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Empty Nest aired from October 1988 until July 1995 on NBC.
NBC capitalized on the success of The Golden Girls with another character comedy from the same producers, on the same night, set in the same Miami neighborhood, and also starring well-known TV actors of the 1970's. Richard Mulligan ( of Soap ), played Dr. Harry Weston, a pediatrician whose wife Libby had died a year before the show began, and whose children were grown. But his nest did not stay empty for long. As one of the most eligible bachelors in Miami, he was constantly pursued by mature females, including on occasion the Golden Girls themselves. As for his kids, both eldest daughter Carol( Dinah Manoff), a neurotic divorcee, and middle daughter Barbara ( Kristy McNichol), a self-assured undercover cop, came home to live ( the youngest Emily, was away at college; she called but was not seen). Laverne ( Park Overall) was the tart-tongued prescient nurse with a pronounced Arkansas drawl, and Charley ( David Leisure), the obnoxious skirt-chasing neighbor who worked on a cruise ship but never seemed to be away. He dropped in regularly to mooch food from the Weston kitchen and trade jibes with Carol.
Harry fretted and fussed over his daughters' love lives as well as his own, finding the most sympathetic ( if hairy) ear from his enormous dog Dreyfuss . Dreyfuss was a mix of Saint Bernard and golden retriever. But as far as co-star Dinah Manoff was concerned, all that counted was that the big, lovable pooch upstaged her: "Enough with the dog already. Okay?" the actress complained when asked about Dreyfuss ( His real name was Bear) by an interviewer in 1989.
"I mean, I have to say nice things about everyone in the show, but I'm getting a little tired of hearing about that damn dog. My friends say, 'Oh, Dinah, we love your show, but what's it like working with that dog?' Everyone wants to know about the damn dog. What is the dog, John Travolta?". Other best buddies were the kids with whom he bantered at the office, including little Jeffrey Milstein ( played in a recurring role by Edan Gross).
Harry's homelife was disrupted further in 1992 when Carol's eccentric boyfriend Patrick ( Paul Provinza), moved in, converting the Weston garage into a sculpting studio. He departed at the start of the next season, but not before Carol became pregnant; their child Scotty was born in November 1993. Barbara left midway through the 1992-1993 season ( due to Actress Kristy McNichol's battle with manic depression), though she sometimes phoned home. Ostensibly she was on undercover assignment. Globe-trotting youngest daughter Emily ( Lisa Rieffel) returned for awhile to fill the void but soon was gone again.
In the fall of 1993 Harry and Nurse Laverne joined hard-driving Maxine Douglas ( Marsha Warfield), at her inner-city clinic in downtown Miami. They were not alowed to forget their roots, however, Sophia Petrillo ( Estelle Getty), of The Golden Girls and The Golden Palace frequently wandered into Harry's living room as if she were looking for her own former Saturday night series. With the demise of her earlier series she had moved back to the Shady Pines Retirement Home nearby.
Kristy McNichol returned as Barbara for the series finale which aired in April of 1995. In the episode Carol married boyfriend Kevin ( D. David Morin), Laverne married Matt (Stephen Nichols), and Harry accepted a job offer from Vermont. Created by Susan Harris ( Soap, Benson, Golden Girls ), the series had originally been conceived for the fall of 1987 and was to have starred Paul Dooley and Rita Moreno as a married couple.
A Review from The New York Times
TV WEEKEND; A Widower Meets the Neighbors in 'Empty Nest'
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: October 7, 1988
Let's hear it for the widowers living in Florida. The Paul Junger Witt-Tony Thomas-Susan Harris production team, which brought forth ''The Golden Girls,'' is now giving the very successful quartet of women a new neighbor. The neighbor, a widower named Harry Weston, is played by Richard Mulligan, once a star of the Witt-Thomas-Harris series ''Soap.'' He is a pediatrician and the central character in ''Empty Nest,'' the sitcom making its debut on NBC tomorrow night at 9:30 - which, as it happens, is the slot immediately following ''The Golden Girls.'' The crossover potential for characters and storylines is, needless to say, enormous.
For the time being, however, the premiere episode - directed by the veteran Jay Sandrich, with his established aplomb - is busy enough just introducing the regulars on ''Empty Nest.'' Harry lives with his dog Dreyfuss, a lumbering sad sack with an extraordinary bladder. ''I like that in a dog,'' admits Harry. At his pediatrics office, Harry does his best to avoid stray germs and dreadful mothers. One woman is furious because her young son has swallowed her emerald ring and, as she explains: ''I have a function tonight.'' Putting his arm around the boy, Harry informs Mom: ''Your function will have to wait for his function.''
Meanwhile, Harry has a sassy Southern-drawling nurse named La Verne (Park Overall), who gets the kind of outrageous lines that Estelle Getty's Sophia monopolizes on ''The Golden Girls.'' Here is La Verne on the subject of dating: ''In my town, you washed your hair every Saturday night and then when you were 14, you married your cousin.'' We are, obviously, in Susan Harris territory. As a writer of sitcoms, Ms. Harris has made the wisecrack her own distinctive weapon.
Harry has three grown daughters. One is away at college and phones him regularly. The others, living nearby, are Barbara (Kristy McNichol), a policewoman who thinks everything is just great, and Carol (Dinah Manoff), whose husband has just run off with a gorgeous 20-year-old. Carol can't stand Barbara's sunny disposition. ''Read some Dostoyevsky, for God's sake!'' she cries. Carol still can't believe her husband ran off with ''a slut named Rita.'' Turning philosophical, Harry observes: ''Well, you name a kid Rita and you have a damned good chance of getting a slut.''
Also on hand is Charley, a bachelor neighbor played by David Leisure, of Joe Isuzu fame. Mr. Leisure's brief appearance in the premiere episode leaves the impression that he wandered in from a different show on a nearby set. Nevertheless, it's abundantly clear that ''Empty Nest'' is one of the brighter entries of the new season and, with its shrewd positioning on the schedule, should make NBC's Saturday lineup stronger than ever.
Here is Richard Mulligan's Obituary from The New York Times.
Richard Mulligan, 67, Actor On 'Soap' and 'Empty Nest'
By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER
Published: September 29, 2000
Richard Mulligan, who won Emmy Awards for his portrayal of fathers on the situation comedies ''Soap'' and ''Empty Nest,'' died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 67.
The cause was cancer, said his friend and assistant, David Fisher.
Although he achieved his greatest success in television in the course of a career of some 40 years, Mr. Mulligan appeared frequently in films and on the Broadway stage. He portrayed a Hollywood producer in the 1981 Blake Edwards farce, ''S.O.B.,'' which also starred Julie Andrews and William Holden.
Mr. Mulligan was also featured in ''The Undefeated'' (1969) with John Wayne and portrayed Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer in ''Little Big Man'' (1970).
Among his other films were ''Love With the Proper Stranger'' (1964), ''The Group'' (1966), ''The Big Bus'' (1976) and ''Trail of the Pink Panther'' (1982).
On Broadway in 1982, Mr. Mulligan starred with Suzanne Pleshette in ''Special Occasions,'' Bernard Slade's two-character play about a divorced couple who keep meeting over a period of time. He also starred on Broadway with Marlo Thomas in a 1974 Herb Gardner comedy, ''Thieves.''
But he was best known for his roles on ABC's ''Soap'' from 1977 to 1981 and on NBC's ''Empty Nest'' from 1988 to 1995. On the former, he played Burt Campbell, a lovable screwball who was stepfather to the character played by Billy Crystal. And on ''Empty Nest,'' a spinoff of ''The Golden Girls,'' Mr. Mulligan played Dr. Harry Weston, a widower with three grown daughters.
''He's certainly different from my role on 'Soap,' '' Mr. Mulligan told The Associated Press in 1988. ''This guy's a good doctor who cares deeply about his patients. He's a good fellow trying to take care of his daughters. His wife died 18 months ago, and he still can't take the ring off.''
Besides the 1980 Emmy for ''Soap'' and the 1989 Emmy for ''Empty Nest,'' each in the category of outstanding lead actor in a comedy, Mr. Mulligan won a 1989 Golden Globe for ''Empty Nest'' for best performance by an actor in a television series.
He also appeared in episodes of ''The Twilight Zone,'' ''Charlie's Angels,'' ''The Partridge Family,'' ''Bonanza'' and ''Rat Patrol.''
Mr. Mulligan, who was born in the Bronx on Nov. 13, 1932, planned on becoming a priest before he decided to study playwriting at Columbia University.
According to Julian Myers, his longtime publicist and a friend, it was playwriting that led Mr. Mulligan into acting. Mr. Myers said that not long after Mr. Mulligan finished his studies, he drove to Florida to show one of his plays to the director of a playhouse.
He arrived to find the director in the midst of rehearsals. And, Mr. Myers said, ''The director said, 'You'd better try out for this role.' ''
Mr. Mulligan was married and divorced four times.
He is survived by a son, James, of West Lebanon, N.H., and two brothers, James, of North Dakota, and Robert, of Connecticut, the director of films like ''Fear Strikes Out'' and ''To Kill a Mockingbird.''
Correction: October 2, 2000, Monday An obituary of the actor Richard Mulligan on Thursday misstated the day of his death in some copies. It was Tuesday, not Wednesday.
To watch some clips from Empty Nest go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=empty+nest
For Empty Nest TV go to http://emptynesttv.com/
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406171453/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/emptynest.html
To find out how Empty Nest and The Golden Girls were related go to http://www.poobala.com/emptyandgolden.html
For some Empty Nest-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/empty-nest
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Keywords: The Cast of Empty Nest (Links Updated 7/26/18)