Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! In this week’s entry, we’re celebrating the 45th anniversary of A Touch Of Grace, a single-season multi-camera sitcom that debuted January 20, 1973 on ABC and lasted a grand total of 13 episodes. Adapted from the ITV series For The Love Of Ada, A Touch Of Grace was helmed by Saul Turteltaub and Bernie Orenstein (That Girl, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Sanford And Son) and starred Shirley Booth with J. Pat O’Malley. It was an intimate comedy about an elderly liberal woman who moves in with her conservative daughter (Marian Mercer) and son-in-law (Warren Berlinger), while dating — to their chagrin — a gravedigger. Scheduled on Saturdays at 8:30, opposite CBS’ Bridget Loves Bernie (a one-year-wonder that followed All In The Family and was that season’s fifth most-watched show), A Touch Of Grace was a Nielsens flop, ending the year around #70 (of 75).
I myself have only seen one episode — the pilot — at UCLA back in 2015. Revisit my thoughts on the debut installment, which “packs big laughs and some quiet moments of real humanity,” here. This week, I’m happy to share the “Fifth Draft” of that script, dated October 04, 1972. (Look out for some interesting original casting notes about the kids, too.) Enjoy!
Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in Tuesday for more Frasier!
Shirley Booth made her last TV Guide cover appearance during the run of this sitcom, and I was only aware of this sitcom because of this cover: http://www.tvguidemagazine.com/archive/suboffer/1970s/1973/19730512_c1.jpg.html
It could’ve been predicted by this sitcom’s appearance, but I remember reading in a 1980s TV Guide that because of the ratings failure of a tv movie called “Valentine”, which starred Mary Martin & Jack Albertson, “geriatic love” was a ratings loser. At least THE GOLDEN GIRLS eventually proved that theory a failure.
Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Ah, but THE GOLDEN GIRLS was a triumph of terrific writing performed by a terrific cast — so I’d argue its success didn’t prove or disprove the viability of a certain narrative construct, for other sitcom efforts with decidedly older stars — ABC’s LIFE WITH LUCY, CBS’ COMING OF AGE, NBC’s WALTER & EMILY — had similar narrative appeals, but far fewer merits!
Success, on network television, depends on perceived quality meeting prime real estate. Half of that requires help from the network — and by putting the show opposite a hit in CBS’ acclaimed Saturday night line-up, ABC was not doing A TOUCH OF GRACE any favors!
(In fact, the show may have done better had ABC saved it for the summer, like they did with LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, which, well… stay tuned later this year…)
Enjoyed it. Could picture Shirley Booth and JPat O’malley saying those lines. Another forgotten 70’s gem.. Is it just me or does it seem like the flops were better in that decade?
Hi, Deb! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Glad you enjoyed — personally, I can agree that I’ve been more enthused about the short-lived comedies I’ve seen from the ‘70s than those from any other decade, but that’s probably because I think the ‘70s hits setting that era’s trends — MARY TYLER MOORE and ALL IN THE FAMILY being the most obvious influencers — themselves represent the period of sitcom history by which I’m most excited.
It’s taken me a month to getting around to reading this script, but it’s been worth it. Thanks so much for posting this. I was at the age when I was a sponge when “A Touch of Grace” was on, and I have very vivid and fond memories of watching it. Oddly, I also remember watching “Brigit Loves Bernie”, but if that ran out the season and this was on for only 13 weeks, I guess they weren’t all that mutually exclusive. I’m three for three in your Literary Club selections, Jackson. I watched “Fay” and “Doc” during their short runs as well. Your taste is impeccable!
Hi, Greg! Thanks for reading and commenting.
I’m very glad to know you’ve enjoyed reading what I’ve been able to share of these rare shows. Stay tuned for another forgotten ‘70s sitcom — in teleplay form — this summer!