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Harper Valley P.T.A. ran from January 1981 until August 1982 on NBC.
This was only the second series in network television history to be based on a phonograph record ( The first was The Alvin Show). Jeannie C. Riley's huge 1968 record hit " Harper Valley P.T.A. " told of the struggles of a liberated woman fighting hypocrasy in a small southern town. The song served as the basis for a 1978 theatrical movie starring Barbara Eden as the outspoken Stella Johnson. The film was only a moderate success in theaters but it attracted a large audience when aired on television( February 24, 1980).This prompted NBC to develop it into a weekly situation comedy with Miss Eden re-creating her movie role. The series was originally planned as a 60 minute sitcom, but was trimmed to 30 minutes before it's 1981 premiere.
Stella ( Barbara Eden), was a very attractive widow with a 13 year old daughter, Dee( Jenn Thompson), living in sleepy little Harper Valley, Ohio-a very staid and propper communityon the surface, but actually full of miscreants, adulterers, and cheerful alcoholics. Stella was a real individual who did what she pleased, regardless of what anybody thought. Independent but pricipled, her approach to life endlessly distressed the self-rightous members of the P.T.A. Board, to which she had been elected. Her short skirts, flirting, and radical ideas convinced the other board members that she made a disgusting role model for their children, not to mention a temptation for their husbands.( who thought Stella was just fine). The stuffy matrons waged a constant struggle to have her removed from the board, while Stella fought back with a succession of hilarious put-downs that got them everytime. Stella's principal adversary was wealthy Flora Simpson Reilly ( Anne Francine), the leader of Harper Valley Society. The entire Reilly family in fact shared Flora's pompous attitudes , including daughter Wanda( Bridget Hanley), son-in-law Bobby ( Rod McCary), the town's leading attorney; and Granddaughter Scarlett( Suzi Dean), a classmate of Deer's.Stella's one ally was beauty-parlor operator Cassie( Fannie Flagg), who helped her with her schemes.George Gobel was also featured as the town's mayor, Otis Harper, Jr. In order to make a living, Stella sold Angel Glow cosmetics door-to-door.
When the series returned in the fall of 1981, there were several changes. Since the P.T.A. meetings and involvement had been dropped, the title of the show was shortened to Harper Valley.Stella's relationship with Dee became more prominent, and a new character, Stella's Uncle Buster( Mills Watson), a bumbling eccentric inventor , came to town and moved in with his niece. Buster's inventions never seemed to work the way they were supposed to; the results were usually catastophic and hilarious.
Here is George Gobel's Obituary from The New York Times
George Gobel, 71, TV Comedian And Game Show Panelist, Is Dead
By STEPHANIE STROM
Published: February 25, 1991
George Gobel, the bristle-haired entertainer whose 60-year career encompassed singing on the radio, his own television show and regular appearances as a panelist on the "Hollywood Squares" game show, died yesterday at Encino Hospital in California. He was 71 years old.
He died of complications after bypass surgery on the major artery in his left leg, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Gobel's earliest ambition, to be a professional baseball player, abruptly changed when at the age of 11 he was chosen to be a featured singer on the WLS "National Barn Dance" radio show after performing on the station, in Chicago, with his church choir. Short Hair and Folksy Humor
In the early part of his show business career, Mr. Gobel stuck to singing and strumming his guitar. But while serving as a B-26 pilot instructor on an isolated Army Air Forces base in Oklahoma during World War II, he acquired the crew cut that became his hallmark and honed a folksy humor on a captive audience.
The job market for commercial pilots was glutted after the war, so Mr. Gobel parlayed his routine of songs and stumbling, deadpan patter from a tryout at the U.S.O. to nightclub acts and television appearances. After several guest appearances on the "Garry Moore Show," "Toast of the Town" and other television revues, he was signed by NBC for "The George Gobel Show" in 1954.
That year he won an Emmy Award as Outstanding New Personality, and at the time some newspaper commentators credited him with launching Johnny Carson, who was hired as CBS's answer to Mr. Gobel. After his own program was canceled, Mr. Gobel made several appearances on Mr. Carson's show. Lonesome George Emerges
The comedy show, which introduced Mr. Gobel's melancholy alter ego, Lonesome George, lasted three years. For two more years, he starred in an hourlong television comedy show with Eddie Fisher and then went back to performing in nightclubs and making guest appearances.
After seven years of regular network appearances, Mr. Gobel had earned a national reputation and a substantial fortune. Although he never again achieved such widespread popular fame, he continued playing nightclubs and hotels and making guest appearances on television shows.
Mr. Gobel starred in several Broadway plays, including "The Odd Couple," "Three Men on A Horse" and "Let It Ride." He was a regular on the game show "Hollywood Squares" in the 1970's and 80's. Odd Stint as Political Analyst
He even worked for a brief period as a political analyst. In 1964, Mr. Gobel appeared in a commercial advertising Xerox copiers that was shown during the Republican convention and gained the attention of ABC executives. They hired him to add levity to the analysis of the Democratic convention by the veteran political commentators Edward P. Morgan and Howard K. Smith later that summer.
Mr. Gobel is survived by his wife, Alice, whose foibles as "Spooky Ol' Alice" became familiar to viewers of his television show; his son, Gregg; two daughters, Georgia Bryan and Leslie McIntosh, and three grandchildren.
Here is Anne Francine's Obituary from The New York Times
Anne Francine, 82, Actress and Cabaret Singer
Published: December 7, 1999
Anne Francine, an actress who worked in film, theater and television and who was also a prominent cabaret performer for six decades, died on Friday at the Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in London, Conn. She was 82 and lived in Old Lyme, Conn.
Born into Main Line Philadelphia society, Miss Francine came of age during the 1930's, when New York's numerous intimate night spots offered opportunities for beginners. With her imposing good looks, bawdy humor and raspy contralto, she made her performing debut at the Coq Rouge, after winning an amateur contest, and went on to engagements at the Pierre, the Persian Room, the Copacabana and the Algonquin.
In the mid-1940's she traveled abroad, singing in late-night haunts in London and Paris. Impeccably mannered and beautifully spoken, she centered her programs on the flippant high-society songs of Cole Porter and Jerome Kern, inserting comedic gestures often funny enough to bring the house down.
Miss Francine made her Broadway debut in 1954 with Shirley Booth in ''By the Beautiful Sea'' before going on to work with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in ''The Great Sebastians'' the next season. In the A.P.A.-Phoenix Repertory Company production of ''The School for Scandal'' she stepped in for a vacationing Helen Hayes. But her favorite role was that of Vera Charles in the 1966 Broadway production of ''Mame,'' starring Angela Lansbury. She and Ms. Lansbury reprised their characters in the 1983 revival. Ms. Francine last appeared on Broadway in 1987 as Mrs. Harcourt in the Lincoln Center revival of ''Anything Goes,'' starring Patti LuPone.
Miss Francine's film work included ''Crocodile Dundee'' and Fellini's ''Juliet of the Spirits.'' On television she was best known for her portrayal of the conniving matriarch Flora Simpson Reilly in ''Harper Valley P.T.A.,'' with Barbara Eden, in the early 1980's.
A frequent performer on the summer stock circuit, Miss Francine was a regular presence at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn., where she taught at the annual cabaret symposium. Even after a 1992 stroke left her unable to speak, she would instruct students by pantomiming her commands or writing them on an erasable box designed for that purpose.
No immediate relatives survive.
For some articles on Harper Valley P.T.A. go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=03RkAAAAIBAJ&sjid=en4NAAAAIBAJ&dq=harper%20valley%20pta%20barbara%20eden&pg=2858%2C3413386 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=koIfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=XY4EAAAAIBAJ&dq=harper%20valley%20pta%20barbara%20eden&pg=4868%2C2926634
To watch some clips from Harper Valley P.T.A. go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=harper+valley+pta+barbara+eden&aq=f
For an episode guide go to http://ctva.biz/US/Comedy/HarperValley.htm
For The Official Website of Barbara Eden go to http://www.barbaraeden.com/
For more on Harper Valley P/T.A. go to http://poobala.com/harpervalley.html
For the lyrics of Harper Valley PTA go to http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/jeannie_c_riley/harper_valley_p_t_a.html
For some Harper Valley PTA-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/harper-valley-pta
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZZw-2sceqg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4clYVJyWXg
To listen to the full theme song go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08QH3rVqokw
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Keywords: Barbara Eden as Stella Johnson (Links Updated 7/18/18)