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!