Wednesday 20 July 2016

Garry Marshall's Landlord Evicted by NBC

He gave Blansky’s Beauties to the world.

I’m sure that’s not how Garry Marshall would want to be remembered. Anyone who paid attention to credits on TV in the 1960s and early ‘70s would have seen his name on “The Odd Couple” (along with at least two other Marshalls) and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” And, of course, he went on to even bigger things (and a few stinkers).

It was 50 years ago that Marshall and writing partner Jerry Belson became producers. Mirisch-Rich had recently formed to get into the TV business. Their first three network nibbles were “The Rat Patrol,” a cartoon series called “Super 6” and a comedy called “Hey, Landlord!” The latter was put in the hands of Marshall and Belson, along associate producer Bruce Johnson. All were around 30. Proctor and Gamble bought a full sponsorship. A flotilla of people involved in the Van Dyke show came over to work on the series (Rose Marie had a guest spot). 11 additional episodes were ordered by the network in October and six more in January. But despite being sandwiched between Walt Disney and “Bonanza,” the show got killed by Ed Sullivan and “The F.B.I.” and it was pulled before the end of the season.

All I remember about the show is there was a staircase. That’s how much of an impression it made on a nine-year-old viewer (I haven’t seen it since). So it was interesting peering around trying to find some old newspaper clippings about Marshall and running into a few stories about this show instead. So here they are. Both are from September 10, 1966.
Brownstone Is Locale Of Hutchins Comedy

HOLLYWOOD—If "Dick Van Dyke Show" fans feel lost this day night group of extraverts, they should try catching "Hey, Landlord," with Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins and Sandy Baron, NBC's new Sunday night comedy slotted between "Walt Disney" and "Bonanza."
While the "Van Dyke" series charted the problems of a successful TV writer and his delightful wife, "Hey, Landlord" drops down an age notch to watch the reactions of a young, naive, would-be writer, Woody Banner (Will Hutchins), inheritor of a beaten-up New York brownstone, and his roommate Chuck (Sandy Baron), the flegling comic, a pragmatist who prefers action to dreams except when it comes to paying rent or helping out with antiquated plumbing.
Each week Woody and Chuck check want ads for jobs to launch careers and to pay for the upkeep of the brownstone apartment house. In a sample episode, Woody lands a writing job with a toy company seeking material for a talking toy crow. This situation sets up humorous scenes of the two men trying to dream up gags for the crow, and it lets the writers take playful pokes at the big money toy market and some of its silly products.
Job And Home
Like the "Van Dyke Show," "Hey, Landlord" moves back and forth between job and home. In the Banner apartment house reside all sorts of goofy and tenants: a scatter-brained, sexy TV weather girl, Pamela Rodgers; a lovely Japanese airline stewardess, Miko Mayama, and a bedraggled widow, Ann Morgan Guilbert, with her 6-year-old brat. The pilot episode featured a crazy photographer played by Michael Constantine, and the producers liked him so much, Michael has been added to the cast. The Banner brownstone has ah open end—whenever new characters score highly they'll simply be brought back as new tenants. By the end of the season the battered dwelling may house more occupants than the Waldorf Astoria.
All these "Van Dyke" traits in the Sunday night comedy come as no surprise when one checks the list of credits. Producers Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson used to write for the Emmy laden show, while director Jerry Paris learned his trade on the series.
Another member of the distinguished alumni is Ann Morgan Guilbert, formerly neighbor Milly, now the exhausted widow. And, at the top of the credit pyramid, is executive consultant Sheldon Leonard, the man who launched "Dick Van Dyke Show" and managed to keep it on the air after those initial shaky six months. For Will Hutchins, "Hey, Landlord" is a gift from heaven. The sandy-haired Phi Beta Kappa cast as the slow-moving, simple western hero in "Sugarfoot" for three years, finally gets a break in status.
Even though Hutchins still receives fan mail on "Sugarfoot," he has been given short shrift by Hollywood casting people who look down on the crop of Warner Bros. TV actors noted for bringing in all that money during the mid-50's. Up for an "Alfred Hitchcock" TV part a few years ago, Hutchins was asked by producer Norman Lloyd to read the entire script before being accepted. Lloyd simply felt unsure of Will's acting abilities because he wore a Warner Bros. label.
Hutchins Doesn't Shuffle
In the role of intelligent, naive, 21-year-old Woody who is trying to find himself after graduating from Ohio State, Hutchins can at least erase that Warner Bros. stigma. Will doesn't shuffle as Woody, he says some funny things and makes pertinent observations. He is even quiet and appreciative in certain key scenes, playing a normal young man who doesn't have to kick clods for laughs.
His co-star Sandy Baron, cast as the fast-talking, effervescent comic Chuck who performs everywhere for nothing, is playing a role he knows by heart. Sandy started out In the comedy business as a bus boy and waiter in the Catskills, watching the standup comics perform, and he had confidence right off the bat.
"I knew I was funny at the time, but delivering one-line jokes wasn't my racket," says Baron. Instead Sandy bought monologues and then found his niche improvising material in the off-Broadway theater hits, "The Premise' and "Second City." Dramatic roles followed "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and this spring's "Generation" with Henry Fonda.
"I used to think getting a TV job was a sell-out," admitted Sandy, "but work has changed my mind."
Baron Learning Business
Now, Sandy is learning the filmed TV comedy business playing a familiar part, and he's taking lessons from the best pros in town. Says Sandy about overseer Sheldon Leonard: "He will frighten you. He does a great Indian war dance. He watches you perform, and then he will come up and begin with 'I would like it if...'."
Says Leonard, concisely summing up "Hey, Landlord":
"This is the story of three musketeers, but with two."
Pamela Rodgers? Was she on it? I only remember her as a replacement cast member on “Laugh-In” before vanishing from TV. But “Landlord” gave Rogers her first regular role. Several different interviews with her saw print; this one was found in the Binghamton Press; I suspect it’s a syndicated piece.
Pamela Turns Up the Heat As Hey, Landlord! Regular
New York—Everybody talks about the weather but once they get a look at Pamela Rodgers as a stunning weather reporter, they will change the subject.
Pamela, a striking beauty, co-stars as slightly scatter-brained TV weather girl Timothy Morgan on Hey Landlord!, a new half-hour comedy series dealing with the life, times and tenants of a venerable New York brownstone, showing in color NBC and Channel 40.
A former "Miss Texas," Pam went directly from the stage of the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant to the stages of such top night spots as the Hotel Sahara in Las Vegas and New York's Copacabana as a dancer and ultimately to the sound stages of Hollywood.
As recently as 1965, just three years after graduation from Jesse H. Jones High School in her hometown of Houston, that she made her film debut. She has since appeared in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Donna Reed Show as well as such motion pictures as "The Silencers," "Three on a Couch;" "Doomsday Flight" and "The Oscar."
AS WEATHER GIRL Timothy Morgan, Pamela portrays a starry-eyed innocent, aspiring to a career in show business and whose not-so-innocent face and figure, all agree, portend imminent stardom.
Timothy shares an apartment with another career girl, airline stewardess Kyoko Mitsui (Miko Mayama) in a typical metropolitan brownstone landlorded by series star Will Hutchins as Woody. Sandy Baron also stars as Chuck, Woody's roommate, confidante and some-time managerial assistant.
Timothy feels her participation on the local TV weather program is affording her the exposure necessary for a start in the business. But it is back at the brownstone where Timothy attracts the most viewers thanks to her passion for the latest in such "mod" fashions as hip buggers, bikinis and mini-skirts. The fact is, considering the total male tenant contingent plus the helicopter and dirigible crews who hover over the rooftop sundeck, Timothy gets a much better audience rating when she is not working.
Wondrously, she somehow detects logic in why half the Eastern Seaboard's militaryand civilian aircraft must "practice their low-level maneuvers" smack over the center of the world's largest city but like Kyoko, her companion sunbather, she'd prefer the planes go someplace else because, "they make too much shade." As to Pamela's ability to handle her role in this, her TV series debut, among a cast of players with considerably more acting experience, co-producers Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson sum it up this way:
"It takes brains to play a scatterbrain."
Garry Marshall didn’t let the failure of “Hey, Landlord” faze him. And TV fans can be grateful for that. Blansky’s Beauties notwithstanding.


  1. That should be 50 instead of "40 years" in the second paragraph.

    Marshall was also a talented comedic actor. His sequence with Albert Brooks in Lost in America is absolutely priceless - the funniest scene in a very funny movie.

    And like fellow TV producer Sheldon Leonard, Marshall possessed a unique, funny speaking voice that was perfect for animation. I especially like his Simpsons guest shots.

    1. TC, thanks for the proof-reading. Or maybe I refuse to believe it was that long ago.
      Funny you should mention Sheldon Leonard because I was thinking the same thing. It must be the accent. On camera, Leonard's a less menacing version of Marshall.

  2. He made very good shows and movies...RIP!SC

  3. Loved Hey Landlord! when I was a kid. I was about your age. The episode I remember most is when the guys discover that the guy who built the brownstone was a sea captain and they find a hidden attic room made up like the deck of a sailing ship complete with a seascape painted on the walls.