Mr. Belvedere

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Mr. Belvedere
Mr Belvedere.jpg
Mr. Belvedere title card, from seasons 3–6
Genre Sitcom
Based on Belvedere (novel), by Gwen Davenport
Developed by Frank Dungan
Jeff Stein
Starring Christopher Hewett
Bob Uecker
Ilene Graff
Rob Stone
Tracy Wells
Brice Beckham
Theme music composer Judy Hart-Angelo
Gary Portnoy
Opening theme "According to Our New Arrival," performed by Leon Redbone
Composer(s) Lionel Newman (music supervision, seasons 1–2)
Ben Lanzarone (additional music, seasons 3–6)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 117 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Frank Dungan
Jeff Stein
Tony Sheehan (1985–1987)
Liz Sage (1989–1990)
Producer(s) Patricia Rickey
Jeff Ferro (1989–1990)
Editor(s) Edward J. Brennan
Jessie Hoke
Don Wilson
Location(s) ABC Television Center, Los Angeles, California
Camera setup Videotape
Multi-camera
Single-camera (on-location shoots for at least two episodes)
Running time 24 minutes
Production company(s) Lazy B/F.O.B. Productions
20th Century Fox Television
Distributor 20th Television
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original run March 15, 1985 (1985-03-15) – July 8, 1990 (1990-07-08)

Mr. Belvedere is an American sitcom that originally aired on ABC from March 15, 1985 to July 8, 1990. The series is based on the Lynn Aloysius Belvedere character created by Gwen Davenport for her 1947 novel Belvedere, which was later adapted into the 1948 film Sitting Pretty.[1] The sitcom stars Christopher Hewett in the title role, who takes a job as a housekeeper with an American family headed by George Owens, played by Bob Uecker.

Premise[edit]

The series follows posh housekeeper Lynn Belvedere, as he struggles to adapt to the Owens household. The breadwinner, George (Bob Uecker), is a sportswriter (however, in the pilot, he worked in construction). His wife Marsha (Ilene Graff) is attending law school. At the show's start, oldest son Kevin (Rob Stone) is a senior in high school, daughter Heather (Tracy Wells) is a freshman, and Wesley (Brice Beckham) is in elementary school. Over the course of the series, George becomes a sportscaster (a career shared with Uecker, who balanced his role as the longtime play-by-play announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers while starring in the series), Marsha graduates from law school and starts a career as a lawyer, Kevin leaves for college and gets his own apartment, and Heather moves up in high school.

Several episodes deal with the relationship between Wesley and Mr. Belvedere, who are always at odds with one another, with Wesley constantly antagonizing Belvedere. It is shown that deep down, however, they really love each other. In season two's "Wesley's Friend" – one of the series' many very special episodes – Danny, one of Wesley's classmates, contracts HIV via Factor VIII (the same type of the disease contracted by Ryan White). Danny is taken out of school due to the ignorance and uncertainty that shared by the parents of many of the other children at Wesley's school. After hearing rumors from his friends about how HIV can be spread. leading them to shun him if he keeps spending time with Danny, Wesley begins to shun Danny in fear of getting the disease himself. Mr. Belvedere is there for him and the child, and he helps Wesley to shed his fear of the boy and publicly accept him as his friend.

Throughout the series, Mr. Belvedere serves as a mentor of sorts to Wesley as well as to the other children. Being a cultured man with many skills and achievements (having even once worked for Winston Churchhill), he also comes to serve as some sort of a "counselor" to the Owens clan, helping them solve their dilemmas and stay out of mischief.

Each episode ends with Mr. Belvedere writing in his journal, recounting the events of the day (which is heard by the audience via his narration) with the Owens family and what he got out of it in terms of a lesson.

A frequent gag on the show involves Heather's air-headed best friend Angela (Michele Matheson), who always (except for in one episode) mispronounces Mr. Belvedere's name (such as calling him "Mr. Bumpersticker", "Mr. Bellpepper", "Mr. Butterfinger" or "Mr. Velvetta"). Another frequent gag involves George and Mr. Belvedere butting heads, with George being annoyed with his "nosy English housekeeper" always interfering. Yet another recurring gag features George always trying to be initiated into a local charity club, the "Happy Guys of Pittsburgh". Wesley's highly acrimonious relationship with the never-seen next door neighbors, the Hufnagels, and the shenanigans he pulls on them was another recurring plot element.

In the two-part series finale, Mr. Belvedere marries, and ends up leaving the Owens family to move to Africa.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The character of Lynn Belvedere was originally created by Gwen Leys Davenport in her 1947 novel, Belvedere. The following year, the title character was portrayed by Clifton Webb in the film Sitting Pretty, which told the story of an arrogant genius who answers an employment ad for a babysitter for three bratty kids. He accepts such employment because he is secretly writing a novel about a community filled with gossips and busybodies. Webb's performance in the film earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and he reprised the role in two more movies, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951).[1]

As early as the 1950s, attempts were made to adapt the character to television; three pilots for proposed series based on the Belvedere character were made during the 1950s and 1960s, including a 1965 version starring Victor Buono in the title role. All efforts, however, were unsuccessful until 1985, when ABC picked up Mr. Belvedere to series to serve as a mid-season replacement, with British actor Christopher Hewett playing Lynn Belvedere.[2]

Pre-production[edit]

The series' co-creators and executive producers, Frank Dungan and Jeff Stein, pitched the series as "a very elegant, very British sophisticate hired to restore order to a chaotic household in a Pittsburgh suburb." The show eventually developed with a middle-class family in suburban Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. According to Dungan and Stein, Pittsburgh was chosen as the show's setting because "It was either Pittsburgh or Paris and Paris doesn't have the Penguins... we wanted someplace with seasons and sporting activity... A city kinda going through a resurgence... with character and traditions that is moving into the '80s, a blue collar community that is moving into the up and coming, yet with the traditional spirit of the country. From everything we've read, Pittsburgh is moving into high tech."

Weeks after choosing Pittsburgh, the city was named by Rand-McNally as the most livable American city, "national publicity" that the producers promised to use. Both Dungan (who hailed from Philadelphia) and Stein (who is from Cleveland) admitted to never having been to Pittsburgh prior to developing the series, though Dungan's sister attended Carnegie Mellon University. "I remember for four years she talked about how Pittsburgh was changing, and about how different it was from Philadelphia." Stein admitted that early on, "we thought about setting the show in Cleveland, but that's too jokey" and that "we're not doing Pittsburgh jokes. We like Pittsburgh. We like the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's a classy ballclub. And we like Willie Stargell." No scenes from the pilot nor the first season's six episodes were shot in Pennsylvania, however the producers promised if they "get picked up for fall [1985–86] we'll probably come to Pittsburgh."[3]

The producers educated themselves on Pittsburgh locales with a promotional calendar provided by the Pittsburgh Media Group (PMG), a consortium of public officials and Western Pennsylvania media. Dungan and Stein used it for story ideas during season one after the PMG pitched several studio groups in Los Angeles in January 1985. "People were impressed... the calendar has Pittsburgh scenes for each month. The Bridge of Sighs is February. The PPG Building is March. Three Rivers Stadium gets three months."[3]

Cast[edit]

Main characters[edit]

  • Christopher Hewett as Mr. Lynn Belvedere (appeared in all 117 episodes)
  • Bob Uecker as George Owens (appeared in 114 of 117 episodes)
  • Ilene Graff as Marsha Cameron Owens (appeared in all 117 episodes)
  • Rob Stone as Kevin Owens (appeared in 115 of 117 episodes)
  • Tracy Wells as Heather Owens (appeared in 116 of 117 episodes)
  • Brice Beckham as Wesley T. Owens (appeared in all 117 episodes)

Recurring characters[edit]

  • Casey Ellison as Miles Knobnoster, Wesley's best friend, who is always being made fun of because of his orthodontic headgear.
  • Michele Matheson as Angela Shostakovich, Heather's best friend, who always mispronounces Mr. Belvedere's name.
  • Raleigh Bond as Burt Hammond, bombastic and overly talkative chief spokesman and membership director for the Happy Guys of Pittsburgh, a local men's club; he is always trying to initiate George as a member. His final appearance was in the season five episode "Stakeout," as Bond had died several months after the show had been taped.
  • Jack Dodson as Carl Butlam, Mr. Hammond's obsequious assistant.
  • Winifred Freedman as Wendy, Kevin's overweight, geeky and self-conscious high school friend who has a crush on him.
  • Robert Goulet, legendary singer and actor, who plays himself. Occasionally sings duets with Marsha. George finds him to be irritating.
  • Norman Bartold as Skip Hollings, George's co-anchor at the television station. Prior to the character's first appearance in season four, Bartold played as a hotel clerk in a season three episode.
  • Willie Garson as Carl, Kevin's best friend.
  • Patti Yasutake (or by Maggie Han in some episodes) as Tami, one of George's co-anchors at the television station.
  • Laura Mooney as Marjorie, a Junior High student, and one of Wesley's love interests during the final season. Prior to playing the character in season six, Mooney appeared as "Roberta" in a season four episode.

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes First air date Last air date
Season 1 7 March 15, 1985 April 26, 1985
Season 2 22 September 27, 1985 March 28, 1986
Season 3 22 September 26, 1986 May 15, 1987
Season 4 24 October 30, 1987 May 6, 1988
Season 5 22 October 14, 1988 May 5, 1989
Season 6 22 September 16, 1989 July 8, 1990

Theme song[edit]

The show's theme song, "According to Our New Arrival," was performed by ragtime singer Leon Redbone. It was written by Judy Hart-Angelo and Gary Portnoy,[4] who also co-wrote the theme songs to Cheers and Punky Brewster.

The song was originally composed in 1984 for a rejected television pilot called Help (which was later resurrected as Marblehead Manor for NBC in 1987), which starred a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards as an inept member of an eccentric couple's household staff, who were perpetually conniving to pull the wool over the eyes of the mansions' newly hired head butler. With a minor lyrical rewrite, it quickly became the theme song to Mr. Belvedere.[5] In 2007, a never-before-heard full-length version of the theme was released by Portnoy on his CD, Destiny.

There were three different ending themes during the show's original run:

  1. An instrumental version of the theme song was used as the ending theme for Seasons 1 and 2.
  2. A Dixieland rendition of the ending theme was used in Season 3.
  3. A jazzier rendition of the ending theme was used in Seasons 4–6.

For syndicated reruns, a shorter 30-second version was recorded, in order to accompany the shorter opening for the syndicated airings. The original theme song was 55 seconds long; the original longer version was been restored on DVD releases of the series distributed by Shout! Factory.

Ratings and cancellation[edit]

Mr. Belvedere did not place within Nielsen's Top 30 shows throughout its six-season run; however it did have a relatively solid ratings base, and often won its time slot.

Its first season (1985) was exempt from the Nielsen ratings as it aired too few episodes before the end of April to be counted.[6] In its second season (1985–86), the series ranked at #45 with a 14.8 rating.[7]

During season three (1986–87), the show fell to 51st place with a 13.7 rating.[8] At the end of the 1986-87 season, ABC decided to cancel the show after three seasons,[9] but negative feedback from fans of the series led the network to reverse its decision and order a fourth season that debuted in October 1987.[10] In season four (1987–88), the show fell to 64th place and an 11.5 rating for the year.[11] For its fifth season (1988–89), the show rose to a 12.2 rating, placing it at #47 for the season.[12]

For its sixth and final season (1989–90), Mr. Belvedere left its longtime Friday night slot (which began its evolution into the long-running TGIF block that season) and was moved to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday nights. The move led Mr. Belvedere to suffer a steep ratings decline, falling to a 6.3 rating. The final episode to air before it was put on hiatus on December 30, 1989 ranked #70 out of 83 shows.[13][14] ABC canceled the series for good in February 1990.[15] The two-part finale, which aired on July 1 and July 8, 1990, ranked #59 and #37, respectively, out of the 86 shows that aired during those weeks.[16][17]

Syndication[edit]

In addition to its existing prime time airings, ABC aired reruns of the first three seasons of Mr. Belvedere on the network's daily daytime schedule from September 7, 1987 to January 15, 1988, replacing the game show Bargain Hunters.[18]

On September 11, 1989 (around the same time the show entered its final season), and continuing in an on-and-off manner until 1997, it was seen in local syndication on select Fox affiliates. Along with the addition of seasons four through six, ten previously unaired episodes (two from season five and eight from season six), were also added to the syndication package. Advertisements for the shows' upcoming back-end syndicated run began appearing in issues of Broadcasting & Cable magazine, as early as 1986, long before plans were even announced for ABC to air daytime reruns.[19][not in citation given] The syndication package initially consisted of all 95 half-hour episodes produced up until the end of season five in 1989; the following year, season six (the remaining 22 half-hour episodes) was finally included in the package.

In the early 2000s, reruns of the series aired on Foxnet (a master feed of the Fox network for markets without a local affiliate, which aired syndicated programs outside of network programming),[20] and on CTS in Canada from 2002 to 2004.

On December 17, 2009, American Life Network aired both of the series' Christmas-themed episodes, as part of the network's month-long block of holiday-centered episodes of series from 20th Century Fox Television (season four's "Christmas Story" and season six's "A Happy Guy's Christmas"). This was the first time in a little over a decade that Mr. Belvedere was syndicated in U.S.[20] On or around October 3, 2011, reruns began airing on FamilyNet, marking the first time that the series had been regularly syndicated in over 15 years. Around November 2012, Dish Network began broadcasting FamilyNet's successor channel, Rural TV, making the show viewable throughout the U.S. on weeknights (with commercial bumpers intact briefly).[20] On January 5, 2015, Antenna TV began airing reruns of the series, initially airing seven days a week.

DVD releases[edit]

Shout! Factory (under license from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) has released the first four seasons of Mr. Belvedere on DVD in Region 1, featuring the original unedited prints of the episodes.[21][22][23] Currently, Shout! Factory does not have the DVD rights to seasons five and six, and has been involved in protracted negotiations to acquire those remaining episodes (46 in total) for future releases.[24]

DVD Name Ep# Release Date Special Features
Seasons One & Two 29 March 17, 2009
  • New interviews with Bob Uecker, Ilene Graff, Rob Stone, and Brice Beckham
  • "The Guy who Plays Mr. Belvedere Fanclub" sketch from Saturday Night Live with Tom Hanks from 1992
Season Three 22 September 8, 2009
  • Six audio commentaries with Ilene Graff, Rob Stone, Tracy Wells and Brice Beckham ("Debut", "Kevin's Date", "Pills", "The Crush", "The Competition", "Kevin's Older Woman")
Season Four♦ 20 January 19, 2010
  • Episode promos created for the syndication package
Season Five 24 TBA
  • TBA
Season Six 22 TBA
  • TBA

♦ - Shout! Factory select title, sold exclusively through Shout's online store.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1985 Primetime Emmy Award Won Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Series George Spiro Dibie
(For episode "Stranger in the Night")
1986 Young Artist Awards Nominated Best New Television Series – Comedy or Drama
-
Best Young Supporting Actor in a New Television Series Brice Beckham
Won Best Young Actress Starring in a New Television Series Tracy Wells
1987 Nominated Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress, Starring in a Television, Comedy or Drama Series Tracy Wells
Exceptional Performance by a Young Actor Starring in a Television Comedy or Drama Series Brice Beckham
1988 Nominated Best Family Comedy Series
-
Best Young Female Superstar in Television Tracy Wells
Best Young Male Superstar in Television Brice Beckham
1989 Nominated Best Young Actress Guest Starring in a Drama or Comedy Series Laura Jacoby
(For episode "Pigskin")
Best Young Actress – Starring in a Television Comedy Series Tracy Wells
Best Young Actor – Starring in a Television Comedy Series Brice Beckham
Best Family Television Series
-
2004 TV Land Award Nominated Best Broadcast Butler Christopher Hewett

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Gwen Davenport, 92, 'Belvedere' Author". The New York Times. April 15, 2002. Retrieved December 13, 2013. 
  2. ^ Melanie Proctor (July 14, 1988). "Mr. Belvedere at your service". New Straits Times. p. 14. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Holsopple, Barbara (March 10, 1985). "Pittsburgh Gets a TV Series". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 5. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  4. ^ Tim Brooks; Earle F. Marsh (October 17, 2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 903. ISBN 0-345-49773-2. 
  5. ^ garyportnoy.com
  6. ^ "'Dynasty' Ends As No. 1 Series". The Albany Herald. April 27, 1985. p. 2B. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Season's Final Ratings". Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. April 23, 1986. p. 4E. 
  8. ^ "Year-end ratings". USA Today. April 22, 1987. p. 3D. 
  9. ^ "Parton Show Heads 8 New ABC Fall Series". Philadelphia Inquirer. May 16, 1987. p. C1. 
  10. ^ "Thank you, ABC, for bringing back "Mr. Belvedere"...". latimes.com. December 20, 1987. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Final rankings for the 1987-'88 season". The Miami News. April 20, 1988. p. 3C. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  12. ^ Joseph Walker (April 26, 1989). "Poking Around Through the Rubble Of the 1988-89 Television Season". The Deseret News. p. 6C. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  13. ^ "ABC Puts Two More On Cancellation List". Wichita Eagle. December 7, 1989. p. C1. 
  14. ^ Ratings for the week of December 25, 1989
  15. ^ Ed Bark (February 15, 1990). "For ABC, the King is dead". The Dallas Morning News. 
  16. ^ Ratings for the week of June 25, 1990
  17. ^ Ratings for the week of July 2, 1990
  18. ^ Mr. Belvedere Online
  19. ^ americanradiohistory.com
  20. ^ a b c "FamilyNet Fall 2011 Schedule Part II With Sitcoms Like Mr. Belveder; The Parkers Return to BET". sitcomsonline.com. September 6, 2011. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Mr. Belvedere - SCOOP: Get Your First Look at DVD Package Art for Mr. Belvedere - Seasons 1 and 2!". tvshowsondvd.com. 
  22. ^ "Mr. Belvedere - The Butler is Back! A Season 3 DVD is Scheduled for Release". tvshowsondvd.com. 
  23. ^ "Mr. Belvedere - Fans Get a Season 4 Set from Shout! Factory...But Not in Stores". tvshowsondvd.com. 
  24. ^ David Lambert (November 12, 2012). "The "What's The Hold-up?" FAQ". tvshowsondvd.com. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 

External links[edit]