Who's Watching the Kids?
|Who's Watching the Kids|
Who's Watching the Kids? opening title
|Theme music composer||Linda Harmon, vocalist|
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||11|
|Executive producer(s)||Garry Marshall
Anthony W. Marshall
|Production company(s)||Henderson Productions
Paramount Network Television
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution|
|Original run||September 22, 1978 – December 15, 1978|
Who's Watching the Kids? is an American sitcom which aired on NBC from September 22, 1978 until December 15, 1978. It was produced by Garry Marshall, who was partly responsible for ratings domination over at rival ABC at the time with his string of hits (Happy Days, its spin-offs Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy, et al.). The series focused on two young Las Vegas showgirls, working and rooming together, who each had a younger sibling living with them.
The series originated as the pilot special Legs, which NBC aired on May 19, 1978.
The titilating sitcom centered around two sexy Las Vegas showgirls sharing their lives together, each with a younger sibling in tow. Raving blonde beauty Stacy Turner (Caren Kaye) and voluptuous brunette Angie Vitola (Lynda Goodfriend) were close friends living their dream as Vegas performers at a local venue, Club Sand Pile. The club may have been third rate, but it was the perfect launching pad for the girls' career aspirations. While Stacy and Angie shared an apartment together, added responsibilities were present from the get-go, since both had custody of their much younger siblings. Living with them were Angie's 15-year-old brother Frankie (Scott Baio) and Stacy's 9-year-old kid sister Melissa (Tammy Lauren). Frankie and Melissa were rambunctious and worldly, and were forever getting into trouble; they loved to cook up schemes that would get them access to everything Sin City had to offer, including, for Frankie (who styled himself as "the Fox") closer opportunities to make time with the other beautiful women who performed at Club Sand Pile.
Stacy and Angie had to divide their time between their careers and keeping the kids on the straight and narrow, but it was always a challenge. In order to ease their situation, they acquired the help of their next door neighbor, aspiring journalist Larry Parnell (Larry Breeding) to watch the kids while they were off performing. Larry found himself alternating between the roles of family friend and foe, as he often had to chase Frankie and Melissa around in the midst of their scrapes every week. The two liked having Larry around, but they stopped at nothing to undermine anyone's supervision. Larry hoped someday to become a successful writer/reporter, but in the meantime had only made it to covering garden and weather reports at local TV station KVGS. Larry's friend and main cameraman at KVGS, the klutzy Bert Gunkel (James Belushi), also lived in the building and often helped Larry keep an eye on Frankie and Melissa.
Also in the cast were Mitzi Logan (Marcia Lewis), the heavyset host and owner of Club Sand Pile, who in addition to helping Angie and Stacy land their big break, was also their landlady. Memphis O'Hara (Lorrie Mahaffey) was a singer at the club, and was the most prominent object of Frankie's affection, although Frankie also made attempts to become friendly with Venus (Shirley Kirkes) and Bridget (Elaine Bolton), two other dancers at the club and close cohorts to Stacy and Angie.
Development and connection to other Garry Marshall series
Who's Watching the Kids? employed several actors who were already familiar faces from shows produced by Garry Marshall and his associates Thomas L. Miller and Edward K. Milkis. Those who had already worked with the producers were Caren Kaye, Lynda Goodfriend, Scott Baio, Shirley Kirkes and Elaine Bolton. These five originally appeared together as co-stars on Marshall's short-lived 1977 Happy Days spin-off Blansky's Beauties, which starred Nancy Walker. Blansky's Beauties had a very similar plotline to what became Who's Watching the Kids?: a bevy of Las Vegas showgirls seeking fame and fortune under the watchful eye of den mother and choreographer Nancy Blansky (Walker). Kaye, Goodfriend, Kirkes and Bolton were four of Blansky's showgirls, and Baio, in his first TV series role, played Anthony DeLuca, a 12-year-old romeo who was always trying to score with the older beauties.
Blansky's Beauties was cancelled after half a season, but Marshall refused to give up on the idea of a sitcom with a Las Vegas showgirls theme. Marshall took the basis of Blansky's Beauties and retooled it for a new series concept, that mainly focused on a group of sexy young ladies trying to make it in the Vegas entertainment world, without the aid of an older confidant or the presence of children. The concept proved to be even more sexually-driven than Blansky's Beauties, and was given the title Legs. NBC was interested in the new project, and agreed to a pilot which would be aired in the spring of 1978 as a one-time special. If the special fared well in the ratings, they would commit to a weekly series. Four of the original Blansky beauties--Kaye, Goodfriend, Kirkes and Bolton--were hired back by Marshall to star in Legs. For Lynda Goodfriend, this was the second transition from one Marshall series to another. After the cancellation of Blansky's, Goodfriend took up Marshall's offer to join the cast of Happy Days as the 1977-78 season began, playing Lori Beth Allen, the new love interest of Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard). If Legs went on to be a successful series, it is presumed that Marshall would have written off the character of Lori Beth on Happy Days in order for Goodfriend to commit to her co-starring role on the new show.
Legs was successful as a one time special when it aired in May 1978; therefore, NBC provided a berth for the series on its 1978 fall schedule. However, the network talked with Marshall about adding more of a family appeal to the sex-farce sitcom, which he eventually agreed to. Marshall added two young kids to the cast, and hired another one of his Happy Days actors away, Scott Baio, who had also joined the cast of that series in the fall of 1977, along with Lynda Goodfriend. Baio had become familiar to Happy Days viewers as Charles "Chachi" Arcola, cousin of Fonzie (Henry Winkler). He and young actress Tammy Lauren were entered into the fray of Legs as two kids who lived with their showgirl sisters. Only now, two showgirls instead of four would be the main focus; Kaye and Goodfriend were chosen to be the top-billing stars, while Kirkes and Bolton were relegated to smaller supporting roles. Marshall re-wrote the format so the kids could be well-integrated; the ultimate catch in the re-write was the dilemma Kaye and Goodfriend's characters faced as they were always busy in their performing career: "just who will be watching the kids?" This prompted the ultimate title change.
After Who's Watching the Kids? failed to make a good impression in the ratings, a few of its cast members would again defect to other Garry Marshall series. Scott Baio and Lynda Goodfriend promptly returned to Happy Days in early 1979, in the same roles they had left. Baio, as Chachi Arcola, would transfer over to one more Marshall series before the end of his career phase with this producer. In early 1982, he and Happy Days star Erin Moran received their own spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi.
Meanwhile, Tammy Lauren was immediately hired for the supporting role of Hilary Benson on Marshall & Miller/Milkis/Boyett's new ABC sitcom Angie, which premiered in February 1979. After the first season of Angie concluded, the producers decided to move Lauren over to an even larger role, as Stacey Richards on their new fantasy-based sitcom Out of the Blue, which only lasted 10 episodes in the fall of 1979.
Larry Breeding later guest starred on the Marshall hit Laverne & Shirley, in three episodes which aired between February 1982 and May 1983 (the series' end). In his last two appearances, Breeding played the character of Mike Bailey. Breeding was dating series star Penny Marshall during the time he appeared on Laverne & Shirley, following her divorce from Rob Reiner. Breeding's third appearance on the show aired posthumously, however, after the September 28, 1982 car crash on the Hollywood Freeway which claimed his life.
Lynda Goodfriend later appeared in a play at the Lee Strasberg Center, in 1984, called Four Stars. It was written for the stage by a fledgling writing team at the time, Schulte and Mahony, and they retooled the story into a teleplay with Goodfriend's assistance; Goodfriend went on to direct the project as a video special, which starred Julie Paris (daughter to actor and Happy Days director Jerry Paris). The production was financed by Henderson Productions (Garry Marshall), who helped cast the intimate ensemble show.
Before they were stars
A young actor by the stage name of Cole Dammett guest-starred on a few episodes of the series. After a string of minor TV guest roles and supporting roles in films during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dammett became a full-time musician under his real name of Anthony Kiedis, and with long-time friends of his, formed the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Constance McCashin guest starred in the episode "Love Finds Bert Gunkel" (aired November 3, 1978) as Sybil, Larry's elegant English cousin, whom Bert falls for. The following season, McCashin would begin her famous eight-year role as Laura Avery Sumner on Knots Landing.