Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! To complement yesterday’s rerun post on the fifth season of Three’s Company, I’m offering — to subscribers who comment here alerting me of their interest — access to the pilot script of an unsold MTM series starring John Ritter. Entitled Bachelor At Law, the scenario had the future Jack Tripper as an idealistic young lawyer who takes a job working for an unscrupulous attorney played by Harold Gould (Rhoda, The Golden Girls). Others in the ensemble were Sarah Kennedy (Laugh-In) as Gould’s daughter and Ritter’s potential love interest, Richard Schaal (Rhoda, Phyllis) — then married to Valerie Harper — as a private investigator, and stage actress Betsy von Furstenberg as Ritter’s neighbor.
MTM had high hopes for the series, and Grant Tinker thought enough of it years later to express disappointment in his autobiography that Bachelor was removed from CBS’ upcoming schedule, apparently after a commitment from network prexy Bob Wood, when they decided instead to go with Gelbart and Reynolds’ MASH-inspired Roll Out, which turned out to be a 12-week turkey. The Bachelor At Law pilot did make it on the air that summer though — broadcast by CBS on June 05, 1973. I don’t have that footage (sadly), but, again, what I can offer — to subscribers — is a copy of the script, written by the famed Ed. Weinberger (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Doc, Phyllis, Taxi, The Associates, The Cosby Show, among many others).
Without having seen the produced effort, I can’t say that I share Tinker’s enthusiasm for the project. On the page, not all members of the ensemble have the same kind of well-defined comedic definitions we’ve come to expect from an MTM property (and which The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and perhaps even The Bob Newhart Show, did a fairly good job of establishing right away). Naturally, some of this would have developed over time, but based on the pilot alone, only Gould’s, Schaal’s, and von Furstenberg’s roles have individual perspectives conducive to character-driven comedy. Kennedy’s part is unfavorably bland, and Ritter, the series’ anchor, seems to get all his laughs situationally — without a real source of humor from within… Of course, we know what a comedic gem Ritter would eventually prove himself to be, so I’m sure he found laughs hidden in the punctuation; reading it though… I worry that MTM would have had another Jim Carrey/The Duck Factory situation on its hands, with a talented lead who is basically wasted and doesn’t get to show off his own genius. Three’s Company used Ritter so well, and I’m not sure Bachelor At Law would have, or by MTM’s design, could have done the same.
Nevertheless, we are talking about a piece from MTM and Weinberger (who wrote some of the best episodes of Moore’s series), so there’s a certain amount of brains and welcome humanity inherent to all their early ’70s efforts… Thus, if you’d like to read the Bachelor At Law pilot script and form your own conclusions, please subscribe (if you haven’t already) and comment below! And, here’s an excerpt — to whet your appetite…
Come back next week for another Wildcard Wednesday goodie! And tune in Tuesday for another vintage sitcom rerun!