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The Family Man aired from September 1990 until July 1991 on CBS.
The Family Man was another of TV's endless stream of series about single-parent households. Southern California fire captain Jack Taylor ( Gregory Harrison), had lost his wife in an automobile accident and now had the added responsibilities of being both father and mother to his 4 children. It was chaos in the kitchen. Jack's handsome children were Jeff ( John Buchanan), very concerned with his image at school; Steve ( Scott Weinger), still trying to develop a possitive self-image; Brian ( Matthew Brooks), who was having the hardest time accepting the loss of his mother; and Allison ( Ashleigh Blair Sterling), the stereotypically wise-beyond-her-years little girl. Helping out around the house was Jack's bumbling but good-hearted father-in-law Joe ( Al Molinaro), who gave up his home in New York to move in with them and help raise his grandchildren. Patrick ( Josh Byrne), the little boy living next door with his divorced mother Hilary( Gail Patrick), was Allison's best friend, and Buss, Eddie, and Ted ( Ed Winter, Peter Parros, Adam Biesk), were fellow fire-fighters with whom Jack played poker every week. Jack's social life did perk up in the summer of 1991, when he started dating pretty tv reporter Jill Nichols ( Nancy Everhard).
An Article from The New York Times
A Team With a Genius for Successful Sitcoms
By RICHARD BERNSTEIN, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: June 13, 1990
There are two ways of looking at Tom Miller and Bob Boyett, a team of television sitcom producers who have an extraordinary six shows either on the air or scheduled for next season.
On one hand, probably nobody will accuse the creators of ''Laverne and Shirley,'' ''Mork and Mindy,'' ''The Hogan Family,'' ''Full House'' or ''Perfect Strangers'' of producing searing, soul-searching drama. Indeed, even by the somewhat less-than-Shakespearean standards of the Emmy Award juries, the Miller-Boyett combination has been ignored. They remain prizeless. Yet on the other hand, Mr. Miller and Mr. Boyett are by any commercial standard among the most successful television producers in history. They may not win Emmies, but they do consistently win in the ratings, producing a particular kind of creation that, evidently, fulfills some rather deep need on the part of millions of viewers.
Specifically, what they are good at - better, perhaps, than anybody else - is a wholesome, light formula that makes people laugh and feel good in 23 minutes, the actual dramatic time available in the half-hour format. They have programs on or due to be on all three major networks. And so they are an important, if generally unseen, influence on the American scene, a pair whose particular tastes and sensibilities have become a kind of entertainment-fare standard.
That Warm, Rosy Feeling
What is the formula? First, there is a family or a small group of friends who share a house or apartment. They are good-natured, rather average, unassuming, modest, generally not very ambitious, rather unsophisticated, and marginally childish. They are a gee-whiz collection of people who are often inadvertently funny; you might say they are adult equivalents of the Sesame Street contingent.
Then there are dashes of meaning, dabs of real life - temptation, loneliness, problems in school, parent-child misunderstandings, teen-aged romances - that by the end of each episode have produced that warm, rosy feeling in the heart of some small trial overcome, some little triumph achieved.
''We don't expect to solve all the problems of the world in 23 minutes,'' Mr. Boyett said one recent morning in the Los Angeles office he shares with Mr. Miller. ''But you can have people do a lot of connecting in just a few minutes, if you sit down and you're serious. The majority of people want to have a good happy wholesome family life and want to feel that the parental figures are participating in a positive way in shaping that life.''
Mr. Miller and Mr. Boyett understand that they are seen inside the industry as the producers of the lesser programs, the early evening preliminaries that warm up audiences for television's presumed heavier programs, like ''China Beach,'' ''L.A. Law,'' ''Thirtysomething.'' The critics characterize their work as being on the mawkish, inconsequential side, as fanciful diversions in which the thorns of life always conveniently disintegrate before the assault of gushy good intentions.
'We Want to Entertain You'
''We're not ashamed of it,'' Mr. Miller said. ''We want to entertain you. We want to give you a good time. And within the good time we also try to touch upon a nerve, touch upon an idea, touch upon a texture that has meaning in your life.''
''It's never about lecturing, it's about entertaining,'' Mr. Miller went on, ''but we always like to have somebody in our shows make some human connections, so the people who watch it say, 'Yes, I understand that and I like it.' ''
Mr. Miller and Mr. Boyett work in impressively spacious offices in the Lorimar Productions building, where they have assembled a team of writers, directors, producers and others. The two men, meeting a visitor in a conference room, an immense bowl of fruit salad on the table, a collection of 21 TV Guide cover stories framed on the wall, give the impression of the same type of unaffected amiability and wholesomeness reflected in their programs.
For both men, the string of successes came after long television careers. Mr. Boyett, 48 years old, comes from Atlanta and describes himself as a would-be playwright who got into television by accident, working in development for ABC. Mr. Miller, 46, and originally from Atlanta, too, came to Hollyood when he was 19 and worked for the director Billy Wilder before eventually developing television programs at Fox and later Paramount.
He hit it big with ''Happy Days,'' a comedy of nostalgia set in the 1950's. When Mr. Miller was preparing the pilots for ''Happy Days,'' Mr. Boyett was a programming executive at ABC. moving later to Paramount, where ''Happy Days'' was produced. The two became friends, and Mr. Boyett eventually joined Mr. Miller and a third producer, Eddie Milkus, to create ''Mork and Mindy,'' ''Laverne and Shirley'' and other successful programs.
Then, after seven years, Mr. Miller and Mr. Boyett left Paramount for a new roof over their heads at Lorimar, where they produced the string of programs now dominating the early evening time slots.
''We wanted to develop some new half-hour programs,'' Mr. Boyett said of the last few months of their work at Paramount, ''but all three networks at that time basically said, 'Comedy is dead.' '' They worked instead on hourlong programs until, one day, Lorimar Productions invited them to develop half-hour shows.
''We started here on Oct. 1, 1984,'' Mr. Boyett recalled. A few days later, ''The Cosby Show'' opened to enthusiastic audiences. ''All three networks called and said, 'Get over here, comedy is back and we want you to do comedy,' '' Mr. Boyett continued. ''We just jumped back into the half-hour comedy business.'' Comedy, Mr. Miller observed, was not dead after all.
What most of the Miller-Boyett comedies have is some entirely eccentric or abnormal element thrust into what is otherwise an entirely normal situation. For example, half of the buddy team in ''Perfect Strangers,'' starring Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker, is a colorful immigrant from an exotic Mediterranean island who goes to Chicago to live with his cousin. ''Full House'' is about three men raising three little girls.
A newly developed program, ''The Family Man,'' which is scheduled to appear on Saturday nights at 8 o'clock on CBS next fall, has a familiar eccentric element. As Mr. Miller and Mr. Boyett tell the story, the program came about when a CBS executive called to suggest doing something similar in concept to ''My Three Sons,'' the 1950's hit starring Fred MacMurray.
Improving the Idea
They tinkered with the concept, trying to make it new. They had already signed up a 7-year-old actress, Ashleigh Sterling, believing that there would eventually be a role for her. To the three sons and the widowed father of the 1950's program, Mr. Miller and Mr. Boyett added a little girl, to be played by Miss Sterling, and the father of the deceased wife. The widowed father, meanwhile, is no longer a middle-class white-collar figure, but a working fireman, confronting for the first time the nitty gritty of parenting.
Illustrating the efforts to achieve the warm glow of sentimentality is this moment in the program's pilot: The father, played by Gregory Harrison, is telling his little daughter that the father-in-law, played with avuncular buffoonery by Al Molinaro, won't stay with the bereaved family much longer because he wants to get back to his home in New York.
''He loves New York,'' Mr. Harrison says.
''He loves New York,'' the little daughter, wise beyond her years, replies, ''but he loves us more.''
Needless to say, the character played by Mr. Molinaro stays on.
''It's father doesn't always know best,'' Mr. Miller said, describing one of the program's small twists.
''We wanted to go for some poignancy,'' Mr. Boyett said. ''We knew what critics were going to say. They were going to say, 'Here's another of those dead mother half-hour comedies,' which they can't stand.''
He continued: ''You often see half-hour shows in which the key element of dealing with a problem is missing from the show. For example, you see parents deciding they have to talk to a child and the next scene you see is a parent saying, 'Well, how did it go?' We write the scene. We write right into the toughest scene.''
Weeping at the Grave
In the case of ''The Family Man,'' the crucial moment of poignancy comes when the middle son finally allows himself to admit that he is grief-stricken over the death of his mother, weeping in front of her grave while his father holds him in his arms.
''We don't mind doing a scene that is not interrupted by laughs,'' Mr. Boyett said. Not every scene has to include, he continued, what the industry calls ''treacling,'' cutting in a joke.
Mr. Miller and Mr. Boyett may well expect that ''The Family Man'' will summon up the usual critical complaints - that it is gushy, trite, fake in its presentation of real-life situations, another example of the relentless mediocrity of most television. But they argue that one reason so many millions watch television is that it is more dependably entertaining than just about any other medium, including movies and books.
''In a great successful movie comedy there will be maybe 10 big laughs,'' Mr. Boyett said. ''But people consider 50 percent of the television programs they watch to be pretty good entertainment; otherwise, they wouldn't watch in such big numbers.''
Mr. Miller says that television sitcoms, considering the realities of making them, are remarkably funny. ''You have to turn one out every single week,'' he said. ''You don't have $15 million and a year and a half to write the script. I'm amazed at how good it is. I mean, how many movies make you scream with laughter?''
A Review from USA TODAY
TV PREVIEW/BY MATT ROUSH
Just another mateless too precious 'Family Man'
On TV, being a family man-that is , having a family and being a man-often means doing it alone. Full House, Who's the Boss, The Hogan Family, Uncle Buck and NBC's new American Dreamer each show men without mates warm-fuzzying their way through parenthood.
They don't come warmer or fuzzier than the Taylors of The Family Man, with widowed Gregory Harrison tending to four picture-perfect kids when he's not working as a fire chief.
At home, he's out of the fire and into the ozone, that soporific suburb next door to the Hogans, acroos the street from that Full House, around the corner from the Seavers. It's a block where wet socks and a frozen chicken represent major crises , and a good cry by a mom's gravesite clears the air.
You should know by now if this show-which moves to Saturdays opposite NBC's Parenthood-is going to warm the cockles of your heart, or cock the muskets of your contempt.
Two of the three boys are carbon copies of Hogan Family teens, the youngest boy could be Kate & Allie's, and baby of the family Allison ( Ashleigh Blair Sterling) is so sweet she puts Full House's moppets to shame.
This wins the fall season's " Awwww in the Family" sweepstakes, especially when Harrison tries gamely to french-braid Allison's hair.
Thanks be, then to Al Molinaro's sad-sack gramps, who snifles and mopes in shameless attempts at scene-stealing. If not for him, there'd be nothing here you could hate openly without being called a grouch.
An Article from The LA Times
CBS in the 'Family' Way Again : Miller-Boyett Sitcom Gets Another Go in Prime Time
June 10, 1991|DANIEL CERONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER
"The Family Man," a CBS sitcom that few viewers saw during its brief Saturday-night run last fall, and one that nobody has heard much from since, would not seem a likely candidate for revival.
But in an uncommon programming move, CBS will air original episodes of "Family Man" on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., beginning tonight.
Why, with viewers crying out over the cancellation of such acclaimed shows as "thirtysomething," "China Beach" and "Twin Peaks," would CBS bring back a series that was panned by critics as a limp remake of "My Three Sons" and that ranked 113th out of 141 in the prime-time ratings?
Part of the reason has to do with the show's creators, the prolific comedy producers Thomas Miller and Robert Boyett, whose slapstick credentials range from "Happy Days" to "Mork and Mindy" to "Full House." Miller-Boyett Productions will own 90 minutes of ABC's Friday-night lineup this fall with "Family Matters," "Step by Step" and "Perfect Strangers" airing consecutively from 8 to 9:30.
Although CBS picked up the final season of "The Hogan Family" last year from NBC, "Family Man" is the first series Miller-Boyett has developed exclusively for the network, which wants to warm up its schedule with more family programming.
"We've been trying to get Tom and Bob to do a show for CBS for a long time," said CBS programming vice president Peter Tortorici. "We, and they, believe, given some time, that 'Family Man' has a chance at being as strong as their shows on the other networks, particularly the ones on ABC."
Tortorici admitted that on the surface, "The Family Man," which stars Gregory Harrison as a widowed firefighter raising four children with the help of his lovable father-in-law, may not have the earmarks of a groundbreaking sitcom. "This isn't a show critics are going to talk about," he said.
But Tortorici pointed to Miller-Boyett's track record, combined with CBS' belief in the show, as deciding factors in the network's attempt to jolt life into "Family Man" this summer with two episodes per week.
"None of Tom and Bob's shows have been Emmy winners or critics' choices," Tortorici said. "The only people that like them are the audiences. As much as I love the critics, and as much as I love to collect gold statuettes, I'd rather forsake both to have 30 million people a week say, 'I want to see that show again next week.' "
Leslie Moonves, president of Lorimar Television, which produces all of Miller-Boyett's current comedies, said that "Family Man's" original 8 p.m. time slot on Saturdays, when TV usage traditionally is low, never gave viewers a chance to discover the sitcom.
"Historically it's very, very hard to launch a new comedy cold out of an 8 p.m. time period," Moonves said. "With rare exceptions, it just doesn't work. Generally, you prefer to put a new comedy in a protected time slot."
So when CBS pulled "Family Man" in December after three months, the network ordered 13 additional episodes with plans to bring the series back in March. The plan then was to team "Family Man" with "Family Dog," the long-awaited Steven Spielberg animated series, and promote them together as "The Family Hour."
But when "Family Dog" fell behind schedule, a new strategy had to be formulated. Tortorici recalled that for a brief period in 1988, ABC slipped "Full House" into cushy time slots twice a week--behind "Who's the Boss?" on Tuesdays and after "Perfect Strangers" on Fridays.
"In truth, that's when 'Full House' started to grow into the monster it became on ABC," Tortorici said. "Before that it was an 8 p.m. show, just like 'Family Man.' To me, it's proof that this is a method to examine closely. The best scheduling has no ego. You look for programming ideas that work, no matter what source you can find them."
In search of protected time slots on CBS, the network has temporarily rearranged its successful Monday night comedy lineup, where "Family Man" will follow "Major Dad" reruns for five weeks. And on Wednesday, "Family Man" will start out behind half-hour reruns of the hit "Rescue 911."
With so much time to plan, the producers of "Family Man" were able to tailor episodes for each time slot. "Those are slightly different demographic nights," executive producer William Bickley said. "Monday following 'Major Dad' is a slightly older, more adult audience. Wednesday night is slightly younger.
"Consequently, we produced a very balanced variety of episodes. We have a two-parter where Gregory Harrison falls in love with a local news anchorwoman, and those will air on Monday. And we have several teen-age episodes--one where the guys organize a betting pool in school that gets out of hand--and those will air on Wednesday."
"Family Man" is not on CBS' fall schedule, but the network has already ordered an additional 13 episodes as mid-season replacements. And Tortorici said that even if "Family Man" doesn't take off, CBS is planning to do another series with Miller-Boyett.
He said of CBS' budding relationship with the producers: "I think it's a very important piece of the puzzle for us. Because the thing that has dogged CBS for many years is its inability to get 8 p.m. shows up and running and using those shows to build nights. And when you have producers as credible and successful as Miller-Boyett, it's certainly a wise investment to try and be in business with them."
Departing NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff recently challenged that notion when he said that the networks collectively rely too much on veteran producers such as Miller-Boyett at the expense of seeking out and nurturing new talent. Lorimar's Moonves disagreed.
"I'm not saying we shouldn't be developing shows with the new producers of the world, but if you're looking for a family comedy, and Tom and Bob's batting average is about 98%, why not go back to that well? Time and again, they get winners, and not moderate winners either. Other than 'Going Places,' every show they've done for Lorimar has been a huge success. You look at 'Full House' and 'Family Matters,' these are two of the hottest shows on television right now. They are pros, and it's silly not to keep going with them."
To watch some clips from The Family Man go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+family+man+1990+tv+show&aq=f
For more on Family Man go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Family_Man_%28American_TV_series%29
For Gregory Harrison's Official Website go to www.gregoryharrison.com/
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdaaf0TRugg
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Keywords: The Family Man Cast