Too Close for Comfort

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Too Close for Comfort
Also known as The Ted Knight Show
(season 6 title)
Genre Sitcom
Based on Keep It in the Family,
created by Brian Cooke
Developed by Arne Sultan
Earl Barret
Starring Ted Knight
Nancy Dussault
Lydia Cornell (seasons 1-5)
Jim J. Bullock (as Jm J. Bullock)
Deborah Van Valkenburgh (seasons 1-5)
Deena Freeman (season 2)
Audrey Meadows (season 3, regular; seasons 4-5, recurring)
Pat Carroll (season 6)
Lisa Antille (season 6)
Opening theme "Too Close for Comfort", performed by Johnny Mandel
Composer(s) (all season 4, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.12, multiples)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 129 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Earl Barret
Arne Sultan (seasons 1-4)
Aaron Ruben (seasons 5-6)
Producer(s) Supervising producers:
Jerry McPhie (season 1)
Norman Hopps (seasons 2-3)
Volney Howard III (seasons 4-6)
Austin Kalish & Irma Kalish
(seasons 1-2)
Douglas Arango
& Phil Doran (season 3)
George Yanok (seasons 4-6)
Camera setup Videotape; Multi-camera
Running time 24 minutes
Production company(s) D.L. Taffner Productions
Metromedia Producers Corporation
Fox Television Stations (season 6)
Distributor DLT Entertainment
Original network ABC (1980–1983)
Syndication (1984–1986)
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original release November 11, 1980 (1980-11-11) – February 7, 1987 (1987-02-07)
Related shows Keep It in the Family
Family Business

Too Close for Comfort is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from November 11, 1980, to May 5, 1983, and in first-run syndication from April 7, 1984, to February 7, 1987. It was modeled after the British series Keep It in the Family, which premiered nine months before Too Close for Comfort debuted in the United States. Its name was changed to The Ted Knight Show when the show was retooled for what would turn out to be its final season.


Ted Knight and Nancy Dussault star as Henry and Muriel Rush, owners of a two-family house in San Francisco, California. Henry is a conservative cartoonist who authors a comic strip called Cosmic Cow. During scenes in which Henry draws in his bedroom, Knight used his earlier acquired ventriloquism talents for comical conversations with a hand-puppet version of "Cosmic Cow." Muriel is a laid back freelance photographer, having been a lead singer of a band in her earlier days. They have two grown children, older daughter, brunette Jackie (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) who works for a bank and younger daughter Sara (Lydia Cornell), a blonde bombshell and a college student at San Francisco State University.

At the start of the premiere episode, Jackie and Sara are living with their parents in a cramped, awkward arrangement. Their longtime downstairs tenant, Myron (later called Neville) Rafkin, recently died. The family discovers Rafkin was a transvestite and the many strange women Henry had been opening the door for all those years were actually Rafkin himself. Jackie and Sara convince their parents to allow them to move into the now-vacant downstairs apartment. In a running gag, Henry falls off the girls' ultra-modern chairs or couch every time he attempts to sit down. Despite the daughters' push for independence and moving into the downstairs apartment, Henry proves to be a very protective father and constantly meddles in their affairs.

Due to an actors' strike led by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, new programming for the fall 1980 season was pushed back several months. As a result, Too Close for Comfort did not debut until November 11, 1980, and its initial season consisted of 19 episodes. The show garnered high ratings, benefiting from its placement in ABC's powerhouse Tuesday night lineup following hits like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Three's Company. Both the latter series and this series were recorded in the same studio, CBS Television City in Los Angeles, during Too Close for Comfort's ABC years.

A few episodes into the series, Sara's addle-headed friend Monroe Ficus, played by actor Jim J. Bullock, made an appearance. Although he was originally intended to be used for only a single episode, producers added the character to the series. Monroe was introduced to Henry by Sara as a depressed, lonely fellow student and street musician. Although Sara (with help from Jackie) tried to help him and send him on his way, Monroe found himself getting woven into the entire family's affairs and he became just a "friend" of Sara's and Henry's principal (if unintended) foil. During the first two seasons, Selma Diamond made guest appearances as Mildred Rafkin, sister of the late Myron. Sardonic, deadpan Mildred initially showed up to collect belongings left by Myron/Neville in the downstairs apartment, but continued to hang around thereafter. Seemingly, there were sentimental reasons, but occasionally she would attempt to make time with the much younger Monroe, whom she had an eye for.

Also added in early 1981 was Arthur Wainwright (Hamilton Camp), Henry's boss and head of Wainwright Publishing, who nearly decided to force the veteran cartoonist and Cosmic Cow into retirement in order to maintain a youth-oriented staff. The short-statured Mr. Wainwright, who spoke with Shakespearean diction and fancied himself an amateur detective (as a result of the famous mystery novels his company published), eventually let Henry stay with the firm, after the latter proved adept in helping him solve the mystery of Sara's stolen purse. Wainwright no longer appeared in person after the first season, but was referred to. Later, at the start of the fifth season, Graham Jarvis began appearing as Wainwright in a few guest appearances.

Developments in seasons two and three[edit]

The cast of Too Close for Comfort during the show's second season

During its second season, the series' principal stories are focused around Muriel's pregnancy. Additionally, Henry's niece April (Deena Freeman) comes from Delaware to live with the Rush family. The season concludes with Muriel giving birth to a son, Andrew (later played regularly by twins William and Michael Cannon from 1983 to 1984).

For the third season, April departs and the character of Muriel's mother, Iris Martin (Audrey Meadows) is added in order to help take care of Andrew. Also that fall, Jackie becomes engaged to her steady boyfriend, police officer Brad Turner (played by Gary Dontzig in one episode and by Jordan Suffin thereafter), but they broke it off after a short time. Jackie eventually moved into the field of fashion design, taking courses and producing her own clothing templates, which she later had produced as "The Jacqueline Rush Collection." Sara, meanwhile, decided to major in communications and, while continuing her studies, became a weather girl for a time at a major San Francisco TV station. Monroe seemed to be detached from Sara's circle of friends, but was taking the same major as her and became a security guard around campus.

The character of Henry Rush became famous for wearing sweatshirts from various American colleges and universities. It was revealed in one episode that he wore the different sweatshirts because he himself had never gone to college. Eventually fans would send in sweatshirts from universities around the country hoping they would be used during taping.

In the fall of 1982, ABC moved the series to Thursday nights, which proved to be disastrous. Paired with failures such as Joanie Loves Chachi, Star of the Family and It Takes Two, Too Close For Comfort saw its ratings fall drastically. At the conclusion of the season, the series was cancelled by ABC, after dropping from #6 the previous season to #38. The last first-run episode broadcast by ABC on May 5, 1983 was a pilot for a proposed spin-off series called Family Business. The series was to have focused on the misadventures of Lucille Garabaldi (Lainie Kazan) and her two sons (played by George Deloy and Jimmy Baio) as they tried to run a construction business. Hillary Bailey Smith was also featured in this backdoor pilot as the new, attractive female foreman that Lucille hired for her sons.

ABC aired reruns of Too Close for Comfort at 11:00 am ET from June 27 to September 23, 1983.

First-run syndication[edit]

During the early 1980s, TV station owner Metromedia was expanding its portfolio of original syndicated programming through its production subsidiary, Metromedia Producers Corporation. Its efforts would eventually lead to the creation of the Fox Broadcasting Company. When Too Close for Comfort was canceled by ABC, Metromedia Producers Corporation elected to pick up the series and began producing all-new episodes to run on various stations throughout the country.

Starting in April 1984, a total of 14 new episodes were broadcast for the show's fourth season, featuring the same cast as seen on the ABC episodes. Monroe and Iris were still around to bother Henry (although Meadows had cut back her involvement to guest shots only) and Jackie and Sara were still downstairs. The girls continued to advance in the respective career paths; Sara auditioned for a news anchor position at the TV station, but was passed over in favor of a female candidate who may have not had Sara's looks, but had greater experience in hard news. This caused Sara to learn the valuable lesson that her sex appeal alone would not get her everywhere. Monroe eventually moves into a remodeled attic, with the entrance from the Rushes' kitchen. Henry agreed to have Monroe as a tenant in a fleeting moment of compassion, but Monroe still proved to be a constant annoyance to him.

The show's ratings improved in syndication and Metromedia ordered an additional 30 episodes, airing through November 1985. When the fifth season began, a single child actor, Joshua Goodwin, took over the role of Andrew Rush (which he would hold for the remainder of the series). Henry was now working out of his own fancy office at Wainwright Publishing, as a result of toddler Andrew's "terrible twos" behavior interfering with his concentration at home. Everyone else's worldly or, in the case of Monroe, wacky affairs were also proving to be an intense distraction, considering they were all living under the same roof. Near the end of the season, Jackie accepted a job offer in Italy that would help further her clothing line, with her family and friends giving her a big send-off. With a total of 107 episodes of Too Close for Comfort having been produced, the show became a popular staple for syndicated reruns throughout the late 1980s.

The Ted Knight Show[edit]

The sixth season title screen for first run episodes. Note the title change.
The sixth season title screen for reruns.

In late 1985, several changes were made before further episodes were produced. The show's title was changed to The Ted Knight Show (not to be confused with the short-lived 1978 CBS show of the same name; hence it was occasionally referred to as The New Ted Knight Show, such as when Jim J. Bullock made a guest appearance on Break the Bank) and the setting was changed to Marin County, north of San Francisco. A new arrangement of Johnny Mandel's theme song was recorded, and a new opening title sequence was shot in the surrounding area. Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Lydia Cornell, and Audrey Meadows left the cast (Meadows would make one guest appearance this season). Veteran actress Pat Carroll, as well as Lisa Antille were added to the cast along with returning Nancy Dussault, and Jim J. Bullock.

The Rushes had moved to a larger house near Mill Valley. Henry retired from cartooning and became editor of the Marin Bugler, a local newspaper. Henry purchased a 49% stake in the publication from Hope Stinson (Carroll), who retained the other 51% and proved to be a thorn in his side. Muriel began working as the paper's staff photographer. Monroe, now living in his own apartment, visited frequently, and worked as a reporter-in-training at the Bugler. The Rushes hired a live-in nanny/housekeeper, a young woman named Lisa Flores (Antille), who would later become involved with Monroe. Antille had made a guest appearance in a fifth season Too Close for Comfort episode as Yvonne, a housekeeper the Rushes employed until she attempted to marry Monroe to avoid deportation.

First-run episodes of The Ted Knight Show were broadcast starting in April 1986. Twenty-two episodes were produced prior to the summer of 1986 and twelve had aired by mid-July. The revamped show continued to be successful and was scheduled to resume production for another season but Ted Knight, who had been battling colon cancer since 1985, died on August 26, 1986 at the age of 62 and no further episodes would be produced. The ten remaining first-run episodes were broadcast from September 1986 to February 1987.

When the episodes of The Ted Knight Show were added to the rerun package of Too Close for Comfort, the original show's title graphic was used, but the updated opening theme and sequence remained unchanged.[1] [2]


Notable guest stars[edit]

  • Selma Diamond as Mildred Rafkin
  • Jordan Suffin as Officer Brad Turner
  • Elyse Knight (daughter of Ted Knight) as Samantha Bishop ("The Runaway," 1984)
  • Graham Jarvis as Arthur Wainwright (1985)
  • Ernie Wise as Ernie Dockery (1985)
  • Jim Davis (creator of the comic strip Garfield) as himself (1986)


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedNielsen ratings[3]
First airedLast airedNetworkRankRating
119November 11, 1980 (1980-11-11)May 12, 1981 (1981-05-12)ABC1520.8
(Tied with Happy Days)
222October 13, 1981 (1981-10-13)May 11, 1982 (1982-05-11)622.6
(Tied with The Dukes of Hazzard)
322September 30, 1982 (1982-09-30)May 5, 1983 (1983-05-05)38[4]N/A
423April 7, 1984 (1984-04-07)December 8, 1984 (1984-12-08)SyndicationN/AN/A
521February 5, 1985 (1985-02-05)November 23, 1985 (1985-11-23)N/AN/A
622April 5, 1986 (1986-04-05)February 7, 1987 (1987-02-07)N/AN/A


The show entered daily broadcast syndication in the fall of 1986, which continued until 2003.[5] The syndication rights for Too Close for Comfort are held by DLT Entertainment, a production and distribution company owned by show producer D.L. Taffner.

Reruns of the series aired on TBS. The series later aired on TV Land from 2003 to 2006. The series also aired on Antenna TV from January 2011 to September 2012. As of 2018 it currently airs on Logo.

DVD releases[edit]

Rhino Entertainment released the first two seasons of Too Close for Comfort on DVD in Region 1 in 2004/2005.[6][7] Rhino Home Entertainment did not obtain the original, unedited and uncut versions of the episodes for the Season 1 release and instead used the versions edited for syndication, which are missing several minutes of footage, including the final scene of each episode before the closing credits. There are no known plans for additional releases.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 19 November 2, 2004
The Complete Second Season 22 June 7, 2005


External links[edit]