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First Impressions aired from August until October 1988 on CBS.
The most notable thing about this short-lived sitcom was that it was the first network series to be set in Nebraska. It also starred a young comic who would become a household name during the following decade.
Set in Omaha Nebraska, This short-lived summer sitcom chronicled the trials and tribulations of Frank Dutton ( Brad Garrett), who had been divorced for a year, was raising his daughter Lindsay ( Brandy Gold, the younger sister of Missy and Tracey Gold), gingerly reentering the social scene, and trying to get his business, Media Of Omaha, off the ground. A talented impressionist, he put his vocal skills to good use on the commercials produced by his company. Working with him were his best friend and partner Dave ( Thom Sharp), whose delusions of grandeur and neurosis were pretty hard to take; Donna ( Sarah Abrell), Media's absurdly naiive receptionist; and Raymond ( James Noble), their eccentric audio engineer whose compulsive gambling kept him constantly on the verge of bankruptcy. Mrs. Madison( Ruth Kobart), was Frank's widowed next-door neighbor with a penchant for offering unsolicited and usually unwanted motherly advice for both Frank and his Daughter.
The six-foot, nine-inch, Brad Garrett had won the " best Comedian Of 1984" award on Star Search.Unfazed by the unfavorable ratings of this sitcom, CBS introduced another series with an almost identical format barely a month later called Raising Miranda.
A Review from UPI
'First Impressions:' good impressions, bad script
By JOAN HANAUER, UPI Feature Writer | Aug. 24, 1988
NEW YORK -- A guy who stands 6-feet-9 and doesn't shoot baskets has to compensate -- so Brad Garrett does impressions instead.
Garrett is a standup -- boy, does he stand up -- comic who is the star of 'First Impressions,' a six-part sitcom series CBS will air beginning Saturday, Aug. 27, 8-8:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Garrett and his impressions are the best part of the show, which is an '80s version of the bachelor father theme.
He plays Frank Dutton, co-owner of a commercials production company called Media of Omaha -- no gritty New York streets or glitzy Rodeo Drives in this one.
He also is a single father. His wife has divorced him to 'find herself' in Los Angeles, which is a kind of odd place to look, but what-the-hey.
The daughter he dotes on, Lindsay, 9, is played by Brandy Gold, a blond child of 10 who is quite unbelievably beautiful. No child has hair like that -- gleaming, golden and without a strand out of place.
Brandy probably has more credits than almost anyone in the cast. She began her career at 8 months as the Gerber Baby for television commercials and is the younger sister of two child actresses -- Missy Gold who played the governor's daughter on 'Benson' for seven years and Tracey Gold, 18, who plays Carol Seaver on ABC's 'Growing Pains.'
In this show, Dad is 30-odd going on 10, blustering around with his impressions of everything from Rodney Dangerfield to helicopters to elephants, while little Lindsay is wise beyond her years -- irritatingly so from an adult's viewpoint.
James Noble is one member of the cast who likely has a longer resume than little Brandy. He used to play Gov. Gatling on 'Benson,' which means he was playing the father of Brandy's real-life sister. This time around he is Media of Omaha's sound man, who is unsound when it comes to gambling, alcohol and money.
Other players are Dave Poole as Barrett's partner in Media of Omaha, and Sarah Abrell, a super-naive wholesome blond secretary whose father thinks Garrett's radio commercial for a hardware store says 'Satan, you're the one' when played backward.
The focus of the show alternates between home and office, as Garrett tries to cope with his daughter and his own feelings about his not-dearly-departed wife on the one hand, and his overambitious partner on the other.
If 'First Impressions' had to depend on its script and plot line, it probably would have ended up just another busted pilot.
The difference is Brad Garrett, a dark-haired, gentle-eyed giant who seems like the nicest guy alive. Not only does he project a happiness-is-a-warm-puppy personality -- well, maybe a warm Saint Bernard - but he also has real talent as an impressionist.
He does voices -- unlike a Rich Little who seems to turn into somebody else before your very eyes -- and he does those effectively. He also gives off sound effects of things as well as people.
Some of them are just fun -- the odd Rodney Dangerfield impersonation or all the parts, including the airplane, in a cropduster radio commercial.
Others actually move the plot along. When Garrett comes into his daughter's overly pink room emitting sound effects in all directions, that too wise child says, 'You want to talk, don't you?' And of course he does, about her mother.
That's part of what's wrong with the show -- perfect child, too-pink room, too-nice father, too-whacky co-workers. The show is as subtle as a whoopie cushion.
But it has its moments. Probably the funniest bit in the first episode comes when Garrett catches his daughter on a midnight raid of the refrigerator. They talk a little bit about bad dreams and absent mother and the little girl goes off to bed.
'How do you think I handled that one?' he says.
And back comes the unmistakable voice of Bill Cosby, saying that after listening to him and Lindsay talk, he can only come up with one conclusion -- keep your mouth shut.
Will good impressions make up for bad scripts on 'First Impressions?' There will be five more episodes on successive Saturdays to give the show a chance.
A Review from The New York Times
TV Weekend; By WALTER GOODMAN
Published: August 26, 1988
You will have no trouble recognizing ''First Impressions'' as a pilot for a sitcom. The six-part series that has its premiere tomorrow at 8 P.M. on CBS has a central figure, a batch of odd characters concocted for amusing complications, and a laugh track. Missing from the first episode are the laughs.
Brad Garrett plays an Omaha advertising man whose specialty is vocal impressions for radio commercials; he can do everything from a helicopter to an elephant to Rodney Dangerfield. He and his 9-year-old daughter have lately been left by his wife, who has gone off to Los Angeles to find herself - or possibly to escape his imitations. Father and daughter are distraught, and the news that mom is planning to visit sets off a mini-trauma that you have seen before. ''She doesn't love me!'' cries the little girl.
The advertising office is occupied by some pretty shaky people: a sound man who was in Gamblers Anonymous before he joined Alcoholics Anonymous; Mr. Garrett's partner, who has set a record for being in therapy; a nervous secretary whose daddy is a right-wing minister known as Book-Burner Patterson. All are sketchy and at best mildly amusing.
The opening half-hour, written and produced by Fred Freeman and Lawrence J. Cohen and directed by Terry Hughes and Phil Ramuno, has to do with the winning of the Mullins Muffins account, which gives Mr. Garrett a chance to devise some improbable commercials and use some odd voices.
On the evidence of the first show, too much reliance is placed on Mr. Garrett, who is amiable enough but who does not show the kind of talent that can compensate for the negligible script. When he does his helicopter imitation, you may wish you were in Los Angeles with his wife.
A Review from the Washington Post
CBS' 'FIRST IMPRESSIONS' THERE'S NO DARE THERE
By Tom Shales August 27, 1988
Thank heaven the strike is over and that writers are back to work turning out empty-headed sitcoms like "First Impressions," which begins a six-week CBS run at 8 tonight on Channel 9.
"First Impressions" isn't terrible, or offensive, or wildly dumb. It's just blah, blech, wan and worn. Comedies like this plop off an assembly line that is inhospitable to risks or dares. The chain of command is fear. Network executives, producers and writers all worry about departing from formulas in drastic or substantive ways.
"First Impressions" stars likable and lanky Brad Garrett as Frank Dutton, co-owner of a "commercial production house" in Nebraska called Media of Omaha. If that's not cute enough for you, his adorable little girl Lindsay, played by Brandy Gold, will be.
One problem for viewers is that most will not know what a commercial production house is. It's a place where commercials are made for ad agencies and their clients, and the one fresh gimmick of "Impressions" is that it includes a couple of spoof commercials as part of the show.
The opening is actually rather imaginative. It appears to be a real estate commercial for one of those cheerful, perky, blazer-wearing national firms. But then the cheerful, perky, blazer-wearing agent begins abusing his happy customer about the fact that his wife has dumped him.
Our hero awakes; it was his nightmare, literally. His wife has left him, and their 9-year-old daughter, because, it is said, "she just wants to find herself." Never is it explained why the husband would have custody of the child. The implication is that mommy acted selfishly; the film has the "Kramer vs. Kramer" syndrome.
Anyway, this leaves dad to make funny faces and jokey animal noises around the house, offering impressions (hence title?) of Bill Cosby and Sylvester Stallone to delight the bejeebers out of his little girl. At work, he makes a TV commercial for muffins out of footage from the monster movie "Gorgo."
Putting new dialogue to old movies can be very funny, as Woody Allen proved long ago with "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" The new masters of the form are a comedy troupe called the L.A. Connection. They made a series of 26 "Mad Movies" that are rerun over and over as part of the Nickelodeon cable channel's "Nick at Nite" lineup.
As home VCRs acquire more sophisticated editing and dubbing capabilities, making mad movies could become one of the great indoor sports of the 1990s.
If there were more of it on "First Impressions," the show might be not only funnier but different from all the other sitcoms in TV Land. But writers Fred Freeman and Lawrence J. Cohen implore us to become concerned about this plastic single papa and his cookie-cutter kid.
Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa put together couldn't work up much compassion for these two.
For years, the networks were able to get by with a core of so-so shows that viewers sat through because they didn't want the trouble of changing the channel. They waited through the ordinary stuff to get to the big hits.
Today, viewers have more and more choices entreating them on other channels, and more of them than ever are armed with remote control devices that make changing the station a snap. People are less inclined to loiter. That means shows as diffident and standard as "First Impressions" aren't going to cut it any more.
There's one other unhappy tendency in "First Impressions." Some characters are meant to represent what the producers obviously imagine to be typical Midwestern rubes. The ingenuous receptionist at Media of Omaha says she never met a divorced person before. Dutton's boss is said to be "the only person in Omaha who's in therapy."
Ha ha. Producers and network executives like to refer to the TV audience that lives between New York and Los Angeles as "the people we fly over." The people they fly over, however, are probably too sophisticated for a show as dim as "First Impressions."
An Article from The Morning Call
Big Brad Garrett Gets Bigger Break In 'First Impressions'
August 28, 1988|by SYLVIA LAWLER, The Morning Call
When you're 6 feet 9, you've known rejection. And a 6-foot-9 actor? Hah. "No way you'll fit in a two-shot" (a moderate camera closeup for two people) is how television says no to giants.
Brad Garrett knows what it is to have producers refuse even to "read him" - more industry
So the good news is that the multi-voiced actor and stand-up comedian has finally gotten a network berth in a sitcom of some potential, surrounded by funny supporting actors who are also tall.
"We made the doors bigger and the ceilings higher and cast people next to Brad, like James Noble who is 6-4 and Thom Sharpe who is 6 feet tall and we don't make a gimmick of it," says co-executive producer Bonny Dore, reflecting an attitude Garrett must certainly admire.
The bad news is that their series "First Impressions" (Saturdays at 8 p.m. on CBS) was given an order for eight, rather than the usual 13 episodes, that the network hasn't asked for another five since seeing the first batch that was completed nine months ago, and that what we're seeing now could be all we get.
There'll be three in a row (the second this week), then pre-emption while CBS counter-programs NBC's Olympics' coverage, then heaven-knows-what speaks of an interrupted momentum that can't be blamed on the writer's strike. The thing is, says Dore, "First Impressions" was originally to be a mid-season replacement until something happened. Uh-oh.
"First Impressions" places Garrett in some kind of sitcom heaven. Playing a single father (the woods are full of them this season) who's creative director of a midwest company specializing in commercial voiceovers, he gets to be a vocal Lon Chaney. Not quite a thousand voices, more like 23, although he's working on more all the time," says the native Californian who started his climb from obscurity as the $100,000 grand champion on "Star Search" in 1984.
As agency partner Frank Dutton, he uses his talent for sounding like Rodney Dangerfield or Sammy Davis to create radio commercials. Also to help bring-up his 9-year-old daughter Lindsay (Brandy Gold), left in his lap when his wife departed him and Omaha to "find herself."
"I was raised by a single father," Garrett says in his foggy voice. "and we tried to keep it believable. My parents were divorced and I spent half my growing up with my mom, the other half with my dad. I had a wonderful rapport and honesty growing up with my father." Both his parents are on their fourth marriages now, which may account for some of Garrett's vulnerability even at 28. (Yes of course he was voted class clown in school).
The stretch comic had a hard time finding a career niche, mostly because he wouldn't fit into molds as perceived by others. It started in high school, when basketball coaches took one look at Garrett and went into paroxysms of ecstasy. But he never played basketball. "Oh no, Jews don't dribble," he dead-panned. "They tried literally to drag me off the street but I was just a klutz. I was traded in Little Leagues, threw my back out playing Yahtzee . . . "
But seriously folks - "The media generally casts big people to be either mean or stupid. You rarely see a big man on television who isn't putting someone through the window or doesn't need help tying his shoe.
"What I try to sell in my comedy act is a big guy who's vulnerable, a big guy who's not athletic, not a swinger with the girls, that's always been my kind of thing." (Yes, he is single and lives alone a bit nearer the ocean than the San Fernando Valley where he grew up).
Garrett started doing stand-up, which slipped into improvisations and impressions. After hischampionship coup the first year of "Star Search," he starting touring as the opening act for headliners like Diana Ross and Chrystal Gayle, playing Caesar's and some other better clubs, and he scored with Carson on "The Tonight Show." That was certainly nice, although Garrett doesn't believe that that late night staple makes or breaks careers as it once did.
"Obviously there are more funny comedians out there than ever," he says, calling the condition a "comedy renaissance."
"There are comedy clubs in Savannah and Mobile and 'The Tonight Show' is still a wonderful showcase. But I don't think these are any longer the days of Freddie Prinze or David Brenner where if you have one good shot, the next day you have your own show. It isn't like that anymore." But he's been back five times and thankful to be.
Sometimes, when he sits down on the couch next to Carson after his routine, he'll keeps kidding around, he says, but sometimes he'll let his wistful side show through.
"I think it's important for them to see the other side of a stand-up. It's great to kill the audience while you're up there but I think a lot of people want to know 'Who is this person?' When I worked on the transformation to become Frank Dutton, I had to go from a night club comic who's always with the one-liners to a person who was vulnerable and who trusted the silence, which is new for comedians and I had to learn to do it."
His influences, he says, were Chaplin and Benny."I was a major Benny fan and I think a comedian like Robin Williams comes around maybe once in 20 years. He's one of the few comedians where you love seeing the effort. I like Cosby, Jonathan Winters, but I don't think you'll see another Robin for a long time."
Bonny Dore - who was once in charge of variety programming for ABC - found Garrett for "First Impressions" working The Improv in L.A. The series' premise was already on paper, she'd hired the writers and the pilot script was finished. "You'll never cast it," she heard, so she had started living in comedy clubs.
"Just before Brad came on, the casting director said 'Now, there's a problem. A lot of directors don't like him because of his height.' I said 'Is he funny?' She said 'He's very funny but they're afraid you can't put him in a two-shot.' " (P.S. They did and it turned out to be easy).
Garrett worked clean and had warmth - two important factors in living room entertainment - and Dore was taken with the extent of his talents. He'd had some dramatic group training and graduated quickly to private one-on-one coaching. Stand-up comedy and situation comedy are very different exercises despite the surface similarities.
"For a good actor or a good stand-up, timing is really the key in the very beginning," he says.
In ensemble acting, "you no longer have to be funny alone. I always had to be funny on stage. Now I'm surrounded with a cast that is funny as well. So the other pressure lessens on me and I was able to relax." He points to James Noble's comedy seasoning as the governor on "Benson" and Thom Sharpe's own background in stand-up.
"Most comics are good dramatics actors, too, because they're very serious people. And I think drama is almost a relief for a comic because it doesn't depend on reaction every minute."
He works opposite his mirror with audio tapes and visual aids to get a personality and voice down.
"Some people you get right away and others take two months. Woody Allen is very hard," he says, breaking into an approximation of serious New York-y sounds that are more Allen-like than not. "On the other hand," he snaps into Rodney Dangerfield in a wink . . . and "with Sammy" he contorts the facial expressions with practiced art, some are easy.
"Some are harder visually and some are harder vocally, but I guess my favorite is Cosby. It's the ones I can't do that I hate. Bob Hope I'll never get. Pee Wee Herman, not unless I'm wearing a truss. We tried to do a couple in each show, but it's not something we use to go for the laugh."
"First Impressions" is the big break, but there'll always be stand-up where Garrett started. He refuses to do shock comedy and thinks that trend is turning around.
"I think it's coming back to the home town type of humor. We've seen a lot of blue and shock comedy recently. It all has its humor and I love a nasty joke as well as anybody, but to really make the crossover into another endeavor - like sitcom- you want to work clean. That's the masses and comedy is a numbers game. You want as many people to see you as possible.
"I was working a matinee at Trump's in Atlantic City this summer and I had an 8 and a 10-year-old in the first row. Now, they're not going to understand the jokes but they're not going to be offended either. And that's important. Family comedy."
"First Impressions" is family comedy shot through with enough clever touches to be offbeat family hour entertainment. Whether the public will find its particular charms in the peculiar scheduling CBS has given it is the question. Talking to Garrett, one knows instinctively that he's somehow been through worse than having the chance of a lifetime bypass his grasp. Like?
Well, "buying shoes is always unbelievably embarrassing," he says. "You feel like a jerk when you go to the shoe store and the shoe you need is on top of the cash register as a joke." P.S. He wears a size 15.
Noble, by the way, is finding a good omen in that the series costars Brandy Gold. Brandy is the younger sister of actress Missy Gold, who played the daughter of his Governor Gatling character for seven seasons on "Benson."
Brandy is 10, the same age as her sister was when she began "Benson." A third Gold sister, 18-year-old Tracey, is in the ABC comedy "Growing Pains."
For more on First Impressions go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Impressions_%28TV_series%29
For some First Impressions-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/first-impressions
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgEMZZ-iTK0
· Date: Sat April 9, 2016 · Filesize: 97.1kb · Dimensions: 500 x 629 ·
Keywords: The Cast of First Impressions (Links Updated 7/17/18)