Promotional cast photo
|Created by||Linda Bloodworth-Thomason|
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
Burt Reynolds Productions
|Distributor||20th Television (U.S.)
CBS Television Distribution (DVDs and non-us, 2008–present)
|Original release||September 21, 1990 – May 23, 1994|
Evening Shade is an American television sitcom 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 is a fan.
The general theme of the show is the appeal of small town life. Episodes 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-be-que, 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. He and 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), 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's 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'd 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 saw 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)
- Alvin (Billy Bob Thornton) (1991) Wood's newly released jailbird cousin.
- 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 (Wanda Jones) (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 #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 when CBS cancelled the show in the spring of 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 producer/star Reynolds, rather than CBS, as his recent marriage troubles with ex-wife Loni Anderson (from whom he was divorced in 1993) were thought to have impacted his work. Yet, Reynolds was blindsided by the cancellation and said he would then focus on his feature career.
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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 (now CBS Television Studios), Burt Reynolds Productions, and MTM Enterprises (now 20th Century Fox Television). 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.". The 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". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2010.