This Full House Was Never Too Crowded

As we are looking at some of our favorite television families, the series would not be coplete without the Tanners. Airing from 1987 to 1995, Full House appeared on ABC, producing 192 episodes. Jeff Franklin created the show about widower Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) who raised his three daughters: D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure), Stephanie (Jodi Sweetin), and Michelle (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) with the help of his brother-in-law Jesse (John Stamos) and best friend Joey (Dave Coulier). DJ’s best friend Kimmy (Andrea Barber) is also on the scene quite often. Interestingly, Coulier was friends with Saget and early in his career, he slept on Saget’s couch while he was trying to become a comedian.

The First Season Cast Members Photo: time.com

Because Saget and Coulier were already friends, the two actors went on a road trip to Las Vegas with Stamos to help them get to know each other. Since Coulier and Stamos were both single at the time, they bonded a lot. On the show, Joey and Jesse also become closer friends, seeming to have more in common with each other than with Danny.

Danny is a sports anchor, his brother-in-law is a musician, and his best friend, a comedian. They juggle schedules to get the girls where they need to go and tuck them in at night.

In season two, Danny becomes the host of a morning show, Wake Up San Francisco. His costar, Rebecca (Lori Loughlin), is young and fun and smart. However, the romance is not between her and Danny; she dates and later marries Jesse.

Saget was always first choice for Danny but because of his schedule, the pilot features John Posey in the role. Jodi Sweetin was brought in after an appearance she made on Valerie. Loughlin was hired for a six-week limited romance but never left once she started.

Photo: entertainmenttonight.com

There were a lot of famous celebrities who appeared on the show including Frankie Avalon, Scott Baio, The Beach Boys, Phyllis Diller, Annette Funicello, Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Little Richard, and Marcia Wallace. On one episode Cameron’s real brother, Kirk Cameron appeared with Chelsea Noble. They began dating and later married.

Surprisingly, the show’s writing staff was inconsistent; Franklin who also wrote for the show was the only writer to stay through eight seasons. 

Several of the characters developed catch phrases that were repeated all over the country. Jesse’s was “Have Mercy”; Joey’s was “Cut it Out”; and D.J.’s was “Oh My Lanta.” Stephanie often said “How Rude” while Michelle fittingly had two (one for each twin), with “You Got it Dude” and “You’re in Big Trouble Mister.”

Photo: pinterest.com

The theme song, “Everywhere You Look,” was co-written by Bennett Salvay and Jesse Frederick, with Frederick doing the singing.

The show was in the top thirty every year after season one. It was on Friday nights for most of its run. There was a short time during season two when it was briefly moved to Tuesdays and then aired on both Tuesdays and Fridays to try to build its audience numbers. During season five, the show moved to Tuesdays until it was canceled. Despite its being in the top 25 in 1995, the network decided to end the show. It cited increasing production costs.

Photo: pinterest.com

Fun fact, Dave Coulier made a puppet for the show, Mr. Woodchuck. He sold it to Toys R Us if you are ever looking for a gift for a big fan of the show. Another interesting item is that Ashley Olsen was right-handed while Mary Kate was left-handed, so Michelle is ambidextrous.

Unlike so many of the reboots of shows from the 80s and 90s, this show had a sequel, Fuller House, starring the same cast from 2016-2020. The show recently began appearing in Me TV’s lineup of shows.

The cast was definitely one big family on the show and they considered themselves family off the air as well. This came to light recently after the death of Bob Saget. When asked about how they were doing, Coulier commented, “We pull together as a family during moments like this. We’ve pretty much experienced everything that a real family can experience. Getting picked up, getting canceled, marriages, divorces, births, deaths. I mean, it’s pretty much what every family goes through. And we’ve stuck together through all of it.”

He also said that it “was incredible to have a group of people in our lives like this, where we know we’re going to get that instant support system. It’s pretty special.” Bure said that the cast “genuinely love each other.”

Saget, Stamos, and Coulier truly watched the girls grow up and transition from their kids to their friends. It is these relationships that give the show the special heart-warming atmosphere that surrounds most of the scenes. There are the arguments, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings that all families experience, but there is also unconditional love both on and off the set. We would all be better off if we had a “Full House.”

Last Season’s Cast Photo: tvinsider.com

Life Goes On, But Television Shows Do Not

This month’s blog series is “Some of Our Favorite Television Families.” In 1989 I remember tuning into a new show on ABC on Sunday night called Life Goes On. I continued to plant myself in front of the television every Sunday night for the next four years to do life with the Thatcher family.

The Cast of Life Goes On Photo: tvline.com

Executive Producer Michael Braverman worked with Chris Burke, an actor with Down syndrome in 1987 in a movie Desperate. ABC asked Braverman to create a series for Burke. Life Goes On was the first series to star a character with Down Syndrome.

The Thatchers lived in a Chicago suburb. Dad Drew (Bill Smitrovich) is a restaurant owner of The Glen Brook Grill and Special Olympics coach. Mom Libby (Patti LuPone) was a stay-at-home mom but when their restaurant burns down, she goes to work for an advertising agency.

Oldest daughter Paige (Monique Lanier season 1, Tracey Needham, seasons 2-4) has a great relationship with her brother but a trying one with her sister. She was Drew’s daughter from a previous relationship and moves back into the house trying to find her purpose in life. Lanier left the series to have a baby, so Needham took over the role.

Son Corky (Chris Burke) is the middle child. He has Down Syndrome and much of the first season is centered on Corky, especially his acclimating to “regular” high school.

Becca and Jesse Photo: deadline.com

Daughter Becca (Kellie Martin) is the youngest; she is extremely intelligent but feels socially awkward, and many of the episodes from later seasons feature Becca as she grows up. Many shows include her boyfriends, Tyler (Tommy Puett), Corky’s best friend and her boyfriend for the first half of the series, and Jesse (Chad Lowe), her boyfriend in seasons 3 and 4.

The show handled a lot of sensitive issues from a practical and healthy perspective. Corky deals with the difficulties his disease produces, especially how other people interact with him. After graduation, he gets a job at a local movie theater, moves into an apartment, and meets a girl named Amanda who also has Down Syndrome. The two eventually marry. His best friend Tyler dies in a car accident while Corky is a passenger in the car. Another ongoing storyline was when Becca’s boyfriend Jesse was diagnosed with HIV. It dealt with the ways people treated him, or mistreated him, after his diagnosis and the effect his illness had on their romantic relationship.

The show reminded me a bit of Family having three kids, with the son being the middle child. In that show, both sisters got along with Willy but Nancy and Buddy’s relationship was not always positive. It had a lot of humor written into the scripts and like life, more heart-warming than heart-breaking moments.

Life Goes On borrowed the Beatles song “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” for its theme song; the song contained the lyrics “Life goes on.”

From The Partridges to the Thatchers Photo: wikifandom.com

The home in the opening credits of the series was located at 305 North Bowling Green Way in Brentwood as cited by https://www.iamnotastalker.com/tag/tv-houses/page/3/. If you have never seen her webpage, you should definitely check it out. Filming was done at a sound stage and at the Warner Brothers Ranch, an area you know well if you’ve been reading my blog for a while. The Thatchers lived in the same house the Partridges did.

The show was nominated for four Emmys, winning two. Lowe won for supporting actor in 1993 and Martin was nominated for supporting actress but lost to Mary Alice in I’ll Fly Away. Burke won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television

Last fall it was announced that a sequel to the series might be in the works. A pilot was produced in January for a show that Martin would star in with both Martin and Lowe producing. This show would portray Becca returning to her hometown.

Corky gets married. Photo: imdb.com

In the series finale in 1993 Jesse and Becca marry after she finishes college and begins her career as a doctor. She wants to have a baby which he has a hard time reconciling with his AIDS. Becca is telling a story to a ten-year-old boy at the time and at the end of the show, she kisses him and says “Good night Jesse,” leaving us to imagine that she and Jesse did have a baby but leaving the actual identity of his parent unknown. It is also revealed that Becca married a man named David after Jesse died from AIDS.

I’m guessing that Martin and Lowe must still be close if they are involved in a potentially new project. Typically, one of the things I run across in my research is the relationships of the cast members. Unfortunately, I could not find any information about how the cast got along, with the exception of LuPone’s and Smitrovich’s dislike of each other. In her biography, LuPone mentions that the two costars were not even speaking to each other by the time the show went off the air and did not get along during the filming of most of the episodes.

Photo: imdb.com

LuPone was also not particularly happy with her character’s plots, or lack of plots. It’s surprising that a show would cover so many controversial or misunderstood topics and yet not address the role of women very well. When LuPone was discussing her character during the run of the show, she said that she was “’very unhappy with the way the season has unfolded and how unimportant the mother is in the family. I’m not satisfied — there’s no other way to put it. There are a lot of issues for women over 40 that they could have explored and they chose not to.’ LuPone says she has made her discontent known, but ‘men run the show, and they’re not interested in exploring these issues. [Libby] is going the way of all Hollywood mothers — she’s just a fixture, a device.’”

If you want to learn more about the show, Herbie Pilato wrote a book, Life Story—The Book of Life Goes On: Television’s First and Best Family Show of Challenge. I’m not sure how the book was received by the cast and crew, but Braverman wrote the forward. It has a 4.5 rating on Amazon and most people gave it a 5.0.

I’m not sure how well the show would play in the 2020s. Because it dealt with so many topics of the eighties and nineties, it may feel stuck in that time period. However, we have proven over and over that we are slow learners and there are probably a lot of issues dealt with in the show that we are still trying to resolve today. And, there are a lot of great life lessons and stories to learn, so it would be well worth investing in the DVD set to check it out.

Everyone is Welcome on The Waltons

As we celebrate some of our favorite families, The Walton family has to be on the list. Those of us who were kids in the seventies grew up with the Walton kids. Debuting in 1971, the show was canceled a decade later.

The Cast of The Waltons Photo: theguardian.com

The show was listed as a historical drama, but it had a lot of humor in it as well. Based on the book Spencer’s Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr. from 1961, the show was incredibly popular. In 1963 a movie was released based on the book. Hamner created the book from his childhood memories, and many of the plots and characters were based on real events and people. The ending of the episodes has often been parodied, and even if you never watched the show, you recognize the ending when the kids all said “Goodnight John Boy”, “Goodnight Ben”, “Goodnight Erin”, etc until they were told to go to sleep. Hamner said this was a regular activity in his home, and he did have six siblings.

In 1971 a made-for-tv movie called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story received great ratings, so the show was ordered by CBS for a new series. It was produced by Lorimar Productions and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution in syndication. After the show went off the air, both CBS and NBC aired a total of six sequel movies.

The Waltons have a big family. John (Ralph Waite) and Olivia (Michael Learned) live with John’s parents Zebulon (Will Geer) and Esther (Ellen Corby). The couple has seven children: John Boy (Richard Thomas), Jason (Jon Walmsley), Mary Ellen (Judy Norton Taylor), Erin (Mary Elizabeth McDonough), Ben (Eric Scott), Jim Bob (David W. Harper), and Elizabeth (Kami Cotler).

The story was set in Virginia in Walton’s Mountain, a fictional town based on Spencer’s hometown of Schuyler. During the years that the show was on television, it covered 1933 to 1946. John runs a lumber mill, and the family does some farming. Halfway through the series, Grandma Walton has a stroke and Grandpa Walton passes away; in real life Corby did have a stroke and Geer died that year.

The Baldwin Sister Photo: thewaltons.com

During the run of the show, we get to know a lot of the community members including The Baldwin sisters, Emily and Mamie (Mary Jackson, Helen Kleeb), who sell Papa’s recipe, otherwise known as moonshine; Ike Godsey (Joe Conley) who runs the general store; Flossie Brimmer (Nora Marlow), a widow who owns a boarding house and communicates the town gossip; Yancy Tucker (Robert Donner), a local handyman; Sheriff Ep Bridges (John Crawford), and Reverend Fordwick (John Ritter).

Although the Depression is hard for the family to navigate, WWII caused even more hardship in their community. All four Walton boys serve in the military as does Mary Ellen’s husband. John Boy’s plane is shot down, and Curtis (Tom Bower), Mary Ellen’s husband, a physician, was sent to Pearl Harbor and believed to have died. However, years later Mary Ellen learns he has been alive the entire time, and she finds him living under an assumed name, depressed from his wounds. They divorce, and she later finds love and marries a second time. In later seasons, Olivia volunteers at the VA hospital and is not an active member of the series. She later is said to develop TB and moves to a sanitarium in Arizona. Her cousin Rose (Peggy Rea) moves into the house to help take care of the family, and a couple of years later, John moves to Arizona as well. The sequel movies took place in 1947, 1963, 1964, and 1969.

John Boy grows up to be a journalist and a novelist; he narrates the opening and closing of each episode, and the voice of the adult John Boy is Earl Hamner, the author. He is able to attend Boatwright University in a nearby town before moving to New York to begin his writing career. Jason is interested in music, and Mary Ellen becomes a nurse.

Walton’s Mountain was part of the Hollywood Hills range near the Warner studios in Burbank, and the town was built at the studio as well. Because the original set was destroyed when the show was canceled, later sequels had to recreate the home. That building is still being used and became the Dragonfly Inn on Gilmore Girls.

Photo: entertainment weekly.com

Although the network did not think the show would last, the show was very popular with both the viewers and critics. The networks had just done the “rural purge” where they canceled all shows with rural themes even those like Green Acres that were receiving high ratings. However, congressional hearings were held to discuss the moral compass of programming on television, and President Bush wanted more family shows, so the network gave it a go. I’m guessing they did not want the show to do well considering it was definitely a rural show, and they put it up against The Flip Wilson Show and Mod Squad. Ralph Waite did not want to be tied to a series long term but his agent told him not to worry about it, the show would never sell.

When Thomas was asked about the show’s popularity, he said, “It was kind of a miracle and a mystery. Certainly, the last thing any of us expected was that it would be embraced the way it was. I think our competition on Thursday night was Flip Wilson and Mod Squad, which were hugely popular and terrific shows for people. I think we premiered in 34th place and finished the season in first. It was just this steady climb. The critical community certainly came and went to bat for us.”

In 1973 the series won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. That same year Richard Thomas won the Emmy for Lead Actor. Michael Learned received the Emmy in 1973, 1974, and 1976. Will Geer and Ellen Corby also were presented with awards: Corby won for Supporting Actress in 1973, 1975, and 1976 while Geer received the honor in 1975 as well.

The show’s ratings began declining in the late seventies. I’m not sure why Learned left the show; I do know she admits she suffered from alcoholism during those years. Waite was let go to save money for the series. The network wanted the show to concentrate on the younger viewers, but apparently, it was too late, or the show had come to the natural end of its life.

In the finale episode, the Walton family members and the Godseys attend a party at the Baldwin sisters’ mansion. If you look closely, you will see several unknown guests in the group–they included Hamner and other cast and crew members.

If you want to experience the life of this show, I have two suggestions for you. You can watch several seasons of the show on DVD, or you can check out John & Olivia’s Bed & Breakfast Inn which is located just behind the boyhood home of Hamner. It’s a five-bedroom, five-bathroom home inspired by the depression-era home of the Waltons.

Photo: amazon.com

It’s hard to explain the popularity that The Waltons had in the 1970s. I’m trying to come up with a show that was as critically acclaimed and was watched by the entire family for almost ten years. The only shows I can compare it to are Bonanza which aired for fourteen years and Little House on the Prairie which was on the air for nine years. Viewers embraced the characters and the values of the Walton’s Mountain community. We all felt we knew the family intimately and cared about what happened to them. It left a legacy, and I’m sure it influenced many people currently in the television industry. If you have never seen the show, you definitely want to watch a couple of seasons and if you grew up with it, you might want to revisit your old friends.

Nanny and the Professor: The Mary Poppins of the 1970s

We are starting off the new year with a blog series taking a closer look at some of our favorite families. Between Mary Poppins and The Nanny, we had Nanny and the Professor. A lot of my friends don’t remember this show, but it was part of the ABC lineup for two years. It began its life on Wednesday nights in 1970 followed by The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and then Room 222. The second season, it moved to Friday nights airing after The Brady Bunch and before The Partridge Family. The short third season found the show on Monday nights up against Gunsmoke and Laugh In which surely set it up for failure.

The cast Photo: closerweekl.com

AJ Carothers and Thomas Miller created the show for 20th Century Fox Television.  Carothers was best known for his Disney movies, and this show has that same type of atmosphere. English-born Phoebe Figalilly (Juliet Mills) is hired by Professor Harold Everett (Richard Long) to be the housekeeper and nanny for this three children: very intelligent Hal (David Doremus), prankster Butch (Trent Lehman), and musical prodigy Prudence (Kim Richards) who had a pet rooster named Sebastian. Juliet Mills, sister to Parent Trap star Hayley Mills, was offered the role after auditioning in England. An open casting call was done for the role in London.

Nanny became very close to the three children, and she and Professor Long had a subtle romance. You could tell there was chemistry, and he began working less and hanging out with the family more often.

Nanny had a great intuition, but we were always left wondering if there was more to her secret knowledge than we were aware of. While the Professor hired her, she showed up unannounced for the job. Sometimes she hinted at being much older than she looked. One of the running gags of the show was that she always knew when people were at the front door or on the phone before the doorbell or phone rang. She also seemed to be able to communicate with animals including the kids’ dog Waldo. She also fixed up and drove around in a 1930 roadster which she named Arabella in honor of her favorite aunt.

Nanny had a lot of relatives who showed up at the Everett household from time to time. Uncle Alfred (John Mills, Juliet’s father) entertains the children with this stories and human flying act. Aunt Justine (Ida Lupino) and Aunt Agatha (Majorie Bennett) arrive in a hot air balloon. Uncle Horace (Ray Bolger) claims to be able to make it rain. Aunt Henrietta (Elsa Lanchester) comes with the circus; in another episode she helps get rid of a ghost.

Arabella Photo: ebay.com

Fun fact, the background music was taken from My Favorite Martian. The theme song was called “Nanny” and was written and sung by The Addrisi Brothers. The song is:

Soft and sweet
Wise and wonderful
Oooh our mystical magical nanny

Since the day that nanny came to stay with us
Fantastic things keep happening

Is there really magic in the things she does
Or is love the only magic thing that nanny brings

You know our nanny showed us you can make the impossible happen
Nanny told us have a little bit of faith and lots of love

Phoebe Figalilly is a silly name
And so many silly things keep happening
What is this magic thing about nanny
Is it Love Or is it Magic

The show might be done, but much of the merchandise that was used to promote the show still exists. Colorform sets, coloring books, paper dolls, comic books, View Master reels, and several books are available on ebay.com

Even though the move to Monday night could not have been good for ratings, Mills said the cast was stunned when the show was canceled. In a July 22, 2019 interview with foxnews.com, she said, “I think we were all shocked, actually, and not ready to move on.” She said she does not regret starring in the show, and that the cast was “wonderful, really, very professional and very good. She said the show had a special place in her heart. “I’m proud of it and have very, very happy memories of it, she said. “I’m still recognized all over the place for that as much as anything I’ve ever done, which is extraordinary. People just hear my voice and they turn around, ‘Hey Nanny.’”

Although Nanny and the Professor might not be as well known as other shows of its decade, it deserves to be remembered. Even though it never hit the 100-episode target for syndication, the show was played on other networks after it was canceled. I could not find any network showing reruns or anywhere to stream the show, and the DVDs are currently not available on Amazon but they are available on other DVD websites. It might be worth searching for to have a marathon weekend binge some cold, winter weekend.

Family Affair: When Indiana and New York Collide

This month we are celebrating some of our favorite television families. Many families were single parents in the classic age. In the fifties, Bentley Gregg, a wealthy attorney, raised his niece with his houseboy Peter on Bachelor Father. Fred MacMurray raised his three boys in 1960. In 1966 Bill Davis (Brian Keith), a wealthy engineer, raised his two nieces (6-year old Buffy played by Anissa Jones and 15-year old Cissy played by Kathy Garver) and Buffy’s twin, nephew Jody (Johnny Whitaker) with his valet Giles French (Sebastian Cabot) on Family Affair.

The show was on CBS until 1971, producing 138 episodes during its five-year run.

The cast of Family Affair Photo: decades.com

The kids grew up in Indiana and now have to adjust to an apartment in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Their uncle has to adjust from being a carefree bachelor to a parent of three children, and Mr. French’s quiet days are now noisy and full of small crises. The five of them become a family and learn rely on each other.

The show was created and produced by Don Fedderson and Edmund Hartman. Fedderson, who had been the creative force behind My Three Sons, sold the show to CBS without having to film a pilot.

There were a lot of similarities between the two shows. In addition to two single men bringing up the three siblings, their production schedules were similar. Fred MacMurray had been promised a schedule where all his filming was done in one or two blocks for the entire season. Likewise, Keith used two thirty-day blocks to shoot all of his scenes. Garver and Cabot probably had the hardest time filming. The kids could only work limited hours, so quite often when scenes required Cissy or Mr. French, they were talking to a “big paunchy guy from New York with a cigar in his mouth,” pretending to be one of the other cast members.

On My Three Sons, Dodi’s doll “Myrtle” was sold in toy stores. Buffy’s doll “Mrs. Beasley” was also sold to its youngest fans. Buffy often took the doll with her, and Mr. French was embarrassed when he had to “babysit” the doll. The 1967 Mrs. Beasley can still be found on sites like ebay, but be prepared to pay $500 for a doll in mint condition.

Cast with Mrs. Beasley. Photo: tvseriesfinale.com

Frank DeVol who wrote the theme for MacMurray’s show also composed the instrumental song for Family Affair.

Glen Ford was offered the role of Uncle Bill; this may have been because he played a single father in the movie version of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. When he turned it down, the production crew turned to Keith.

Uncle Bill and Mr. French did not become perfect parents instantly. Uncle Bill often lost his temper, and Mr. French was not accustomed to having his tidy bachelor pad look like a cyclone hit it. Unlike other single-parent shows, the kids’ deceased parents were mentioned often and were kept a part of their life.

Kathy Garver reminisced about Keith later in life. She said that he was very much like his character: “He had three adopted kids, two biological kids and loved kids . . . He was a gruff ex-Marine, but he had a heart of gold.”

Ironically, the show was canceled during the big rural purge despite the fact that it was set in Manhattan, and it continued to do well in the ratings. CBS did air the show in syndication daily from its end until 1973.

Keith with his youngest costars Photo: closerweekly.com

While the cast appeared to be very close, there was a lot of dysfunction among the cast members after the show went off the air. In 1976, Anissa Jones died from an overdose; Jody Whitaker had a lot of addiction problems but then turned his life around. Sebastian Cabot had a stroke and died in 1977. Brian Keith who was devastated by Jones’ overdose and his real daughter’s suicide, was diagnosed with cancer and took his own life in 1997. Garver and Whitaker, the only survivors, both have appeared on Broadway in the past decades.

Like almost every popular show from the sixties, this one was rebooted in 2002. It was on the WB for thirteen episodes. Gary Cole took on the role of Uncle Bill while Tim Curry became Mr. French.

The Reboot Photo: imdb.com

Garver has accepted that she will always be known for her role as Cissy. There was an announcement in 2019 that a show titled Aunt Cissy starring Garver was going into production. It was a Travis Hunt Production filmed in LA. It has its own Facebook site, but it does not look like it ever aired. Six episodes were filmed, but I have not found any other information about the series.

In addition to Mrs. Beasley, there was a lot of merchandise associated with the show. Gold Key Comics published four comic books in 1970 based on the series. You can also find lunch boxes, puzzles, coloring books, View Master reels, a board game, and even a piece of luggage.

Although the plots were quite simple, this show was a favorite for many families. It was a series the entire family could enjoy. Fans watched the kids grow up for the five years it was on the air. Although Uncle Bill was quite wealthy, the family never appeared to be a rich one. The kids kept their Indiana morals. When I was researching for this blog, I found a lot of fans expressing fond memories and giving heartfelt tributes, and that is a true legacy for any show.

The Cosby Show: A Work in Progress

Today is the last blog of the series on our favorite sitcom families and the last blog of the year. We have been to Long Island, Detroit, and Los Angeles, and now we are heading back to New York. Today we are going to visit the Huxtables.

Photo: people.com

I will admit, I have put off writing this blog for years. It is a very difficult one for me to write about. Writing this blog makes me mad, sad, and strangely joyful at the same time.

It makes me mad because of Bill Cosby’s despicable behavior. It makes me sad because this amazing show has been tarnished through no fault of its own. After Cosby’s arrest, the show disappeared from the airwaves. The rest of the cast has to suffer because of the bad behavior of one person. But, if I take my own advice, and I choose to celebrate the characters, not the people behind them, I can still find joy in this well-written and truly funny show.

Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner were two ABC executives who had worked on Mork & Mindy, Three’s Company, and Welcome Back Kotter. They were looking for a celebrity to star in their new show. Bill Cosby helped create this show which became The Cosby Show and was a staple on Thursday nights on NBC for eight seasons. It was the number one show on television for five of those years.

Photo: chicagotribune.com

The Huxtables were an upper-class family living in a Brooklyn Heights brownstone. Father Cliff (Cosby) was an obstetrician and mother Clair (Phylicia Rashad) was an attorney. They had five kids: Sondra (Sabrina Le Beauf), Denise (Lisa Bonet), Theo (Malcolm Jamal Warner), Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe), and Rudy (Keisha Knight Pulliam).

Vanessa Williams and Whitney Houston were both considered for the role of Sondra. Originally Rudy was planned to be a boy, and Jaleel White was brought in to audition.

A couple of famous kids who appeared on the show went on to be stars including Alicia Keys and Adam Sandler.

Photo: tripsavvy.com

The brownstone they lived in was a house we got to know well. It was actually located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

The theme music, “Kiss Me,” was composed by Stu Gardner and Bill Cosby. Seven different versions showed up during the run of the series. Under Stu Gardner’s supervision, two albums were produced: A House Full of Love: Music from the Cosby Show in 1986 and Total Happiness in 1987.

When daughter Denise went off to college, a spin-off show was created. A Different World was about her time at Hillman College, a fictional historic black college.

The show often promoted art and music. Musicians like Miles Davis, BB King, Stevie Wonder, and Sammy Davis Jr. appeared on the series. Much of the artwork that was featured in the house was by Synthia Saint James and Varnette Honeywood.

Photo: pinterest.com

This was an important series for so many reasons. It was the one of the first shows to have an upper middle class family who was black. At this point in time, the sitcom had become a dying art. This show was responsible for bringing the sitcom back to life. It featured music, art, and culture which is seen on very few sitcoms. It was well written and very funny, yet had its heart-warming moments. The kids all were very different just like our own families, so everyone had someone they could identify with. I do understand the human behind the character is often not what we would hope for.

A lot of stars have disappointed us with their behavior behind the scenes. Usually I can move beyond that. However, I have had two times when it has been extremely difficult for me. I love The Philadelphia Story and Harvey. They are two of my go-to movies when I am looking for something to watch on a weekend. When I heard about the racist comments Jimmy Stewart made during his career, I did not watch them for years. It was really hard for me to view them in the same way I did before that knowledge.

The Cosby Show was the other difficult one for me. I remember a story my dad told me. He was staying at a hotel in Illinois for business; he went down to the restaurant this quiet weekday evening for dinner and a drink. He was sitting at one table, Bill Cosby was sitting at another table, and only two other tables were occupied by diners. At one of these tables sat two women who were obviously excited to see him, and finally, they approached him to ask for an autograph. My dad said he rebuffed them and was quite rude, and they went back to their table, extremely embarrassed. That unkind and egotistical behavior always stuck with me. While, I totally appreciate that stars have a right to refuse to sign autographs, there is a kind and tactful way to say no.

Photo: philadelphiatribune.com

In the New York Times, Wesley Morris wrote an article on June 18, 2017, titled “How to Think About Bill Cosby and The Cosby Show.” He described the importance of the show for its “portrayal of black people as happy, stable, well off, and free of white oppression and guilt; for sneaking into typical sitcom high jinks the occasional, hilarious, often poignant lessons about gender equality, friendship, and marriage; and for proving that such a depiction could be a ratings winner.”

He then went on to talk about Cosby’s court trial. He summarized, “Guilty or not, Mr. Cosby’s courthouse behavior acknowledged an additional trial: the one going on in our hearts. I don’t need a jury to know that this trial has worn mine out.” I could not agree more. It took me some time, but I have come to love this show again. I find the show innocent of any negative connotations placed on it because of Cosby’s behavior. However, the trial inside myself did wear my heart out. While I am still trying to like Cliff Huxtable, it’s hard not to remember the hardships brought about by Bill Cosby. It’s a work in progress.

Yes, Dear: The Fans Take on The Critics

As we begin week three in our blog series looking at some of our favorite families, today we are heading to Los Angeles to check in with the Warners and the Hughes.

O’Malley, Snyder, Kelly, Clark Photo: imdb.com

Created by Alan Kirschenbaum and Gregory Garcia, Yes, Dear was on CBS for five seasons from 2000 to 2006.

Greg (Anthony Clark) and Kim (Jean Louisa Kelly) Warner have a son Sammy (Anthony and Michael Bain); he is a film industry businessman and she is a stay-at-home mom. They have a peaceful, although maybe somewhat boring, life. Then Kim’s sister Christine (Liza Snyder) and brother-in-law Jimmy (Mike O’Malley) Hughes move into their guest house with their two overactive boys, Dominic (Joel Horman) and Logan (Christopher and Nicholas Berry, Alexander and Shawn Shapiro, Brandon Baerg). One of the gags of this show is Greg recalling Logan’s childhood; when he reflects back on it, we see all the different Logans.

Photo: pinterest.com

The Warners and the Hughes have very different lifestyles and views on life and parenting. Kim and Greg are a bit neurotic and try to hard to be the perfect parents. Christine and Jimmy, on the other hand, are down-to-earth and less concerned about doing everything perfectly.

For example, in one scene, the script is:

Dominic: Can I have some coffee, so I don’t fall asleep in school again?

Jimmy: Dominic, you are six years old, you can’t have coffee. Here, drink these Mountain Dews.

Rounding out the cast was Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence as Greg’s parents Tom and Natalie, Jerry Van Dyke and Beth Grant as Jimmy’s parents Jimmy and Kitty, and Dan Hedaya and Alley Mills as the girls’ mother Jenny and father Don.

Tim Conway Photo: tigerdroppings.com

The theme song, “Family is Family,’ written and performed by Bill Janovitz summarizes the plot:

1,2,3! You got a wife and kid in love with you. Yes, Dear.

You swear to God they’re poking fun at you. Yes, Dear.

You live your life the best you can. Yes, Dear.

Until your family screws up the plan. Yes, Dear.

But family is family is family is family. Yes, Dear.

Yes, Dear. Yes, Dear.

The great Betty White Photo: twitter.com

Despite its decent ratings, critics never seemed to appreciate the show at all. The only Emmy award the show was nominated for was for Betty White as a guest star in 2003. Nominees that year included Georgia Engel, Betty Garrett, and Cloris Leachman; the winner was Christina Applegate for Friends. According to Nancy Tellem, president of CBS Entertainment, “there was a huge difference between the critics and mainstream America.”

On June 23, 2021, thewrap.com posted the 37 worst sitcoms of all time. While I can get behind My Mother the Car and Two Broke Girls, along with about 30 sitcoms I never heard of, I thought the inclusion of Yes, Dear was unfair. I can’t say this was ever a “must-see” for me, but there were plenty of worse sitcoms on the air.

The show held a steady 24th place for the first four seasons and then ratings increased, and the show placed 11th and 15th for the last two seasons. So, with ratings going up, why was the show canceled? CBS canceled the show after season four and then brought it back. However, after season six, Clark took an offer to host Last Comic Standing. With one of the four stars gone, CBS decided to be done with the show.

Photo: betaseries.com

Although the show was on the air for six seasons and was in syndication for a while, DVDs have never officially been released. I was not able to find out why that is the case.

When Kelly thought back to her time on the show, she said it was a fun show. “They gave me a lot of fun stuff to do. There was so much silliness.” Fun and silly doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe the show will become available on DVD or in syndication again soon, and you can judge for yourself.

Home Improvement: It’s Just a Name; No Improvement Needed Here

Here we are in week 2 in our blog series looking at some of our favorite families. Last week we were in Long Island with the Seavers. Today we are traveling east to Detroit to spend some time with The Tool Man and his family.

Photo: usweekly.com

Home Improvement was on ABC from 1991 through 1999; this was the era my older boys grew up in, and I think they have some fond memories of watching this show. They weren’t alone, because it was one of the most-watched shows of the decade. It stayed in the top ten the entire time.

Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra, and David McFadzean created the series. A lot of writers worked on the show. Richardson talked about the writer’s room where all the writers were men and she did the scripts at first without saying anything, because she didn’t want to rock the boat. She said eventually she would tell them a woman would not say that and defended her position more often.

It was based on the stand-up comedy of Tim Allen. Tim Taylor (Tim Allen) is married to Jill (Patricia Richardson) and they have three boys: Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), and Mark (Taran Noah Smith). They live in Detroit where Tim has a television show for Binford Tool Co.; he was previously one of their salesman.

Photo: pinterest.com

The cast is rounded out with their neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman) who doles out advice to Tim, but whom we never see more than part of his face. Al Borland (Richard Karn) is Tim’s assistant on the show. During the run of the show there were several Tool Time girls including Pamela Anderson and Debbe Dunning. The show was a parody of This Old House, a home-improvement show on PBS for years.

Originally the show was titled Hammer Time. The first pilot starred Frances Fisher playing Jill Taylor. The studio audience did not view her as a comedic actress, so she was recast. Al was a harder part to cast. John Bedford Lloyd auditioned for the roles of Tim’s assistant and neighbor Wilson. He got the part of Wilson but dropped out when he learned his face would not be seen on tv. That’s when Hindman took over. Stephen Tobolowsky was then offered the role of Al, named Glen at the time. He was occupied with a project at the time, so Karn was hired, and Al was created.

Photo: wikifandom.com

In a June 6, 2017, episode of thehomeimpodcast.com, Karn was interviewed. He was asked what one of his favorite Al moments was on the show. He talked about a scene when Tim invited him over to play poker. He had asked about a theme and then showed up in a 10-gallon hat as a cowboy. He said Tim opened the door, and Karn would raise his hat and hit the light. Every time that happened, Tim cracked up. Karn said he could not stop himself from laughing.

Jill has her hands full living with four males, and I can certainly relate. Tim is a bit stubborn, accident prone, spends lots of time with his cars, and often acts like one of the kids. Allen was from Detroit himself and one of his quirks on the show was wearing Michigan sports apparel.

Photo: amazon.com

There were a lot of guest stars on the show during its nine seasons: race car drivers Johnny Rutherford, Robby Gordon, Mario and Michael Andretti, and Al Unser; golfer Payne Stewart; Denver quarterback John Elway; boxer Evander Holyfield; NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox; basketball player Grant Hill’ singers The Beach Boys and The Manhattan Transfer’ comedians Drew Carey and Rodney Dangerfield; ex-President Jimmy Carter; talk show host Oprah Winfrey; and actors Jack Nicholson, Dan Aykroyd, and Marlon Brando.

Home Improvement was still in the top ten after its eighth season. Richardson was offered $25 million for a ninth season, and Taylor was offered $50 million, but they both declined.

The theme song was “Iron John’s Rock.” It was composed by Dan Foliart. In addition to the music, it included Allen’s grunting that became a catch phrase of a sort and several power tools in the background.

When Allen got his second series, Last Man Standing, Karn, Richardson, and Taylor Thomas guest-starred on the show. Also, many of the tools he used on this show were Binford tools.

Photo: people.com

This was one of those much-loved shows. In a time before DVR, families sat down to watch television together when their favorite shows were on. The shows were relatable to all family members. It was well written, and the stories had the right amount of humor and heart-warming moments. When a series stays in the top ten for almost a decade and the stars turn down huge piles of money to end the show, you know the quality is still there. Like The Dick Van Dyke Show, this show ended on a high note, and I’m so happy we did not have to go through the “they should have ended it a year or two before” stage. Thanks to the entire cast for being a team player and bringing an amazing show for a decade.

Growing Pains: Every Family Experiences Them

This month we are looking at some of our favorite families from classic sitcoms. Today we are traveling to Long Island, New York to visit the Seavers from Growing Pains.

Photo: people.com

Growing Pains aired on ABC from 1985 to 1992. The seven seasons provided 166 episodes.

Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) is a psychiatrist who works from home. His wife Maggie (Joanna Kerns) works outside the home as a reporter. They have three kids: happy-go-lucky and sometimes irresponsible Mike (Kirk Cameron), bright and studious Carol (Tracey Gold), and Ben (Jeremy Miller) who looks up to his older brother. Gold and Cameron had some experience in sibling rivalry because they played brother and sister in a McDonald’s commercial. In season four, Chrissy (Kelsey and Kirsten Dohring and later Ashley Johnson) is born, twelve years behind Ben. In season seven, Mike befriends Luke Brower (Leonardo DiCaprio), a homeless kid he mentors, who moves in with the family.

Photo: pinterest.com

Johnson said that she had fun on the show. Since she was so young, she said she didn’t really have to act; she just was herself. She said she loved working with Thicke and they stayed in touch over the years. She also recalled acting with DiCaprio. She said he was a great actor, and she appreciated her time on the set with him. She felt the family unit on the show was very strong and that it was the same off the screen with the cast as well.

Rounding out the cast are several of Carol and Mike’s friends, Maggie and Jason’s parents, and several teachers. Mike’s best friend Richard was played by Andrew Koenig, son of Star Trek’s Chekov. If you look closely, you might see a couple of familiar faces in some classroom scenes. Alan’s son Robin Thicke played a student in several episodes, and Cameron’s sister, Candace Cameron Bure, who would star in Full House, also played classmates. Carol also had a couple of famous boyfriends on the show including Matthew Perry and Brad Pitt.

Kerns and Thicke received their roles and became good friends in real life as well. Carol was originally played by Elizabeth Ward but was replaced when audience reaction was not positive.

Photo: wikifandom.com

There were four versions of the theme song during the seven seasons. B.J. Thomas sings a solo and later Dusty Springfield was added to the track to make it sound like a duet. Later Jennifer Warnes replaced Dusty in the song with Thomas. An a cappella version was used in the last season.

The show ranked in the top 30 until season seven when it fell to 75th place. DiCaprio was brought onto the show to win teen ratings. Ratings didn’t increase, and the show was canceled.

Photo: imdb.com

This series gave birth to the spin-off show Just the Ten of Us; on this show, Carol and Mike’s gym teacher and coach moves to California with his wife and eight kids to work at an all-boys Catholic school.

Eight years after the show ended, two made-for-tv movies debuted: The Growing Pains Movie in 2000 and Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers in 2004.

After the show went off the air, Kerns felt she needed to switch to directing because she was getting older and there weren’t a lot of available parts for older women. Her friend JoBeth Williams did the same. Kerns had 77 acting credits, most of them before Growing Pains. She has 72 directing credits, so she has been busy behind the scenes. Currently, she is directing episodes for A Million Little Things.

Photo: fanpop.com

In 2018 the Today show interviewed Cameron, Gold, and Miller. They said they all kept in touch some, but they all stayed connected to Alan all the time. They said Thicke set the tone on the set and taught them to appreciate their work and emphasized how important it was to have a happy set. Gold said they laughed a lot. They all agreed that they were a family unit on the set, but they were also a family unit in real life.

I do remember watching the show when it was on live. I did watch several shows for this blog. It wasn’t a show I agonized over missing, but I also didn’t mind watching it when I was home. I think kids growing up in the eighties probably had more fondness for the show and it symbolized what My Three Sons did in my generation.

Nash Bridges: The Best Office in Town

This is the last series in our Crime Drama November. When the pandemic was in full force, my husband and I watched a lot more television than we did before. One of the shows that we watched more of was Nash Bridges. While technology and clothing can always date a show, these shows held up very well. We never felt like we were time traveling. I decided to learn a bit more about it this month as we rediscover some of our favorite shows.

Photo: tvline.com

The show was produced by the Don Johnson Company and Carlton Cuse Productions in association with Rysher Entertainment for the first four seasons, and then Paramount Network Television acquired Rysher and was part of the mix. Don Johnson starred in the show as Nash Bridges along with his sidekick Joe Dominguez (Cheech Marin).

The show was on CBS for six seasons from 1996 to 2001. The introductory episode was written by Don Johnson and author Hunter S. Thompson. You can see Thompson in the pilot as a piano player.

Photo: ebay.com

Bridges and Dominguez were police officers with the San Francisco Police Department, working under the Special Investigations Unit. Nash is divorced and is good friends with his ex-wife Lisa (Annette O’Toole); they often hang out and talk about getting back together on and off during the show. They have a daughter who is a teenager when the show begins (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe); in later seasons, she works with her father. Nash’s father Nick (James Gammon) moves in with him partway through the series. Nash refers to everyone as “Bubba” or “Sister.” Nash had a lot of romantic relationships during the series, including a two-season one with Yasmine Bleeth as detective Caitlin Cross.

Dominguez comes back after retiring to be Nash’s partner; he is married and they have a child during the run of the show. Nash and Dominguez work with Harvey Leek (Jeff Perry) and Evan Cortez (Jaime Gomez).

Photo: tvseriesfinale.com

Nash’s pride and joy is a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda convertible, which had been his brother’s car before he was sent to Vietnam.

The investigators worked in a very interesting place. Their work space was a 177-foot floating vessel. The producers paid $175,000 for the working barge used in Seattle; they then put $1.1 million into adding a three-story glass and steel structure for the new set. When the show was canceled, the producers bought it for about $400,000. They planned to rent out the 11,000 square-foot set for movie shoots, videos, and parties. It can easily be used for a houseboat, factory, oil rig, or open-air restaurant.

Nash Bridges did well in ratings during its time on the air. The sixth season, the show was up against Law & Order: SVU. Paramount decided that $2 million dollars an episode was too much to pay for the show so they canceled it. It might have ended anyway, though, because Johnson was ready to be done. There were enough episodes for syndication, so Johnson continued to earn money from the show after it ended.

Photo: gizmostory.com

A year or so ago, USA Network featured Johnson, Marin, and Perry in a two-hour movie. Nash and Perry come back to help SIU crack a serial killer case. Nash convinces Dominguez to serve as a consultant from time to time. The movie left it open for a new series to begin with the team solving cases.

If you want to learn a bit more about what was going on behind the scenes, there are some fun options for you. Seasons one and two DVD sets include a Roundtable Discussion by the writers. On February 4, 2015, the Film Score featured a general discussion with Eddie Jboson, Velton Ray Bunch, and others about the music on the show (https://www.filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=108116&forumID=1&archive=0).

Photo: slashfilm.com

Most fans seemed to enjoy the show, although the recent movie got mixed ratings. The show seems to have it all: two very different but close partners solve interesting crime cases while riding around in a really cool car and there are a lot of heartwarming scenes and humorous moments packed into the action. What’s not to like?