Promotional cast photo
|Created by||Linda Bloodworth-Thomason|
|Starring||Burt Reynolds |
Jay R. Ferguson
|Narrated by||Ossie Davis|
|Opening theme||Instrumental theme |
by Sonny Curtis (1990–1992)
Theme with lyrics
by Bobby Goldsboro (1992–1994)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||98 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Linda Bloodworth-Thomason|
|Running time||30 minutes |
|Production company(s)||Bloodworth/Thomason Mozark Productions |
CBS Entertainment Productions
Burt Reynolds Productions
CBS Broadcast International
|Original release||September 21, 1990 –|
May 23, 1994
Evening Shade is an American sitcom television series that aired on CBS from September 21, 1990, to May 23, 1994. The series stars Burt Reynolds as Wood Newton, an ex-professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who returns to rural Evening Shade, Arkansas, to coach a high-school football team with a long losing streak. Reynolds personally requested to use the Steelers as his character's former team, because he was a fan.
The general theme of the show is the appeal of small-town life. Episodes often ended with a closing narration by Ossie Davis, as his character Ponder Blue, summing up the events of the episode, always closing with "... in a place called Evening Shade." The opening segment included clips from around Arkansas, including the famous McClard's Bar-B-Q, which is situated on Albert Pike Blvd. and South Patterson St. in Hot Springs National Park.
A former pro football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers who quit due to injury, Wood Newton has settled down to a quiet life as the coach of the Evening Shade high-school football team—a position that is slightly controversial as the team is notorious for losing every game. His wife, Ava, whom he married when she was only 18 (a frequently voiced grievance by her father, Evan Evans, the owner of the local newspaper) and he are devoted to one another despite the age difference. Ava is an ambitious and successful practicing lawyer who in the first season is elected district attorney while pregnant with their fourth (unintended) child, Emily. Among Wood and Ava's closest friends are the somewhat older Harlan Eldridge, the town doctor, and his trusting wife, Merleen, who is always eager to believe the best of people.
The show's plots focus on the various difficulties that Wood faces in living a much different life than he had ever expected, as well as the obvious family pressures of two jobs and four children. Additional tensions come from Ava's Aunt Frieda, Evan's perennially discontented sister, who especially disapproves when Evan begins dating Fontana Beausoleil, who works as a stripper and who discovers in season two that she is the long-lost daughter Merleen gave up for adoption when she was 15. Evan and Fontana get married in a three-part episode in season two, and have a child in season three. The show also gets mileage out of the incongruity of the decidedly unathletic assistant coach Herman Stiles, the most the school can afford due to budgetary pressures. Herman is well-meaning and intensely eager to learn the job. In the course of the first season, he catches the eye of the somewhat prim and proper high-school principal, Margaret, and they begin dating.
On July 13 and 20, 1993, CBS aired two parts of an hour-long pilot, Harlan & Merleen, as a proposed spin-off from the series. The pilot had the Eldridges open their home to young pregnant women who needed help (one of whom was also played by Leah Remini). The pilot did not make it to series status.
- Woodrow "Wood" Newton (Burt Reynolds)
- Ava Evans Newton (Marilu Henner)
- Evan Evans (Hal Holbrook)
- Ponder Blue (Ossie Davis)
- Dr. Harlan Eldridge (Charles Durning)
- Herman Stiles (Michael Jeter)
- Taylor Newton (Jay R. Ferguson)
- Molly Newton (Melissa Renée Martin) (1990–1991), (Candace Hutson) (1991–1994)
- Will Newton (Jacob Parker)
- Nub Oliver (Charlie Dell)
- Frieda Evans (Elizabeth Ashley)
- Merleen Eldridge (Ann Wedgeworth)
- Fontana Beausoleil (Linda Gehringer)
- Margaret Fouch (Ann Hearn)
- Dorothy (Jane Abbott)
- Virgil (Burton Gilliam)
- Andrew Phillpot (David A. R. White), Taylor Newton's best friend
- Neal "Thor" Heck (Pepper Sweeney) (1991–93)
- Aimee Thompson (Hilary Swank) (1991–1992), (Ari Meyers) (1992–1993), Taylor's girlfriend
- Irma Wallingsford (Alice Ghostley) (1992–1994)
- Daisy (Leah Remini) (1993), Taylor's girlfriend after his break-up with Aimee, transplanted from New York
- Wanda (Lisa Kudrow) (1993–94), waitress at Blue's Barbeque Villa
- Emily Newton (Alexa Vega) (1993–94), youngest child of Wood and Ava, who begins appearing as a five-year old in the final season
Nielsen ratings/broadcast history
|1) 1990–1991||Friday night at 8:00 pm||#49||12.1||N/A|
|2) 1991–1992||Monday night at 8:00 pm||#15||15.6||14,367,600|
The series enjoyed strong ratings during its entire run, hitting its peak in season two with a number 15 Nielsen ranking. At the time, this was a notably higher position than The Cosby Show, which had recently fallen from a five-year streak as TV's number-one program. Evening Shade was still a top-30 performer, after CBS cancelled the series in May 1994. Skyrocketing production costs, mainly attributed to the large salaries of the show's top-caliber, all-star cast, were the primary reason given for the cancellation (which was confirmed by Marilu Henner in her September 1994 appearance on Charlie Rose). However, some have speculated that the show's ending was a decision made by Reynolds, rather than CBS, as his recent marriage troubles with Loni Anderson (from whom he was divorced in 1993) were thought to have affected his work.
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The show's production company, Mozark Productions, was a joint venture by creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason of Missouri and her husband, Arkansas native, Harry Thomason, which concurrently produced another successful show set in the South, Designing Women. Hal Holbrook's Designing Women character was killed off to free the actor to star in the newer program. The series was produced in association with CBS Productions, Burt Reynolds Productions, and MTM Enterprises. CBS retained full ownership of the series while MTM syndicated the series in the United States.
- Letofsky, Irv (October 29, 1990). "The Sitcom Behind the Sitcom: Television: The countdown to an 'Evening Shade' rehearsal can be comedic. Just ask writer and producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- Wallace, David (February 17, 1991). "TELEVISION: The Dawning of 'Evening Shade': How the producing team of Harry and Linda Thomason lured Burt Reynolds and other movie heavyweights to a sitcom". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- "Evening Shade - Paramount Announces Long-Awaited DVDs for Burt Reynolds' Series". TV Shows on DVD. March 31, 2008. Archived from the original on December 21, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016..
- "Evening Shade - the complete collection #7130". Visual Entertainment Incorporated. Retrieved March 27, 2019.