Mr. T and Tina

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Mr. T and Tina
Pat Morita in promo for Mr T and Tina (1976).jpg
Pat Morita in a promotional photo for the television series Mr. T and Tina
GenreSitcom
Created byJames Komack
Directed byRick Edelstein
James Komack
James Sheldon
Dennis Steinmetz
StarringPat Morita
Susan Blanchard
Opening theme"Chicago", arranged by George Aliceson Tipton
Composer(s)George Aliceson Tipton
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes9 (4 unaired)
Production
Executive producer(s)James Komack
Producer(s)Bob Carroll, Jr.
Madelyn Davis
Gary Shimokawa
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production company(s)The Komack Company
Release
Original networkABC
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 25 (1976-09-25) –
October 30, 1976 (1976-10-30)
Chronology
Related showsWelcome Back, Kotter

Mr. T and Tina is an American sitcom[1] and a spin-off of Welcome Back, Kotter starring Pat Morita that aired for five episodes on ABC from September 25 to October 30, 1976.[2] It is one of the first television shows to feature a predominantly Asian-American cast. The series was a ratings flop and was cancelled after only 5 aired episodes.

Synopsis[edit]

Pat Morita starred as Taro Takahashi, a widowed Japanese inventor who is sent with his family (an uncle and sister-in-law) from Tokyo to set up the Chicago branch of his employer, Moyati Industries. He hires scatterbrained and free-spirited American Tina Kelly (Susan Blanchard) as the live-in governess for his children, Sachi (June Angela) and Aki (Gene Profanato).[3]

Mr. T.'s inventions included underpants with a built-in transistor radio and the "flash in the can", a coin-operated sunlamp in a restroom.[4]

Cast[edit]

History[edit]

Development[edit]

According to Komack, Chico and the Man was originally conceived with Nisei and Chicano leads; because that pairing proved awkward, he saved the Japanese-American character for another show.[5] Mr. T and Tina was billed as "based on Japanese-American culture"[6] and first noted to be in production in April 1976.[7] Shortly afterward, it was rumored that NBC would be counterprogramming a new show with the working title Mrs. T. and Sympathy, about a widowed Caucasian businesswoman from America moving to Tokyo.[8] During the publicity run-up to the premiere, Morita said that he sought advice from Mel Blanc to develop Mr. T's accent.[9]

Tom Bosley said that if Mr. T and Tina proved to be a hit, Morita's character on Happy Days, Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi,[10] would "probably [be killed] off by some crazy kamakazi [sic] pilot" but promised that Morita could return to Happy Days any time he wants.[11] Morita was written off the show by having his character Arnold get married.[12] Because the two characters portrayed by Morita shared a common surname (Takahashi), some have mistaken Mr. T and Tina as a spinoff of Happy Days.[10][13] The character of Arnold Takahashi would later reappear in another television show, Blansky's Beauties (1977), which was a spinoff of Happy Days.[14] After both spinoffs were canceled, Morita returned to Happy Days in occasional appearances as Arnold starting in 1982.[10]

The first episode of season 2 of Welcome Back, Kotter, entitled "Career Day", introduced Morita as Mr. Taro Takahashi (Mr. T),[15] a speaker at the school's Career Day who offered Gabe Kotter a job with a better salary. The series premiere of Mr. T and Tina aired two days after "Career Day".[16] An advertisement for the series premiere used the slogan "Comedy explodes when East meets West!" and called Mr. Takahashi "an immovable object" while Tina was "a dynamic irresistible force".[17]

Cancellation[edit]

Programmed against Doc on CBS and the second half of Emergency! on NBC, Mr. T and Tina drew poor ratings,[18] not to mention terrible reviews,[4][19][20] and was cancelled after just five episodes were aired, although nine were filmed. The unaired ninth episode featured rocker Rick Derringer as a guest star, playing a racist Vietnam War veteran who clashed with Mr. T. Fittingly, the last episode shown was entitled "I Thought He'd Never Leave". Ted Lange and other actors who worked on the show criticized the writing after the show's cancellation.[21] According to Mark Evanier, a writer for Kotter, ABC had already decided to cancel Mr. T and Tina prior to the series premiere.[22] The series was officially canceled on October 30, 1976 and What's Happening!! ran instead in the Saturday night timeslot at 8:30.[23]

Legacy[edit]

The show has since been cited as one of the first television shows to star an Asian-American lead[24][25] and feature a predominantly Asian-American cast, following the short-lived drama The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong (1951) and the animated The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan (1972), and predating the sitcoms Gung Ho (1986) and Margaret Cho's All-American Girl (1994–95).[26][27][28]

Episode list[edit]

The show was produced by Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll Jr., who also wrote the episode "Tina Really Truly Gets Fired".[29] The episodes were shown out of production order, after network executives received feedback about the pilot episode, which was screened for television critics prior to the series premiere.[30]

Title Original air date
1"Pilot (The Ogallala Connection)"unaired[29] (unaired[29])
2"The Americanization of Michi"October 16, 1976 (1976-10-16)[31]
Tina 'Americanizes' Michi, who had vowed to return to Japan.
3"What Makes Sumo Run?"October 2, 1976 (1976-10-02)[32]
Taro's cousin, a sumo wrestler, visits from Japan and develops a crush on Tina.
4"Tina Really Truly Gets Fired"September 25, 1976 (1976-09-25)[34]
Tina nearly kills Taro; after being dismissed, his family plans to win her back. Cameo appearance by the Sweathogs from Welcome Back, Kotter.[33]
5"I Thought He'd Never Leave"October 30, 1976 (1976-10-30)
According to tradition, Taro must host a houseguest who has worn out his welcome.
"Reading, Writing and Rice"unaired (unaired)
Tina teaches the children Japanese culture.
"Guess Who's Coming to Live"October 23, 1976 (1976-10-23)[35]
Taro and Tina meet for the first time. It is a disaster.
"I'm O.K., You're All Bananas"unaired (unaired)
"Where Is My Wandering Matsu Tonight?"unaired (unaired)

Trivia[edit]

June Angela and Gene Profanato, the actors portraying the children, were siblings in real life, from an Italian father and Japanese mother.[36] After the show was cancelled, they were quickly hired for the 1977 successful Broadway revival of The King & I starring Yul Brynner and Constance Towers. Angela played Tuptim and Profanato played the King's son, Prince Chulalongkorn.[37]

Morita portrayed June Angela's father again (with Cloris Leachman as her mother) in the televised presentation of the play Blind Alleys, which aired in 1985.[38][39]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Pat Morita - Mr. T and Tina cast". Sitcoms Online. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  2. ^ "Mr. T and Tina". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 12, 2014.
  3. ^ Leszczak, Bob (2012). Single Season Sitcoms, 1948-1979: A Complete Guide. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 124–125. ISBN 978-0-7864-6812-6. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  4. ^ a b Utterback, Bettyi (September 5, 1976). "If 'Mr. T. and Tina' doesn't cut it, it won't be because of Pat Morita". San Bernardino Sun. Gannett News Service. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  5. ^ Sharbutt, Jay (September 8, 1976). "Japanese character was evolved from 'Chico' idea". Wichita Falls Times. AP. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Morita Show". The Desert Sun. UPI. June 18, 1976. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  7. ^ "Dr. Welby Finally Hears Death Knell". Sitka Daily Sentinel. AP. April 2, 1976. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  8. ^ Sharbutt, Jay (April 9, 1976). "NBC, CBS Map Steps To Combat ABC Lineup". Garden City Telegram. AP. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  9. ^ "Pat Morita's 'Jap' humor mostly Yankee". Tucson Daily Citizen. UPI. July 5, 1976. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  10. ^ a b c Reinhold, Toni (May 7, 1993). "TV Dialogue". Tyrone Daily Herald. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  11. ^ Smith, Stacy (August 4, 1976). "Questions". San Bernardino Sun. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  12. ^ Chan, Louise (30 October 2015). "'Happy Days' Actor Al Molinaro Dies At 96". Tech Times. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  13. ^ "Letters to the Editor". The New York Times. May 24, 1987. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  14. ^ Edelstein, Andy (August 16, 2016). "'Baywatch,' 'Happy Days,' more Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita TV roles". Newsday. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  15. ^ Potts, Kimberly (August 27, 2014). "'Welcome Back, Kotter': 25 Things You Never Knew About the Sweathogs". Yahoo TV [blog]. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  16. ^ "Thursday Preview: "Welcome Back, Kotter"". Grand Prairie Daily News. September 19, 1976. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  17. ^ "New Show: Mr. T & Tina, 8:30 PM". San Bernardino Sun. September 25, 1976. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  18. ^ Sharbutt, Jay (October 23, 1976). "10 seem doomed: Premieres face moment of truth". The Middletown Journal. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  19. ^ Sharbutt, Jay (September 24, 1976). "New TV cop show 'Serpico' wastes talents of Birney". San Bernardino Sun. AP. Retrieved 26 July 2019. Saturday night, ABC unveils two new situation Comedies, "Holmes and Yoyo" and "Mr. T. and Tina." The veil should be put back.
  20. ^ Kleiner, Dick (June 18, 1977). "From panty hose ads to full-fledged roles". Albuquerque Tribune. Retrieved 29 July 2019. The first [pilot] sold — "unfortunately," as [Blanchard] puts it. That was Mr. T. and Tina, without question the worst show of last season.
  21. ^ Beck, Andee (June 24, 1978). "'Love Boat' challenges Lange". Gazette Telegraph. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  22. ^ Evanier, Mark (November 25, 2005). "Pat Morita, R.I.P." News from ME (blog). Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  23. ^ "'Gemini Man,' 'Mr. T and Tina' Lose Out in TV Ratings Battle". The New York Times. October 30, 1976. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  24. ^ Ling, Huping; Austin, Allan, eds. (2010). Asian American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 42. ISBN 9780765680778. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  25. ^ Dong, Lan, ed. (2016). "Comedy and Humor, Asian American". Asian American Culture: From Anime to Tiger Moms. ABC-CLIO. p. 226. ISBN 9781440829215. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  26. ^ Chow, Kat. "A Brief, Weird History Of Squashed Asian-American TV Shows". Code Switch. National Public Radio. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  27. ^ Brightwell, Eric (May 27, 2012). "The short history of Asian-American television". Amoeblog. Amoeba Music. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  28. ^ "New Asian American Sitcom to Premiere on ABC in Fall". Rafu Shimpo. May 17, 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  29. ^ a b Irvin, Richard (2012). "17: Not Exactly the Family Next Door". Forgotten Laughs: An Episode Guide to 150 TV Sitcoms You Probably Never Saw. Duncan, Oklahoma: BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-225-1. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  30. ^ Pearson, Howard (September 6, 1976). "Streets partner will teach". The Deseret News. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  31. ^ "Television Previews". Syracuse Herald-Journal. October 2, 1976. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  32. ^ "Today's highlights". The Spokesman-Review. October 2, 1976. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  33. ^ Irvin, Richard (2016). Spinning Laughter: Profiles of 111 Proposed Comedy Spin-offs and Sequels that Never Became a Series. Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-197-1. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  34. ^ "TV Listings: Saturday". Scottsdale Progress. September 23, 1976. p. 22. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  35. ^ "Today's highlights". The Spokesman-Review. October 23, 1976. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  36. ^ Smith, Stacy (October 28, 1976). "Questions". San Bernardino Sun. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  37. ^ Berkvist, Robert (January 13, 1978). "New Face: June Angela". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  38. ^ Corry, John (September 4, 1985). "TV Review: 'Blind Alleys,' Drama on Metromedia Playhouse". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  39. ^ Yamamoto, J.K. (November 15, 2017). "Actress sees hopeful message in 'Yohen'". Rafu Shimpo. Retrieved 30 July 2019.

External links[edit]