Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! As The Odd Couple (1970-1975, ABC) will likely be the only Garry Marshall sitcom that we’ll cover on Sitcom Tuesdays, I want to take this post to feature one of his early attempts at show running, Hey, Landlord! (1966-1967, NBC). The only multi-camera live audience sitcom to premiere that year, and the only series that season, besides The Lucy Show (1962-1968, CBS) (for which Garry Marshall and his partner Jerry Belson also wrote) to be shot with this format, Hey, Landlord! was the second series that Marshall and Belson created. (The first was the previous season’s Hank.)
The show concerned Woody Banner (Will Hutchins), who moves to New York after learning that his uncle has left him a brownstone, for which he serves as the new landlord. To make ends meet, he finds a roommate in aspiring comedian Chuck Hookstratten (Sandy Baron). The building is filled with an assortment of loony tenants, including Michael Constantine, Ann Morgan Guilbert (fresh from her role as Millie Helper), Kathryn Minner, Pamela Rodgers, Miko Mayama, and Sally Field, who played Woody’s visiting sister in a brief arc. The series lasted 31 episodes and was cancelled due to inferior ratings.
Unfortunately, it is not an undiscovered gem. I have a set from iOffer that includes 16 of the 31 installments (none with Field), and while I hoped to be able to feature my favorite episodes in today’s entry, I’m afraid that it would be an impossible task. Not only is my set incomplete, but also, I have no favorite episodes. Why? Well, everything about the show is mediocre; the stories are cliched, the scripts lack humor, and the principal cast remains unremarkable. In short, it’s not as good as it should be. But I do want to give you a taste of the series, so you don’t have to simply take my word for it. Here is a copy of a full episode, one of the slightly better scripts, which demonstrates two of the series’ redeeming qualities: its focus on the young “hip” audience, and its frequent and wonderful use of guest stars. This one is called “The Big Fumble,” which aired as the 13th episode on December 11th, 1966. It was written by Marshall and Belson and directed by Jerry Paris (another Van Dyke alum). The premise involves Woody and Chuck’s attempts to get six tickets to an upcoming football game. Fred Willard, Herb Vigran, and Kathleen Freeman all make very funny guest appearances, rendering the episode worthwhile. Sound off in the comments below with your thoughts!
Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in tomorrow for more Xena!
I watched an episode of “Hey, Landlord!” when I was last at NYC’s Paley Museum, and I don’t remember being particularly impressed with it. I guess I was so bored with the episode that I noticed what appeared to be a pile of books on the stairway in their apartment and wondered how they kept from tripping over the books. I think the episode I saw involved Chuck screwing up a photography job for Woody’s tenant, Jack. (Michael Constantine was wasted on this show.)
I watched mostly because of my interest in all the shows that filled the odd NBC Sunday night 8:30 PM ET timeslot between Disney and Bonanza. I think for all its own faults, “The Mothers-in-Law” was an improvement over this sitcom, which it replaced. NBC only reran 3 of this show’s 31 episodes before cancelling it in May for a primetime version of “Let’s Make a Deal”, but a Canadian tv network reran “Hey Landlord!” through the summer, and I think this episode which you share above was the episode rerun on Sunday, July 30, 1967, in Canada. (I have a Canadian TV Guide for that particular week, with a summary similar to this plot.)
Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Yes, I do believe you’re correct about this episode being rerun on Canadian television on 07/30/67. (The episode you saw at Paley is called “The Shapes Of Wrath.”) Though I have only seen half of the produced installments, it was difficult to select one to share in today’s post. They’re all just mediocre. (Perhaps the 15 I have’t seen are the good ones.) THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW wasn’t above its own share of inferior scripts, but the performances always helped redeem it. HEY, LANDLORD! simply feels like a trial run sitcom where all the creatives involved are just getting their feet wet. There’s a little bit of THE ODD COUPLE in its design, but with a decidedly kooky and “hip” ’60s sensibility. Ultimately, however, it’s not as good as it should be.
Thanks for your reply. Does your “Hey, Landlord!” set include “Testing…One, Two”? It would be fun to see that only because the same episode plot was reused for “Laverne & Shirley” as “Guinea Pigs”, down to the same name for the doctor in both episodes. I imagine “Laverne & Shirley” did much better with the same plot, if only for the physical comedy abilities of the 2 leads, especially Penny Marshall.
I do have that episode. I have e-mailed you at your Yahoo! address.
I noticed in this review and The Odd Couple reviews that you have been a little critical of Garry marshalls work. Im kinda curious on your opinion on Happy Days
Hi, Track! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Yes, I find most of his shows to be sophomoric and dominated by cheap laughs. HAPPY DAYS is perhaps the biggest offender — the hit of the ’70s that lacks both the strong content and strong characters that otherwise defined sitcoms of the decade (thanks to both Lear and Tinker respectively). THE ODD COUPLE is Marshall’s strongest — redeemed by the premise, the casting, and the sophistication that was inherent to Simon’s original work. (The irony is that I actually like most of Marshall’s individual scripts for THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and THE LUCY SHOW; it’s just when he started making his own series that his work started catering to the LCD, beginning here with the retched HEY, LANDLORD!)
Yea these days I feel like The Odd Couple is his best and most underrated
Yeah, when I read of the genius of Garry Marshall, it’s like hearing about Nora Ephron’s genius. I’m always like, “Are you serious?”
Hi, Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Part of the issue is that the series for which Marshall is best known all rely on false character-supplanting nostalgia to goose story and distract from earned laughs — a problem endemic to most of his created efforts, which were big on overhead (premise/setting/stars) and light on a traditional, directional relationship between well-defined regulars and utilized plots. As suggested above, when working in a format that forced more of a fidelity to relatable, realistic characters, like THE ODD COUPLE, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, and even THE LUCY SHOW, I think his innate understanding of comedy is better able to speak for itself.
With regard to HEY, LANDLORD!, I wish I would have waited to discuss it here. Today, I’d be more nuanced and articulate. For instance, because it’s a mid-’60s example of demo-targeting and some of its juvenility is intentional, I would try to use that lens to be more generous in pinpointing its strengths, and clearer when pinpointing its weaknesses.