Somewhere Between HE & SHE and MTM: A Look at THE GOVERNOR AND J.J.

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m sharing some thoughts on a short-lived sitcom that I initially planned to include in our recent Potpourri series, until I realized I had too much to say about it. As teased last week, the show in question is The Governor And J.J. (1969-1970, CBS), a 39-episode multi-cam from Talent Associates that ran for a season-and-a-half before it was bumped from the network’s schedule to make room for a newcomer: All In The Family. That’s right; The Governor and J.J. premiered on the cusp of so much change in TV comedy, and exploring the ways in which it predicted what was to come, or failed to, has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, especially because it was helmed by two of the key writers who a few years earlier had worked on my beloved He & She. In fact, tracking the aesthetic evolution from that series is also a line that my coverage aims to follow… And while I should note now that I’ve seen all of the 13-episode second season that aired in the fall of 1970, but only five entries from the first, I’ve read scripts for several others and have examined both production credits and detailed summaries for all the rest. So, I’m ready to share my analysis of the series with you, starting with a modified version of the Potpourri rundown…

 

THE GOVERNOR AND J.J. (Sept 1969-Dec 1970, CBS)

Premise: A widowed governor tries to manage both the state and his free-spirited adult daughter J.J.

Cast: Dan Dailey, Julie Sommars, James T. Callahan, Neva Patterson, Nora Marlowe, Ed Platt, Doris Packer

Creator/Writers: Leonard Stern, Arne Sultan, Earl Barret, Chris Hayward, Bill Manhoff, Burt Prelutsky, Allan Burns

Episode Count: 39 episodes produced and broadcast; 26 from S1 and 13 from S2.

Episodes Seen: All of S2 and “The Second First Lady,” “There Go The Judge,” “The Return Of Doctor Livingston,” “Charley’s Back In Town,” and “Second Opinion” from S1

Initially a vehicle for Julie Sommars, The Governor And J.J. quickly became what we might call a two-hander, built around the chemistry between the two stars playing its eponymous leads (Sommars and Dan Dailey), with their father/daughter dynamic supplying a low-concept central relationship to a premise that, unlike Leonard Stern’s and Talent Associates’ previously relationship-centric multi-cams — He & She and The Good Guys — had a political setting that allowed it to be higher concept. The show was created by executive producer Stern and producer Arne Sultan, an old Steve Allen cohort whom Stern had brought along for both He & She and Get Smart, the latter of which Sultan was still overseeing as producer during the 1969-’70 season. It was their second multi-cam together, following their first, He & She (1967-1968, CBS), which, as we’ve explored, enjoyed a fascinating but not always well-calibrated blend of Stern’s sketch-born, idea-driven, and comically heightened sensibilities, and the more realistic and character-first situational humor supplied by forward-thinking scribes such as, specifically, Allan Burns, who’d go on to co-create the most seminal character-driven sitcom of the 1970s, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977, CBS). Interestingly, J.J. didn’t claim any writers from He & She beyond Stern and Sultan, and Burns only contributed one early script; he was busy on the new half-hour dramedy Room 222, where he’d align with Jim Brooks to develop Mary Tyler Moore, which would premiere during J.J.’s second season (when, incidentally, Get Smart‘s Ed Platt joined the recurring cast, taking over a role that Carroll O’Connor had played in the 1969 pilot). So, this show offers us the rare chance to determine how much their style at the moment of Mary Tyler Moore‘s inception resembles that classic, and without the creative force from He & She that gave the series its most potent association to MTM — someone on whom we could attach the ensemble-heavy character-based realism that arose over its short life. (The second most potent association, for the record, is Jay Sandrich, who was the resident director of both He & She and Mary Tyler Moore, but only did a handful of J.J.’s.) Ultimately then, I’m studying this series to see what it says about (a) what Stern and Sultan learned from He & She and (b) how capable they would have been, circa 1970, to do their own Mary Tyler Moore. 

With regard to the first point, it wasn’t a straight line for Stern and Sultan from He & She to The Governor And J.J., for they both returned to the aging Get Smart and Stern, by himself, went on to oversee another multi-cam — The Good Guys (1968-1970, CBS), which we touched upon last week. That show, while not anachronistic for its era, was nevertheless a step backwards for Talent Associates and Stern, as he had just come off the poster child for “young, urban, contemporary” fare in He & She and then opted to go with a project modeled off his early ’60s flop I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster (1962-1963, ABC), inevitably failing to deliver something as character-driven, believable, or even as comedic as his most recent credit. This was perhaps largely due to an uncomfortable dynamic between the series’ star (Bob Denver) and its low-concept material, but it also indicated something of an identity crisis for The Good Guys too, as it existed in Stern’s newly cultivated brand of progressive character-based realism, and yet had a premised attempt at evoking the broader, yuk-heavy but character-subjugating fare of Stern’s more sketch-like I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster (which had been more of a creative triumph because its era’s standards of comic truth were lower, while its text and performances both managed to exceed expectations). Thus, The Good Guys did not build on the momentum from He & She and seemed to suffer for it. (Well, to be fair, it did have the best run of any of Stern’s ’60s multi-cams, with a longer second season than J.J.’s, but it was less valuable, as it gave up its aesthetic fight, turning into a lame single-camera effort with more idea-led hijinks and no concern for character realism.) Obviously, J.J. — which got renewed in spite of inferior ratings, due to a belief that, if it caught on, it would soon be more profitable than Petticoat Junction — is a step forward from The Good Guys, with a greater sense of believability, aided both by more assured performances, and by a premise that seeks elevated realism through an interest in present-day politics and politicians. This provides the show with a flashy hook on which it can hang its generation gap drama between a widowed father and his adult daughter, as stories are now dressed with the givens of a (relatively conservative) governor and his (relatively liberal) proxy first lady, along with the comical duties that come from their career obligations.

In turn, this yields a high-concept engine — including a mild spoof of the era’s political norms and figures (some real-life governors appeared) — that makes J.J. more realistic than The Good Guys, but also gives it an excuse to remain not as character-dependent as He & She, which was far more low-concept. (The only thing the latter mocked was the superhero TV trend, and that never overtook the characterizations.) Indeed, more stories on The Governor And J.J. employ conflicts that arise from the governor’s profession instead of his relationships, including the centralized father/daughter drama of different generations and therefore beliefs. Accordingly, this political premise also gives J.J. an excuse to not be as character-led as the MTM comedies of the early ’70s — a cover that they, along with He & She and The Good Guys, never had. Now, perhaps this is a smarter design, for it gets ahead of its shortcomings in using the leads’ depictions for weekly plot, which is the central tenet of character-driven writing and something even He & She struggled to do, only coming around to it near the end of its evolutionary run, and with a tonal unevenness as a result of said struggle. But J.J., which is aesthetically smoother thanks to He & She‘s strife (and because of Stern/Sultan’s tighter grip), is also no worse at motivating story… even though it’s sometimes harder to tell because of the higher concept, which penetrates (to varying degrees) every plot. Additionally, most of its leads are well-defined, if not slightly better defined than He & She’s, for they’re less broad and have more detail-oriented precision; despite structural hooks mostly determining personas, we nevertheless get a very human idea — via small beats that make them more relatable and real — of the Governor, J.J., and key ensemble players, like James Callahan as the administration’s high-strung press secretary, and Neva Patterson as the Governor’s dry assistant. However, none of J.J.‘s regulars are as bold as He & She’s — the egotistical TV star, the childlike fireman, the daffy handyman — so they’re not nearly as valuable when it comes to both story and comedy. And though they maybe have more nuance, there’s nothing to show for it in story or comedy, which suggests that He & She’s biggest qualitative discovery — how to become more character-driven — is not actually improved upon, thus indicating more maintenance than progress.

Meanwhile, the show’s lack of boldness speaks to the general gentility of The Governor and J.J., contrasting it against both the occasionally gawky He & She and even Mary Tyler Moore, which was warmly sincere but always unflinching with how it defined its leads and their humor, often putting them in direct conflict. And unfortunately, despite designing itself for a political clash of opposites, The Governor And J.J. too often avoids having its leads oppose each other in fundamental differences of opinion (like, for instance, Norman Lear knew he had to do on All In The Family if he was going to get credit for finally turning the sitcom topical and realistic without sacrificing humor). The result is comically deflating and narratively narrowing, for while, sure, sometimes J.J.’s antics, particularly as a zookeeper (we’re supposed to find her whimsical) complicate the Governor’s political standing, this refusal to let them really go at it decentralizes the series’ thesis, which is supposedly their relationship, making it easier for the show to instead remain more idea-driven by his professional circumstances. What’s more, avoiding politics as a source of disagreement weakens the series’ claim on realism, because everything about them suggests they’d be opposed, and denying this fact leaves them less different, or distinct, diluting their depictions and rendering them less defined — not as conducive to comic story. As such, the show is avoiding character-driven conflict and comedy, and not using its premise well — both the central relationship and the higher concept political trappings. However, I can’t say I’m surprised, for this basic gentility — far less brash than He & She and The Good Guys (both of which, incidentally, were broader and more slapsticky than J.J., but were also better able to build, like Mary Tyler Moore, to non-physical centerpieces too, never lacking an anticipated crescendo) — actually fits its era, specifically 1969, which stood at the precipice of a huge change in situation comedy, motivated by 1970-’71’s overt crusade for “social relevance” at the hands of CBS’ new network president Bob Wood, who wanted more modern fare that didn’t shirk from dealing with present realities,. This led to groundbreaking shows, such as the radically genuine Mary Tyler Moore and the radically political All In The Family, which cleared J.J. from the schedule with a force it couldn’t have matched.

As we know, ’60 sitcoms had a reputation for being escapist — fantastical, either narratively or emotionally — and not until late in the decade, starting with the “young, urban, contemporary” push that sparked a spate of Barefoot In The Park wannabes (including He & She), did we see a creep towards the ’70s’ low-concept realism, which, because it was rare, felt subversive. The variety genre had some hits in this vein — like the Smothers Brothers and Laugh-In — but the sitcom had no success until 1968’s Julia, the genre’s first show with a Black star since Amos ‘N’ Andy. Boasting an inherent social value, Julia was a forerunner to the openly political shows of Norman Lear, yet it was uncontroversial in every way but her presence, with scripts and stories treating her identity gingerly and with little mind for how it could fuel comic conflict. To wit, Julia wasn’t funny, and neither were the similarly “relevant” shows that cropped up in 1969, like The Bill Cosby Show and the aforementioned Room 222, which wasn’t a sitcom at all, but fed into this genre-muddying trend, where half hours could be serious, especially if they had social concerns or an air of modernity (like My World And Welcome To It). All of them claimed some degree of realism and palpable humanity, but they were largely unfunny, and their characters often had to compete with an idea-driven, and typically political, premise, which actually wasn’t well-used, for even if the text was unsubtle about its desired relevancy, they were neither mining these issues for comic conflict that fit the genre nor being frank enough about them to earn points for honesty, thereby jeopardizing their supposed reality. If this sounds familiar, it’s because that’s how I depicted The Governor And J.J., indicating this show’s fidelity to that trend. (It’s also worth noting that the series’ story editor was a former Julia scribe named Earl Barret, who, as we saw, later paired with Sultan on both The Partners and The Sandy Duncan Show.) Yet, if it’s not as riotous or as honest as Lear’s All In The Family, J.J. is still more amusing than most from the 1969-’70 season, both because of the multi-camera format, which requires laughs, and also because of Stern and Sultan, who came from the joke-predicated sketch world. And, if J.J. also isn’t as amusing as a few of their other efforts — not to mention Mary Tyler Moore — it’s still, again, more aligned than its contemporaries with the sitcom’s established standards.

By that I mean, The Governor And J.J. is still a show with merit, even if, in being unable to illustrate an improvement on He & She‘s character-driven capabilities, it also doesn’t reveal the kind of evolution needed to suggest that Leonard Stern and Arne Sultan would have been able to develop something like The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970, when Allan Burns took his knowledge of the low-concept sitcom’s narrative structure (a lot of it learned on He & She) and married it to Jim Brooks’ wild imagination and knack for creating big, beautiful characterizations — all of which merged within a shared pursuit of realism that they had solidified in the otherwise non-comedic and less character-rooted Room 222, a stepping stone to the very funny and supremely character-rooted Mary Tyler Moore. In other words, Stern and Sultan were heading in the right direction relative to the rest of the genre, only not to the extent that Brooks and Burns were, and He & She is a more important stop on this journey to Moore’s series, not only given Burns’ inclusion, but also for the palpable progression that occurred over the course of its run, and doesn’t occur on J.J., which is the beneficiary of He & She’s strides, but takes none of its own. In fact, you’d expect its second season — which aired concurrently with Mary Tyler Moore — to at least become more modern and character-led in tandem, but no such luck, for while the abbreviated sophomore year’s “reelection campaign” arc focuses plots in the high-concept premise, the central relationship remains comedically and narratively toothless, hindering believability and comic story. Now, you may be thinking that I’ve seen too little of the first year to make this adjudication about J.J., but I’ve screened and/or read half of One’s episodes, studied detailed summaries of the others, and can confirm that the same creative forces were in control for its entirety. So, I’m comfortable applying the following verdict to the whole series: it was equally of its time as He & She was of its time, but it wasn’t as courageously forward-moving with character, and thus never came close enough to Mary Tyler Moore to be considered analogous. As for its best episodic samples, because I know there are better ones in the first season than those I’ve seen, I’m only going to stick with citing entries from the second. So, here’s a no-frills bullet point list of my picks, with a brief explanation as to why.

  • Episode 27: “And The World Begat The Bleep” (09/23/70) — a comical contemporary story where J.J.’s modern attitude and impulsivity yields conflict
  • Episode 29: “Read That Leg To Me Again” (10/07/70) — a typical plot using a clash related to the leads’ structural differences (careers) as opposed to their personas
  • Episode 30: “File Safe” (10/14/70) — an old-fashioned story, but one of the only entries with a strong climactic set piece, featuring the great Edward Everett Horton
  • Episode 35: “The Making Of The Governor” (11/25/70) — a lampoon of ’60s politics within an arc-driven plot, guest starring He & She‘s Jack Cassidy
  • Episode 38: “P.S. I Don’t Love You” (12/23/70) — another narrative related to the year’s arc, but with even more contemporary ideas and laughs, plus Joi Lansing

 

 

Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned Monday for a musical theatre rarity!

20 thoughts on “Somewhere Between HE & SHE and MTM: A Look at THE GOVERNOR AND J.J.

  1. I am immediately struck by how similar the opening credits sequence of THE GOVERNOR AND J.J. is to THE NEW DICK VAN DYKE DHOW.

    • Hi, Guy! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I assume you’re referring to THE NEW DICK VAN DYKE SHOW’s third season opening with the boxes. They were both created by Reza Badiyi, who before J.J. had worked on HE & SHE — a job that, as noted in the comments last week, got him MARY TYLER MOORE, which got him hired by Carl Reiner for Van Dyke’s ‘70s series when it needed a revamp.

  2. I’m surprised by that article stating that the show’s ratings were good, and this was just about a month before it was cancelled. I’d think CBS would’ve had a weaker program to cancel than this show, maybe BEVERLY HILLBILLIES or GREEN ACRES. I think it’s funny that ALL IN THE FAMILY was preceded in its premiere season by BH, GA, and HEE-HAW, of all shows.

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      That claim about the ratings was PR spin — it was still not above the 30-share threshold. Also, both GREEN ACRES and THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES were slightly higher rated and already had full season pickups, ending production in December 1970; J.J. had completed its 13-episode order in October, so, by November (when the axe came), it would have been more expensive to renew it than to keep one of the Henning shows that were already bankrolled.

  3. I also meant to ask you if you have any awareness of the NBC sitcom NANCY, which premiered fall 1970 and was cancelled around the same time as this show. It did have Celeste Holm in the cast. I’ve read that it was perhaps inspired by public interest in the Nixon daughters at the time, but that interest apparently didn’t help the show much.

    • I’ve not viewed an episode — or sought one out — so I can’t give you an informed opinion, but everything I’ve read indicates that it was similar to the shows in the trend discussed above: mild social relevance with barely any humor or truth. (And since it came from I DREAM OF JEANNIE’s Sidney Sheldon and aired in 1970 on NBC, I’m inclined to believe that!)

  4. Thank you for reviewing this series. I watched an episode this past weekend on YouTube and really enjoyed it. It was the episode titled “From Here to Maternity”. I enjoyed the actress that played the Governor’s mother. Sorry, I do not know her name. I also liked the two stars of the show, Julie Sommars and Dan Daily. I was surprised and happy to see that it was a multi-camera show.

    • Hi, Smitty! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      The actress in question is Linda Watkins, who played the role in this and one other previous installment, after Jessie Royce Landis introduced the character in her debut. Incidentally, I’m not a huge fan of “From Here To Maternity” — the last entry broadcast — because I think it suspends the series’ implied claim on dramatic realism just to allow for its main comic notion, which then isn’t motivated enough by the characters to be worth the suspension, making it neither character-rooted nor truthful (not to mention unrelated to the premise, but that’s a separate criticism). However, outside of these storytelling concerns, it’s a solid, jokey script by Arne Sultan and Earl Barret, typical of their work here.

      • After reading your summation of this series, I also tracked down the episode From Here to Maternity on YouTube. I was generally unimpressed, especially with Dan Dailey’s dour, monotone delivery. I am not that familiar with his work, and I don’t know if this was his usual approach, but he struck me as an actor bored with his material.

        • I think Dailey is fairly natural in the role of a conservative governor from that era, especially one whose age is supposed to inform the series’ central conflict, and I don’t agree at all that he seems bored with the material. I do agree, however, that “From Here To Maternity” is not a favorable sample of the series, which is why I intentionally didn’t cite it above.

  5. This is an excellent entry for what I think is a historically significant show due to its timing, as you have laid out above.

    This seemed like an awkward time for sitcoms, as many, like this show, were dipping their toes more and more into contemporary subjects without being willing to take the plunge. I don’t really know why, with Laugh-In riding high in the ratings, someone didn’t take more of a chance. Maybe the sitcom audience was more conservative.

    As you alluded to, I find The Governor And J.J. more intelligent than The Good Guys, but less funny. It’s awfully dry. Dan Dailey’s governor was an excellent portrayal of a staid 1960s conservative, but his character is too paternalistic and dominant, to the point that Julie Sommars’ character I felt was diminished, which is a bad direction to head when you’ve got an attractive young female co-star.

    The gentility which you mentioned seems like a common thread in so many of the new shows of this era. Low conflict relationships. I’d throw The Good Guys in there as well. Along with the shows you mentioned (Room 222 and The Bill Cosby Show, Courtship Of Eddie’s Father also belongs there) the latter day high concept gimmick shows (Ghost And Mrs. Muir, The Flying Nun, Nanny And The Professor) also developed along these lines.

    I do wonder if MTM had debuted in this 1969-70 season, whether it would have been neutered by CBS requiring an obvious love interest or stronger paternalistic performance by Ed Asner as Lou Grant. By not advancing the show enough, keeping it half in the That Girl universe.

    Other than the constantly in flux Doris Day Show, the one significant show that came out of this pre-MTM era was The Brady Bunch. Despite many of these contemporary shows featuring children in the cast, Brady Bunch worked better IMO because of easily identifiable characters and more overt comedy in place of the gentility and warmth. From memory, you don’t care for Brady Bunch, but IMO it bears some historical significance considering its era.

    • Hi, jayz755! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      J.J.’s minimization is the result of this series’ overarching refusal to put the leads in direct conflict, for the premise structures her as the central opposition to the status quo of her father’s administration, and then never meaningfully explores the reasons — mainly, the politics — that would make her so opposed. Accordingly, her perspective is muted, which makes her less conducive to motivating comedy, and comic story. (Incidentally, I find The Governor’s characterization equally muted, but as the ambassador for the series’ status quo, it’s less dramatically incumbent on him to be motivating comedy, and comic story. And as the center of the high-concept premise that stories are exploiting instead, it doesn’t feel like he’s not serving his purpose, like it does with J.J.)

      And, yes, Moore’s series would have been different if developed and produced in 1969, as the chain of command at CBS evolved considerably in 1970. (“Social relevance” was Bob Wood’s strategy, not Mike Dann’s.) However, I think any multi-cam by Brooks and Burns would have been inherently more character-driven and comedically geared than the others from this era, regardless of the narrative or tonal changes that might have been forced. Of course, that’s moot; without ROOM 222, they wouldn’t have been hired.

      As for THE BRADY BUNCH, yes, it’s not part of 1969’s most significant sitcom trend, but I don’t think it’s unique to the schedule either. One look at last week’s THE DEBBIE REYNOLDS SHOW reveals a low-concept premise with a regressively broad comic style, propped up by regulars whose structural positions belie the nonexistence of believable story-pushing or laugh-motivating characterizations, even though laughs are the guiding objective. We’ve seen our fair share of these backwards-looking shows throughout this decade (and every decade), and I’d actually put THE GOOD GUYS, even during its single-camera second season, more in this familiar laugh-seeking category than the pile of gentler, modern fare of 1969. However, like J.J., that’s relative — it’s bolder than JULIA, but milder than ALL IN THE FAMILY.

      In terms of its significance, I grant that THE BRADY BUNCH’s ubiquity in syndication has given it a cultural durability (and you’re right — it’s a relatable concept with a boldness that can make its mediocrity ironically fun). But with regard to the genre, its commercial “success” is a testament to ABC’s lower standards; it would have never lasted so long on any other network. And, when talking of its critical influence, I think any trackable relevance it has is confined to similarly mediocre efforts that are less iconic. So, if I were to cover it here, it would purely be because I thought it was worthy. And, frankly, compared to Sherwood Schwartz’s other credit — GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, which depicted its leads with more consistency, claimed a high-concept framework that, to its benefit, alleviated their duties in motivating story, and existed in the middle of the 1960s, of which Schwartz’s style was more indicative — I don’t.

      • Thanks for responding!

        Brady Bunch likely only directly influenced its ABC Friday night stablemate, The Partridge Family. Partridge was more self aware and funnier than Brady, but syndicated less well due to less timelessness and kitsch value.

        Partridge rated the best out of that whole Friday night lineup, which included The Odd Couple, Room 222, and Love, American Style. ABC effectively treated all of the programs the same, as none were ratings grabbers, but they were all allowed to run to 4-5 seasons worth of episodes.

        Tonally, Odd Couple is the outlier of those programs. Brady and Odd Couple shared the same track record of lower first run ratings followed by syndication success, with Partridge more moderate in syndication and Room 222 and LAS forgotten due to being heavily dated in different ways.

        However, the ratings are a chicken and egg issue. Were all of the programs low rated due to lack of viewer interest, or did ABC’s overall weaknesses hurt the ratings of the programs.

        So my question is, if The Odd Couple had been a CBS show, do you think the first run ratings would have been improved, or would it have been cancelled earlier?

        • The guiding draw of THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY was its use of music to create a teen idol (à la THE MONKEES). This gave the novelty comedy better first-run ratings than its Friday night peers, but a diminished replay value in the decades following. (And its tonal differences from THE BRADY BUNCH — Sherwood Schwartz vs. Bernard Slade — cannot be overstated.)

          With regard to ABC’s ratings, its reduced affiliate reach across the country bred reduced standards that were hinged less around total ratings than success relative to direct competition. Thus, out of financial necessity, ABC made fixtures out of lesser-rated programs, which in turn made it harder for its new offerings to become hits by proximity. Accordingly, viewers had to actively tune into what ABC programmed — with less passivity — in order for the network to be competitive.

          To answer your “chicken or the egg” question, the network’s inherent weakness from its inception in the 1940s affected its programming moves, which affected its ratings, which affected its programming moves, which affected its ratings, creating a self-perpetuating rut that could only be broken by a true offensive, the kind launched by Fred Silverman in the mid-‘70s. Prior to that, it was always working from behind the figurative eight-ball.

          As for your hypothetical question about THE ODD COUPLE, that’s variable-dependent. Where is it on CBS’ schedule? What show is not on CBS’ schedule because of THE ODD COUPLE? What has this done to the competition? If you fill in some of these variables for me, I can share with you what I think… in one of our upcoming “Q&A” series of posts, more conducive to off-topic inquiries. You can visit the “Ask Jackson (Q&A)” page to submit questions like this at any time: https://jacksonupperco.com/ask-jackson/

        • The single-cam first season of THE ODD COUPLE is bland enough to be, tonally, much more a 1960s sitcom product than a ’70s sitcom. Season 1 of TOC is almost like a different series than seasons 2-5. Once they brought out the multi-cams and put that show before a studio audience, the effect was like turbocharging it with rocket fuel.

          • As always, I agree about the value of a live audience, not only in boosting the humor by creating a tangible need for laughs, but also in insisting upon a more simplistic design that forces prioritized character interaction, which is particularly appropriate for a property with theatrical origins. However, I also think the first season of THE ODD COUPLE is more comedically geared, and less gentle, than most of the late ’60s “comedies” referenced above — not to mention, already indicative of this early ’70s evolution towards low-concept comic realism — and it’s therefore worth distinguishing on these lines. (Of course, this is also relative — i.e. Garry Marshall’s ethos is far less sincere than MTM’s.)

  6. That was interesting. It looks like another Leonard Stern show that appears to have missed the boat for any DVD release now.

    I know Juile Sommars from her guest roles in dramatic shows like “The Fugitive” where she played opposite William Shatner. She also looked like a TV star waiting to happen. It is too bad that never happened.

    • Hi, Paul! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, Stern’s passing has unfortunately rendered all of his unreleased shows unlikely to see the light of day.

      With regard to Julie Sommars, her role on MATLOCK is probably her best known dramatic credit. But you’re right — she was an up-and-coming ’60s star for whom Talent Associates hoped to find the right vehicle. Sadly, THE GOVERNOR AND J.J. wasn’t it.

  7. Thanks for the story on The Governor & J.J. As I recall, the show used to have real-life governors drop in on the Drinkwater family, at least during the first season. A little gimmicky but something you wouldn’t see on other shows. BTW: I attended several of the shows. Everyone received a nice multi-page program and a pack of cigarettes (from the sponsor), regardless of your age (I was under-age at the time).

    • Hi, Jack! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      What a great memory — hope you kept those programs!

      And, you’re right — about ten real-life governors made cameos throughout J.J.’s first season (but to the show’s chagrin, none of them were Ronald Reagan, who kept declining).

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