Benson Information

Benson is an American television sitcom which aired from September 13, 1979, to April 19, 1986, on ABC. The series was a spin-off from the soap opera parody Soap (the title character, portrayed by Robert Guillaume, had first appeared on the earlier series as the wise-cracking yet level-headed African-American butler for the highly dysfunctional Tate family); however, Benson discarded the soap opera format of its parent show in favor of a more conventional sitcom structure. The series was created by Susan Harris, and produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions.

Series summary

In the show, Benson DuBois (Robert Guillaume) had been hired to be the head of household affairs for scatterbrained and widowed Governor Eugene Gatling (James Noble), and his daughter Katie (Missy Gold). Governor Gatling was cousin to Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) and Mary Campbell (Cathryn Damon), the two sisters on whose families the stories centered on Soap. The state of which Gatling was governor remained unidentified throughout the series, although Soap had taken place in Connecticut.

The show revolved around Benson's housekeeping dilemmas, his fights with the German cook Gretchen Wilhemina Kraus (Inga Swenson, one of Guillaume's fellow alumni from Soap), and his interactions with John Taylor (David Hedison in the pilot episode, then Lewis J. Stadlen), who assisted Governor Gatling as chief of staff. After the first season, Taylor's job was filled by Clayton Endicott III (René Auberjonois), who was written out by having him run for political office and actually snub his employer's endorsement. He lost the election but returned when Benson asked him to. In spite of their adversarial relationship (during the early years, Kraus' trademark line was a loud "I hear you!" from off-stage), Benson and Kraus eventually became good friends. Benson also had very good friendships with the Governor's secretary, Marcy Hill (Caroline McWilliams), and her successor, Denise (Didi Conn). Marcy left after the second season after getting married. Denise and Pete Downey (Ethan Phillips), the Governor's Press Secretary (introduced in Season 2), met and later married while working in the governor's mansion and were expectant parents for most of the third-to-last season. Both were written out, saying they left state government service because Denise got a job working for NASA.

Benson worked his way up the ladder during the series, going from head of household affairs to state budget director (at which time his surname"?DuBois"?was revealed), and eventually was elevated to the position of Lieutenant Governor. During the final episodes of the 1985"1986 season, Benson ran for governor against Gatling. Kraus (who had herself moved up to head of household affairs) proved to be Benson's biggest supporter during this time as well. So much so, that he made her his personal assistant and campaign manager.

Benson has the distinction of being the first TV series to reference the Internet on an American network television. This occurred on the episode airing February 22, 1985 ("Scenario", season 6 episode 20)"?in the episode, the characters were accessing the ARPANET, the progenitor of the Internet.

Benson also had the dubious distinction of firing a young, then-unknown comedian named Jerry Seinfeld, who performed as Frankie the courier for three episodes during the 1980 season. Seinfeld would later move on to NBC and star in his own 1990s sitcom, Seinfeld.

Season one's opening sequence of Benson starts with camera shots of the Governor's mansion. It then presents the major cast, including snippets of the cast in the first few episodes of the season. The sequence ends when Benson is chased up the mansion's front steps by the two Dobermans. He then peeks his head outside to mock the dogs, and then quickly shuts the front door. The opening sequences were cut and edited when the series went into syndication.

Series finale

The premise was that initially Gatling was prohibited from running for re-election due to term limits. Later it was revealed that he could run again if he did so as an independent candidate, which he decided to do. By this time, Benson had already won the nomination of Gatling's party, setting the stage for the two to go head-to-head in the general election.

At the end of the series' final episode (the seventh season finale), it was election night, and with the race still too close to call, Benson and Gatling, who had strained relations due to the race, made their peace with each other and sat down together to watch election returns together on television. As the broadcaster began to announce that a winner in the close election (with a third candidate also a potential winner) was at last being projected, the episode ended on a freeze frame of Benson and Gatling, leaving the series with an unresolved cliffhanger. Coincidentally, Guillaume's previous series, and the one from which Benson spun off, Soap, was also canceled with unresolved cliffhangers, though Guillaume had moved on to Benson by that point.

According to the Internet Movie Database, three endings were supposedly shot involving either a Gatling win, a win by Benson, or a surprise win by a wildcard candidate in the form of a crooked senator, putting both of them out of a job. None of these endings proved satisfactory to anyone involved in the show, so the decision was made to keep the ending unresolved.

In 2007, Benson showrunner Bob Fraser said that the season ended on a cliffhanger at the request of the network. The show was canceled after the cliffhanger had aired. Fraser indicated that, had the show continued, Gatling would have won the election and Benson would have become a Senator.


See List of Benson episodes for more information

DVD release

On July 24, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Season 1 of Benson on DVD in Region 1 for the first time. The DVDs contain the episodes as they were originally aired, including the longer opening sequences, as opposed to the syndicated edits.

On February 28, 2012, it was announced that Sony will be releasing season 2 on DVD on April 3, 2012 under the Choice Collection label. This is a Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) release. The Complete Second Season DVD also includes two episodes from season three: "Benson's Appointment" and "The Grass Ain't Greener." Like the DVD of the previous season, this season DVD also contains the originally-aired uncut openings for each episode.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 24 July 24, 2007
The Complete Second Season 22 April 3, 2012


Over the course of the show's seven-year run it was nominated for a total of 17 Emmys. It won two, including Best Actor in a Comedy Series for Guillaume's second-to-last season portraying the title character, marking the first, and to this day only time an African-American actor has won the award.


The exterior shots of the "governor's mansion" are actually of a private home located at 1365 South Oakland Avenue in Pasadena, California. The same house was seen in the 1993 movie The Beverly Hillbillies, and in a 2006 U.S. television commercial for the RE/MAX real estate company.

Popular culture

  • In the Family Guy episode "Call Girl," Chris Griffin had made a birdhouse that was a replica of the Governor Gatling's house.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Benson_%28TV_series%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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