Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bob Denver's Series Flop After Gilligan

There was a show on Fox called The Good Guys about a couple of mismatched cops that debuted a couple of years ago. I remember a sitcom by that same name that aired back in 1968, this one starred Bob Denver as a cabbie with Herb Edelman as his best friend, the owner of a diner.

The Good Guys was Bob Denver's follow up to Gilligan's Island. He'd learned a hard lesson - after watching the enormous popularity of Gilligan in syndication, which benefited him not a bit, Denver insisted on - and got - an ownership stake in the new show.

I never thought The Good Guys worked particularly well, mostly because Herb Edelman just wasn't a funny guy the way, say, Alan Hale Jr. was The chemistrybetween the co-stars just wasn't there. Edelman's stiff demeanor couldn't help but drag the proceedings to a halt.

In a nod to continuity, I guess, Alan Hale, Jr. appeared in a few episodes that first season, including one of the very first episodes, where he called Denver's character "little buddy."

Like Gilligan, The Good Guys relied on slapstick and broad humor but the production had a more theatrical feel to it, at least during the first year under creator / producer Jack Rose (writer of Road to Rio starring Bob Hope).

With a screen and playwright at the helm and Mel Tolkin (Your Show of Shows) in place as the story editor, this production felt more mature than you would expect, more like The Mary Tyler Moore Show than Bewitched. Denver had a chance to mute his over-the-top characterizations seen in previous shows, at least somewhat. (It looked like it was shot before a live audience but the laugh track was obviously sweetened.)

No doubt the network realized the series was off-kilter but ultimately believed in Bob Denver's appeal. For the second and last season Bob Denver's character became a partner in the diner, now relocated to the beach (gee, wonder why?). Now that Denver was back on the sandy shore, Alan Hale, Jr. returned with more frequency and Jim Backus turned up as well for even more Gilligan-esque appeal.

New producers were brought in, Bob Weiskopf and Bob Shiller, I Love Lucy vets. The show took on a flat, traditional sitcom look but it didn't help one bit. CBS yanked the show mid-season.

Denver lamented in later years that The Good Guys didn't attain the level of success Gilligan's Island did since he had a vested interest in one over the other. But how could it have sailed? Everything, from the seriously lame theme song to the unfortunate casting felt second rate, even to this pre-teen in the sixties starved for entertainment.

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