Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! May 13 will mark the 101st birthday (memorial) of the great Bea Arthur, one of history’s funniest sitcom stars — a classic material-elevator whose natural skills as both a comedic personality and a formally trained stage actress (appearing in shows like Fiddler On The Roof and Mame) rendered her a shining light in every medium, most notably on her two longest running television hits: Maude and The Golden Girls.
But in honor of this remarkable woman, whose career this blog has delighted in highlighting, I want to share — with subscribers who comment below to alert me of their private, non-commercial interest — access to a perhaps forgotten chapter in Bea Arthur’s sitcom legacy. It’s her three-episode stint on the seldom-discussed Dave’s World, a fairly routine patriarch-led family sitcom mostly enlivened by star Harry Anderson (of Night Court), playing the role of real-life columnist Dave Barry — on whose work the series was based — with a supporting cast that also included Shadoe Stevens, Meshach Taylor, and Patrick Warburton. It ran from 1993 to 1997 on CBS and was generally regarded as decent but unspectacular — the most common critique being that its scripts were ultimately too bland and generic, especially in comparison to the real Dave Barry’s style. However, it had a brief run in syndication, and as of this publication, its first three seasons have been put out on DVD, leaving only its final year waiting for a release…
Bea Arthur’s three-episode arc comes from this final season. She plays Mel Bloom, Dave’s late agent’s widow, who takes over her husband’s business — with Dave and Wink Martindale being her two biggest clients. It’s a great role for Arthur, for she gets to play a strong-willed busybody eager to make a mark — and she brings big laughs to an operation that, from what I’ve seen, is typically at a lower baseline. Her three entries are titled “Dave Barry, Call Your Agent,” “Touched By An Agent,” and “Bad News Barrys,” and they first aired on January 31, February 7, and February 21, 1997, respectively. The best of these three is her debut, which was written by Tom Straw and Harry Anderson. It not only boasts the funniest teleplay, granting Arthur the most opportunities to shine, but its story is also well-rooted in the series “situation,” as Dave’s career as a columnist is expectedly heating up in advance of his book. So, I offer to interested subscribers all three of these episodes as proof of Arthur’s talents — her capacity to enrich even middling sitcoms with an indelible, magnetic performance that justifies her status as a comic legend. Here’s a clip, from “Dave Barry, Call Your Agent” (directed by James Widdoes).
Happy Heavenly 101st, Bea Arthur!
Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned Monday for a musical rarity!