Hanging In aired from August 8th until the 29th, 1979 on CBS.
Even educators have to cope with politics, or so this summer comedy series seemed to say. Lou Harper ( Bill Macy), was a former pro-football star who had subequently devoted himself to helping the poor and under-privileged through various community projects. When he was offered the presidency of Braddock University , he brought his humanitarian attitudes with him, not realizing the problems this could create with the University board, prominent fund-raisers, and the university staff. Helping Harper and often providing a practical solution to the problems he created , were Maggie Gallagher ( Barbara Rhoades), Dean Of Faculty; Sam Dickey ( Dennis Burkley), Director Of Development and the university's highly manipulative public-relations man; and Pinky Nolan ( Nedra Volz) , Harper's diminutive housekeeper.
The story of how this series got on the air is even more interesting than the program itself. The original concept was not about college politics, but about government politics in Washington D.C. Early in 1978 when it became apparent that the long running comedy Maude was getting stale, that series producers decided to liven things up by moving their star to Washington . Maude was appointed to fill out the term of a congressman who had recently died, moved to Washington with her husband Walter ( Bill Macy), and began to confront her inherited staff with her liberal outlook. After only 2 episodes in this new setting, however, Beatrice Arthur decided that she did not want to continue as Maude and the series abruptly left the air.
The Production Company still believed the idea was workable and they filmed another series pilot titled Onward and Upward, using essentially the same script and supporting cast. The only difference was that the Maude character had become a black fomer pro-football star, played by John Amos (Good Times). Creative differences between Mr. Amos and the producers led to his departure and a new series lead was sought. During this period the title was changed to Mr. Dooley and then to Mr. Dugan. Cleavon Little ( from the movie Blazing Saddles and the tv sitcom Temperatures Rising), was hired to star and a 3rd pilot was filmed, still with the same supporting cast. Mr. Dugan was scheduled to premiere on CBS in March of 1979-it even had on-air promotion-but was pulled at the last minute, when the producers received a generally negative reaction from a number of real-life black politicians who had been given a preview of the 1st episode. The politicians felt that the show's comic portrayal of a black politician was demeaning to all blacks.
Undaunted, the producers reworked the project again, finally coming up with Hanging In. The premise was the same, but now the setting had been changed to a college. Ironically Maude's Bill Macy resurfaced as the star of the version that finally did air. The supporting cast except for Darian Mathias ( who played Rita), had been in all 4 versions of the pilot and must have known their lines pretty well by the time they got to Hanging In.
After all this travail, Hanging In, lasted just 4 weeks.
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