The gimmick was going to be that Remington Steele didn’t exist. Really.
As Remington Steele was originally conceived, Laura Holt’s invention of a mythical employer in order to attract business to her agency (she came up with his name by combining the names of an electric razor and the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team) was the whole concept. No Pierce Brosnan. No male lead at all.
But NBC objected (who said network hotshots are always wrong?) and a potentially good show became a Very Good Show when creators Michael Gleason and Robert Butler took that monkey wrench tossed into their plans and used it to retool the show in absolutely marvelous ways.
Let’s face it, the idea of having Stephanie Zimbalist’s stylish and attractive Laura Holt trying to explain away her superior’s absence to every new client certainly had possibilities. But that approach was a one-trick pony which would have inevitably paled. Add Brosnan’s mysterious con man into the mix, however, and the possibilities expanded exponentially.
There was the mystery of who this guy really was (we were to learn that even he didn’t know), there was the always amusing exercise of watching “Steele” try to stay one struggling step ahead of the game (for mystery fans, the subtext of the underlying similarity between the private eye and the con man was a particular delight) and there was the sexual tension between the two lead characters (a typical TV relationship handled here probably as well as it ever was).
The series opened with “License to Steele” and with Laura’s Remington Steele Investigations caught between a rock and a hard place. The client who hired the agency to protect a shipment of rare jewels insisted that Steele himself oversee the operation. Brosnan’s character, who was hanging around looking to make a buck, stepped into the role (against Laura’s wishes) and we were off and running.
Remington Steele Investigations had two employees during the first season: an associate detective, Murphy Michaels (James Read), and a secretary, Bernice Fox (Janet DeMay). Most of the stories were solid, well-plotted TV fare, with the Steele subplot important but not predominant.
But there were hints of things to come. We would quickly learn that, for a guy with no past, Remington Steele had a lot of old acquaintances. In the fifth episode, “Thou Shalt Not Steele,” former girlfriend Felicia (Cassandra Harris) wanted Brosnan to steal a cursed painting for her. And in the next to last episode of the first season, “Sting of Steele” (you may have noticed that all episode titles feature some play on the title character’s name), Daniel Chalmers, Steele’s con man mentor, turned up. In an inside joke of sorts, Chalmers (who came back several times over the show’s run) was played by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Stephanie’s father. (Beverly Garland played Laura’s mother in both the above episodes, then was never seen again.)
A special two-hour episode, “Steele Away With Me,” opened season two and set the core cast for the rest of the show’s run. Murphy and Bernice were gone and IRS agent Mildred Krebs (Doris Roberts), who was hot on Steele’s tail because he’d never filed a tax return (heck, he’d didn’t exist) decided to cross over from the Dark Side and go to work for the agency. The main plot had to do with Steele and Laura in Mexico and a dead man with a diamond-stuffed fish. Don’t ask.
The “Who is Remington Steele?” question remained a subplot throughout the second and third seasons, now and again emerging to the forefront. Examples? Well, there was the time it appeared that Steele was in fact a vicious murderer (“Steele Frame”), or the time he foolishly called attention to himself by being named one of LA’s most eligible bachelors (“Steele Eligible”). Then, of course, somebody out his past, usually an ex-girlfriend, was always showing up, followed by trouble (“Woman of Steele”).
Steele and Laura even made periodic attempts to see if the chemistry between them was for real. “Steele At It,” which opened season three, found them on the French Riviera, but he was more interested in a valuable dagger than romance. Daniel Chalmers returned to talk Steele into posing as a long-long British heir (“Blue-Blooded Steele”), and Steele even managed to get amnesia (“Steele Your Heart Away”), not an easy trick for someone whose past was a blank to begin with. Mildred got to take center stage a few times each season as well (in “Steele in the Family,” season four, her nephew gets into trouble by helping a friend hide a dead body).
But things were coming to a head. Season three closed with “Steele of Approval,” in which Steele and Laura quarreled about the future of the agency (his lack of a past threatened the license) and he disappeared.
The fourth (and last full) season became more and more about the central characters. It opened with a two-parter, “Steele Searching,” picking up from the season three cliffhanger. The storyline had Steele in London, where Chalmers and Felicia (remember them?) wanted him to assassinate the Earl of Claridge. Trouble was, evidence indicated the Earl might be his father. No sooner did Steele get out of that mess and back into the agency than the star-crossed duo had to confront Laura’s embarrassing appearance in (doctored) porno photos (“Steele Blushing”). Steele was subsequently hit with another bit of amnesia, awakening in a hotel room with no memory of the past two days to learn that he had apparently gambled away the agency (“Forged Steele”). And in “Beg, Borrow or Steele,” the two returned from a business trip to discover that they were reportedly dead and that Mildred had killed them. Bummer.
The season (and, supposedly, the series) ended with “Bonds of Steele,” in which Laura married Steele rather than see him deported. Brosnan was apparently happily off to fulfill his ambition of playing James Bond in the movies, but, to his dismay, NBC decided all the Bond publicity warranted enforcing a contract provision and bringing the show back for an abortive fifth season.
It was hardly worth the trouble. Year five consisted of only a pair of two-hour movies and a third movie shown in two parts. The basic story of the year was that Immigration agent Tony Roselli (Jack Scalia) tried to remove Steele from the picture because he wanted Laura for himself. Neatly, just about everything got resolved in the two-hour series finale, “Steeled With a Kiss.” Steele inherited a castle in Ireland. Chalmers revealed an important secret about the past and conveniently died thereafter. And the frustrated couple finally got to consummate their marriage.
OK, the rapid and somewhat forced resolution wasn’t really very satisfying. Still, Brosnan eventually did get to play Bond in the 1995 hit, Golden Eye; Zimbalist, an accomplished actress, was free to return to the more serious pursuits she preferred, and devoted fans got to see how “will they or won’t they?” turned out.
It’s difficult to argue that it wasn’t, all in all, a happy ending.
USA / NBC / 1982 – 1987
Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele
Stephanie Zimbalist as Laura Holt
Doris Roberts as Mildred Krebs
James Read as Murphy Michaels (First Season)
Janet DeMay as Bernice Fox (First Season)
Jack Scalia as Tony Roselli (Fifth Season)
35 Classic moments from the golden age of Coronation Street
Since it first appeared at 7.00pm on Friday 9 December 1960, Coronation Street has captured the hearts and minds of TV viewers all over the world. In this celebration we take a look at just a few of “The Street’s” many milestone and landmark moments.
The Sixties was memorable for its grainy black and white pictures and countless spats between Ena Sharples and Elsie Tanner.
1964: First-ever wedding jilt
It was a leap year and Emily Nugent wasted no time in proposing to the man of her dreams, Leonard Swindley. She didn’t get quite the response she’d hoped though – he bolted from the room like a scared rabbit. But by the next day he’d changed his mind. The wedding day dawned and the groom and guests waited at the Mission Hall for the bride. But she’d had second thoughts and calmly told Jack Walker that Mr Swindley didn’t want a wife, and she wasn’t going through with it.
1967: Ena trapped
Ena Sharples had plenty of enemies – but no one wanted to see her buried alive. That’s what happened when five carriages of a goods train fell off the viaduct and crashed onto the street below. Several people were missing but all were found, except Ena. She was finally rescued by brave David Barlow who crawled under the rubble to free her.
1967: Soap’s most popular wedding
Elsie fell for American Steve Tanner during World War Two, but refused to meet him when he returned to Weatherfield 20 years on, fearing he wouldn’t fancy her with wrinkles. Finally Elsie gave in, the sweethearts were reunited and she agreed to marry him. The wedding was a huge event.
1968: Hostage drama
Teacher Ken Barlow was at school and the twins were fast asleep when an escaped convict forced his way into the family maisonette. The man, Riley – a convicted rapist – took Valerie captive and she told him she was alone, praying the children wouldn’t wake up. But when she banged on the pipes – in an agreed distress signal to Ena Sharples in the flat below – they did wake, and Riley threatened to harm them if terrified Valerie didn’t do what he wanted. The police burst through a window to rescue her just in time.
1969: Coach crash
It was to be the Street’s first episode in colour. Sadly, the technicians weren’t quite ready so the trip to the scenic Lake District still went out in black and white. But it didn’t detract from the drama that followed. The coach carrying the Street party home veered off the road, crashing into a tree. The driver was killed, Minnie Caldwell knocked unconscious and Ray Langton was left paralysed.
Colour at last – you needed it to admire Hilda’s upmarket ‘muriel’. And what was Mavis doing having a fling with an electrician? Was it the same one who fixed Valerie Barlow’s hairdryer?
1971: Valerie Barlow electrocuted
Ken was waiting in the Rovers for wife Valerie to join him for a farewell drink as the couple were set to fly to a new life in Jamaica the next day. She just had to dry her hair first… and it was the last thing she ever did. The hairdryer had a dodgy plug which Valerie forced into an overcrowded adaptor and shoved into the wall. One gasp was all she made as the current shot through her. She collapsed, knocking an electric fire into a packing case, and burned to death. Grief-stricken Ken decided to stay in the Street.
1973: The Mayor and Mayoress
Everyone remembers Alf Roberts’ second stint as Mayor of Weatherfield, but he’d held the top job before – in 1973. Then, there was a battle for the role between Alf and the popular Len Fairclough, but Len blew his chances by his choice of Mayoress, namely nightclub singer Rita Sullivan. Rita disgraced herself by brawling with a drunken woman then sitting on the exiting mayor’s lap! Alf’s Mayoress was beyond reproach. Maggie Clegg, his first choice, turned him down. Annie Walker, the regal landlady of the Rovers, had no such hesitations – in fact, she volunteered for the role. And when she showed Alf the exquisite hat that she’d bought specially for the investiture, the poor chap had no choice but to accept her gracious offer to be his leading lady.
1974: Fun in the sun
Girls just want to have fun – and there was plenty to be had when Bet Lynch flew her mates to Majorca after winning a competition. Bet, Rita, Deirdre, Betty and Emily were all out for a good time, enjoying the sun, sea and sangria. The sex was left to Mavis, who surprised the gang by having a fling with an electrician called Carlos. It’s always the quiet ones…
1975: Bet’s grief
Life was always a rollercoaster for Bet, and it hit an all-time low when a soldier came into the Rovers and told her that his mate – her illegitimate son Martin, born when she was just 16 and adopted – had been killed in a car crash. Bet was heartbroken and locked herself in her bedsit with a bottle of tablets. Binman Eddie Yates was the unlikely hero of the day, forcing his way in just before she could take the pills. He listened as she poured out her grief and then took the tablets away.
1975: Deirdre weds Ray
Deirdre Hunt was set to marry Billy Walker but his mum, the redoubtable Annie, was not amused. She didn’t think Deirdre, a plumber’s secretary, was good enough for her son and she disapproved of her mother, Blanche, too. The wedding was just around the corner when 19-year-old Deirdre got cold feet and Billy fled to Jersey. The way was then clear for Deirdre’s boss, Ray Langton, to make his move and the two were wed in July. Her white wedding dress, though, was never worn as Deirdre turned up in a fawn office suit.
1976: Hilda’s ‘muriel’
When Hilda Ogden wanted her living room decorated, Eddie Yates was only too happy to oblige. He picked up some wallpaper on the cheap – then discovered several rolls had faded. He quickly improvised, getting hold of some more paper and creating a highly individual mural. He had no trouble selling the idea to Hilda. ‘It’s your “muriel” feature scenic panorama contrast wall,’ he told her. ‘Dead trendy. Latest there is.’ And, with the addition of three flying ducks, Hilda thought it was the most wonderful thing she’d ever seen!
1976: Gail, the scarlet woman
Gail Potter was just 19 and an innocent abroad when smooth-talking sales rep Roy Thornley came into her life. Elsie Howard tried to warn her off the older man, but Gail reckoned that she was just jealous and gave Roy her virginity in the stockroom at Sylvia’s Separates, where she worked. It was subsequently a nasty shock for Gail when Elsie forced him to admit that he was married with kids – and Gail was drawn into a messy divorce case. Roy’s wife also refused to believe that Gail was as green as Elsie made out, but eventually found someone else to site in the divorce, namely boutique boss Sylvia Matthews.
1977: Wedding bells for Rita and Len
The relationship between Rita Littlewood and Len Fairclough was on and off so many times that not even arch gossip Hilda Ogden could keep up with events. But when Rita was offered a singing contract in Tenerife, Len suddenly realised what he was about to lose – and he proposed. They were married in lavish style on 20 April 1977, with Rita’s expensive ‘Miss Muffet’ style headdress drawing lots of comments in the press. Rita was delighted that she’d achieved what both Elsie and Bet had failed to do – and become Mrs Len Fairclough.
1978: First-ever shotgun death
It started as just another day at Baldwin’s Casuals Factory for unassuming wages clerk Ernie Bishop. He was simply sorting out the week’s money – when armed gunmen burst in and demanded the wages. Ernie wasn’t about to play the hero and handed the cash over – just as Mike walked into the office. He accidentally nudged the gunman and Ernie was blasted in the chest when the shotgun went off. The men fled and Mike stared in horror at the lifeless body on the floor. The Street went into shock and poor Emily, Ernie’s devoted wife, found herself a widow.
1979: Crash terror
The peace of a lunchtime pint was shattered for the Rovers regulars when a timber-laden lorry veered out of control and crashed into the pub. Glass and planks of wood flew everywhere and the shocked customers struggled to help each other from the wreckage. Mike Baldwin clutched a broken leg and Alf Roberts was trapped under a table. But the worst sound was Deirdre Langton’s screams for her daughter Tracy, who she’d left in her pushchair outside the pub. She feared the worst, but it turned out that someone had tried to kidnap Tracy moments before the crash, and Emily was able to reunited mother and daughter just in time.
Generally considered the show’s zenith, the golden years when the Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle drew record audiences and heroes and villains both bit the dust…
1980: Alf widowed
Alf and Renee Roberts’ humdrum marriage came to a tragic end just as the couple were preparing to leave Weatherfield for the new challenge of running a sub post office. Renee had been taking driving lessons and, after a country pub lunch to celebrate the move, Alf let her take the wheel. Exasperated when she stalled the car, he told her to swap places – and that’s how she came to be in the car and he wasn’t when a lorry smashed into it. Renee didn’t stand a chance… she suffered horrific injuries and never recovered. Widower Alf stayed in the Street and settled into life as owner of the grocery shop he inherited from Renee.
1980: Swain the swine
Arnold Swain seemed such a nice, unassuming man – and perfect for a nice, unassuming lady like widow Emily Bishop. Emily met him when she started doing the accounts for his pet shop, but she turned him down when he first proposed – much to a jealous Mavis’ horror. Emily changed her mind, though, and agreed to become Mrs Swain – but it turned out there already was a Mrs Swain, only Emily didn’t discover this until months after their wedding. When she confronted her ‘husband’, Arnold broke down and begged her forgiveness – but Emily ordered him out of her house and her life.
1981: Ken weds Deirdre
It was the wedding everyone wanted to see and hit the screens just two days before the year’s other big event – the royal wedding of Charles and Diana, and Deirdre did note that the age difference between herself and Ken was the same as between the royal couple. The Weatherfield bride was a picture in blue and, minus her trademark specs, walked down the aisle on the arm of Alf Roberts. Ken’s daughter, Susan, and her own daughter, Tracy, were bridesmaids and Len Fairclough was best man.
1983: The hottest-ever love triangle!
The Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle set tongues wagging on screen and off. The affair started when Mike took a bored Deirdre out for a meal – and ended with a doorstep slanging match with Ken telling Mike to sling his hook. In between were months of passion and pain for the trio. Ken and Deirdre were reconciled in an episode that clashed with an important Manchester United v Arsenal football match at Old Trafford – and the news was flashed up on the scoreboard to a big roar from the crowd.
1984: Mavis and Derek jilt each other!
Mavis Riley wasn’t used to having men falling over her, so when both Derek Wilton and Victor Pendlebury proposed, she was in more of a dither than ever. She said ‘yes’ to Derek, who’d been courting her on and off for eight years, but she had last-minute doubts and failed to turn up to their wedding. Her sadness at causing Derek pain turned to anger when she discovered he’d backed out and jilted her too! They eventually wed four years later.
1986: Whose baby?
The normally sensible Gail Tilsley’s head was turned by the arrival of Brian’s good-looking Australian cousin, Ian Latimer. The two had a brief but passionate affair, with Gail refusing to drop him despite her mum Audrey’s pleas. ‘I’m sick of being made a drudge,’ she said. It was after Ian returned Down Under that Gail found out she was pregnant, but she still confessed to Brian that he might not be the father. Brian’s ego was severely dented and he started divorce proceedings, but blood tests proved that he was Sarah Louise’s dad and, eventually, he accepted her.
1986: The Rovers Return inferno
Landlady Bet Lynch was asleep in her flat above the Rovers when an electrical fault sparked a small fire which erupted into an inferno. Sally Seddon spotted the flames in the early hours of the morning as she was on her way home from a concert with boyfriend Kevin Webster. Bet awoke to find her room full of smoke – and was only saved by Kevin’s bravery when he climbed a ladder and carried her to safety as the neighbours watched, hearts in mouths.
1989: Hero of the hour
He might have been a selfish big-head most of the time, but Brian Tilsley died a hero. Brian and Gail had remarried the previous year, but things weren’t going well and Brian spent more time picking up women at nightclubs than he did keeping his wife warm. It was during such a night out that a gang of youths molested one of his girlfriends. Brian tried to fight them off, but one of the thugs pulled a knife – and stabbed him in the stomach. As the blood seeped through his trendy shirt, it was obvious that he was a gonner. Gail was left a widow – and found comfort in the arms of the lad who worked beside her in the cafe, namely one Martin Platt.
1989: Death in Blackpool
Rita Fairclough Sullivan sunk to a new low in choosing men with new lover Alan Bradley. The relationship began promisingly but soon went downhill. He mortgaged her house and used the money to start a security firm, then tried to suffocate her when she found out. She had a breakdown, fled to Blackpool and took a singing job – but Alan tracked her down. When Rita saw him, she dashed across the road to escape. Alan chased her, ran into the path of a tram – and that was the end of him.
1989: Ken’s turn to play away
Ken, editor of the local paper, took a fancy to town hall secretary Wendy Crozier, who found her way into his affections by feeding him bits of council information. When she was sacked, he gave her a job on the paper – and the role of mistress soon followed. When Deirdre discovered the affair, on Christmas Eve, she was not amused. There was no forgive and forget for her and before the new decade had arrived, she’d thrown Ken out and started divorce proceedings.
The decade that saw Weatherfield go off its trolley with Don Brennan, Carmel the nanny and Anne Malone all losing it in a big way. Deirdre even lost her freedom but the nation rallied round in an even bigger way. And if you’re looking for proof that miracles do exist, just look at how Jim McDonald sprang to his feet after being paralysed (yes, paralysed, not paralytic)…
1991: Steph leaves Des
Des Barnes broke his fair share of hearts, but flirty wife Steph did the dirty first. Only a year after declaring her vows, feisty Steph grew tired of married life and jealous of the time that Des spent on his beloved boat. Wanting her own thrills and spills, she turned to architect Simon Beatty for comfort and told all to Des on his boat’s maiden voyage. His reaction? Not one to burn bridges, Des instead burnt his boat, making a splendid river bonfire and setting his marriage adrift forever as Steph bolted with her fancy man.
1993: Lisa Duckworth’s death
After hubby Terry fled their wedding to escape his prison shackles, Lisa Duckworth deserved some happiness – which she found with Street smoothie Des Barnes. They got cosy when he let little Tommy play in his garden and the newly formed family were as happy as Larry – until Lisa met an untimely end on Corrie’s cobbles. Hit by a car, Lisa died from brain injuries, leaving a distraught Des and a custody battle over Tommy. Dad Terry later sold his son to Lisa’s parents in Blackpool.
1993: Carmel the mad nanny
With an Irish lilt in her voice and a spring in her step, needy nanny Carmel Finnan didn’t just want to look after Martin Platt’s children – she also wanted to bear them! Obsessive about the placid Platt, the trainee nurse became the family’s lodger and secretly snook under Martin’s duvet when Gail was out. Claims that she was carrying Martin’s lovechild proved false after she took a tumble down the stairs, and her grandfather took her home to Ireland.
1995: The unlikeliest-ever couple
Romantically, model-cum-barmaid Raquel Wolstenhulme was always out of Curly Watts’ grasp. So imagine his delight when she proposed to him in December 1995 and they tied the knot 48 hours later. Predictably, Curly’s blissful bubble soon popped – Raquel was on the rebound from Des and wanted more out of life than Curly could give. She went off to Kuala Lumpur to follow her dreams but returned on Millennium Eve to announce that she’d had Curly’s child – and wanted to marry her new love. Never mind, Norman…
1996: Don Brennan goes barmy
It’s no wonder Don Brennan finally lost the plot. After marriage to irritable Ivy and hobbling around for years on a wooden stump, it was only a matter of time before he blew. Taking a break from the taxis, Don bought the garage from sneaky Mike for an over-the-odds price and ended up heavily in debt – and a tad upset that he’d been duped. Bent on revenge, he torched Mike’s factory and took wide-eyed Alma on a taxi-ride from hell. They escaped drowning in the canal, but Don eventually met his maker when he drove Alma’s car into the viaduct.
1997: Kev and Natalie’s affair
Kevin and Sally were coming dangerously close to being a stable soap marriage, until siren Natalie Horrocks shimmied on to the Street to get her teeth into the garage – and Kevin. While Sally nursed her sick mother in Scarborough, Natalie was treating Kev to a bedside manner that truly ignited his spark plugs! Sally eventually sussed their affair, resulting in a great Corrie cat fight and the end of the Webster’s 10-year marriage. Poor Rawsie and Sawphie!
1998: The biggest-ever soap trial
Out of all Deirdre Rachid’s many disastrous relationships, her engagement to tie salesman Jon Lindsay tops the lot. Married con-man Jon went on a spending spree with someone else’s gold card and told a jury that it was all Deirdre’s doing. When she was sentenced to 18 months in jail for fraud, Deirdre was horrified. The whole of the nation demanded justice – even Prime Minister Tony Blair got in on the act (surprise, surprise) – and she was eventually freed on appeal.
1998: Des Barnes’ death
After splitting from wife Steph, Des Barnes was Coronation Street’s resident romeo – until Natalie Horrocks got him down the aisle. Yet only weeks after their ‘I dos’, drug-selling thugs came looking for Natalie’s son Tony and Des leapt to his defence. He survived a beating but later died from a heart attack, and Natalie’s mascara just ran and ran… More than 20million people watched the loveable bookie bow out, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
1999: Sharon’s big ‘I don’t’
When Rita’s foster-daughter Sharon paid a visit to Weatherfield in January 1999, she was all loved up with hubby-to-be Ian – but not for long. Before she had time for a headdress fitting, her man had slipped beneath the sheets with grieving widow Natalie and pretended he was single. Rita found out and spilled the beans to Sharon, who waited until the nuptials to walk out on Ian in spectacular style. ‘Liar, liar!’ was screamed through the church as bewildered wedding guests looked on and Ian was left with egg on his face.
1998: Jim falls off the scaffolding, so he does
Unemployed Jim McDonald’s blood boiled over when son Steve offered him a job on his building site. Not one to accept charity, Jim tackled Steve on the scaffolding and slipped back into a skip full of rubbish. Ending up in a coma, Jim came round to find that he’d lost the use of his legs. Naturally, the thought of no more staggering back from the pub came as a shock, but after a bit of physio – and losing his wife – big Jim was eventually back on his feet.
The Wacky Races Starting Grid
All time great Hanna-Barbara cartoon The Wacky Races (1968) featured some great racing action across it’s 34 episodes. Here then for cult trivia fans is the starting line up for each race.
00 – Dick Dastardly & Mutley in the Mean Machine
1 – The Slagg brothers in the Boulder Mobile
2 – The Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe
3 – Professor Pat Pending in the Ring-a-Ding Convert-a-Car
4 – Red Max in the Crimson Haybailer
5 – Penelope Pitstop in the Compact Pussycat
6 – Sarge & Private Peevley in The Army Surplus Special
7 – The Ant Hill Mob in the Bullet-proof Bomb (renamed Chugaboom in Penelope Pitstop)
8 – Luke & Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chugabug
9 – Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terriffic
10 – Rufus & Sawtooth in the Buzzwagon
Classic Lost TV Characters
Not everyone sips champagne at the final wrap party. The chronicles of your favorite shows are littered with the departed — those souls who walked or faded away, got written out, died or just plain blew up.
All too often characters major and minor disappeared with but a brief mention in a subsequent episode to mark their passing… or with nothing at all. But we remember, and we won’t let them go into that vast maze of TV history without a trail of bread crumbs to mark their way back to us. We are markers. We are crumbs.
Character: John Burns, Sunshine Cab Company driver
Played by: Randall Carver
RIP: None. Last we saw, Burns, a sweetly dense regular in the show’s first season, was hanging with the other hack drivers and adding his dry, strange take on things to the show’s unique wit. Just as suddenly, he was gone and the writers never bothered to explain his absence. He apparently drove off into the Sunshine, er… sunset.
Background: Carver said in interviews that his character went the way of the dodo because the show’s producers felt he was too much like fellow naive-but-funny cabbie Tony Banta (Tony Danza). Their lines were often interchangable, so why pay two salaries?
Character: Chuck Cunningham, older brother
Played by: Gavan O’Herlihy and Randolph Roberts
RIP: A mystery. In fact, the basketball-bouncing Chuck appeared doomed from the beginning. He never figured heavily into any stories plus his role was recast without explanation — and none was really needed since he didn’t affect things much one way or the other. By series end, father Howard Cunningham (Tom Bosley) refers to Richie (Ron Howard) and Joanie (Erin Moran) as “both” his kids, thus excising poor Chuck from the Happy Days record entirely.
Background: Series creator Garry Marshall has said O’Herlihy opted out of the part before producers decided Richie didn’t need a biological older brother anyway since he already had one in Fonzie (Henry Winkler). The hapless Chuck was benched — permanently — and viewers plumb forgot him, just as Marshall and Co. intended.
Character: Charlene Matlock, daughter
Played by: Linda Purl
RIP: The firm headed by sly, crotchety Ben Matlock (Andy Griffith) was originally called Matlock and Matlock, but morphed into a Ben-centric operation when daughter Charlene packed up and headed to Philadelphia to hang out a shingle of her own. Alas, in the never-take-a-vacation vein of lessons, Charlene’s departure was a life sentence. The next time a daughter was called for, actress Brynn Thayer showed up as long-lost offspring Lee Ann McIntyre — and stayed on when the series jumped from NBC to ABC.
Background: None that we know of. (Must it always be a scandal with you?) Purl moved on and probably remains best known to TV viewers for her earlier work on Happy Days. There she first appeared as Richie’s girlfriend, Gloria, before shedding that personality and becoming Ashley, who tugged at the Fonz’s heartstrings.
The Brady Bunch
Character: Tiger, beloved family pet and early-episode plot catalyst
Played by: Tiger
RIP: Though he helped propel the plot for the pilot episode by teaming with Fluffy the cat to wreak havoc on Mike and Carol’s wedding, Tiger’s departure from the show went without mention — strange, since earlier in the series an entire episode revolved around his running away and Bobby’s (Mike Lookinland) belief that he’d been run over. (Fluffy fared even worse, disappearing from the show altogether after her maiden performance.)
Background: Fatefully enough, young Bobby proved prescient. Though Tiger’s disappearance and feared death in that episode proved to be nothing more than an extended dalliance with a lady dog, the real Tiger did indeed perish in the road. Producers attempted to replace him, but the second Tiger was not as well behaved so the pooch was phased out. (Tiger 2 did go on, however, to the big screen, winning a coveted Patsy Award for his work with Don Johnson in the sci-fi cult hit A Boy and His Dog). Tiger’s house survived him, appearing in the show for some time afterward.
My Three Sons
Character: Mike Douglas, eldest son of three
Played by: Tim Considine
RIP: The departure of eldest son Mike is but the tip of the iceberg for this granddaddy of all lost-character shows (Bub, Robbie, etc.). But let the accumulated loss be embodied in young Mike, who was said to have relocated east to accept a psychology teaching position after marrying sweetheart Sally. Creepily, papa Steve (Fred MacMurray), faced with the prospect of having to pare his show title down by one, simply adopted young Ernie Thompson (Barry Livingston) and carried on unruffled.
Background: Considine, who earlier had appeared with MacMurray in Disney’s The Shaggy Dog, grew out of the role and wished to bid adieu. Producers let him.
Character: Sonny Crockett’s car, stylish drug-busting vehicle
Played by: A fake Ferrari Daytona Spyder built upon a Corvette chassis
RIP: Undercover vice cop Crockett (Don Johnson) couldn’t keep a woman around long — affection resulted in violent death for most… men, too, for that matter — and his mode of transportation received equal treatment. So it went with his first loyal rod, blown to bits by a gun runner’s Stinger missile.
Background: Ferrari discontinued production of the real Spyder in 1978; the car in which Crockett and Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) sped around town was actually a patchwork of auto components made to look like the genuine article. Reportedly, Ferrari grew weary of a car it no longer sold getting so much attention, so it offered producers two brand-new Testarossas to use instead. “Hey, free wheels!” Boom.
Character: The Reverend Matthew Fordwick, friend and moral center
Played by: John Ritter
RIP: The good reverend received an honorable send-off in the beginning of the family classic’s sixth season — he left the mountain to set sail in the Navy. That’s certainly better than could be said for lusty Hank Buchanan (Peter Fox), who took his place. Why, he blew into town and immediately began making time with young Erin (Mary Elizabeth McDonogh)!
Background: TV’s most successful combination of ratings and wholesomeness couldn’t compete with money and a better credit. Ritter departed to star in Three’s Company and left whatever good-boy points he’d built up on Walton’s Mountain far behind. Goodbye, clean living. Hello, goggle-eyed double takes and limp-wristed double entendres.
Character: Allison Sugarbaker, not-Delta-but-just-like-her Delta Burke replacement
Played by: Julia Duffy
RIP: Allison, the cousin brought in to replace former series star Burke’s Suzanne Sugarbaker, left after one season and pulled her money out of the show’s Atlanta decorating business to buy a Victoria’s Secret franchise.
Background: Bringing Duffy in must have seemed like a no-brainer to producers faced with the loss of Burke, who departed following a drawn-out and very public battle over her weight. Duffy’s Allison was a carbon-copy of the spoiled brat she played so successfully on Newhart and thus should have been the perfect fill-in for Burke’s pushy, selfish Suzanne. Unfortunately for all involved, the audience didn’t think so. Exit Duffy.
Character: Sandy Harling, man-magnet waitress/struggling actress
Played by: Amy Locane
RIP: Well, RIP is really too harsh a description for Sandy’s fate. After all, her stint on the show included jealousy, rejection, fear of commitment and a stultifyingly boring date who took to stalking her. Her exit, on the other hand, meant an acting paycheck for a gig as an amnesia victim on a New York-based soap opera. Who says parting is such sweet sorrow?
Background: After 13 episodes of Sandy, Melrose’s producers decided the character had gone about as far as she could. Locane said in a subsequent interview that it was the right decision for both sides. “The writers didn’t know what they were doing with Sandy,” she explained. “I wanted some direction. I think they’re happy that I’m gone and I’m happy with my life.”
Law & Order
Character: Detective Phil Cerreta, no-nonsense cop replacement for no-nonsense cop Max Greevey
Played by: Paul Sorvino
RIP: Brought in after Greevey (George Dzundza) was killed in the line of duty, the unfortunate Cerreta proved no more bulletproof to partner Mike Logan (Chris Noth). He caught two in the belly and the resulting physical complications relegated him to an unseen desk job.
Background: Cerreta may have been vulnerable, but his show sure isn’t. Law & Order producers, who lost the talented Sorvino to a burgeoning opera career, signed up the equally effective Jerry Orbach as no-nonsense detective Lennie Briscoe. They never looked back and the show hasn’t either, weathering cast change after cast change to remain a stalwart member of NBC’s schedule and spawn the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit spin-off.
THIS JUST IN
Hazell: Hazell and Hyde (ITV 7 June 1979, with Maev Alexander)
In Hazell and Hyde James is asked to find a young woman, Claudine, who has apparently joined a group of...
Hazell: Hazell and the Suffolk Ghost (ITV 31 May 1979, with Meg Davies)
In Hazell and the Suffolk Ghost our intrepid hero pays a visit to the seaside when an accountant, Peter Harlow,...
Hazell: Hazell Gets The Boot (ITV 10 May 1979, with Billy Murray)
In Hazell Gets The Boot Hazell finds himself more or less coerced into taking on a supposedly simple job for villain...
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