Poster: Mr. Television
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Man Of The People ran from September until October 1991 on NBC.
James Garner, who built a career playing lovable rogues tried another variation on the theme here without success. Jim Doyle ( James Garner), a small-time scam artist and gambler, found himself suddenly appointed to the city council of Long View, California , to fill out the term of his recently deceased wife , a popular councilwoman. He wasn't the pushover, that unscrupulous Mayor Chardin( Kate Mulgrew) thought he'd be , however. Jim alternated between scams, dubious ethics, the race track, and actually helping his constituents( usually for the wrong reasons, but with the right results). Watching him like a hawk was Constance ( Corinne Bohrer), his late wife's humorless, straight-arrow assistant. Others hanging around city hall were Art ( George Wyner), the mayor's obsequious ally, aspiring politico Richard ( Taylor Nichols), and Rita ( Romy Walthall), a perky former prostitute hired by Jim as soon as he took office-to be his secretary.
A single leftover hour long episode of this series was aired on December 6, 1991.
An Article from The Baltimore Sun
James Garner's maverick spirit still intact
August 15, 1991|By Diane Holloway | Diane Holloway,Cox News Service
Life is sweet for James Garner now.
For most of his professional life he has been successful and popular. But now, at the dawn of his golden years, he's relatively healthy and definitely happy.
"Yeah, I don't have a whole lot of problems," he said with a satisfied grin. Talking with reporters in Los Angeles recently about his new NBC series "Man of the People," Garner, who never minces words or holds back opinions, seemed uncharacteristically peaceful.
"I've lost 15 to 18 pounds since "Decoration Day" (the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for which he earned an Emmy nomination this year)," the 63-year-old actor said. "I'm working out every day. I'm in very good shape. The legs will never be any good, but I won't be on my feet 10 to 12 hours a day like I was on 'Rockford.' "
The rigors of filming a weekly action series for many years, starting with "Maverick" and continuing through the Emmy-winning "Rockford Files," left Garner with severe knee damage that required several operations. He also had an assortment of bruises and broken bones during his "Rockford" years, which ended with a nasty legal battle with the studio over his share of the profits.
But all that is behind him. The only ripple in Garner's calm this day was the clicking of a string of Greek worry beads. He fingered them constantly during the interview in an effort to keep from smoking. He had "quit" a couple of days before but had slipped a few times since.
Smiling and clicking, Garner explained the circumstances that prompted him to return to series television after a lengthy absence.
"I've been playing golf for 10 years and my handicap's gone up instead of down, so I figured I might as well go back to work again," he said. "And I prefer to work more than I've worked in the past 10 years."
Not that the past decade has been idle. Garner has always been accepted as a light comedy, romantic lead. But a string of television movies, including "Promise" and "My Name Is Bill W" with James Woods and "Heartsounds" with Mary Tyler Moore, proved his strength as a powerful dramatic actor.
And after appearing in more than 40 feature films, he finally received an Academy Award nomination for "Murphy's Romance" in 1985.
When "Rockford" went off the air in 1980, Garner starred in the poorly conceived revival series "Bret Maverick" for one year. After that, he swore off series -- until "Man of the People" came along.
In the new NBC comedy, he plays Jim Doyle, a con artist and gambler who is appointed to fill the City Council seat vacated by his late ex-wife. He starts out fully intending to milk the situation for personal gain but winds up with a conscience, a flawed but sincere champion of the common man.
"A half-hour is much easier," Garner said. "An hour series is a killer. It's hard on you physically. 'Rockford' almost killed me . . . NBC sent me this script, and I liked it. I wasn't looking to do another series, but I liked the character and the steady work."
Garner has made a name for himself on television playing heroes that are tarnished and humorous. Bret Maverick was a wisecracking, less-than-courageous rogue who avoided danger whenever possible. Jim Rockford was an ex-con with a lazy streak and an assortment of low-life pals.
"I like the anti-hero," Garner said. "I think people like to see a little larceny in their heroes. I think Jim Doyle's got a lot of larceny."
Although the show's arena is politics, Garner insists the show will not take jabs at politicians or make political statements.
"I'm not going to tell the writers to do a story about saving the whales," he said. "I don't plan to use this for a platform. It's not in any sense a commentary on politicians. We're doing it with good humor."
The pilot was not available for preview because it is being re-shot. Kathleen Quinlan, who had played Doyle's assistant in the pilot, left the series over "personal difficulties with NBC," according to Garner. Corinne Bohrer will replace her. And a new role is being created for Garner's longtime pal Stuart Margolin, who played super-sleazy Angel Martin on "Rockford."
The dreaded "d" word (dramedy) has not been officially used, but "Man of the People" will not be a thigh-slapping sitcom. There will be no laugh track and no adorable moppets.
"Man of the People" will air Sunday nights opposite ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" and CBS' "Murder, She Wrote." The competition will be formidable, but NBC is likely to stick with the show.
"Let's put it this way," Garner said. "This is NBC Productions' only production this fall."
A Review From The New York Times
TV Weekend; The Good News? James Garner Is Back
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 13, 1991
Of all the familiar faces returning to television this fall, none will generate warmer vibrations than James Garner's. His rugged good looks and easy-going charm have contributed mightily to weekly series, most notably "The Rockford Files," and quality television movies, the most recent being "Decoration Day." Mr. Garner is an old-fashioned star, his fine performances always conveying something of his own integrity.
And now the bad news. Somehow Mr. Garner was persuaded to return to series television in "Man of the People," having its premiere on NBC at 8 Sunday evening. He plays Jim Doyle, a self-described small-time grifter, once married to a city councilwoman and now content to spend most of his time placing horse bets and hustling innocents in pool halls. When his former wife dies, Doyle is appointed to fill her seat by the mischievous Mayor Lisbeth Chardin (Kate Mulgrew). The cocky Doyle, looking forward to a chauffeured limousine, sets up shop in the blue-collar district, much to the horror of Constance (Corinne Bohrer), the devoted staff member of Doyle's late wife. The situation: devil-may-care Doyle in predictable combat with disapproving Constance.
The most immediate problem is that Mr. Garner is at least 15 years too old for the role. His disarming rogue is a touch creaky in the joints, and dyed eyebrows, no matter how carefully trimmed, are anything but flattering. Mr. Garner's disarmingly direct style of reading a line can still do wonders for distressingly ordinary dialogue, but there's little he can do about a flat concept. Doyle gets to play his little scams -- nailing a pompous sucker in a card game, deflating a hotshot realtor with an elaborate con game -- but the rogue keeps ending up looking considerably more tired than irrepressible. Some of his best moments are played off against his streetwise secretary, Rita (Romy Walthall), a Madonna fan.
The first three episodes of "Man of the People" add up to little more than mildly amusing trifles. Mr. Garner needs far heftier material if he expects to survive against Angela Lansbury in "Murder, She Wrote" on CBS. Another distinguished acting veteran, Ms. Lansbury was considerably more shrewd in selecting a late-career annuity vehicle.
An Article from The LA Times
Something Familiar on the Air : DEJA View : James Garner Heads a Cast of Oldies in Prime Time
September 15, 1991|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER
It's yesterday once more. At least it seems so with the new fall season.
Familiar faces from series past are returning to the small screen in new shows. With viewers abandoning the networks for cable and VCRs, what better way to lure audiences back but with old favorites. After all, innovation didn't work last season, so perhaps deja vu will.
Viewers can look forward to seeing Robert Guillaume of "Soap" and "Benson" fame starring in NBC's new comedy series, "Pacific Station." At ABC, Suzanne Somers of "Three's Company" is back in prime time after a decade in the sitcom, "Step by Step." Marion Ross, Mrs. C of "Happy Days," stars in Gary David Goldberg's new CBS series, "Brooklyn Bridge."
Almost 20 years after the premiere of "Sanford & Son," Redd Foxx is spewing one-liners again in the CBS comedy "The Royal Family." Carol Burnett is doing another one-hour comedy-variety show for CBS, 13 years after her Emmy-winning series left the airwaves. Even Earl Holliman of "Police Women" is starring in a new CBS series, "P.S. I Luv You," in which he appears with series veterans Greg Evigan ("B.J. and the Bear," "My Two Dads") and Connie Sellecca ("The Greatest American Hero," "Hotel").
Perhaps the biggest surprise among the returnees is James Garner, who stars in the new NBC half-hour comedy series, "Man of the People," premiering tonight at 8.
Garner's first TV series, "Maverick," (ABC: 1957-60) made him an international star. NBC's lighthearted detective series, "The Rockford Files" (1974-80), earned him his first Emmy. Garner also starred in NBC's short-lived "Nichols" (1971-72) and "Bret Maverick" (1981).
Two years ago, he finally settled a long battle with Universal Studios over his multimillion dollar share of the profits from "The Rockford Files."
Despite his absence from series television, the past decade has been a productive one for Garner. He received an Oscar nomination for best actor for 1985's "Murphy's Romance," and starred in three acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations: "Promise" (for which he won an Emmy as producer), "My Name is Bill W." and "Decoration Day."
Garner has never held back his opinions about Hollywood. "The industry is like it always has been. It's a bunch of greedy people," Garner told The Times last year.
So why has he decided to go back to the TV-series well for the fifth time?
"Somebody sent me a script that I liked," Garner said, "and I have been playing golf long enough. I like the character, so I thought I would go back to try it again."
And "Man of the People" gives Garner the opportunity to exude his laid-back, good-natured charm. He plays Jim Doyle, a con artist and racetrack fanatic who is named to fill a vacant city council seat held by his late ex-wife. Kate Mulgrew co-stars as the mayor, Lisbeth Chardin, Doyle's nemesis.
"He's a rake," Garner said. "He's a hustler. He starts out trying to do something for himself and ends up doing it for somebody else in spite of himself."
NBC describes "Man of the People" as Garner's first comedy series. Garner doesn't agree. "They (NBC) don't think 'Rockford' was funny or 'Maverick' was humorous?"
"Man of the People," Garner said, is not sitcom "where you do a line and a joke and a line and a joke. It's not that kind of show. The humor comes out of the characters. It's more like a little movie."
Most importantly, he said, "this is just a half-hour series and it is not so bad physically."
Those one-hour action series have taken their toll physically on Garner. "I broke 12 ribs on 'Bret Maverick.' We didn't do eight episodes because of that. They had a bucking machine and who ever was (operating it) didn't know how to work it very well and it threw me to kingdom come. There is no action on this series."
And there will be no laugh track. "That was one of the first things that came up and I said, 'There is going to be no laugh track.' And then they said, 'Do it with an audience.' And I said, 'No, we don't do it with an audience.' "
Although Garner is not involved in the production of the series, he does have his input. "It's fun," he said. "I love work. I love the actual going to work every day and doing the show."
These days, Garner believes the best writing is on TV. "They didn't want to do 'Murphy's Romance' because there wasn't any sex or action in it. Features now are cartoons. I didn't see any TV movies that I liked. The only ones I liked were the Hallmark things and two of them I produced."
"Man of the People" premieres tonight at 8 on NBC.
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
Man of the People (1991)
Reviewed by Ken Tucker | Sep 27, 1991
Details Start Date: Sep 15, 1991; Genre: Comedy; With: James Garner and George Wyner; Network: NBC
James Garner gives the half-hour sitcom form a try with Man of the People, and his style looks cramped. He plays Jim Doyle, a con man who becomes a city councilman and continues to scam folks in his small town in California. Doyle is kept in line by a primly honest office assistant, played without charm by Corinne Bohrer (Free Spirit). Kate Mulgrew (Heartbeat), a perfectly good actress, is consigned to what seems like a fourth- or fifth-banana role as a mayor every bit as corrupt as Doyle.
Now, Garner was wonderfully rascally as both Jim Rockford and Bret Maverick, but this Doyle character well, he's just an out-and-out weasel, bilking suckers and snickering about it. This being early prime time, Man makes sure to give Doyle a few redeem-ing moments. In one episode, for example, Doyle gets involved in a high-stakes poker game to raise money to build a recreation center for poor children. There's no laugh track in this series, but there are no laughs, either, which makes for long seconds of frozen, dead air when a punch line is delivered.
A most telling moment occurs in the final seconds of this episode: Having won the money, Doyle is surrounded by grateful kids, and Garner's discomfort at such a shamelessly sentimental scene is palpable. He leans over to give a little girl a peck on the cheek, and you can almost see Garner blush. He shouldn't be reduced to this sort of thing. C-
For more on Man of the People go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_of_the_People_(TV_series)
For more on James Garner go to http://www.museum.tv/eotv/garnerjames.htm
For a James Garner website go to http://www.jefflangonline.com/garner/
For a website dedicated to Kate Mulgrew go to http://www.totallykate.com/
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh2yI4IXaik
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Keywords: Man Of The People: Cast Photo (Links Updated 7/31/18)