The cast for the first season.
Top row: Joan Van Ark, James Whitmore, Cleavon Little; bottom row: Nancy Fox, Reva Rose.
|Also known as||The New Temperatures Rising Show|
|Created by||William Asher|
James Whitmore (1972–1973)
Paul Lynde (1973–1974)
|Composer(s)||Vic Mizzy (1973–1974)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||46 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Harry Ackerman|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Ashmont Productions
Screen Gems Television
|Distributor||Columbia TriStar Domestic Television (2001)
Sony Pictures Television
|Original run||September 12, 1972– August 29, 1974|
Temperatures Rising (also known as The New Temperatures Rising Show) is an American television sitcom that ran on the ABC network from September 12, 1972 to August 29, 1974, during which time it was presented in three different formats and cast line-ups with a total of 46 episodes. The series was originally developed, produced, and occasionally directed by William Asher for Ashmont Productions and Screen Gems and was set in a (fictional) Washington, D.C. hospital with the cast consisting of Cleavon Little, Joan Van Ark, Reva Rose, Nancy Fox, and James Whitmore. The premise featured Whitmore as the hospital's no-nonsense chief-of-staff who is forced to deal with Little's outlandish antics. For this first season 26 episodes were produced and broadcast.
For the second season, Whitmore was replaced in the lead role by comedian Paul Lynde while Asher was replaced as producer by Duke Vincent and Bruce Johnson. The New Temperatures Rising Show, as the series was now retitled, featured a new supporting cast consisting of Sudie Bond, Barbara Cason, Jennifer Darling, Jeff Morrow, and John Dehner. Cleavon Little was the only returning member of the original cast. In this season Lynde was presented as the penny-pinching chief-of-staff, with Bond as his nagging mother, the owner of the hospital.
The New Temperatures Rising Show ran for 13 episodes before being placed on hiatus in January 1974 due to poor ratings and returned in July with yet another format. Asher came back as producer and restored the series to its original format—albeit with Paul Lynde continuing in the lead. For this third format—which reverted to the original title of Temperatures Rising—Lynde and Little remained in the cast with a new line-up of supporting players consisting of Alice Ghostley, Barbara Rucker, and (returning from the first season cast) Nancy Fox. Offered as a summer replacement on Thursday nights, the third format of the sitcom ran for seven episodes after which it was cancelled permanently.
The first season
Temperatures Rising was one of two sitcoms that the ABC network premiered in the 1972–73 prime time schedule, the other being The Paul Lynde Show.[nb 1] Both series were produced and developed by William Asher for Ashmont Productions and Screen Gems, who had had scored a major success for the network with Bewitched, a fantasy sitcom that first aired in 1964 and starred Asher's wife, Elizabeth Montgomery. Reputedly, Asher and Screen Gems had a contract stipulation with the network to cancel Bewitched after eight seasons rather than nine, thereby allowing him the opportunity to develop the two new series.[nb 2] William Asher described Temperatures Rising as being about "a young black surgeon who was always into mischief and things, but he was a very competent surgeon. James Whitmore was the head surgeon and he used to drive Whitmore crazy". Set in Capitol General, a (fictional) Washington, D.C. hospital, the series centered around five characters:
- Cleavon Little[nb 3] as Dr. Jerry Noland, a ghetto-raised intern who also works on the side as the hospital bookie. For him humor can be found in anything from an operation to a con job. Little had won a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway musical Purlie (1970) and had also appeared in the films Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and Vanishing Point (1971). His earlier television credits included a guest appearance on All in the Family, which led to him being cast in Temperatures Rising. That in turn led to him being cast in the Mel Brooks comedy film Blazing Saddles (1974).
- Joan Van Ark as Annie Carlisle, the hospital's beautiful, young, sexy, head nurse, who is always covering up for the inept crew. Van Ark was a theatrically-trained actress who had appeared on Broadway and later the London stage in The School for Wives, for which her performance earned her a Tony Award nomination. Her television work had included a role in the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives She would later play Valene Ewing on the long-running night-time soap Knot's Landing, for which she received the Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Actress in 1986 and 1989.
- Reva Rose as Nurse Mildred "Millie" MacInerny, who offers satirical comments on the shenanigans going on in the hospital. Rose had originated the role of Lucy in the original off-Broadway production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown for which she won the Theatre World and Clarence Derwent Awards. Among her film credits were If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) while her television work included appearances on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and That Girl. She would appear later in the film The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat and on television in Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Life with Lucy, Alice and The Love Boat.
- Nancy Fox as Ellen Turner, a shy student nurse who becomes Nolan's most faithful follower. Fox was cast in Temperatures Rising after Asher had spotted her in a commercial for Close-Up toothpaste. Trained as an ice skater and dancer she had worked in television earlier in the day-time soap opera The Doctors.[nb 4] Later in her career she was a regular on another day-time soap, General Hospital, and also appeared on tour and on Broadway with Debby Boone in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
- James Whitmore as Dr. Vincent Campanelli, the hospital's chief of surgery. An Italian-American and former combat surgeon, Campanelli looks at Nolan with both pride and agony and refers to the young intern and Nurses Carlisle, MacInerny, and Turner as the "Four Horsemen of Aggravation". A Marine Corps veteran of World War II, Whitmore won a Tony Award for his performance in the play Command Decision (1947) and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Battleground (1949), his second film appearance. He went on to lengthy career in film, television, and theatre, included two earlier series for the small screen, The Law and Mr. Jones (1962-63) and My Friend Tony (1969), and as Will Rogers in the one-man stage show Will Rogers' USA (1970). After Temperatures Rising he appeared in two more one-man stage shows, as Harry S. Truman in Give 'em Hell, Harry! and as Theodore Roosevelt in Bully. He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the 1975 film version of Harry[nb 5] and later a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role in an episode of The Practice.
In discussing the series, Asher noted:
- We too often forget the humanity of doctors and nurses. They become godlike to most of us and yet it is their humanity that makes them so interesting and enjoyable. We are not doing a drama and have no intention of doing anything like dealing with life and death issues. We want to make people laugh so we de-emphasize the more serious elements of hospital life. It isn't that he [Noland] just sees things differently, he also deals with them differently. That is why Noland will dream up a baby derby, a gambling night at the hospital, a variety show at Christmas and off-truck betting when patients get bored with the hospital routine.
The pilot episode of Temperatures Rising dealt with Noland broadcasting a bingo game in code over the hospital's public-address system. Jack Albertson guest starred as a United States Senator. Subsequent episodes featured Noland performing a secret operation on a young baseball player while Campanelli deals with a hospital inspector (Ed Platt), Noland hypnotizing a patient (Alice Ghostley) — and accidentally Nurse Turner as well — an act which nearly costs the hospital a large donation from a potential benefactor (Charles Lane), and John Astin as a gangster wanting Noland to be his personal physician. Still later Campanelli was seen having a brief romance with Nurse Turner's aunt (Beverly Garland), Noland helping out a new intern (Bernie Kopell) who has a reputation for being a jinx, and Noland performing a witchcraft ritual on a patient (Alan Oppenheimer) who thinks he has been cursed.
Jack Albertson returned in his role as a senator in a later episode dealing with Campanelli participating in a documentary film about hospital surgery, only to develop stage fright, therefore requiring Noland to take over the operation and thus receive all the acclaim. Likewise, Bernie Kopell returned in his hospital orderly role in two episodes, one where he causes a furor with a hospital scandal sheet, the other where Noland has to save him from being fleeced by a patient who is also a card sharp.
In his review of the premiere episode of Temperatures Rising for the Los Angeles Times, critic Don Page felt that James Whitmore was "totally wasted in this silly exercise" and that "guest Jack Albertson almost saves it with his portrayal of an annoyed senator. Otherwise, the diagnosis is terminal comedy". Likewise, Cecil Smith, also writing for the Times, claimed it as the "worse show of the season. Avoid it like the plague".
Other reviews were more favorable. Barbara Holsopple, TV and radio editor for the Pittsburgh Press, noted that "ABC did a gutsy turnabout in taking the heavy drama out of a hospital and replacing it with comedy. The venture worked well, thanks to excellent performances from the Temperatures Rising cast". She also praised Jack Albertson, noted that Whitmore "was little seen", and that the series "is the kind of tidy little show that brings chuckles". Win Fanning, a syndicated columnist, stated that "the comedy writing and performances by a beautifully integrated cast give Temperatures a bright, light quality so seldom achieved in a situation comedy" and that the it was "loaded with one-liners and sight gags, which, if kept on the level of the opener, promise many hours of hilarity". Fanning also praised Cleavon Little as "one of the comedy finds of any TV season" and Nancy Fox as "a fresh new face and talent giving promise of a long, successful career ahead". More praise for the series came after the broadcast of its fourth episode. An unidentified reviewer, writing for the Armored Sentinel (of Fort Hood, Texas), stated "If you're suffering from the case of the 'downs,' this series is a sure pick up!" The reviewer went on to note that "the brightest spot of the series is wacky Nancy Fox. Her role applies the wackiness of Goldie Hawn, but in situation comedy form. I'd watch the show just for her! The whole series is wacky and funny; it's downright good. I highly recommend it."
|Selected weeks showing Nielsen ratings positions for Tuesdays at 8:00 PM|
|November 5, 1972||47||12||46||N/A|||
|December 10, 1972||45||8||52||N/A|||
|January 7, 1973||42||14||55||N/A|||
|January 14, 1973||29||16||48||N/A|||
|January 21, 1973||29||16||52||N/A|||
|February 4, 1973||47||6||N/A||52|||
|February 11, 1973||43||8||N/A||41|||
ABC placed Temperatures Rising in the time-slot of Tuesday nights at 8:00 PM, where it debuted on September 12, 1972.[nb 6] Airing opposite it were Bonanza on NBC and the new sitcom Maude on CBS. Bonanza was entering its fourteenth year and offered up an ambitious two-hour season premiere dealing with the marriage of Little Joe Cartwright (Michael Landon)[nb 7] while Maude, starring Beatrice Arthur in title role, was a spin-off of All in the Family. Both shows were considered to present Temperatures Rising with stiff opposition in the "ratings game". This prediction turned out to be partly true, as Bonanza's two-hour season premiere performed exceptionally well in the ratings. Maude did much better than Temperatures Rising in the New York area while Temperatures fared better than Maude in the Los Angeles area. In the subsequent weeks, however, the ratings for Bonanza dropped sharply and in November 1972 NBC cancelled the series. In its place the network began airing motion pictures which performed well enough in the ratings to reduce the popularity of Temperatures Rising. As a result ABC decided to make significant changes to Temperatures for its second season.
The second season
As early as November 1972 James Whitmore expressed a desire to leave Temperatures Rising, claiming that "the show is basically a broad farce and I didn't feel it was right for me". As a replacement for Whitmore Screen Gems head John Mitchell decided to use comedian Paul Lynde, whose own sitcom, The Paul Lynde Show, also produced by William Asher, was airing on Wednesday nights. At the time Lynde was scoring second only to Peter Falk in TV popularity polls even though his sitcom—which aired opposite The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour on CBS— was floundering in the ratings. Asher was against making this change but was overruled as his contractual commitments to ABC had been used up.[nb 8]
The decision, then, was to replace Asher with two new producers, Bruce Johnson and Duke Vincent, whose previous credits included Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Jim Nabors Hour, Arnie, and The Little People. Under them, the title of the series was changed to The New Temperatures Rising Show and the tone went from light-hearted wackiness to a mode of black comedy similar to The Hospital, a 1971 film written by Paddy Chayefsky and starring George C. Scott. More specifically, the series, according to Vincent, was being turned…
- …into a savage satire of the medical profession: $185-a-day hospital rooms, fee-splitting doctors who don't know which end of the patient holds the appendix, operations on the wrong patient, misread X-rays, rampant malpractice and incredible ineptitude. We're not doing stories about a fouled-up hospital. These things really happen. Every story we've told is true. They're the results of untrained people, inadequate staff, horrendous costs, worn-out equipment, the demands of doctors. The doctors, not the patients, are the customers; they're the ones the hospitals have to please …
- Paul Lynde as Dr. Paul Mercy, the sneering, unscrupuless hospital administrator. Originally a night club comedian, Lynde had appeared in New Faces of 1952 and later in the both the stage and film versions of Bye Bye Birdie. After that he became a frequent guest on television, including recurring roles on The Perry Como Show and as the mischievous Uncle Arthur on Bewitched. Beginning in 1968, Lynde was a regular on the game show The Hollywood Squares, which brought him five Emmy nominations and also a special Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Television.
- Sudie Bond as Martha Mercy, the owner (and permanent resident) of the hospital who is also Dr. Mercy's obnoxious, overbearing mother. She constantly calls him with her pager to complain of everything. Bond—who was actually younger than Paul Lynde—made her New York acting debut in 1952 in a revival of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke. She went on to win three Obie Awards for her off-Broadway theater performances in Edward Albee's The American Dream and Samuel Beckett's The Sandbox and The Endgame. She appeared on television in Flo and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and in the films Silkwood and Johnny Dangerously.
- Barbara Cason as Miss Tillis, the head of administrative and accounting "who would let you bleed to death filling out forms". Cason had appeared on stage in Oh, Coward! and was later a regular on the television series Carter Country and It's Garry Shandling's Show.
- Jennifer Darling as Nurse "Windy" Winchester. Darling's later television appearances include The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Eight is Enough and Hooperman. 
- Jeff Morrow as Dr. Lloyd Axton. A stage veteran since 1936, Murrow began working in motion pictures in 1952 and appeared with Richard Burton in The Robe and later in several science fiction films, including This Island Earth and The Creature Walks Among Us.
- John Dehner as "society" Dr. Charles Claver. An extremely prolific actor, Dehner starred on radio in Frontier Gentleman and Have Gun – Will Travel and also appeared in the radio and television versions of Gunsmoke. In addition to The New Temperatures Rising Show, Dehner also starred in the television series The Roaring Twenties, The Baileys of Balboa, The Doris Day Show, Young Maverick and War and Remembrance.
- Cleavon Little as Dr. Jerry Noland, who was now being presented as the hospital's only sane figure.
For the 1973-74 television season ABC continued to air the revamped Temperatures Rising on Tuesday nights at 8:00 PM. At the same time and day CBS continued to air Maude while NBC introduced Chase, an hour long crime drama starring Mitchell Ryan. While the season premiere of Maude and the debut of Chase occurred on September 11, 1973, ABC delayed the premiere of The New Temperatures Rising Show until September 25.[nb 9]
The episodes produced by Johnson and Vincent included situations were Mercy exploited a 125-year old American Civil War veteran and dealt with a strike by the doctors and nurses. Another episode had Nolan create a mythical patient and then have him die and blame his death on the lack of cardiac crash carts on all the floors of the hospital. The favorite episode of the two producers was one "of mis-read X-rays of a pro footballer which results in placing him by mistake in 'Crutchfield's traction' in which holes are drilled in his head and tongs inserted in them".
Further reviews and sinking ratings
In reviewing The New Temperatures Rising Show, Associated Press television writer Jay Sharbutt noted, "First the hopeful note: There are faint signs the tinkering with Temperatures format could make the series funny later on, but only if the writing improves. The show now leaves most of the mugging to Lynde and no longer insists that each regular is wacky. It's all feeble stuff but the cast is vastly improved and the new approach portends to better things ahead."  Likewise, Los Angeles Times critic Cecil Smith, who considered the original format "maybe the three worse shows on television rolled into one" now remarked "Paul Lynde for the first time that I can recall has a part worthy of his mettle. The people surrounding him are first rate."
Despite some heavy promotion for the series' new concept the black comedy approach—especially with Paul Lynde—was apparently not what audiences wanted to see and the ratings fell well below the levels of the previous season. The last of the The New Temperatures Rising Show's thirteen episodes aired on January 8, 1974. The following Tuesday, January 15, ABC premiered Happy Days in its place.[nb 10] According to co-producer Mitchell, "… the audience didn't buy that at all. They just didn't get it. It was funny if you like black comedy, but if you don't it would disturb you. So the show failed miserably and we lost the job and the show."
When John Mitchell, the head of Screen Gems, noticed that The New Temperatures Rising Show was failing he contacted William Asher and asked him to salvage the series. According to Asher:
- They called me on the tennis court and asked if I'd go back to the old Temperatures, only this time with Paul [Lynde]. At this point we were still hoping to make it for the midseason. But it's like trying to repair a car while it's moving. After a couple of weeks we agreed that the show should go off the air in January, but continue production so that we would have 11 shows ready for airing any time they wanted them. Some of the nonsense and hijinks of the first season are gone and we have managed to keep a touch of reality of the second version.
As to why the series was not cancelled, Asher remarked, "I can answer that in two words: Paul Lynde." For the third format—which reverted back to the original title of Temperatures Rising and reduced the number of proposed episodes from eleven to seven—production on the series went into a three week shutdown and resumed on November 17, 1973. Also, Sudie Bond, Barbara Cason, Jennifer Darling, Jeff Morrow, and John Dehner were dropped from the cast and a new line-up assembled:
- Paul Lynde as Dr. Paul Mercy.
- Alice Ghostley as Edwina Moffitt, admissions nurse and sister of Dr. Mercy. Ghostley had appeared with Lynde on stage in New Faces of 1952 and, in 1965, received a Tony Award as Best Featured Actress for her performance in The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window. Her film credits include To Kill a Mockingbird and The Graduate. On television she and Kaye Ballard played the wicked step-sisters of Julie Andrews in the 1957 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Ghostley also had a recurring role as Esmeralda on Bewitched and was later a regular on Designing Women. She had also appeared as a guest star in an episode of the first season of Temperatures.
- Nancy Fox as Student Nurse Ellen Turner. Fox had been a regular in the first season and was now returning in the same role.
- Barbara Rucker as Nurse Amanda Kelly. Rucker had been appearing on television in commercials for Sheraton Hotels. She would later appearing in the film The Stepford Wives (1975) and would also be a regular in the day-time soap operas As the World Turns, One Life to Live, and Texas.
- Cleavon Little as Dr. Jerry Nolan, who was now being presented as somewhere between the jive-talking surgeon of the first season and the serious one of the second.
After a hiatus of six months, Temperatures Rising returned to the ABC network on July 14, 1974. Its new time slot of Thursday nights at 8:00 PM had previously been occupied by Chopper One, an adventure series. The situations presented this time around included Mercy setting up a surveillance system so that the staff will be kept on their toes and him saving the life of a popular country music singer (Dick Gautier). The final episode of the series aired on August 29, 1974.[nb 11] The attempt to resurrect the series was not successful and ABC finally cancelled it permanently. As William Asher said, "It didn't get on. It's too late. You can't do that to an audience. They won't accept it."
- The Paul Lynde Show featured the comedian as Paul Simms, a California attorney who lives with his wife Martha (Elizabeth Allen), daughters Barbara (Jane Actman) and Sally (Pamelyn Ferdin), and Barbara's husband Howie (John Calvin). Much of the show dealt with the generational problem between Simms and Howie, with Howie presented as someone "with an encyclopedic mind who can do just about anything suberbly—except hold down a job".
- During its final season ABC moved Bewitched from Wednesday nights at 8:00 to Saturday nights at 8:00, placing it opposite the CBS series All in the Family, which, at the time, was second in the ratings only to The Flip Wilson Show. The first episode of Bewitched to air in the new time slot was on January 15, 1972.
- William Asher stated that Temperatures Rising gave him a chance to work with a black actor. Cleavon Little's casting in the series reflected "pressure from the government and Negro organizations and concerned whites who believe that black representation on television was long overdue". Little was one of three black actors to star in a new series for the 1972-73 prime-time television season, the other two being Bill Cosby in a variety series, The New Bill Cosby Show, and George Stanford Brown in the police drama The Rookies.
- Initially Asher gave Fox a small role in an episode Bewitched, which utilized her ice-skating talent. He had also considered her for a part in The Paul Lynde Show but cast her in Temperatures Rising instead. While Temperatures was in production Fox declined the offer to leave the series and star in another, Needles and Pins.
- The film version of Give 'em Hell, Harry! was derived from a videotaped performance at the Moore Theater in Seattle, Washington, using a live editing process called Theatrovision. Whitmore also appeared in a CBS televised version of Will Rogers' USA (1972) and a theatrically released film version of Bully (1978)
- Prior to the debut of Temperatures Rising, its Tuesday night time slot was occupied by the second half of the popular hour-long crime drama series Mod Squad. When the FCC forced the networks to reduce their prime-time scheduling from 3½ hours to three Mod Squad had to be moved to Thursday nights at 8:00. On September 14, 1972 — two days after Temperatures Rising first aired — the fifth year of Mod Squad began with "The Connection", a special two-hour season premiere that featured Cleavon Little as one of its guest stars.
- Landon wrote and directed as well as starred in this episode. It was originally to have been about the marriage of Hoss Cartwright, Dan Blocker's character, but Blocker's death earlier in the year forced Landon to chance the episode's story.
- Said Asher: "The network—ugh—they're so stupid sometimes. The shows [Temperatures Rising and The Paul Lynde Show] were doing good, they weren't big hits, but they were doing good. They felt that if they could put Paul [Lynde] and Cleavon Little together that they would have a big hit. I didn't want to do that. I said I won't do it, not at the sacrifice of the show. It's wrong. I don't think it's a good idea. But they wanted to bring in somebody else as the head of the hospital. They wanted his [Lynde's] mother to be head of the hospital and his conflicts would be with her. and I just didn't think it was right. I didn't want to write it. I just didn't want to do it [and] I didn't. Someone else came in. It was a big thing with the network. They cancelled The Paul Lynde Show and put Paul in Temperatures Rising."
- On September 11, 1973, in lieu of broadcasting Temperatures Rising / The New Temperatures Rising Show, ABC aired The First Family of Washington, an unsold pilot starring Godfrey Cambridge. On September 18 the network aired Egan, a special half-hour drama starring former New York City Police Office Eddie Egan as himself.
- On that same day and time NBC replaced Chase with their popular series Adam-12.
- Following the demise of Temperatures Rising ABC moved The Odd Couple into the Thursday, 8:00 PM, time-slot.
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