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Poster: Mr. Television
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The Thorns aired from January until March 1988 on ABC,
Mike Nichols produced this caviar comedy about a family of rich ,
social-climbing snobs.Sharing an elegant New York City townhouse were
Sloan ( Tony Roberts) , an insensitive , self-absorbed public
relations executive ; Ginger ( Kelly Bishop), his status seeking wife;
and their 3 insufferable children , Chad ( Adam Biesk), a junior snob
at 16; Joey ( Lisa Riefel) and Edmund ( Jesse Tendler). The most
frequent form of parental discipline was to buy the kids off; the most
frequent social activity , buying and lying's one way into all the
right affairs. Cricket (Lori Petty) was the shapely mother's helper
and Toinette(Mary Louise Wilson) the contemptuous French maid.
Introducing a modicum of common sense were Sloan's no-nonsense mother
, Rose ( Marilyn Cooper), who moved in (horrors) when her Brooklyn
apartment burned down; and Peggy ( Maureen Stapleton), the sensible
maid to a fabulously rich , reclusive widow who lived nearby. (It
turned out that Peggy was the widow herself, in disguise).
Mike Nichol's previous contribution to television was the acclaimed
dramatic series Family. With luck, this one will mercifully be
The following article is from the Washington Post
'Thorns' Satire Will 'Raise a Few Eyebrows'
January 09, 1988|PATRICIA BRENNAN | The Washington Post
ABC's new "The Thorns" is Mike Nichols' first television series since
"Family," which he co-produced in 1976. But star Tony Roberts said
that, unlike that prime-time soap, "The Thorns" is satire that is
"going to raise a few eyebrows because it has some bite in it."
"The Thorns" premieres Friday night at 9 on ABC, the network that
carried "Family" from March 1976 to June 1980.
"It's a timely program," said Roberts. "It addresses itself to the
values of today." Roberts described his character, public-relations
executive Sloan Thorn, and Sloan's wife Ginger as social climbers who
are "pretending to be socially conscious while in fact they are
unconscious in general of their own particular hypocrisies and
"I think the point of view is more important than the real plotting,"
Roberts continued. "It's meant to be funny and it's also meant to be
revealing. It's a satire, but you can only go so far in a sitcom
format from week to week with satire."
Roberts is a bit concerned that satire may not work on broadcast
television today. "Because of cable television, because the viewers
have 35 channels instead of three, there have to be laughs in the
first five minutes. If you don't, and if you have a dull spot or slow
spot, the viewers are gone. It's very, very challenging to try to do
something that's both funny and true and offbeat and satiric and worth
someone's attention. Twenty-two minutes is very little time to set up
anything properly and then deliver it.
"I think that this thing has marvelous ingredients--I don't know yet
what it tastes like. I'm cautiously optimistic. The pilot is as
spectacular-looking a half-hour of television as you can find. It's
beautifully produced. It's meant to introduce all these regular
characters to you. . . . I hope it falls into new ground--it just
"But I must tell you that this is the first thing I've done on
television where I have no reservations about being proud of it. It's
a class act. We shot the opening sequences last week--Mike Nichols
himself directed those--and it's the most gorgeous thing. It's so
marvelous and so funny and so different. And don't miss the credits."
In "The Thorns," he co-stars with Kelly Bishop (Ginger Thorn), who won
a Tony Award for her work in "A Chorus Line," and Marilyn Cooper as
Sloan's obtrusive mother. The household also includes three Thorn
children and the mother's helper who looks after them, plus a feisty
French maid. The maid's language problems provided the basis for one
episode, Roberts said, when she announced that "Madame Thorn had gone
to a funeral for Mr. Thorn rather than with Mr. Thorn."
The versatile Roberts has plenty of credits of his own, including two
Tony Award nominations and a London Critics Award in 1970 as best
actor in a musical, for "Promises, Promises." His career spans one
soap opera, appearances in drama, Shakespeare, Broadway musicals,
operettas, both theatrical and television movies, TV series and guest
appearances. He will open in March in the New York City Opera's
production of "Brigadoon."
Roberts began working with Woody Allen when he appeared in Allen's
Broadway play "Don't Drink the Water" in 1966, then "Play It Again,
Sam" both on Broadway (for which he received a Tony nomination) and in
film, and Allen's movies "Stardust Memories," "Midsummer Night's Sex
Comedy," "Annie Hall," "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Radio Days," in
which his father, Kenneth Roberts, also had a part.
" 'Radio Days,' that was an exciting experience," he said. "It was the
first time I'd worked with my father. He was an announcer with CBS for
almost 20 years. He was the host of some of the big radio hits like
'Quick as a Flash,' 'The Shadow,' 'Grand Central Station.' He was an
actor before he was an announcer. It was fun just to be standing with
Tony Roberts' television appearances will not be confined to "The
Thorns" this spring. He's also in three new productions, "Taming of
the Shrew," "Lady Windermere's Fan" and "A Month in the Country" on
Arts & Entertainment.
He did the "American Playhouse" production of Saul Bellow's "Seize the
Day," with Robin Williams, and he'll appear in CBS' "A Different
Affair," with Anne Archer.
Roberts made his acting debut at 11 in an amateur musical, attended
New York's High School of Music and Art, then went to Northwestern
University to study drama under Alvina Krause with Richard Benjamin,
Paula Prentiss, Karen Black, Lawrence Pressman, Marcia Rodd and Penny
"Krause was a particularly wonderful teacher," he said. "Her
reputation inspired people who were interested enough to find her, and
that's what drew people there." Roberts earned a B.S. in speech and
theater in 1961.
His Broadway career started that same year with Dore Schary's
"Something About a Soldier" and continued with "Take Her, She's Mine,"
Saul Bellow's "The Last Analysis," "Never Too Late," "Barefoot in the
Park," "Promises, Promises," and "They're Playing Our Song," the last
three for Neil Simon.
He played an Englishman in Alan Ayckbourn's "Absurd Person Singular,"
in Gower Champion's "Sugar" and in George Abbot's "How Now, Dow
Jones," which also won him a Tony nomination. His most recent Broadway
appearance was in "Doubles" in 1985.
At the same time, Roberts' television career also was under way. From
1963 to 1965, he played on "Edge of Night," then went on to several
short-lived series. One was NBC's "Rosetti and Ryan," which ran for
two months in 1977 and starred Roberts and Squire Friedell as single
lawyers. He also showed up in "The Four Seasons" and on "The Lucie
In 1971, Roberts made his cinematic debut in Disney's "The Million
Dollar Duck." Besides the Woody Allen films, he appeared in "Star
Spangled Girl," "Serpico," "The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3," "Lovers
Like Us," Sidney Lumet's "Just Tell Me What You Want," "Question of
Honor," "Packin' It In," "Amityville IIID," "Key Exchange," and "Le
Sauvage" (playing a French-speaking exile).
During more than a quarter-century as an actor, he has appeared too in
musicals and comedies and drama at regional and summer theaters and
Shakespeare festivals. And although he hasn't as yet won the brass
rings of recognition--a Tony, an Emmy or an Oscar--he has managed to
achieve what every actor covets: almost continuous employment.
"There are hills and valleys," he said of his career. "I've gone
through my unemployment insurance sometimes. As my friend Woody Allen
says, my great ambition is to have a steady job."
But he isn't discouraging his daughter Nicole, a high-school junior,
from sending off for college catalogues to select one with a good
For more on the Thorns go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thorns_(TV_series)
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Keywords: The Cast of Thorns