US TV shows not broadcast in the UK
JAMES AT 15 (1977)
Novelist Dan Wakefield ("Going All The Way") created this realistic dramatic series about an adolescent boy who faced the trials and tribulations of most teenagers. Lance Kerwin played 15-year old James Hunter, whose college professor father moved the family from Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts to accept a teaching position. After initially running away from home, James reluctantly began to deal with his new surroundings as he tried to make friends at fictional Bunker Hill High School. His friends included Ludwig "Sly" Hazeltine (David Hubbard), a hip middle-class African-American student who gave James advice on various issues-or as he called it, "Slycology." Susan Myers played Marlene Mahoney, James' intellectual friend. Linden Chiles was James' father, Paul Hunter; Lynn Carlin was mom Joan; Kim Richards and Deidre Berthrong were James' sisters Sandy and Kathy, respectively. James was a budding photographer who liked to daydream occasionally; his fantasies sometimes became part of the storyline. But the show never resorted to stereotypes, and it dealt credibly with real-life issues such as alcoholism, cancer, premarital sex and sexually transmitted diseases. In a February 1978 episode, young James marked his 16th birthday by losing his virginity to a Swedish exchange student named Christina (Kirsten Baker); at that point, the series was renamed James At 16. But Wakefield left the show after a dispute with NBC over the use of the word "responsible" as an euphemism for birth control, and the network's insistence that James should express remorse over the sexual encounter. James At 15 initially aired as a made-for-TV film in May 1977; its high ratings led the network to commission a series for the fall. Critics loved it (Tom Shales of The Washington Post said "it communicates something about the state of being young, rather than just communicating that it wishes to lure young viewers"). But ratings were not as high as NBC had hoped, and "James" was not renewed for a second season. Still, it had an impact on future teen dramas. Writer Kevin Williamson said he wanted to create a "James At 15 for the 90's" when he came up with Dawson's Creek. Indeed, "Dawson's"-along with Beverly Hills, 90210, My So-Called Life, Degrassi High and Skins, to name just a few-owe a debt to James At 15 for leading the way.
LIFE WITH ELIZABETH(1953)
The first in a long line of sitcoms featuring veteran actress Betty White, who not only starred but co-produced the programme-a rare feat for a woman in the early 1950's. Life With Elizabeth originally aired live on a Los Angeles television station in 1952; it was sold to local stations across the country a year later. Elizabeth was a suburban housewife married to Alvin (Del Moore). Each 30-minute episode was divided into three short stories, featuring the stars in one incident or another. Inevitably, when things got bad, Alvin would turn to her and say, "Elizabeth, aren't you ashamed?" After Alvin left the scene, she would smile and grin, indicating she had no shame. Unlike many domestic comedies of the era, "Elizabeth" seldom resorted to slapstick; the humour came from the interchange between Elizabeth and Alvin. Jack Narz was the show's announcer and narrator. White would win her first Emmy Award for playing Elizabeth-one of many highlights in a 70-year career that's still going strong in the first decade of the 21st century.
LIFE WITH LUIGI (1952)
J. Carrol Naish (the J stood for Joseph) was born in New York in 1896. In spite of his roots he is better known on television as employing a number of ethnic accents in character roles - all except Irish, which is odd because he was of Irish descent. He played the Chinese detective Charlie Chan in 1957 and an American Indian in Guestward Ho! (1960-61), but his most successful role was as Italian immigrant Luigi Basco in Life With Luigi which began on CBS radio in 1948. The series was so successful that by 1950 it was surpassing Bob Hope in the ratings. In 1952 the series transferred to television. Luigi is a newly arrived immigrant who settles in Chicago. Situations arose from Luigi's misunderstanding of American life and language, often taking what was said far too literally. The setting for the series alternated between Luigi's antique shop and his friend Pasquale's (Alan Reed) restaurant. It was Pasquale's aim in life to marry Luigi off to his sister Rosa (Jody Gilbert). Naish only played the character on television for one season and when it briefly returned in 1953 it did so with an entire new cast in the principal roles. However, unlike The Goldbergs, a highly regarded series which chronicled the experience of Jewish immigrants in New York, Life With Luigi was seen as an example of extreme ethnic stereotyping and many viewers complained that they found it offensive. With the bad publicity it started to recieve the sponsors got cold feet and both radio series (last broadcast March 1953) and television series (last broadcast June 1953) were pulled.
THE LORETTA YOUNG SHOW / LETTER TO LORETTA (1953)
This filmed anthology series featured the Oscar-winning actress as host and sometime performer, and was very popular during its run. Each episode began with the star making a dramatic entrance in a beautiful gown to introduce the story (which was parodied by comics of the time), and she read a Bible passage at the show's end to emphasize the story's moral. The series was initially known as Letter To Loretta, where Young read a message from one of her fans faced with a problem; the drama that followed was the answer to the fan's letter. The basic format continued a year later, but the show's title was changed to The Loretta Young Show. Proctor and Gamble sponsored the series for much of its run, and the stories ranged from serious drama to lighthearted fables. Young appeared in at least half of the episodes each season aside a male lead. (Ricardo Montalban guest-starred on nine episodes; actor John Newland-who also directed a number of shows-was Young's most frequent co-star, appearing in 13 installments). Young won three Emmy awards for her television work. In 1955, the star's health required her to have an operation; guest stars would host and perform in the dramas until Young returned to the screen at the end of 1955. When the series ended six years later and the show aired in repeats on NBC's daytime schedule and in syndication, Young asked that the opening scenes with her flowing gowns be replaced; she feared the fashions had become dated with time. In 1962, the actress returned to series television playing a widowed mother who was a freelance magazine writer. But The New Loretta Young Show lasted just one season on CBS. Loretta Young all but retired from acting in the 1960's. A devout Catholic, she focused on charity work until her death from ovarian cancer on August 12th, 2000.
LOVE ON A ROOFTOP (1966)
Newly-married couple David and Julie Willis were from two different worlds: David (Peter Duel) was an apprentice architect making a grand total of $85.37 a week; Julie (Judy Carne) was the daughter of a wealthy family and was more of a dreamer than a practical homemaker. But love won out, and the pair set up housekeeping in a small top-floor walk up apartment with a beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay. David and Julie had to deal with neighbours Stan and Carol Parker (impressionist Rich Little and Barbara Bostock), along with Julie's parents Phyllis and Fred Hammond (Edith Atwater and Herb Voland), who didn't approve of the couple's Spartan lifestyle. Sandy Kenyon was David's co-worker Jim Lucas. Despite decent ratings, ABC ended Love On A Rooftop after just one season. But the network aired repeats during the summer of 1971, in part to capitalize on the two stars-Duel was by that time starring on the series Alias Smith & Jones and Carne was a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.
LUCAS TANNER (1974)
David Hartman could have been a professional baseball player-or an economist. Instead, he pursued acting and did rather well at it, starring in The New Doctors instalment of NBC's The Bold Ones anthology and guest starring on other series and in films. Lucas Tanner cast Hartman in the title role of a former baseball player and sportswriter who started a new life after his wife and son died in a car accident. He moved to St. Louis, Missouri and became an English teacher at Harry Truman High School in the suburb of Webster Groves (where the series was filmed). His down-to-earth style of education (and his way of dealing with teen issues such as sex, violence and peer pressure) didn't sit well with his fellow teachers, but was supported by principal Margaret Blumenthal (Rosemary Murphy). Young Robbie Rist played Lucas' neighbour Glendon Farrell. In mid-season, Margaret was replaced as school principal by John Hamilton (John Randolph), who was more of an adversary for Lucas. The pilot episode of Lucas Tanner premiered in May 1974 as a 90-minute TV film; an ad in TV Guide magazine featured the headline "Once he pitched in the majors, now he throws curves at the establishment-and the students love him for it!" But the show was a marginal performer in the ratings, and the network set it free after one season. Lucas Tanner was David Hartman's last role as an actor. In November 1975, he began a new career as the host of ABC's breakfast show Good Morning America, which became the first programme to successfully challenge NBC's entrenched Today. Hartman left the show in 1987 after a dispute with ABC over salary and programme control. He continues to host documentaries for public television and other outlets.
MARTIN KANE, PRIVATE EYE (1949)
Television's first private eye was broadcast live from 1st September 1949 and was also heard on radio for several years. Both formats were sponsored by U.S. Tobacco and as a result Kane could often be found hanging around Happy McCann's tobacco shop where he could discuss with the owner (played by Walter Kinsella) the virtues of buying the sponsor's products. Played by actor William Gargan (pictured), Kane was a New York based private eye, easy-going, wisecracking, cool exterior, all of which masked a tough investigator who was nobody's fool. The stories invariably revolved round a murder investigation that, according to Gargan's own 1969 published biography, were nothing to write home about. 'Very soon in the game I realised our stories were nothing to rave about.' He wrote. 'I developed a tongue-in-cheek style, a spoof of the hard-boiled detective a way of silently saying, 'Don't blame me for the lousy stories, I didn't write them.' Gargan remained in the role for two years but left in 1951. 'It also had a producer I could not abide.... He used the show for a flesh parade. The result was we had pretty, empty-headed girls on the show. blowing lines all over the lot. The show began to slide downhill. In desperation, I began to mug a little more, to cover up the new holes, and the script writers began to write more blatantly. You get into a terrible rut this way. Everybody works harder to undo the damage, and the result is more screeching, more overacting, overwriting, which starts to drive the viewers away.' In spite of Gargan's comments by 1950 the show had reached 12th spot in the ratings, and in two subsequent seasons, reached the top ten. In 1951 Lloyd Nolan took the lead role but he departed after one season to be replaced by Lee Tracy who gave way in 1953 to Mark Stevens. Although cancelled in 1953 the series returned three years later in a British produced, syndicated run entitled The New Adventures of Martin Kane. Gargan's career came to an end in 1958 when he developed throat cancer, and doctors were forced to remove his larynx. Speaking through an artificial voice box, Gargan became an activist and spokesman for the American Cancer Society, often warning about the dangers of smoking. (Laurence Marcus)
MR. PEEPERS (1952)
One of American television's earliest and best sitcoms, it was a showcase for its star Wally Cox and a stellar supporting cast. Cox, a rising comic of the day, played Robinson Peepers, a science teacher at fictional Jefferson High School. His shy, quiet manner and tendency to get into unusual situations provided the show's gentle humour. Marion Lorne (later to turn up in Bewitched as Aunt Clara) played English teacher Mrs. Gurney; Tony Randall (The Odd Couple) was brash history teacher Harvey Weskit and Patricia Benoit was Nancy Remington, the school's nurse, who eventually became Peepers' romantic interest-and his wife (their 1954 wedding was one of the most-watched television events that year). The Ford Motor Company sponsored the first eight episodes of Mr. Peepers during the summer of 1952; despite good ratings, NBC did not bring it back when the fall season began. But faced with the total critical and ratings failure of a new filmed comedy called Doc Corkle (which lasted just three episodes), NBC quickly rushed Mr. Peepers back into production for a late October 1952 start. The show ran through June 1955. The series aired live from New York City, but only 102 episodes have survived on kinescope; many of those episodes have been released on DVD in the States. Wally Cox became typecast as a milquetoast after Mr. Peepers ended (he was actually an athletic, well-built man who counted former roommate Marlon Brando as one of his closest friends). Cox appeared as a guest on various variety shows and sitcoms; lent his voice to the cartoon character Underdog; and was a regular on the game show The Hollywood Squares. Wally Cox died February 15th, 1973; Brando reportedly kept Cox's ashes with him. When Brando died in 2004, his family scattered both Brando and Cox's ashes over California's Death Valley.
MY FAVOURITE HUSBAND (1953)
My Favourite Husband started life as a 1948 radio series which starred Lucille Ball and was the basis for her famous Lucy character in the TV sitcom I Love Lucy. My Favourite Husband, with Ball co-starring alongside Richard Denning, would have transferred to television and the history of the US sitcom might have been significantly different if it hadn't been for Ball's refusal to do a domestic sitcom without her real-life husband Desi Arnaz. CBS agreed and I Love Lucy was born with several of the 'Husband' radio scripts being reworked into the 'Lucy' series. My Favourite Husband finally made it to television in 1953, starring Joan Caulfield and Barry Nelson as Liz and George Cooper. He was a successful bank executive and she a scatterbrained houswife. They lived comfortably in a suburban home next door to the Cobbs, social high-climbers who were always trying to get the Coopers to improve their image. The series enjoyed modest success for two full seasons but for the third, broadcast 18 months later, CBS decided to make several changes. Vanessa Brown replaced Joan Caulfield as Liz and the next door neighbours became the Shepard's even though Alix Talton, who had played Myra Cobb, was now playing Myra Shepard. If viewers were confused then they needn't have worried too much. Three months after all these changes were made the series folded.
MY LIVING DOLL (1964)
Producer Jack Chertok, who hit paydirt with My Favorite Martian tried a slightly different approach in this comedy about a sexy female robot and the psychologist assigned to care for her. Bob Cummings (in his last major series role) played Doctor Bob McDonald, who looked after "Rhoda Miller" (Julie Newmar), also known as AF709. She was named after her creator, Carl Miller (Henry Beckman). When Miller was reassigned to Pakistan, he asked Bob to complete "Rhoda's" education-teaching her to be the "perfect woman." Of course, Bob had the job of also keeping "Rhoda's" robotic identity a secret. The situation wasn't helped much by neighbour Peter Robinson (Jack Mullaney), who was smitten with "Rhoda." or by Bob's sister, Irene Adams (Doris Dowling) who lived with him as his housekeeper to make sure no hanky-panky was going on between Bob and "Rhoda." My Living Doll was definitely sexist by today's standards, as "Rhoda" was taught to keep house and follow a man's orders. Critics liked Newmar's performance (she would go on to a number of roles, including that of Catwoman on the 1960's series version of Batman) Cummings was also praised; no surprise for the veteran of such sitcoms as My Hero and Love That Bob. But it was scheduled against NBC's top-rated western Bonanza. Predictably, My Living Doll landed in the bottom half of the ratings charts. CBS did move the series to Wednesday nights in an effort to win a larger audience, but Bob Cummings was written out of the show after 21 episodes. (Cummings wanted out of his contract due in part to the show's ratings; there were also reports he and Newmar didn't get along on the set.) The remaining five episodes focused on Peter (who learned "Rhoda" was a robot) and was assigned to care for her after Bob was sent to Pakistan (just like "Rhoda's" creator Carl Miller). Adams was written out of the series and replaced by Nora Marlow, who played Peter's housekeeper Mrs. Moffat. All the changes didn't help, and My Living Doll was not renewed for a second season. The series did leave one legacy to pop culture: The "Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang" says the sci-fi phrase "does not compute" originated on My Living Doll. Which was apt, considering the series didn't.
90 BRISTOL COURT (1964)
An unusual but unsuccessful effort in the sitcom genre, it featured three 30-minute comedies-one after another-with a unifying theme. In this case, 90 Bristol Court was the address of a California apartment complex where the stars of all three sitcoms lived; the only character that appeared in the trio of shows was handyman Cliff Murdoch, played by Guy Raymond. First up was Karen, which starred Debbie Watson as a typical teenage girl named Karen Scott. Her parents were played by Richard Denning and Mary La Roche; Gina Gillespie was her younger sister Mimi. (Trivia: The show's theme song was performed by The Beach Boys!) Next was Tom, Dick and Mary-which, despite its somewhat racy title, was squeaky-clean. Don Galloway and Joyce Bulifant played newlyweds Tom and Mary Gentry. To help pay the rent at 90 Bristol Court, the couple took in Tom's best friend Dick Moran (Steve Franken); all three worked at the same hospital-Tom and Dick were interns; Mary was a secretary. The final series was Harris Against The World (pictured), starring Jack Klugman as Allan Harris, a movie studio employee who had to juggle work with his family. Patricia Barry was his wife Kate; Claire Wilcox and David Macklin were the couple's children DeeDee and Billy. Klugman, who considered himself a serious actor at the time, signed for the "Harris" role before he won an Emmy for an episode of the legal drama The Defenders. Critics didn't take to any of the shows on 90 Bristol Court; one called the experiment "as synthetic in concept as a $15 suit." Viewers seemed to feel the same; up against ABC's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea along with the powerful CBS trio of To Tell the Truth, I've Got a Secret and The Andy Griffith Show, all three sitcoms landed at the bottom of the Nielsen ratings. But "Karen's" Debbie Watson was a fan favorite, judging by the number of letters sent to NBC. In January 1965, the network axed the 90 Bristol Court concept by cancelling Harris Against the World and Tom, Dick and Mary and eliminating Guy Raymond's handyman character. Only Karen survived as a stand-alone series, but ratings didn't improve, and the teenager and her family was gone at the end of the season. Watson would go on to star in the short-lived sitcom version of Tammy and retired from acting not long after. Klugman did better with The Odd Couple and Quincy, while Bulifant would appear in dozens of sitcoms, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Denning, who played Lucille Ball's fictional spouse on radio's "My Favorite Husband," would later become a regular on Hawaii 5-0.
THE NANNY (1993)
Fran Drescher, who first made her acting mark as Connie in Saturday Night Fever, starred in this sometimes cartoonish sitcom about a "Jewish-American Princess" who became a caretaker for the children of a successful Broadway producer. As the show's animated opening theme (and lively title song) established, Fran Fine (Drescher) was fired as a bridal consultant by her fiancee, and ended up selling cosmetics door-to-door. She landed on the doorstep of successful producer Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy), who liked her moxie and quickly hired Fran to care for his three kids-Maggie (Nicholle Tom), Brighton (Benjamin Salsbury) and Grace (Madeline Zima). Working with Fran was Niles (Daniel Davis), the sarcastic butler. Then there was Maxwell's socialite business partner Chastity Claire (C.C.) Babcock (Lauren Lane), who viewed Fran as an underling and a threat to her hopes of making Maxwell her husband. (Niles loved Fran and hated C.C., so it was easy to tell whose side he was on.) Always on hand to give Fran both advice and grief is her equally flamboyant mother Sylvia (Renee Taylor) and grandmother Yetta (Ann Morgan Guilbert, formerly Millie Helper on The Dick Van Dyke Show). It didn't take long for Fran to bond with Maxwell's kids and give the Sheffield household a dose of humour and free spirit, setting the tone with her nasal, foghorn-like voice and her wardrobe. But her middle-class roots served Fran well, whether solving one of the kids' problems or helping Maxwell in his career. Near the end of the show's run, Maxwell realized he loved Fran deeply and eventually married her; Fran adopted Maxwell's children and became pregnant, giving birth to twins. The series finale had the Sheffield family moving from New York to California-and in a real shocker, Niles ended up marrying his nemesis C.C.! Drescher and her then-husband Peter Marc Jacobson created The Nanny with the help of veteran sitcom producers Robert Sternin and Prudence Frasier (Who's The Boss?). CBS Entertainment chairman Jeff Sagnasky loved the premise and stuck by the series, even when its ratings were low. During the summer of 1994, viewers finally found The Nanny, and its popularity rose, ensuring its fate. After the series ended its run, Drescher and Jacobson divorced (Drescher later admitted Jacobson was gay, but the two remained good friends) and she was diagnosed with uterine cancer, requiring a radical hysterectomy. She was given a clean bill of health. Drescher later co-starred in the short-lived sitcom Living With Fran, became a champion for women with cancer and gay rights, and even considered a run for Congress.
OCCASIONAL WIFE (1966)
One of the more outlandish comedies to air on American television. Michael Callan played Peter Christopher, a bachelor and executive at the Brahms Baby Food Company. Since owner Max Brahms (Jack Collins) was devoted to marriage and family, the unattached Peter found it hard to get promoted. His solution came in the form of aspiring painter Greta Patterson (Patricia Harty), who also worked as a hat-check girl. Greta agreed to pose as his "occasional wife" during social and business functions when the boss was around. In return, Peter set Greta up in an apartment on the eighth floor (two floors above his); he also paid for her art lessons and a pair of contact lenses. The humour (such as it was) was caused by the complications of having Peter and Greta pose as husband and wife, forcing them to reach each others apartments through the fire escape-much to the chagrin of their seventh-floor neighbour (Bryan O'Byrne, billed on the series as "Man-in-Middle"). If you became confused by all the developments, narrator and veteran sportscaster Vin Scully was on hand to provide the "play by play action." Viewer interest was strong when Occasional Wife made its debut, but ratings soon fell and NBC ordered a divorce after just one season.
PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES (1965)
Based on the 1957 best-selling book by Jean Kerr (which also spawned a successful 1960 film starring Doris Day and David Niven), this sitcom centred on an unusual suburban family. Jim Nash (Mark Miller taught English in the town of Ridgemont, New York. Wife Joan (Patricia Crowley) was a freelance writer who used the pen name Joan Holliday. She hated to do housework, cooking and other traditional homemaking chores, making her sort of an early feminist before that term was in vogue. The couple had four boys, oldest son Kyle (Kim Tyler), younger Joel (Brian Nash) and seven-year-old twins Tracey and Trevor (Joe and Jeff Fithian). Veteran actress Ellen Corby (later Esther Walton on The Waltons) appeared occasionally as the family maid Martha O'Reilly; the Nashes also had a 150-pound sheepdog named Ladadog. The family lived in a large, older castle-like home in Ridgemont (228 Circle Avenue) complete with a bell tower. Somewhat ahead of its time, Please Don't Eat The Daisies managed to run for two seasons.