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The Famous Teddy Z aired from September 1989 until May 1990 on CBS.
Teddy Zakalokis ( Jon Cryer), was working for his cousin Richie ( Tom La Grua), in the mailroom of the Unlimited Talent Agency when fate changed his life. Teddy had no interest in show business-he had only taken the job to make some money between a stint in the army and going to work in the family bakery. Everything changed when he was assigned to a limo picking up the agencies biggest client, movie star Harland Keyvo( Dennis Lipscomb), and Keyvo impetuously decided Teddy should become his new agent. Teddy didn't even know what an agent was , but the prospect of at least $50,000 a year to start and a fancy office at Unlimited's swank Los Angeles headquarters was more then he could resist. Abe Werkfinder ( Milton Selzer), the venerable fatherly president of the agency, who found it impossible to pronounce his last name, dubbed him " Teddy Z" and the nickname stuck.
Most upset with Teddy's meteoric rise was Al Floss ( Alex Rocco), the fast talking obnoxious agent who had represented Keyvo until Teddy's arrival. Running Al a close second was Laurie Parr( Jane Sibbett), an ambitious young college graduate who had been working in the mailroom for months hoping to move up at the agency.She knew almost everything about the business while Teddy Knew nothing. Laurie was dumbfounded by his sudden rise and was less than thrilled when , because he was romantically interested in her and thought proximity would help his cause, he had her " promoted" to his secretary. Despite his newfound fortune , Teddy was still living in a middle-class Los Angeles neighborhood with his grandmother Deena(Erica Yohn), who couldn't understand how he could get paid so much for doing nothing but making phone calls and going to expensive restaurants; and his kid brother Aristotle( Josh Blake), a high school student who thought it was great.
The series was picked by critics to be a big hit but never found an audience , perhaps because most viewers were as bewildered as Teddy's Grandmother about what Hollywood agents really do do.
The Famous Teddy Z was inspired by the real life story of agent Jay Kantor, who was working in the mailroom of talent agency MCA in 1947 when he was sent with a limo driver to pick up Marlon Brando at the Los Angeles airport. Brando took an immediate liking to young Kantor and on the way to the office, informed him that he wanted him to be his agent. Kantor became the boy wonder of the talent agency business and later a successful producer in partnership with Alan Ladd, Jr.
Hugh Wilson of WKRP In Cincinnati fame created this series.
A Review From The New York Times
Review/Television; 'The Famous Teddy Z,'' Mailroom to Press Agent
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 18, 1989
Having just spent time drifting in military service and resisting his Greek grandmother's entreaties to work in the family bakery, 23-year-old Teddy Zakalokis takes a job in the mailroom of Hollywood's Unlimited Talent Agency. Scrawny, earnest, boyish Teddy, a sort of Henry Aldrich for our times, is not terribly ambitious, but within days, he finds himself being made a press agent at a salary of $50,000. He is well on his way to becoming ''The Famous Teddy Z,'' which turns out to be the best of the new season's pilots.
''The Famous Teddy Z'' was created by Hugh Wilson, whose credits include ''WKRP in Cincinnati'' and ''Frank's Place.'' Tonight's premiere episode, on CBS at 9:30, also lists Mr. Wilson as writer, director and executive producer. Here, then, is a multi-talented man who knows the television business, on and off camera. His Unlimited Talent Agency (U.T.A.) is wickedly hilarious as it skewers the egomaniacal agents and clients whose lives are dedicated to show business, bloated paychecks and shameless perks.
Teddy is played with irresistibly shrewd innocence by Jon Cryer, veteran of such teen movies as ''Pretty in Pink.'' He is an unabashed celebrity gazer, remembering warmly how he once saw Karen Valentine. His snob colleagues in the mailroom are designer-wardrobe college graduates who, if they get the big break, may become secretaries and then press agents. They find Teddy's plaid shirt and chinos pathetically amusing. But when the firm's elderly chairman, Abe Werkfinder (Milton Selzer), suddenly stops to chat with Teddy (''Zakalokis, that's Greek. There are Jews in Greece?''), everyone sits up and take notice.
The top agent, Al Floss (Alex Rocco), immediately calls Teddy into his office and, handing the young man a bowl of popcorn, demands to know how he knows Abe. Teddy explains that ''I never saw him before in my life.'' Get out, snaps the relieved Al, and keep the popcorn. Teddy: ''The bowl?'' Al: ''What do I care? Give it to mudslide victims.'' Before long, Teddy is realizing something significant: ''All these people drive Mercedes-Benzes and they don't seem much smarter than me.''
Meanwhile, at home, Grandma would still prefer Teddy to be a good boy and work at the bakery with his uncle. She is not so impressed with what she hears about U.T.A. ''Hitler drove Mercedes-Benzes,'' she warns. And what exactly do they make at this company, asks Grandma. ''They make telephone calls,'' Teddy explains, ''mostly about lunch.'' Back at the office, Al, insisting that he will not spend even five minutes in a car with a sociopath, decides to send Teddy in a limousine to meet the agency's biggest star at the airport. Harland Kevyo (Dennis Lipscomb) - think Marlon Brando or Jack Nicholson -turns out to be Teddy's ticket to the big time. Watch to find out how.
A Review from People Magazine
* September 18, 1989
* Vol. 32
* No. 12
Picks and Pans Review: The Famous Teddy Z
By Alan Carter
CBS (Mon., Sept. 18, 9:30 P.M. ET)
Okay, someone at CBS has a funny bone. Teddy is a lively, inventive, at times hysterically amusing half hour. In fact this is one of the best sitcoms in recent years. Likable Jon (Pretty in Pink) Cryer plays Teddy, a young kid who finds himself working in the mail room of a large Hollywood talent agency. Before he knows it, he's a major player, dealing with comic characters who bear amazing resemblances to such people as Marlon Brando. Cryer and Alex Rocco (as a sleazy agent) make magic together. Hugh Wilson (creator of WKRP in Cincinnati and Frank's Place) has crafted a gem.
An Article from The New York Times
TELEVISION; For Once, Something Good Happens to the Nice Guy
By JAMES GREENBERG; JAMES GREENBERG IS SENIOR EDITOR OF AMERICAN FILM.
Published: October 1, 1989
Before the taping of the first episode of ''The Famous Teddy Z,'' a new and much-praised CBS sitcom that takes an amused look at life in a Hollywood talent agency, Hugh Wilson went out and asked the live audience if they knew what an agent was. The crowd got a little testy. ''Of course we know what an agent is,'' said one guest. ''Don't you think we read People?''
Mr. Wilson, the 46-year-old creator of the series ''WKRP in Cincinnati'' and ''Frank's Place,'' smiles when he tells the story. Conventional wisdom has long held that TV shows about the inner workings of the entertainment business wouldn't play in the heartland. Banking on America's fascination with celebrities and their world, Mr. Wilson didn't buy it. ''Fame and fortune are exciting. Stars are nobility, our royal family. People love this stuff,'' he says, discussing his choice to buck the odds.
Still, Mr. Wilson considers ''The Famous Teddy Z'' a more conventional piece of work than the critically aclaimed Emmy Award-winning ''Frank's Place,'' a show about a black-owned restaurant in New Orleans that was dropped after one year despite its accolades. '' 'Frank's Place' was something special,'' he says. ''You can't do a show like that two times in a row; maybe every five years you can sneak one in. But sometimes a show can be a little too good for television and you have to be a little sillier.''
Like ''Frank's Place,'' ''The Famous Teddy Z'' is set in the American work place and centers around a naive character who serves as ''our eyes and ears seeing the business for the first time,'' notes Mr. Wilson. As played with great eagerness by Jon Cryer, Teddy Z is a slow car in the fast lane, but he's a speedy learner. It's all an opportunity for Mr. Wilson to set up and ridicule, in an affectionate way, the everyday absurdities of the movie business and some of the vain, overblown and desperate characters who populate it.
Although ''The Famous Teddy Z'' is his ''new girl,'' he says, and ''we're really getting along well,'' it was an unusual courtship. After ''Frank's Place'' fell victim to the ratings game, Mr. Wilson, a sweet-talking Floridian with a disarming Southern drawl, was wondering what he would next when he was approached by Columbia Pictures Television, the film company's TV production division, with ''a profoundly attractive offer.'' He was given a two-year deal that included a share of the net profits of any show he developed. ''At the time I hadn't heard of anyone getting that kind of money,'' Mr. Wilson said. ''I think an hour later someone got even more.''
No sooner had Mr. Wilson set up shop at the Gower Sunset Studios in Hollywood than he was struck with a disquieting realization: ''I had to do another television show.'' But it wasn't failure that scared Mr. Wilson, it was success. ''I was afraid I might have to do a show for six years and, being kind of lazy, that pressure is a bit enervating. As a matter of fact, it's paralyzing.'' There was another thing bothering Mr. Wilson. He was ''scared to death of young actors,'' and winding up in a long-term relationship with a ''childish, selfish jughead with bad work habits.'' But when CBS arranged a meeting with Mr. Cryer, Mr. Wilson was relieved to discover that he was none of these things.
Mr. Cryer, 24, cut his teeth in summer stock and later on Broadway in ''Brighton Beach Memoirs'' and '' Torch Song Trilogy,'' but he's probably best known for his roles in the films ''Pretty in Pink'' and ''Hiding Out.'' Sick of the contractual dickering that went along with feature films, he decided to seek steadier employment in television.
Mr. Wilson didn't have anything specific in mind for his show when someone at Columbia suggested a mail-room comedy set at a life insurance company. That didn't interest him, but it got him thinking. What about the famous Hollywood story about Jay Kanter? Mr. Kanter, legend has it, worked in the mail room at MCA when he was sent out to pick up Marlon Brando at the train station. He came back as Mr. Brando's agent. Never mind that in reality Mr. Kanter was already an agent (today he's chairman of production for Pathe Entertainment) and the story had been embellished over the years, Mr. Wilson had the premise for ''The Famous Teddy Z.''
It was a Cinderella tale that he found irresistible. Teddy Z was like a guy winning the lottery, and to Mr. Wilson ''it was fun to watch something good happen to a nice guy for once.'' As a writer-producer, he admits that he has little taste for the downbeat and depressing and prefers life-affirming stories, which, he says, is a good thing if you're going to work in television. ''I guess I'm a bit of a Pollyanna,'' he offers without apology.
Inspired by the ethnic background of his secretary, Mr. Wilson turned the young agent into Teddy Zakalokis, a respectful but spirited working-class Greek fellow fresh out of the Army who is plagued by a possessive grandmother (Erica Yohn). Teddy falls into a career by accident when he punches out the esteemed but extremely pompous actor Harland Keyvo, played by Dennis Lipscomb as a kind of exaggerated Jack Nicholson.
In constructing a sitcom, Mr. Wilson prefers character-driven material over story-centered material but is disturbed to find himself writing only major-event scenes for ''Teddy Z.'' ''Teddy sells a movie, Teddy gets a new client. I just keep writing the same scene,'' sighs the show's creator, ''but that may be the nature of the arena we've chosen.'' Mr. Wilson favors the minutiae and complexity of a show like ''Frank's Place'' and by comparison considers ''Teddy Z'' a ''light comedy.''
''We had a rule on 'Frank's Place,' '' he says. ''We would work out what should happen next, what was expected and then throw it out. We're not doing that on 'Teddy Z.' I think we're dealing more in stereotypes here.''
In fact, agents all over town are trying to guess who the characters are based on, especially the nattily dressed but foul-tempered agent, Al Floss (Alex Rocco). Mr. Wilson gleefully relates how he got a half-serious call from Mike Ovitz, head of the powerful Creative Artists agency. '' 'Now, Hugh, I'm not Al Floss, am I?' ' 'I don't think so, Mike; I don't know that much about you.''
Some agents wonder if the show isn't a bit too inside for a general audience. Garry Cosay, an agent with Leading Artists, argues that you don't have to be an agent to find the attitudes amusing. Others weren't so sure. According to Mr. Wilson, his own agent, John Burnham at William Morris, at first thought it was a peculiar idea. ''He said to me, 'What are you going to do, show guys on the phone all day?' ''
The one thing that should keep ''Teddy Z'' from becoming too parochial is Mr. Wilson. ''Hugh is not an inside kind of person,'' says Mr. Burnham. ''His jokes don't have a lofty you-got-to-get-it humor.'' As an outsider who started in advertising and struck it rich in Hollywood, Mr. Wilson still doesn't like ''all the pushing and shoving'' that is part of the business. When he graduated from the University of Florida, he didn't even consider show business as an option because it was so outside his realm of experience.
Instead he landed at a linoleum company in Lancaster, Pa., where he wrote sales brochures (at the mention of this, Mr. Wilson breaks into a few bars of ''On a Clear Day You Can Sell Forever'') and was fortunate enough to work with the future TV writers Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett.
After a six-year apprenticeship in television, Mr. Wilson wrote and directed his first feature, ''Police Academy.'' He made two other films (''Rustlers Rhapsody'' and ''Burglar'') before realizing that he wasn't enjoying himself and that he was ''a lousy movie director and a pretty good TV writer.''
Although Mr. Wilson prefers life in television and finds it more civilized, he is still witness to behavior that makes him shake his head. In ''Teddy Z,'' Mr. Wilson pokes fun at the institutions he comes into contact with every day. One episode deals with a chimp who has a successful series but wants to do movies.
For his part, Mr. Cryer welcomes the opportunity to play with the image of Hollywood and show it for ''the silly business it is.''
Mr. Wilson shares the feeling. ''I'm ambivalent about Hollywood to the point of being wishy-washy. So many things about it are exciting, and I'm delighted to have been let into the candy store.
''But I'm appalled to see people allowed to behave in ways not permitted elsewhere, and that's probably the stuff I'll put into 'Teddy Z.' ''
An Article from The New York Times
Cryer's Career Revived by 'Teddy Z'
By STEPHEN FARBER, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: October 19, 1989
LEAD: Jon Cryer has to wait for a table at the Columbia Bar and Grill, which is exactly the kind of chic, overpriced restaurant where Teddy Zakalokis - the rising young agent he portrays on the new CBS situation comedy, ''The Famous Teddy Z'' - might do lunch.
Jon Cryer has to wait for a table at the Columbia Bar and Grill, which is exactly the kind of chic, overpriced restaurant where Teddy Zakalokis - the rising young agent he portrays on the new CBS situation comedy, ''The Famous Teddy Z'' - might do lunch.
But unlike Teddy Z and the agents who are known only to the power brokers of the film business, Mr. Cryer is a star, and two young women approach him to ask for his autograph. One of them insists that he write his name on the palm of her hand. ''But it will wash off,'' Mr. Cryer protests. ''Wouldn't you rather have it on a napkin?''
''No, I want it right here,'' the young woman responds, shoving her hand in his face. Laughing, he obliges her and then makes his way to his table.
As the main character in one of the most acclaimed new series of the television season, the 24-year-old Mr. Cryer has in just three weeks achieved a celebrity status that he could not achieve in five years of acting in movies. Like Candice Bergen, Jamie Lee Curtis and other actors who turned to television after sputtering film careers, Mr. Cryer may emerge a bigger star than many of his Brat Pack buddies who look down on television. And Then Something Went Wrong
When he was only 19, Mr. Cryer starred with Demi Moore in a low budget comedy, ''No Small Affair.'' Then he won the lead opposite Molly Ringwald in one of John Hughes's teen-ager hits, ''Pretty in Pink,'' and had a feature role in ''Superman IV.'' His career seemed to be skyrocketing. But something went wrong. ''Superman IV'' was rushed into release to disastrous reviews, and his part had been cut to little more than a walk-on. His other movies, ''Hiding Out,'' ''Morgan Stewart's Coming Home'' and ''Dudes,'' were barely released at all.
Then a movie that he was to make with Emilio Estevez and Ralph Macchio was canceled right before filming was to begin.
His manager suggested that he consider television to revive his career. At first Mr. Cryer was reluctant. ''I figured that because I didn't look like a soap opera star, nobody would be interested in building a series around me,'' he said. ''But I found that a lot of people were interested.''
Eventually he met Hugh Wilson, the writer and producer who had created ''Frank's Place'' and ''WKRP in Cincinnati.'' Mr. Wilson came up with the idea of a show about a naive young man plucked out of the mail room to become one of the titans of a top talent agency. ''Hugh sent me the pilot script,'' Mr. Cryer recalled. ''I asked him, 'Will every script be as good as this?' He said, 'Frankly, no, but some of them will be better.' And that's the way it has worked out.'' Ironing Out Some Rough Spots
There were some early problems with ''The Famous Teddy Z.'' The show was scheduled as a mid-season replacement last year, and the first six episodes were filmed with Lainie Kazan as Teddy's conservative Greek mother. But Ms. Kazan was not happy with her part, and the producers were not happy with her. Mr. Wilson decided to change the character to a grandmother, played by Erica John. But that meant reshooting all six episodes and delaying the show until fall.
''Naturally I was concerned,'' Mr. Cryer said. ''CBS was also nervous about it, but Hugh guaranteed we would do all the reshooting in a week. That put a strain on all of us. But I loved what Erica did with the part, and so did the network.''
Mr. Cryer said he enjoyed the chance to play the innocent in Babylon. ''Teddy is true blue in a business where honesty is virtually nonexistent,'' he asserted. ''I don't look down on Hollywood the way a lot of New Yorkers do. But people do get a little weird here because of all the money they make.''
If he has a particular understanding of show-business lunacy, it may be because his entire life has been spent around show people. Both his parents, who separated when he was 4, are actors. His mother, Gretchen Cryer, wrote and starred in the successful stage show ''I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road.'' Mr. Cryer acted in his first play when he was in junior high school, and a few years later he was on Broadway in ''Brighton Beach Memoirs'' and ''Torch Song Trilogy.'' A Mother's Warnings Ignored
''My mom let me know how discouraging acting can be,'' Mr. Cryer said. ''But when you've grown up with it all your life, the rest of the world seems abnormal. You never feel safe in show business, but I can't imagine another business that lets you get away with more.''
Although the Hollywood inside jokes of ''The Famous Teddy Z'' clearly tickle someone weaned on show business, will they continue to hold the public's attention?
''The show is basically an office comedy,'' Mr. Cryer replied. ''Anyone who has ever worked in an office, tried to please the boss and was jealous of his co-workers will get it. Besides, nowadays everybody reads in the tabloids about Roseanne's contract negotiations. So obviously people are a lot more sophisticated about the business side of show business than they used to be.''
From Entertainment Weekly An Article On THe Famous Teddy Z published on May 25, 1990
The Famous Teddy Z
Reviewed by Ken Tucker
When The Famous Teddy Z left the air for a dreaded ''hiatus'' in January, the show's creator, witty Hugh Wilson, gave a few interviews saying he was trying to figure out why his smart sitcom about a smart kid's success as a show-biz agent wasn't finding a large, smart audience.
It apparently never occurred to Wilson that he made one crucial error in creating Teddy Z: He gave the lead part to Jon Cryer, a singularly charmless actor. With Cryer's wiseacre smirk dominating this show, its solid writing and strong supporting cast never could be fully appreciated.
Now back from limbo, Teddy Z is still fitfully funny and still a bit awkward. Its best moments invariably involve Alex Rocco's Al Floss, a genial sleaze of an agent, and Milton Selzer's Abe Werkfinder, an older, delightfully polite agent.
Together, they achieve what Hugh Wilson always wanted from this show: a satire in which the Old Hollywood meets the New Hollywood, and each finds the other appalling.
For a show whose early episodes promised so much, The Famous Teddy Z is a disappointment, but it's still a cut above most weekly half-hours. Grade: B-
For a look at a crossover between The Famous Teddy Z and Murphy Brown go to http://www.poobala.com/teddyzandmurphy.html
For a page dedicated to Alex Rocco go to http://www.alexrocco.info/
To watch a promo from The Famous Teddy Z go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDzJmQwdJtw
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGywIinojQU
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Keywords: The Famous Teddy Z Cast (Links Updated 7/17/18)