the end of Family Affair, however. More than three decades later, The WB network revived the series, this time with Gary Cole as Bill Davis and Tim Curry playing Giles French. The new version had Bill as a corporate executive, but most of the show was simply updated for a new generation. But up against NBC's Friends, the new Family Affair never stood a chance, even when Kathy Garver and Johnnie Whitaker from the original series guest starred on a Christmas themed episode.
This spin-off of the popular Perfect Strangers had something in common with another long-running comedy, Happy Days: A minor character eventually became the show's focus, and ensured its long and successful life. Initially, Family Matters focused on Harriette Winslow (Jo Marie Payton), a sarcastic elevator operator who was first featured on Perfect Strangers. In the fall of 1989, that show's producers gave the popular African-American character her own series. Harriette and her husband, police officer Carl, headed their Chicago home and raised son Eddie, older daughter Laura and youngest daughter Judy. Harriette's sister, Rachel Crawford, lived in the Winslow home with her infant son Richie. Also living under the same roof was Carl's wise mother, Estelle. During the middle of the first season, a new character was added: Steven "Steve" Urkel (Jaleel White), a nerdy teenager with a high-pitched voice who had a crush on Laura. His gaudy clothes and sweet disposition soon caught on, and Family Matters began rising in the ratings. It wasn't long before Urkel became the show's main focus, getting into situations with Carl and playing other characters such as Steve's "lady's man" alter-ego Stefan Urkquelle and Steve's female cousin Myrtle Urkel. Family Matters soon became the main anchor of ABC's TGIF (Thank Goodness It's Friday) comedy lineup. But when ABC was purchased by Disney in 1995, producers Thomas Miller and Robert Boyett began clashing with the new owners. In 1997, CBS swooped in and offered Miller and Boyett $40 million for new episodes of both Family Matters and another ABC comedy, Step By Step. Both shows landed on CBS' Friday schedule in the fall of 1997, as part of that network's new "Block Party" Friday lineup, in direct competition with ABC's still-potent TGIF players. But ratings fell due to the move, and CBS canceled both Family Matters and Step By Step after just one season.
This popular domestic comedy was said to be the late President Ronald Reagan's favorite series during his White House years. In fact, Mr. Reagan wanted to appear in an episode, an offer the producers wisely yet politely declined. Yet it's not hard to understand why Family Ties became a success with old and young alike. It managed to take an unusual premise-liberal former 60's "hippies" who raise three relatively conservative children in a relatively conservative decade-and infuse it with warmth and understanding. Sure there were some of the typical sitcom conventions and structures. But Family Ties also worked because of a fine cast-especially young Canadian Michael J. Fox, who parlayed his role as oldest son Alex P. Keaton into a successful film and television career. The original concept for the show was as an hour-long drama. CBS considered the idea, but turned it down. Writer Gary David Goldberg then took the show to NBC, where he was talked into reworking the show as a half-hour comedy. When the show first aired Meredith Baxter-Birney (Bridget Loves Bernie) was the best-known cast member to television audiences. But it wasn't long before Michael J. Fox became popular with viewers, as Goldberg had predicted. Fox's talent for delivery and physical comedy turned good episodes into great ones. The network and the producers made the decision to shift focus to the family's preppy son. There was some grumbling, but the move proved to be the right one. For one thing, it helped buy time for Family Ties as audiences slowly discovered it during its first two seasons on the air.
In the fall of 1984, a scheduling change by NBC changed the show's fortunes. Family Ties would now follow a new family comedy starring Bill Cosby on Thursday nights. The Cosby Show quickly rose to the top of the ratings charts, powering "Ties" into the top ten. By the end of the 1984-85 season, Family Ties was television's second most popular series. During that season, Fox was tapped to star in a new film about a time-traveling teen who goes back to 1955. Back To The Future was a blockbuster in the summer of 1985, sending Fox's career into overdrive. It also pushed Family Ties to even higher ratings, as the producers structured more episodes around his Alex character. By the fall of 1987, Family Ties was moved to Sunday nights in an effort to shore up one of NBC's weakest nights. By 1989, with declining ratings, Goldberg and the cast decided that Family Ties should end its run. But Goldberg would work again with Michael J. Fox, when the two teamed up for the ABC political sitcom Spin City in 1996. Fox's character of Deputy Mayor Michael Flaherty had some things in common with Alex P. Keaton-and that was just fine with the millions of fans who loved both Fox and Family Ties.
Although there have been a number of comedies (and some dramas) about African-Americans over the past several decades, Frank's Place stands out for its realism and its honest depiction of the black experience in the southern United States. Unfortunately, it was a critical favourite with a relatively small fan base. That was one reason why Frank's Place had a short run in the late 1980's, while the more conventional and familiar Cosby Show was television's top-rated series during this period. Created by WKRP In Cincinnati's Hugh Wilson, Frank's Place centered on black college professor Frank Parrish who inherits a New Orleans restaurant from his estranged father. Frank decides to sell the eatery, "Chez Louisanne" and return to his hometown of Boston. That leads the restaurant's elderly waitress, Miss Marie to put a voodoo spell on Frank; by coincidence, his college office burns down; he loses his girlfriend and a plumbing problem ruins his apartment. The restaurant staff was not surprised when Frank returned to New Orleans in an attempt to make "Chez Louisanne" a success. One of the first of the short-lived "dramedy" (half-hour comedy-drama hybrids) that also included ABC's Hooperman and The 'Slap' Maxwell Story, and NBC's The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd of the late 80's, Frank's Place had no studio audience or canned laughter. It was filmed (not videotaped) with one camera - a procedure that had all but disappeared with sitcoms of the 1980's. The show was very well researched about the history of race relations in the New Orleans area, which made for many poignant episodes.
Critics loved Frank's Place (Rolling Stone magazine said "rarely has a prime-time show attempted to capture so accurately a particular American subculture."). But after a strong start, the ratings began to falter. CBS began shifting Frank's Place from timeslot to timeslot, leading co-star Maxwell Reid to comment that not even her mother knew when the show would air. The show was also expensive to produce with its filmed technique. But Frank's Place also came at a time when CBS was falling into third place among the three major networks for the first time in its history. Pressured by new network president Lawrence Tisch to improve ratings, CBS canceled Frank's Place; the last episode aired on October 1st, 1988. Today, Frank's Place is hailed as a modern classic, and an excellent fictional series about the African-American experience. Not surprisingly, it sparked yet another debate about the depiction of blacks on US television. Despite multiple channels and such black-oriented networks as "Black Entertainment Television" (BET), the debate rages on.
FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY (1959)
In the early days of television, America often "raided" radio for its best material to transfer it from the microphone to the camera. In a number of cases this proved a winning formula. One of the most popular radio shows of all time was Fibber McGee and Molly. Fibber was so called because of his tendency not so much to lie, but to exaggerate greatly. Most of the times he'd come up with harebrained schemes (like digging an oil well in the back yard) only to come back down to Earth with a bump. Fortunately for him his adoring wife Molly was always there to catch him and soften the fall. The radio series had a number of running gags such as Fibber's inability to tell a joke which was often followed by Molly's reprimand "T'ain't funny, McGee!" The line found its way into popular culture during the 1940s. The most enduring gag was The Closet - Fibber's closet was often opened to a loud cacophonous clatter of bric-a-brac as it rained down over his head. "I gotta get that closet cleaned out one of these days" was the observation once the racket subsided. "Fibber McGee's closet" became another popular catchphrase - this one synonymous with household clutter. Real-life married couple Jim and Marian Jordan played the leads but when it came to making the TV show NBC decided to re-cast. With younger actors Bob Sweeney and Cathy Lewis in the roles the series was launched on September 15, 1959. Very few of the actors in the TV series had had any part in the radio version. Fibber McGee and Molly, the TV version, completely failed to hit it off with the American public. Even the closet joke was not as funny when you saw it as when you heard it. With the TV series seemingly unable to recreate the flavour and humour of the original radio version Fibber McGee and Molly failed to limp on for an entire season and was cancelled by mid January 1960.
The backbone of ABC’s popular TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Friday) comedy line-up of the late 1980's and early 90's, Full House was a great show for the kids and reasonably tolerable for adults. Set in San Francisco, it was the story of television morning show co-host Danny Tanner a widowed dad with three beautiful girls–D.J., Stephanie and Michelle (played by twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen). Helping Danny raise the girls was his brother-in-law and musician Jessie Katsopolis and his friend, stand-up comic Joey Gladstone. There were the usual family-related trials and tribulations, the expected cute catch phrases, and fairly predicable jokes. But its emphasis on the kids (and the fact the adults sometimes acted like big kids themselves) helped make Full House a top-30 series for ABC. Starting in the second season, Danny's co-host Becky Donaldson became a regular character; she eventually married Jessie and moved into the Tanner home; the couple had twin boys, Nicky and Alex. Full House launched a successful pre-teen career for the Olsen twins, along with the post-teen tabloid stories. Despite his clean-cut television image, Bob Saget has gained a reputation as an edgy stand-up comic; he later went on to narrate the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother and host the NBC prime time game show 1 Vs 100.
THE GABBY HAYES SHOW (1950)
After playing the scruffy sidekick to numerous Western heroes including Randolph Scott, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and John Wayne, Gabby Hayes was rewarded with his own television series in 1950. Hayes, who looked every inch the typical cowboy was in fact born in New York and didn't even learn to ride a horse until he was in his forties and later admitted he hadn't even been a particular fan of the genre. Nonetheless he became a popular performer and consistently appeared among the ten favourite actors in polls taken of movie-goers of the period. He was closely associated with what eventually became clichéd Western phrases such as "yer durn tootin", "dadgumit", and "young whippersnapper." In 1974, Mel Brooks paid homage to Hayes by creating a lookalike character (played by Claude Ennis Starrett) named Gabby Johnson in the Western spoof Blazing Saddles. Hayes retired from the movies in the late 1940s and hosted The Gabby Hayes Show on television, although he did not appear as a participating character. Instead, Hayes introduced the show telling tales of the Old West, illustrating his dissertations with film clips from various cowboy movies. The first series, which ran from 1950 - 1954, was shown on NBC and had a running time of just fifteen minutes. The second series (1956) on ABC was a half-hour broadcast on Saturday mornings. When the second series finally ended George 'Gabby' Hayes retired from showbiz. He passed away the following year. (Laurence Marcus)
Gale Storm followed up her initial sitcom success on My Little Margie with this comedy, which could be considered an ancestor of the 1970's smash The Love Boat. Storm played Susanna Pomeroy, the social director on the S.S. Ocean Queen luxury liner who seemed to get herself into trouble, thanks to her various schemes–whether bringing star-struck lovers together, or pulling one over on the ship’s captain, Simon Huxley. Aiding and abetting Susanna in her plots was the ship’s beauty salon operator, Elvira “Nugey” Nugent, played by screen comic Zasu Pitts (pictured above, left). James Fairfax was the ship steward, Cedric. The series also gave the star a chance to flex her vocal cords. By the second half of the 1950's, Storm was making hit records on the Dot label, with such top ten smashes as “Ivory Tower” and “Dark Moon;” nearly every episode of The Gale Storm Show featured her in a vocal performance.
On September 29th, 1956, CBS premiered the show after food giant Nestle eagerly agreed to be its sponsor–without seeing a pilot. As in so many American series of the time, the Gale Storm cast appeared in commercials for the sponsor (Storm would tell viewers that Nescafe instant coffee satisfied her “coffee hunger”.) Critics were kind to Storm’s new sitcom, compared with the negative reviews My Little Margie received. “Los Angeles Times” TV writer Cecil Smith was smitten:
“Gale Storm is a lass easy to love. The new series is better done and funnier than [My Little] Margie, but it will undoubtedly sink or float with Gale. She’s her zany self, donning wigs, masquerading, getting into shipboard trouble. And singing and dancing.”
Viewers were in love as well. The Gale Storm Show was the highest rated new sitcom of the 1956-57 season; by its second year, it ranked 16th in the national Nielsen ratings. But in the fall of 1959, the series moved to ABC for one final season. ABC aired reruns of The Gale Storm Show in its daytime line-up from 1959 through 1961. Repeats of the series (along with My Little Margie) ran endlessly in syndication during the 1960's and ‘70's. It was to be Gale Storm’s last television series. In later years, she appeared only occasionally in TV and on stage; in 1981, she disclosed her alcoholism in an autobiography called “I Ain’t Down Yet.” Storm did commercials for the rehabilitation hospital she credited with helping her fight alcohol. Gale Storm was 87 years old when she died on June 27th, 2009 at a California convalescent hospital. Because her two series have not been seen much for the past few decades, many people don’t know who Gale Storm was. But those who followed her career on both TV and film (and heard her recordings) would be hard-pressed to forget her charm, talent and enduring pluck.
*During its original run, The Gale Storm Show was also known by its subtitle Oh! Susanna; both titles were also used for the syndicated reruns, which may have caused a bit of confusion.
THE GENE AUTRY SHOW (1950)
After thirteen years as a singing cowboy on radio and the movies, Autry, largely due to the success of Hopalong Cassidy, started turning out weekly television adventures by the wagonload. Discovered by film producer Nat Levine in 1934, Orvon Grover Autry made his film debut for Mascot Pictures Corp. in In Old Santa Fe. Autry went on to make 44 B-movie Western films up to 1940, all in which he played under his own name, riding his trusty stallion, Champion. His television films began broadcasting in 1947 but original made-for-television episodes didn't appear until July 1950. These ran until 1956. Autry's role changed almost weekly from rancher, to ranch hand, to sheriff, to border agent. Pat Buttram supplied comic relief as Autry's sidekick, Pat - later to become familiar to the next generation of television viewers as Mr Haney on Green Acres. Alan Hale, Jr. - aka The Skipper from Gilligan's Island - played a bad guy in several episodes but he also played Gene's sidekick, Tiny, in two episodes of Season 1. Autry's horse won fame in his own right - getting a TV series; The Adventures of Champion from 1955 to 1956. Timeless Media Group has released the first four seasons of fully restored and uncut episodes on DVD in Region 1. (Laurence Marcus)
Bob Newhart teamed up with another sitcom veteran, Judd Hirsch, for this comedy that could have been a masculine version of the Eve Arden-Kaye Ballard sitcom The Mothers-In Law (NBC 1967-69). This time, Newhart was George Stoody, the owner of a small bookstore in the Massachusetts tourist location of Martha’s Vineyard. George’s son Ted marries Casey Wagonman. Enter Casey’s father, Leo (Hirsch), a gambler who had been on the run for 20 years after stealing money from a group of Las Vegas mobsters. The wedding of Ted and Casey provides Leo the opportunity to hide out in George’s spare room above the bookstore. The comedy stemmed from the two men’s different personalities -mild-mannered George and scheming, conniving Leo- who couldn’t stand each other. George & Leo was liked by critics overall but despite a prime Monday night slot, viewers didn’t warm to the show. and George & Leo was gone after one season.
This sitcom about a fun-loving teenage girl was the first starring role for a young Sally Field, who successfully overcame an image of a perky television star to become an two-time Academy Award-winning actress and producer. Based on the book by Frederick Kohner about his surfer daughter Kathy, Gidget (a nickname for a "girl-midget") first became popular in a 1959 film version that starred Sandra Dee as the surf-and-boy-loving Francine "Gidget" Lawrence. The movie led to two sequels, and in 1965, Columbia Pictures' television arm Screen Gems decided to turn Gidget into a half-hour comedy. Fresh-faced 18-year-old Field, who had graduated from a Columbia acting workshop, was tapped to play the title role; she beat 75 other teenage girls for the part. Field's freshness and effervescent personality dominated the show.
Lynette Winter was Gidget's best friend Larue; Betty Conner and Peter Deuel also starred as Gidget's sister and brother-in-law. (One episode also featured another future Oscar winner--Richard Dreyfuss--a classmate at fictional Westside High.) For a show aimed at teens, Gidget was well-written, with the usual weekly moral at the end of each episode. (It was also among the first regularly-scheduled colour programmes for the then third-ranked ABC.) But the show never talked down to its audience, in part because Gidget and her dad treated each other more as equals than as father-daughter. Despite its pluses, Gidget found itself chewed up in the ratings during the regular season against CBS' formidable rural comedy The Beverly Hillbillies, and was cancelled after its first and only season in 1966. But during the summer rerun period, something unusual happened. The show's ratings went up, but the last-minute burst of popularity came too late to bring Gidget back. Still, ABC and Screen Gems would make sure Sally Field starred in another comedy--and quickly (see The Flying Nun).
In 1985, a syndicated made-for-television film called Gidget's Summer Reunion did well in the ratings. Actress Caryn Richman played a now-grown-up Gidget (who owned her own travel agency). The film led to a syndicated series; The New Gidget, and this version ran longer than the original series--a two-year stretch from 1986 until 1988. It was an OK sitcom, but an older Gidget seemed to be a contradiction to the fun-loving girl many of us grew up with.
Jim Nabors had played mechanic Gomer Pyle for two seasons on The Andy Griffith Show before his character was spun off into his own situation comedy, which was nearly as popular as its parent. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. put the likable, bumbling but well-meaning Mayberry resident in the world of the Marine Corps--specifically, fictional Camp Henderson in California. When the show premiered in September 1964, Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith) went with Gomer to his new base and watched over him in the first episode, to help get the new show off to a strong start. Gomer’s superior was the gruff, by-the-book Sergeant Vince Carter, who deservedly chewed out the private in just about every episode. But there was also an undercurrent of a father-son relationship, as Carter became a protector and guide to the sometimes clueless Gomer, whose phrases included "Shazam!"; "Gol-lee, Sergeant Carter..." and "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" In many ways, Gomer Pyle was similar to No Time For Sergeants, a play that later became a television drama and a movie. In each version, Griffith starred as a bumpkin Southern boy who made good in the Air Force. (Ironically, a series version of Sergeants with Sammy Jackson playing the Griffith role of Will Stockdale failed the same season Pyle made its debut.)
Critics were not enamoured with the show, and some questioned why Gomer Pyle remained was stationed in the US at a time when thousands of soldiers were being called to duty in Vietnam. (The show never addressed the real-life war.) Viewers may have liked it that way; they enjoyed Gomer's antics and kept the show in the top ten for its entire five-year run. In 1969, Nabors decided to cancel Gomer Pyle himself, so he could star in a variety show that he felt would be a better showcase for his talents. (Nabors' deep baritone voice provided him with several hit records and was showcased occasionally on Pyle; it was also a regular of The Jim Nabors Hour, which also featured Gomer Pyle regulars Frank Sutton and comic/impersonator Ronnie Schell.) CBS cancelled Nabors in 1971, as part of the network’s efforts to modernize its programming and get rid of shows that appealed mainly to poorer, rural audiences.
A final note: Although he was promoted to private first class during the series, Gomer Pyle never received another promotion from the Marine Corps--that is, until August 2001, when Marine Corps General James Jones bestowed upon Gomer (and the 71-year-old Nabors) the title of lance-corporal during a ceremony in Honolulu, Hawaii. Go figure.
A family comedy in the style of NBC’s successful Family Ties, Growing Pains also featured an upper-middle-class clan with two working parents. In the case of Pains, psychiatrist Jason Seaver operated his practice from his Long Island, New York home while wife Maggie worked outside the home as a reporter. The Seavers had three children–oldest son and troublemaker Mike, bright middle child Carol and youngest son Ben. The Seavers later had a fourth child named Chrissy (initially played by infant twins before the producers accelerated her age to six years old). Growing Pains turned out to be a pleasant comedy dealing with minor and major issues, as a good family sitcom should. For the show’s first four seasons, Mike’s best friend was Richard Milhous Boner Stabone; his character was later written out as joining the Marines. Another notable regular came in the final season, where future film star Leonardo DiCaprio played Luke Brower, a homeless boy taken in by the Seavers.
With an enviable time slot (between Who’s The Boss? and Moonlighting), Growing Pains soon became a top-ten series and ran for seven seasons. But there were behind-the-scenes problems: Kirk Cameron, who converted to Christianity during the show’s run, began demanding changes to scenes he thought were too risqué. Actress Julie McCullough briefly played the role of nanny Julie Costello during Pains’ fifth season; Cameron called for McCullough’s firing because she posed nude for Playboy magazine. Cameron accused the show’s producers of promoting pornography. He also alienated other cast members by not inviting them to his wedding. (Cameron later apologized for his actions, blaming a lack of maturity). Co-star Tracey Gold, who gained some weight before the show’s fourth season, became the target of fat jokes by her brothers in future episodes. Gold later wrote she became obsessed with her weight and started binging and purging, causing her to drop to a dangerously low 80 pounds. Because of her appearance, Gold only appeared in a few episodes during the show’s final season.
Growing Pains spawned a pair of reunion movies in both 2000 and 2004, along with a spin-off series Just The Ten Of Us, with Mike and Carol’s gym teacher Graham Lubbock moving to California with his wife and eight children. It ran for three seasons. Growing Pains’ theme song, As Long As We’ve Got Each Other, was sung over the opening credits by B.J. Thomas (both alone and later with Jennifer Warnes and Dusty Springfield) for much of the show’s run.
This sitcom starred Dick Kallman as Hank Dearborn, a teenager who was left to care for his younger sister Tina (Katie Sweet) after their parents were killed in a car accident. To earn a living, Hank decided to take classes at fictional Western University. Of course, having no money, Hank resorted to "auditing" courses-finding out who didn't show up and posing as that person through elaborate means (which would be considered identity theft today). Dr. Lewis Royal (Howard St. John) was the registrar at Western, who was on the hunt for the young man auditing classes-not realizing the culprit, Hank, was dating his daughter Doris (Linda Foster). Moreover, the college's track coach spots Hank racing to class, and invited him to join the track team. Every week, Hank was forced to stay a step ahead of Dr. Royal and social workers who could take Tina away to foster care. Hank had a small but loyal following-too small for NBC, which cancelled the series after one season. But in an unusual move, the network allowed "Hank's" producers to tie up loose ends in the series finale: Hank was finally caught posing as an absent student, but because he did so well on a recent exam, Western University offered Hank a full scholarship. The final scene had Tina remarking "There goes my brother-the registered student." "Hank's" theme song lyrics were written by none other than Johnny Mercer! Dick Kallman was one of a number of promising performers hand-picked by Lucille Ball for her "Desilu Workshop," a project motivated in part to keep her mind off her upcoming divorce from Desi Arnaz. The young actors were featured in a Christmas special on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1959. Kallman went on to a moderately successful music and stage career before he was murdered inside his New York City apartment in 1980.
THE HATHAWAYS (1961)
This was considered a family sitcom-if you stretched the definition of "family" to include two humans and their three chimpanzees. Jack Weston was real estate agent Walter Hathaway; Peggy Cass his wife Elinore-who was the booker to their trio of chimps Candy, Charlie and Enoch. Elinore treated the chimps as real children, which always worried Walter (did she care more about the chimps than him?). Watching TV authors Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik called The Hathaways "possibly the worst series ever to air on network TV...utterly degrading...total worthlessness." Ratings were so low, ABC found only one sponsor-cereal and pet food maker Ralston Purina-willing to even sponsor half the series. Fortunately for all involved, it was cancelled after just one season. Candy, Charlie and Enoch were real performers, billed as the Marquis Chimps. They were a popular act, appearing in commercials, and on Jack Benny and Ed Sullivan's programmes-certainly more dignified settings than The Hathaways could offer.
Based on Ted Key's long running cartoon strip published in the Saturday Evening Post, Hazel starred Shirley Booth as the titular housemaid to the Baxter family who ran the family home far more efficiently than George Baxter (Don DeFore) ran his office, where he was a highly successful corporation lawyer for the firm of Butterworth, Hatch, Noll and Baxter. Hazel had a nose for everyone else's business, although ultimately this proved to be to everyone's advantage. George's wife, Dorothy (Whitney Blake) was more likely to be found shopping than housekeeping and it was Hazel's organisational skills that kept the Baxter household running smoothly. In 1965 the show moved networks so George and Dorothy were 'transferred' to the Middle East on assignment leaving Hazel and their son, Harold (Bobby Buntrock) to move in with George's brother's family. Steve Baxter (Ray Fulmer) was insistent that Hazel would not take over his home. She did!
HE AND SHE (1967)
Real life husband and wife Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss starred in this domestic/workplace comedy that was slightly ahead of its time. Benjamin played Dick Hollister, a successful New York cartoonist who created the superhero character "Jetman," which was turned into a television show. Veteran actor Jack Cassidy played Oscar North, who portrayed "Jetman" on the fictional series. Dick's wife, Paula (Prentiss) was an off-centre social worker whose problems also became Dick's. Kenneth Mars was the couple's fireman friend Harry Zarakardos, and Hamilton Camp played the building's superintendent Andrew Hummel. But despite critical raves and a time slot following Green Acres, He And She was never the hit it deserved to be. One of its producers, Allan Burns, was later part of the Mary Tyler Moore Show team. Ironically, Cassidy turned down the part of that show's pompous newscaster Ted Baxter, saying it was too similar to his He And She role. CBS aired reruns of the series during the summer of 1970.
HEAD OF THE CLASS (1986)
This above-average high school sitcom starred Howard Hessman (who gained fame as Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP In Cincinnati) as Charlie Moore, an out-of-work actor who became a substitute history teacher at Manhattan's Millard Filmore High School. One of his classes included members of the school's Individualized Honors Program. They were a group with above-average intelligence, but they weren't so great with social skills. The IHP class included nerdy Arvid Engen (Dan Frischman); overweight and blustery Dennis Blunden (Dan Schneider); conservative Yuppie Alan Pinkard (Tony O'Dell); spoiled rich girl Darlene Merriman (Robin Givens); grounded Sarah Nevins (Kimberly Russell); overachiever Maria Borges (Leslie Bega); Indian exchange student Jawaharlal Choudhury (Jory Husain); artist Simone Foster (Khrystyne Haje); 11-year-old student Janice Lazarotto (Tannis Vallely); and greaser Eric Mardian (Brian Robbins), who was intelligent despite his dislike for anything academic. It was up to Charlie to give the IHP students street smarts, along with book smarts-much to the dismay of blustery principal Doctor Harold Samuels (William G. Shilling) and the admiration of his assistant Bernadette Meara (Jeanetta Arnette). Head Of The Class became the first modern American entertainment series to film an entire episode in the Soviet Union (Charlie and the IHP class went to Moscow to face their Russian counterparts in an academic tournament). The show also featured the cast doing mini-musicals; once each season, the students would perform such productions as Hair and Little Shop Of Horrors. During the show's run, Givens became a media sensation, thanks to her marriage to controversial boxer Mike Tyson. There was gradual turnover among the students; several left before the show's demise and a few new IHP members were added, including problem student T.J. Jones (Rain Pryor). Hessman also decided to leave the series after four seasons; his replacement was Scottish-born comic Billy Connolly as Billy MacGregor, who was more of a stand-up comic compared to the droll educator Charlie Moore was. The series ended its five-season run with the remaining IHP students graduating from Filmore High, which was waiting to be demolished. Dan Schneider (who played Dennis Blunden) went on to produce and write a string of successful teen sitcoms on the Nickelodeon cable channel, including iCarly; The Amanda Show and Zoey 101. The New York Times later called Schneider the Norman Lear of children's television. Co-star Brian Robbins also worked with Schneider, and later produced such network series as Smallville and One Tree Hill.
HEAVEN FOR BETSY (1952)
Real life husband and wife Jack Lemmon and Cynthia Stone co-starred in a twice-a-week 'live broadcasted' domestic comedy. Each episode only lasted 15 minutes and featured the misadventures of newlyweds Pete and Betsy Bell. Unlike other domestic sitcoms it was the husband who was responsible for much of the mayhem with his tendency to jump headlong and headstrong into a problem before realising the possible consequences. It was his wife, an ex-secretary turned homemaker, who would get Pete out of trouble. He was an assistant buyer in a New York department store and they lived together in a two-room apartment. The series had a short run, September to December 1952. Lemmon and Stone divorced in 1956. She only enjoyed a brief career in television whilst Jack Lemmon went on to a hugely successful movie career. Their son, Chris Lemmon, is a successful author. (Laurence Marcus)
THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE (1964)
This old-fashioned variety hour was ABC's answer to CBS' long-running Ed Sullivan Show. Unlike Sullivan, there was no permanent host; a guest star assumed the hosting duties every week and introduced a variety of acts from singers and dancers, to acrobats and stand-up comics. The Hollywood Palace was born from the failed rubble of The Jerry Lewis Show. The comic's expensive and live two hour series was quickly panned by critics and shunned by audiences. After ABC bought out Lewis' contract at the end of 1963, it was still stuck with the old El Capitan Theater in Hollywood that was home base for Lewis' show. Network executives decided to use the theater for an hour-long variety show. Bing Crosby was the first star who agreed to host; he would assume the duty 31 times during the "Palace's" run. Other guest hosts included such names as Milton Berle, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante and even stars of ABC series such as Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched. The Hollywood Palace was structured much like the live vaudeville shows that were popular in the early years of the 20th century even down to having an attractive woman come out and present a card that introduced the next act to audiences. One of the early "card girls" was a shapely actress named Raquel Welch. The Hollywood Palace also introduced some popular musical acts to viewers. The Rolling Stones, for instance, made their first American appearance on "Palace;" when they were featured in a June 1964 telecast, guest host Dean Martin mocked them on the air. Martin's comments were deleted when the "Palace" episode was later repeated. But there was no mocking the Jackson 5 (fronted by a young and obviously talented Michael Jackson) when they made their national TV debut on "Palace" in October 1969. As was the case with many ABC programmes of the period, The Hollywood Palace aired in black and white; it would not broadcast in colour until the fall of 1965. (Sullivan's show also switched to tint around the same time.) Crosby hosted the last installment of The Hollywood Palace; the February 7th, 1970 "clip episode" featured the best moments from the show's run. One year later, CBS would give the axe to Ed Sullivan after 23 years anchoring Sunday nights. The demise of both vaudeville-style variety shows marked the end of an era in American television.
HOPALONG CASSIDY (1949)
As originally created by author Clarence E. Mulford, Bill 'Hopalong' Cassidy, the star of twenty- eight pulp fiction novels, was a rude, hard-living, tough-talking, wrangler of the old Wild West who got his nickname after being shot in the leg. On screen he was an entirely different character. Reserved and well spoken, with a fine sense of fair play who did not smoke, drink or swear and who always let the bad guy start the fight. The drink of his choice was the nonalcoholic sarsaparilla. In 1935, actor William Boyd was offered the supporting role of Red Connors in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy, but boldly asked for the title role which he was given. The film series eventually ended in 1947 after 66 films, with Boyd producing the last 12. Anticipating television's rise, Boyd had the prescience of mind to purchase the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy character, books and films. They didn't come cheap-but his $350,000 investment was paid back handsomely. In 1949, he released the low-budget films to television, and the first network Western television series became a sensation almost immediately. The following year alone, Boyd earned an estimated $800,000 from the telecasts, merchandise and endorsements. More than 100 companies sold Hopalong Cassidy products, including children's dinnerware, pillows, roller skates, soap, wristwatches, and jackknives. Hopalong Cassidy was also featured on the first child's lunchbox to bear a commercial image. The success of the show and tie-ins inspired several juvenile TV Westerns, including The Gene Autry Show and The Roy Rogers Show. With all the movies finally released to television original made-for-TV episodes were filmed from 1952 to 1954. Hoppy was still owner of the Bar 20 Ranch and his sidekick, Red Connors, was the perfect foil for Cassidy, who, unlike most cowboys heroes, dressed all in black and, with snow-white hair, cut quite a figure atop his horse Topper. On June 7, 2011, Timeless Media Group released Hopalong Cassidy: The Complete Television Series on DVD in Region 1. The 6-disc set features all 52 episodes of the series restored and remastered.(Laurence Marcus)
When ABC found some initial success with its prime time rock and roll showcase Shindig in the fall of 1964 (see the separate review for more on that series), the other US broadcast networks had mixed emotions. CBS never aired a show to compete with Shindig. NBC, however, couldn't resist. The Peacock Network had a solid history of starring musical talent such as Perry Como, Andy Williams and Dinah Shore in their own variety series. Rock music was simply the next step. So on January 12th, 1965. NBC presented Hullabaloo. Initially an hour-long series, it was broadcast in colour (unlike Shindig and keeping in line with NBC's colour broadcast strategy). Its director was Steve Binder, who later directed Elvis Presley's famous 1968 NBC comeback special. Hullabaloo also differed from Shindig in that it didn't have a regular host; guest stars such as Jerry Lewis, Paul Anka, Petula Clark and Frankie Avalon would introduce the acts and sing a song or two themselves. (There were also occasional segments taped from the United Kingdom and introduced by The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein; the feature was dropped after three months. Ironically, The Beatles wouldn't appear on Hullabaloo until January 1966, long after the Epstein segments were gone). The show also featured its own ten-member dancing troupe, known as the Hullabaloo Dancers (pictured above). Like Shindig, NBC found that catering to a teen audience didn't pay off with high ratings. Hullabaloo was scaled back in September 1965, airing for just a half-hour on Monday nights. But it ran longer than Shindig; the last original episode aired in April 1966 and reruns continued through August 1966.
I MARRIED DORA (1987)
This sitcom proved that illegal marriage was a bad idea for a TV series-but it was partially redeemed by a strange final episode that wrapped up the loose ties. Peter Farrell (Daniel Hugh- Kelly), a Los Angeles architect and single dad, was in danger of losing his El Salvadorian housekeeper Dora Calderon (Elizabeth Pena) to the federal immigration folks for her illegal status. Peter's bright idea: Marry Dora, allowing her to stay in the States and care for his children Kate and Will (played by Juliette Lewis and Jason Horst respectively). Of course, it was pointed out to the producers and the network that marriages under false pretences violated federal law. So on the premiere episode of I Married Dora, ABC announced that fact, and told viewers "You should not try this in your own home." The series found its humour in Peter and Dora hiding their marital status, while resisting the inevitable attraction to each other. In early 1988, ABC put the show out of its misery, but not without a final episode: Peter received a lucrative two-year job in Bahrain, and prepared to leave without Dora and the kids, even though Dora begged him to stay. Peter got onto the plane-and soon got off again. "It's been cancelled," Peter told Dora. "The flight?" asked Dora. "No," replied Peter, "our series!" The camera quickly pulled back, as the cast and crew waved so long to the few viewers who stuck with I Married Dora. It was the least they could do.
I'LL FLY AWAY (1991)
A period drama set in the late 1950's and early 1960's, it centred on the lives of a Southern district attorney and his African-American housekeeper during the Civil Rights movement. Sam Waterston played Forrest Bedford, a widower in the town of Bryland (state unknown) who hired Lilly Harper (Regina Taylor), to care for him and his children Nate and Francine (played by Jeremy London and Ashlee Levich respectively). Both Forrest and Lilly become more and more involved in the black community's struggle for equal rights-Forrest as a prosecutor; Lilly as an activist. I'll Fly Away was loved by critics but was never a mainstream hit, and the network pulled the series after two seasons. In an unusual move, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) funded a two-hour movie called I'll Fly Away: Then and Now, which wrapped up the storylines left unresolved. It aired several months after the final series episode aired on NBC. PBS also aired each of the original episodes. Sam Waterston went on to co-star as prosecutor Sam McCoy on Law & Order, while Regina Taylor became a regular on The Unit and continues to act in films and on stage. The show's title came from a 1929 Christian hymn written by Albert E. Brumley.
I'M DICKENS...HE'S FENSTER(1962)
I'm Dickens...He's Fenster followed the comic exploits of two construction workers and bosom buddies (played by John Astin and Marty Ingels). After producing thirty-two side-splittingly hilarious episodes, and despite critics' raves in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter and Time Magazine, the show was prematurely cancelled in its first season. By the time its final ratings came in, showing it having beaten Sing Along with Mitch and Route 66 for its time slot, it was too late to reassemble the cast, who had moved on to other projects. The successful and beloved show had become a casualty of timid programming and unlucky timing. Although short-lived, I'm Dickens...He's Fenster featured an extraordinary roster of guest stars, many of whom made their television debuts on the show including: Yvonne Craig ("Batgirl" from Batman), Harvey Korman (The Carol Burnett Show), Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H), Peter Lupus (Mission: Impossible), Lee Meriwether (Batman, The Time Tunnel), Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist), Edy Williams (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), and Jim Nabors (The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle USMC). The series also featured such directing talent as Arthur Hiller (Love Story, The In-Laws), Jay Sandrich (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls) , Norman Abbott, (The Munsters), Claudio Guzman (I Dream of Jeannie) and writers Mel Tolkin (Your Show of Shows, All in the Family), Don Hinkley (The Steve Allen Show, The Muppet Show) and Jay Sommers (Green Acres, Ozzie & Harriet). In addition to being creator, writer, director and producer on I'm Dickens...He's Fenster, Leonard Stern's remarkable career included writing for the Abbott and Costello and Ma and Pa Kettle movies, and the classic TV shows The Honeymooners, The Phil Silvers Show and The Steve Allen Show. From 1965-1970, Stern was executive producer, writer and director on the classic spy spoof Get Smart (starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon). He also created, produced and directed the TV series He & She (co-starring Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss) and McMillan & Wife (starring Rock Hudson and Susan St. James). He also co-created the immensely popular series of children's game books, Mad Libs. In 2012 to commemorate the series 50th anniversary a 3 disc DVD set featuring over 10 hours of content never before released on DVD or VHS was made available by Lightyear Entertainment and can be purchased through Amazon.Com in the USA and Canada. This is not currently available in the UK. (Review courtesy of Lightyear Entertainment)
An hour-long comedy-drama now considered a cult classic, it told the story of four young men who lived on a houseboat. Wes Macauely (Glenn Corbett) was a pre-law college student who cared for his younger brother Howie (Mike Burns) after their parents were killed in a car wreck. Wes' fellow college buddy, Tom-Tom DeWitt (Ted Bessell)--who came from a wealthy family--lived with the group; by the second episode, Tom-Tom's friend Vern Hodges (Randy Boone) joined the gang on the houseboat they shared (called "The Elephant") in the fictional college town of Cordetta. Wes was easily the most settled of the four; he worked at a gas station and had a fiancé, Irene Hoff (Jan Norris). The stories revolved around the personalities of the four young men-Wes' struggles to make ends meet; Tom-Tom's obsession with the fast life (and fast girls); Howie's coming-of-age; and Vern's free-spirit nature and talent with a guitar. It's A Man's World was ahead of its time in dealing with the differences between adults and youth, premarital sex, and the rise of feminism. While a minor cult favourite among college students, it could not succeed against ABC's entrenched Cheyenne or CBS' game show staples To Tell The Truth and I've Got A Secret. Despite letters urging NBC to stay with the show, the network yanked the series in late January 1963. All four of the young stars would go on to roles in other television series; one of the show's writers, Earl Hammer, would later find fame as creator of the now-iconic family drama The Waltons.