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.

“Time to Get Things Started”

John Lennon said, “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”  That is especially true when looking at our two television shows today.  We are going to explore two shows that mixed reality and fantasy, or humanity and puppets more accurately.  Madame’s Place and The Muppets are both what they now call a mockumentary. Both shows featured a puppet hosting a late-night tv show, interacting with humans.  On Madame’s Place, Madame was the only non-human, while The Muppets blended muppets and humans throughout the show. We’ll also take a quick peek at the men behind the fantasy: Wayland Flowers and Jim Henson.

Madame’s Place debuted in 1982 while The Muppets began in 2015, 33 years apart.  Both shows lasted one season and featured celebrities interacting with the characters.  Both Madame and Miss Piggy had Jay Leno on their show. Both shows also went beyond the professional lives of their stars, featuring their personal lives as well.

Madame’s Place

madame9

Madame lived in a large mansion. All 51 episodes included her three-person staff:  Bernadette Van Gilder (Susan Tolsky) who was her secretary; Walter Pinkerton (Johnny Haymer) who was an ex-boxer, now butler; and her niece Sara Joy Pitts (Judy Landers) who was a bit of a dumb blonde.   A young Corey Feldman appeared in half the shows as Buzzy St. James, the next-door neighbor boy.

madame4

Madame clad herself in feathers and sequins. Madame was never described as politically correct, and she did not mince words with her staff or her nightly guests. She always had a witty comeback.

Some of the guests on her show included Frankie Avalon, Joyce Brothers, Scatman Crothers, Phyllis Diller, Eva Gabor, George Gobel, Arsenio Hall, Pee-Wee Herman, Jay Leno, Anthony Newley, Charles Nelson Reilly, Debbie Reynolds, John Schneider, William Shatner, Toni Tenille, Betty White, and Fred Willard.

I was surprised to learn that Wayland Flowers was actually born Wayland Parrott Flowers in Georgia in 1939.  He passed away in 1988 in California from cancer. He always performed with Madame, and their first break happened when they were cast on The Andy Williams Show in the mid-1960s.  They appeared on Laugh-In, The Hollywood Squares, and The Mike Douglas Show, as well as four years on Solid Gold.

wayland

Flowers once said that Madame had a mind of her own, and sometimes what she said shocked him.

If you wish to see Madame in action, there are several youtube videos of her. Madame’s Place s0le13 is an episode where Madame holds a contest to determine her next (and 7th) husband.

The Muppets

Like Madame’s Place, The Muppets showed life on a late-night talk show.  The gang is all here. Kermit and Miss Piggy have ended their relationship, but it is obvious they still have feelings for each other.  The show is Up Late with Miss Piggy. Before the show went live, Kermit always said, “Time to get things started.”

Kermit is the executive producer; his best friend, Fozzy Bear, is the co-host; Gonzo is the head writer with fellow writers Rizzo the Rat and Pepe the King Prawn; Scooter is in charge of talent, Bobo is the stage manager; Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker are the prop handlers; Uncle Deadly is in charge of Miss Piggy’s wardrobe; Sam the Eagle is in charge of the network’s Standards and Practices; Denise, another Pig, and Kermit’s current girlfriend, is in charge of marketing; the house band is the Electric Mayhem; and we’re not totally sure what the Swedish Chef actually does. Rowlf the Dog owns a bar across the street and many of the characters retire there after the show to talk about the evening’s performances.

The show mixes humans and muppets.  For example, Fozzy is dating a human girl, and her parents don’t approve.

The show cleverly made fun of a lot of the late-night shows. Some of the guests who came to dish with Piggy included Christina Applegate, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Bateman, Jere Burns, Kristen Chenoweth, Laurence Fishburn, Josh Groban, Joan Jett, Mindy Kaling, Jay Leno, Willie Nelson, and Reese Witherspoon.

The show was cancelled after one year.  A lot of people complained about The Muppets living as adults in adult situations.  This was unfair criticism because the Muppets began as a show aimed at adults.

Jim Henson was born in Mississippi in 1936 and died in New York in 1990. He began creating puppets in high school.  While at the University of Maryland, he created a show starring Kermit among other now-unknown puppets called Sam and Friends, an adult show.  The show appeared in television in the Washington, DC area from 1955-1961.The puppets lip-synched popular songs and acted in sketches spoofing television shows.  Henson founded Muppets, Inc. in 1958. The Muppets then appeared on late night talk shows.

henson

In 1969, the Muppets moved to Sesame Street where they became famous. The Muppet Show was on television from 1976-81, and the crew made several movies including The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan.

muppets3

In the 1980s, Disney became involved with the Muppets and several television shows occurred (The Jim Henson Hour in 1989 and Muppets Tonight from 1996-98), along with a couple more movies. In 2004, Disney acquired all rights to the Muppets and made additional movies.

I’m not sure why neither of these shows made it to year two.  Maybe people just couldn’t accept the interaction of puppets and humans.  With The Muppets, I think some people who would have liked the show assumed it was for kids while people who assumed it was for kids were unhappy it was an adult show.

I found both shows a lot of fun.  They didn’t take themselves or celebrities too seriously. Another show I fell in love with that put kids’ characters into modern situations was the New Looney Tunes, but that’s a show we’ll explore in detail in a future blog.

 

I could not find an author for the following quote:  “It’s not reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality.” I don’t know about you, but in watching the news and reading newspapers (ok, almost no one reads newspapers anymore), I find reality is not a fun place to dwell in.  I will happily add a bit of fantasy.  It seems to produce a lot of great one-liners.

Piggy: I’m telling you this because we’re friends: we are no longer friends.

********************************************************************

Fozzie: I knew you wouldn’t approve it so I went over your head.
Kermit: I’m the boss.
Fozzie: Oh that’s right. So I went behind your back.

********************************************************************************

Cousin Charlie: Well, if you need me I’ll be in my dressing room practicing my collection of one-liners.
Madame: Well, be sure to do a good job darling. They’re all in your face.
*********************************************************************************

Madame: These are my Summer Diamonds. Some are diamonds, some are not.