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(b/w) photograph featuring: Maxine Stuart, Quinn Cummings, Patty Duke, Ted Bessell, Taliesin Jaffee

Hail To The Chief aired from April until July 1985 on ABC.

The President Of The United States was surrounded by a cabinet of crazies in this comedy about life in the White House under the first woman chief executive.Created by the creator of Soap ( Susan Harris), it used the same type of semi-serialized story lines as the earlier hit, and even some similar plots.Julia Mansfield ( Patty Duke), was the Madame President, who was confronted by such ongoing crisis as her husband Oliver's ( Ted Bessell's), inability to make love; a lunatic major threatening to start WW3; an equally lunatic Russian Premier Zolotov( Dick Shawn), on the hot line; the blackmailing of her husband by KGB head Ivan ( the premier's twin brother) after Oliver was caught in a compromising possition with sexy spy Darleen( Alexa Hamilton); Son Doug's impregnating of Gen. Stryker's( John Vernon's) daughter; and an attempt to impeach her by ranting Rev. Billy Joe ( Richard Paul), who maintained that Satan had put this woman in the White House.

Hawkes (Glynn Turman), was the sensible black Secretary Of State, who was often outshouted by National Security Advisor Luger ( Herschel Bernardi), and Gen Stryker. The President's 3 children were Tennis Pro Doug ( Ricky Paul Goldin), Lucy ( Quinn Cummings), who had the hots for Raoul, the butler( Chick Vennera), and little Willie ( Taliesin Jaffe); Lenore ( Maxine Stuart), was Julia's bedazzled mom, and Randy ( Joel Brooks), her gay chief secret service agent.

Raechel Donahue was the announcer.

This show was intended to resemble Susan Harris's previous hit Soap. Harris blamed the series demise on network interference; she told TV Guide that the finished product was a bad show that should have been canceled.

A Review From The New York Times

By Jack O'Connor
Published April 9, 1985

As for ''Hail to the Chief,'' there hasn't been anything so furiously wacky on prime-time television since ''Soap'' got a broad cross-sec tion of protest groups worked up almost a decade ago - even before the show went on air. Not surprisingly, both series come out of Witt/ Thomas/ Harris Productions. Susan Harris is the creator and writer. Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas are the producers. It is perhaps a sign of the times that ''Hail to the Chief,'' which goes several kinky steps beyond the outrageousness of ''Soap,'' is making its debut without so much as a raised eyebrow, even though the advertisments for the ''equal opportunity offender'' promise that you'll say, ''I thought they couldn't do that on TV.''

As to how a woman became President of the United States, don't ask. Just accept the fact that Julia Mansfield (Miss Duke) has one hand on the hot line to the Soviet Union, where Premiere Zolotov thinks she is just nifty, and is attempting to get a hammerlock on the loonies surrounding her. Her husband, Gen. Oliver Mansfield, is having an affair with a curvaceous Soviet agent who calls the White House with messages that, covered in peanut butter and jelly, she is waiting anxiously for him. Among the Presidential children are a daughter who is having an affair with the Latin- American butler and a young son who is having a problem with one of his Arab classmates.

Somewhere in all of this - much of it too tasteless to describe here - is a presumably serious, unfortunately hysterical effort to cut through what the producers perceive to be the pieties and pabulum of the current social and political scene. A sharp parody would not, in fact, be out of order. The problem with ''Hail to the Chief'' is that it more often leaves you wincing instead of laughing.

An Article from The LA Times

'Hail To The Chief' Goes To A Quiet Death On Abc
May 21, 1985|LEE MARGULIES | Times Staff Writer

"Hail to the Chief" failed to win a spot on ABC's fall TV schedule, a victim of declining ratings. But the unconventional comedy series about the nation's first woman President, which finishes its seven-week run tonight, was noteworthy nonetheless as a measurement of how television has changed in recent years.

"Hail to the Chief" was created by Susan Harris for producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas--the same team responsible for "Soap," the ABC comedy that ran from 1977 to 1981.

Like "Soap," "Hail to the Chief" used a serialized format, mixed a variety of comedic forms and seemed calculated, in its language and themes, to be as inflammatory as it was entertaining. There were jokes about religion, race, politics and sex--or, as one ABC executive suggested, something to offend everyone.

Unlike "Soap," however, "Hail to the Chief" arrived and will disappear without having generated so much as a ripple of controversy. There have been a few letters and phone calls to ABC from viewers who were riled by it, and a spate of critical reviews, but nothing compared to the swarm of protest that swirled about "Soap" even before it went on the air.

"I think the country has grown up some," Harris says. "In certain cities (in 1977), 'Soap' couldn't be shown before 11:30 at night. Now it's being shown in syndication at 5:30 and 7:30 in the evening and nobody cares. So things have changed."

"Soap" was a cause celebre , the subject of a letter-writing campaign, pickets and threatened boycotts--mostly the result of several religious organizations that were outraged by early press reports about the sexual content of the comedy series. Several ABC affiliates declined to air it and several delayed it until late at night. Most significantly, many advertisers refused to be associated with the program for fear of economic reprisals by incensed viewers.

The result, ABC Entertainment President Lewis Erlicht has said, was that even though "Soap" caught on with viewers, its commercial time had to be sold at fire-sale prices that failed to cover the production costs. "We lost $3 million a year on 'Soap' because advertisers wouldn't support it," he recalled recently.

ABC stuck by the show for four years, long enough to prove that it wouldn't be intimidated by outside pressure, but the network finally canceled the show to cut its losses, even though the ratings were still respectable.

The subject still rankles Harris.

" 'Soap' deserved to be on for a long, long time," the writer says. "What happened was that the advertisers got scared. They succumed to a few minority pressure groups. . . . If they had paid no attention (to the pressure), 'Soap' would still be on the air. That they did (pay attention) is not a surprise, but it is nonetheless disappointing."

Four years after "Soap" was dropped, "Hail to the Chief" encountered no such opposition on Madison Avenue.

"The audience and the advertisers are much more sophisticated now," producer Witt maintains. "Not only has time and experience--with 'Soap' and other controversial works--proven that the broad television audience will accept all kinds of entertainment, it also has shown that those people who dissent are limited in their influence and power.

"I also think," Witt adds, "that there's a greater realization about a very simple fact: that television is the most democratic of art forms. If there is something we don't like, we can turn the set off or turn on something else. If enough people turn a show off, it fails and goes away--and that's a reflection of the public sentiment. If enough people watch, it succeeds--and that's an expression of the public sentiment too."

In the case of "Hail to the Chief," the public sentiment was against. The show, which featured Patty Duke as the President, got off to a very good start, attracting 32% of the available viewers and winning its time period for the April 9 premiere. But it drew only 24% the following week, 23% for the third episode and 22% for the fourth.

That's the TV democracy working cleanly and clearly, and Harris and Witt say they can live with that, even when it spells cancellation. Besides, their disappointment over "Hail to the Chief" is mitigated by their excitement over their next series, "The Golden Girls," which premieres on NBC in the fall.

"The Golden Girls" is a comedy about three women of about 60--two of them widows, one a divorcee--living together in Miami Beach. It stars Bea Arthur, the Emmy-winning former star of "Maude"; Rue McClanahan, who played Maude's neighbor Vivian, and Betty White, who won two Emmy Awards playing Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Estelle Getty, who appeared in "Torch Song Trilogy" on Broadway and is in the movie "Mask," co-stars as Arthur's mother, who is about 80. The other regular cast member is Charles Levin, who plays the ladies' gay housekeeper.

This series, too, will represent a breakthrough--another sign of how television is changing.

"For years the networks wouldn't go near people that age," Witt explains. "There are a wealth of performers who have been written off or only allowed to play grandparents or character roles."

But it was NBC executives who came up with the concept for "The Golden Girls" and asked Witt and Thomas to produce it.

Harris, who also collaborated with them on "Benson" (a "Soap" spinoff that is still running on ABC) and the short-lived "It Takes Two" in 1982, says she hadn't been planning to write for television again after "Hail to the Chief," but when she heard about NBC's idea, she jumped at it.

"It was so fresh. You just don't see women of that age on television," she says. "I responded instantly, which I rarely do. And I was right: It was a joy to write."

With its exceptional cast, Harris has no doubts that "The Golden Girls" will be funny. She hopes it will also be something more.

"Our perception of people in their 50s and 60s is that their lives are over," she says. "It's not true; they are very vibrant, alive, interested, sexy people. I think we can help change that perception."

To read some more articles about Hail to the Chief go to and and

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For an Article on Hail to the Chief go to
Date: Sat May 19, 2007 � Filesize: 55.7kb, 100.5kbDimensions: 756 x 1000 �
Keywords: The Cast of Hail To Chief


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