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Too close for comfort

Too Close for Comfort is a ABC Network\syndicated sitcom series developed by Arne Sultan & Earl Barret adapted from the British comedy series "Keep It in the Family."

It first aired on ABC from November 11, 1980 to May 5, 1983, and in first-run syndication from April 7, 1984 to February 7, 1987.

The series' name was changed to "The Ted Knight Show" when the show was retooled for what would end up as the final season.

Plot

Set in San Francisco, California, the series was about the lives of conservative cartoonist Henry Rush and his wife, Muriel, who reside in a two-family house with their two grown daughters, Jackie and Sara, who live downstairs from them.

Cast

  • Ted Knight as Henry Rush
  • Nancy Dussault as Muriel Rush
  • Deborah Van Valkenburgh as Jackie Rush (1980-1985)
  • Lydia Cornell as Sara Rush (1980-1985)
  • JM J. Bullock as Monroe Ficus
  • Hamilton Camp as Arthur Wainwright (1981)
  • Deena Freeman as April Rush (1981-1982)
  • Audrey Meadows as Iris Martin (1982-1983, guest appearances thereafter)
  • William and Michael Cannon as Andrew Rush (1983-1984)
  • Joshua Goodwin as Andrew Rush (1985-1986)
  • Pat Carroll as Hope Stinson (1986)
  • Lisa Antille as Lisa Flores (1986)

Production

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" didn't make its 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".

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, the sister of the late Myron. Sardonic, deadpan Mildred initially showed up to collect belongings left by Myron/Neville in the downstairs apartment, but she continued to visit thereafter. Seemingly, there were sentimental reasons, but occasionally she would attempt to make time with the much younger Monroe, with whom she was infatuated.

Also added in early 1981 was Arthur Wainwright, 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 he was referred to. Later, at the start of the fifth season, Graham Jarvis began appearing as Wainwright in a few guest appearances.

During the show's second season, its principal stories were 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 named Andrew.

For the third season, April leaves and the character of Muriel's mother, Iris Martin 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."

Meanwhile, Sara 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 "Too Close to Comfort" to Thursday nights, which proved to be disastrous. Paired with failures such as "Joanie Loves Chachi", "Star of the Family" and "It Takes Two", the series saw its ratings fall drastically.

At the end of the season, the network cancelled the series, after dropping from #6 the previous season to #38.

ABC broadcast the last first-run episode broadcast on May 5, 1983, as a pilot for a proposed spin-off series called "Family Business."

The series was supposed to have focused on the misadventures of Lucille Garabaldi (played by 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

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 of 1984, a total of 23 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, so her character moves back to Chicago in the season premiere) and Jackie & Sara were still livig 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

In late 1985, several changes were made before further episodes of the series 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, who retained the other 51% and proved to be a thorn in his side. Muriel began working as the paper's staff photographer. Monroe (who was 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, who would later become involved with Monroe.

First-run episodes of "The Ted Knight Show" were broadcast starting in April of 1986. Twenty-two episodes were produced prior to the summer of 1986 and 12 of them 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.

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