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Gimme a Break! (NBC 1981-1987, Nell Carter, Dolph Sweet)

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In yet another variation on the “widower with children” sitcom, Gimme a Break! brought theatre actress Nell Carter to television as Nell Harper. In fulfilling a deathbed request, Nell moved in as housekeeper to her late friend’s family, the Kaniskys: crusty chief of police Carl and daughters Katie, Julie and Samantha. Nell acted as surrogate mother to the girls who, all in or near the adolescent years, needed a woman’s guidance. Also hanging around the Kanisky household was Carl’s dopey, shaky-voiced subordinate, Officer Ralph Simpson.

The cast of this family show was constantly growing, beginning with the addition of Carl’s equally gruff father, Stanley, and mother Mildred (though she was only on the show for that season). But the most surprising change came in 1983 with the addition of a new child. It’s standard practice for sitcom moms to give birth a few seasons in, but since there was no mom on this series (and no romance between Nell and Carl), the child came in the form of six-year-old abandonee Joey Donovan (Joey Lawrence, later of Blossom). Joey, with his bowl haircut and overalls, provided an element of cuteness the show had previously lacked.

There were now a wider variety of stories to tell, including the special bond building between Joey and Nell. The next season introduced Nell’s friend Dr. Addy Wilson, played by Family Matters’ Telma Hopkins. Given Carter’s extensive musical theatre background and that Hopkins had been half of Tony Orlando’s Dawn, the show was now infused with musical numbers. Also in 1984, Jonathan Silverman joined the cast as Julie’s boyfriend Jonathan Maxwell.

The show changed again in 1985 as Carl (and the actor who played him, Dolph Sweet) had died. The girls now had to deal with the fact that both parents were deceased, and Nell became more important than ever. But this set-up didn’t last long, and by the next season the show was completely revamped.

All three girls moved out of the house, while Nell, Addy, Joey and Grandpa moved to an apartment in New York City. Nell, who now worked in a publishing house, also took in Joey’s little brother Matthew (real-life brother Matthew Lawrence), who had been similarly neglected by their father. Additional characters to the revamped show included Nell’s mother Maybelle, building manager Marty, and neighbor Maggie O’Brian, played by then struggling stand-up comic Rosie O’Donnell.

By this time, Gimme a Break! had gone through one of the biggest overhauls in sitcom history, with Nell Carter herself as the only link between what the show started out as and what it became. After all the changes, the series finally came to a close in 1987, giving the cast and crew a well-deserved break from the rigors of TV production.

“Gimme a break, I sure deserve it,
It’s time I made it to the top…”

production details
USA / NBC / x25 minute episodes / Broadcast 29 October 1981 – 12 May 1987

cast
NELL CARTER as Nellie Ruth ‘Nell’ Harper
DOLPH SWEET as Chief Karl Kanisky (1981-85)
KARL MICHAELSON as Katie Kanisky
LAURI HENDLER as Julie Kanisky Maxwell
LARA JILL MILLER as Samantha Kanisky
HOWARD MORTON as Oficer Ralph Simpson
JOHN HOYT as Grandpa Stanley Kanisky
JANE DULO as Grandma Mildred Kanisky
PETE SCHRUM as Uncle Ed Kanisky
JOEY LAWRENCE as Joey Donovan
TELMA HOPKINS as Addy Wilson
ROSIE O’ DONNELL as Maggie O’ Brien

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Christmas Princess (UP 2017, Nicole Munoz, Zak Santiago)

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Christmas Princess Nicole Munoz

Christmas Princess is the true story of Donaly Marquez who, through a childhood of neglect and abuse, achieved her dream of becoming a rose bowl princess. An inspirational story of resilience, strength and finding a family to call your own.

cast
Nicole Muñoz as Donaly Marquez
Rosa Blasi as Sara
Zak Santiago as Ignacio Marquez
Olivia Steele Falconer as Emily Marquez
Jaedon Siewert as Abraham Marquez
Lina Renna as Young Donaly
Paloma Kwiatkowski as Chloe
Ty Wood as Trent
Pendo Muema as Monique
Kalyn Miles as Maria
Kaaren de Zilva as Roberta
Garfield Wilson as Dr. Miller
Clay St. Thomas as Judge #1
Patti Allan as Judge #2
Natalie von Rotsburg as Judge #3

crew details
Director: Allan Harmon
Writer: Tracy Andreen

production details
Country: Canada
Network and Production Companies: UP
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From: Sunday 10 December 2017

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TV

Christmas Reunion, A (Lifetime 2015, Catherine Hicks, Denise Richards)

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A Christmas Reunion Lifetime

In A Christmas Reunion a Madison Avenue executive, Amy, discovers an unusual Christmas surprise when she inherits her Aunt’s hometown bakery. The real surprise comes when she learns the other half of the bakery was left to her long-ago boyfriend, Jack.

Unresolved personal issues resurface between them, as the exes return home to co-manage the store, along with its traditional holiday cookie bake-off.

cast
Denise Richards as Amy Stone
Patrick Muldoon as Jack Evans
Jake Busey as Dylan Carruthers
Catherine Hicks as Aunt Linda
Parker Stevenson as Don Dupree
Patricia De Leon as Janette Crowder
Jon Briddell as Luke Crowder
Robert R. Shafer as Frank O’Brien
Anna Barnholtz as Chloe
John Colton as Steve Evans
Sandra Evans as Shari
Brody Fitzgerald as Young Jack Evans
Michael Gaglio as Earl Pratt, Sr.
Gib Gerard as Earl Pratt, Jr.
Joyce Greenleaf as Helen

crew details
Director: Sean Olson
Writers: Margaret Base, Mary Glenn, Sam Irvin, Sean Olson, Peter Sullivan, Michael Varrat

production details
Country: USA
Network and Production Companies: Lifetime – Hybrid
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From: 13 December 2015

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TV

Final Vision (ID 2017, Scott Foley, Dave Annable)

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Final Vision ID

Final Vision is a twisted psychological thriller and a true-crime drama based on the longest running criminal case in U.S. history. It’s the story of Jeffrey MacDonald (Foley), a handsome, Ivy League-educated U.S. Army Green Beret doctor, who was convicted of brutally murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters in the middle of the night.

Told through the eyes of best-selling author Joe McGinniss (Annable), who was approached by MacDonald to write a book about his personal nightmare as he was about to go to trial.

cast
Scott Foley as Jeffrey MacDonald
Dave Annable as Joe McGinniss
John Doman as Bernie Segal
Lochlyn Munro as Wade Smith
Jessica Harmon as Colette MacDonald
Caroline Aaron as Leslie Sterling
Primo Allon as MP Sergeant
Julia Maren Baker as Kimberly MacDonald
Julia Benson as Nancy McGinniss
Baylee Breen-Wood as Kristen MacDonald
April Cameron as Nurse at St. Mary’s
Aaron Craven as James Blackburn
Bruce Dawson as Doctor
Parveen Dosanjh as Woman at Party
Lane Edwards as Brian Murtagh

crew details
Writer: Denis O’Neill
Director:  Nicholas McCarthy
Executive Producers: Angela Bromstad, Christine Connor, Linda Berman S

production details
Country:  USA
Network and Production Companies: ID – Lincoln Square Productions
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From:  Sunday 10 December 2017

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