Temperatures Rising

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This article is about the television series. For the album by Loverboy, see Temperature's Rising. For other uses, see Temperature Rising.
Temperatures Rising
Temperatures Rising.jpg
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
Genre Situation comedy
Created by William Asher
Composer(s) Vic Mizzy (1973–1974)[1]
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 46 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Harry Ackerman
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s)
Original channel ABC
Original run September 12, 1972 (1972-09-12)  – August 29, 1974 (1974-08-29)

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[edit]

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.[3][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".[7] Set in Capitol General, a fictional Washington, D.C. hospital, the series centered around five characters:

  • Nancy Fox as Ellen Turner, a shy student nurse who becomes Nolan's most faithful follower.[12][2] Fox was cast in Temperatures Rising after Asher had spotted her in a commercial for Close-Up toothpaste.[nb 4] Trained as an ice skater and dancer she had worked in television earlier in the day-time soap opera The Doctors.[21][nb 5] 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.[24]

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.[25]

The pilot episode of Temperatures Rising was written by Sheldon Keller, whose previous credits had included writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show.[29][30] It 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.[31][32] Subsequent episodes featured Noland performing a secret operation on a young baseball player while Campanelli deals with a hospital inspector (Ed Platt),[33][34] 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),[35][36] and John Astin as a gangster wanting Noland to be his personal physician.[37][38] Still later Campanelli was seen having a brief romance with Nurse Turner's aunt (Beverly Garland),[39][40] Noland helping out a new intern (Bernie Kopell) who has a reputation for being a jinx,[41][42] and Noland performing a witchcraft ritual on a patient (Alan Oppenheimer) who thinks he has been cursed.[43][44]

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.[45][46] Likewise, Bernie Kopell returned in his hospital orderly role in two episodes, one where he causes a furor with a hospital scandal sheet,[47][48] the other where Noland has to save him from being fleeced by a patient who is also a card sharp.[49][50]


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".[13] Likewise, Cecil Smith, also writing for the Times, claimed it as the "worst show of the season. Avoid it like the plague".[51]

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".[12] 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 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".[29] 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."[52]


ABC placed Temperatures Rising in the time-slot of Tuesday nights at 8:00 PM, where it debuted on September 12, 1972.[9][nb 7] Airing opposite it were Bonanza on NBC and the new sitcom Maude on CBS.[62] 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 8] 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".[12] 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.[63] In the subsequent weeks, however, the ratings for Bonanza dropped sharply and in November 1972 NBC cancelled the series.[64][nb 9] 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.[3]

The second season[edit]

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".[66] 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.[3][7][nb 10]

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, thus becoming "a savage satire of the medical profession" with $185-a-day hospital rooms, incompetent, fee-splitting doctors, operations on wrong patients, misread X-rays, and rampant malpractice.[67]

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 …

—Duke Vincent[67]
The cast of the second season. Front row: Jennifer Darling, Sudie Bond, Barbara Cason; back row: Cleavon Little, Paul Lynde, Jeff Morrow.

For this new season Johnson and Vincent dropped Joan Van Ark, Reva Rose, and Nancy Fox from the series, thus leaving Cleavon Little as the only returning cast member. The new cast consisted of:

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.[78][79][nb 11]

The episodes produced by Johnson and Vincent included situations where Mercy exploited a 125-year old American Civil War veteran[81] and dealt with a strike by the doctors and nurses.[82] 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.[83] 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".[67]

Further reviews and sinking ratings[edit]

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." [84] 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."[68]

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.[3] The last of the The New Temperatures Rising Show's thirteen episodes aired on January 8, 1974.[85] The following Tuesday, January 15, ABC premiered Happy Days in its place.[86][nb 12] 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."[87]

Summer replacement[edit]

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 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. 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."[3]

As to why the series was not cancelled, Asher remarked, "I can answer that in two words: Paul Lynde."[3] 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.[88] 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.
  • Nancy Fox as Student Nurse Ellen Turner. Fox had been a regular in the first season and was now returning in the same role.[89]
  • 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.[3]

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.[89] The situations presented this time around included Mercy setting up a surveillance system so that the staff will be kept on their toes[92] and him saving the life of a popular country music singer (Dick Gautier).[93] The final episode of the series aired on August 29, 1974.[94][nb 13] 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."[7]



  1. ^ 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".[2]
  2. ^ 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.[4][5] The first episode of Bewitched to air in the new time slot was on January 15, 1972.[6]
  3. ^ William Asher stated that Temperatures Rising gave him a chance to work with a black actor.[7] 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.[8]
  4. ^ According to the trivia section on Nancy Fox at the Internet Movie Database it was Asher's wife, Elizabeth Montgomery, and not Asher himself, who spotted Fox in the toothpaste commercial.[20]
  5. ^ 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.[22][23]
  6. ^ 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.[26] Whitmore also appeared in a CBS televised version of Will Rogers' USA (1972) and a theatrically released film version of Bully (1978)[27]
  7. ^ 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.[60][61]
  8. ^ 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.[12]
  9. ^ The final broadcast of Bonanza was on January 16, 1973.[65]
  10. ^ 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."[7]
  11. ^ 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.[78] On September 18 the network aired Egan, a special half-hour drama starring former New York City Police Office Eddie Egan as himself.[80]
  12. ^ On that same day and time NBC replaced Chase with their popular series Adam-12.[86]
  13. ^ Following the demise of Temperatures Rising ABC moved The Odd Couple into the Thursday, 8:00 PM, time-slot.[95]


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