Mr. Belvedere


Mr. Belvedere Information

Mr. Belvedere is an American sitcom that originally aired on ABC from March 15, 1985, until July 8, 1990. The series is based on the Lynn Aloysius Belvedere character created by Gwen Davenport for her 1947 novel Belvedere, which was later adapted into the 1948 film Sitting Pretty. The sitcom stars Christopher Hewett in the title role, who takes a job with an American family headed by George Owens, played by Bob Uecker.

Development

The character of Lynn Belvedere was originally created by Gwen Davenport in her 1947 novel, Belvedere. The following year, the title character was portrayed by Clifton Webb in the film Sitting Pretty. Webb's performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Sitting Pretty told the story of an arrogant genius who answers an employment ad for a baby sitter for three bratty kids. He accepts such employment because he is secretly writing a novel about a community filled with gossips and busybodies. Webb reprised the role in two more movies, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951).

As early as the 1950s, attempts were made to adapt the character to television, with three pilots made during the 1950s and 1960s, including a 1965 version starring Victor Buono in the title role. All efforts, however, were unsuccessful until 1985, when ABC finally launched the show with British actor Christopher Hewett playing Lynn Belvedere.

Premise

The shows creator/producer team pitched the series as "a very elegant, very British sophisticate hired to restore order to a chaotic household in a Pittsburgh suburb." The show eventually developed with a middle-class family in suburban Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. According to Frank Dungan & Jeff Stein, the co-creators/producers of the show, Pittsburgh was chosen because "It was either Pittsburgh or Paris and Paris doesn't have the Penguins . . . we wanted someplace with seasons and sporting activity . . . A city kinda going through a resurgance . . . with character and traditions that is moving into the '80s, a blue collar community that is moving into the up and coming, yet with the traditional spirit of the country. From everything we've read, Pittsburgh is moving into high tech."

Weeks after choosing Pittsburgh, the city was named by Rand-McNally as the most liveable American city, "national publicity" the producers promised to use. Both Dungan (from Philadelphia) and Stein (from Cleveland) admitted to never having been to Pittsburgh prior to the series premier, though Dungan's sister attended Carnegie Mellon University. "I remember for four years she talked about how Pittsburgh was changing, and about how different it was from Philadelphia." Stein admitted that early on "We thought about setting the show in Cleveland, but that's too jokey" and that "We're not doing Pittsburgh jokes. We like Pittsburgh. We like the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's a classy ballclub. And we like Willie Stargell." No scenes from the pilot nor the first season's six episodes were shot in Pennsylvania however the producers promised if they "get picked up for fall [1985-86] we'll probably come to Pittsburgh."

The producers educated themselves on Pittsburgh locales with a promotional calendar provided by the Pittsburgh Media Group (PMG) of public officials and Western Pennsylvania media. Dungan and Stein used it for story ideas during season 1 after the PMG pitched several studio groups in Los Angeles in January 1985. "People were impressed . . . the calendar has Pittsburgh scenes for each month. The Bridge of Sighs is February. The PPG Building is March. Three Rivers Stadium gets three months."

Character Development

The posh housekeeper, Lynn Belvedere, struggles to adapt to the Owens household. The breadwinner, George (Bob Uecker), is a sportswriter. His wife Marsha (Ilene Graff) is attending law school. At the show's start, oldest son Kevin (Rob Stone) is a senior in high school, daughter Heather (Tracy Wells) is a freshman, and Wesley (Brice Beckham) is in elementary school. Over the course of the series, George becomes a sportscaster, Marsha graduates from law school and starts a career as a lawyer, Kevin leaves for college and gets his own apartment, and Heather moves up in high school.

Several episodes deal with Wesley and Mr. Belvedere, who are always at odds with one another, with Wesley constantly antagonizing Mr. Belvedere. Deep down, however, they really love each other. In one of many very special episodes, one of Wesley's classmates contracts HIV via Factor VIII, like Ryan White. The friend is taken out of school due to the ignorance and uncertainty that many of the other children's parents share. This leads Wesley to shun his friend in fear of getting the disease himself. Mr. Belvedere is there for him and the child, and he helps Wesley to shed his fear of the boy and publicly accept him as his friend.

Throughout the series, Mr. Belvedere serves as a mentor of sorts to Wesley as well as to the other children. Being a cultured man with many skills and achievements, he also comes to serve as some sort of a "counselor" to the Owens clan, helping them solve their dilemmas and stay out of mischief.

Each episode ends with Mr. Belvedere writing in his journal, recounting the events of the day with the Owens family and what he got out of it in terms of a lesson.

A frequent gag on the show involves Heather's best friend Angela (Michele Matheson), who always (except for in one episode) mispronounces Mr. Belvedere's name - such as calling him "Mr. Bumpersticker", "Mr. Bellpepper" or "Mr. Butterfinger". Another frequent gag involves George and Mr. Belvedere butting heads, with George being annoyed with his "nosy English housekeeper" always interfering. Yet another recurring gag features George always trying to be initiated into the "Happy Guys of Pittsburgh" - a local charity club. Wesley's highly acrimonious relationship with the never-seen next door neighbors, the Hufnagels, and the shenanigans he pulls on them was another recurring plot element.

In the two-part series finale, Mr. Belvedere marries and moves to Africa, thus leaving the Owens family.

Cast

Main characters

  • Christopher Hewett as Mr. Lynn Belvedere (Appeared in all 117 episodes)
  • Bob Uecker as George Owens (Appeared in 114 of 117 episodes)
  • Ilene Graff as Marsha Owens (Appeared in all 117 episodes)
  • Rob Stone as Kevin Owens (Appeared in 115 of 117 episodes)
  • Tracy Wells as Heather Owens (Appeared in 116 of 117 episodes)
  • Brice Beckham as Wesley T. Owens (Appeared in all 117 episodes)

Recurring characters

  • Miles Knobnoster, Wesley's best friend, who is always being made fun of because of his orthodontic headgear. Played by Casey Ellison.
  • Angela Shostakovich, Heather's best friend, who is always mispronouncing Mr. Belvedere's name. Played by Michele Matheson.
  • Burt Hammond, bombastic and overly talkative chief spokesman and membership director for the Happy Guys of Pittsburgh, a local men's club; he is always trying to initiate George as a member. Played by Raleigh Bond. The "Stakeout" episode from season 5 was his final appearance. Bond died months after that episode was taped.
  • Carl Butlam, Mr. Hammond's obsequious assistant. Played by Jack Dodson.
  • Wendy, Kevin's overweight, geeky and self conscious high school friend who has a crush on him. Played by Winifred Freedman.
  • Robert Goulet, legendary singer and actor. Occasionally sings duets with Marsha. George finds him to be irritating. Played by Goulet himself.
  • Skip Hollings, George's co-anchor at the TV station. Played by Norman Bartold. Prior to the character's first appearance in season 4, Bartold played as a hotel clerk in a season 3 episode.
  • Carl, Kevin's best friend. Played by Willie Garson.
  • Tami, one of George's co-anchors at the TV station. Played by Patti Yasutake and in some episodes by Maggie Han.
  • Marjorie, Junior High student, and one of Wesley's love interests. Appeared during the final season. Played by Laura Mooney. Prior to season 6, Mooney appeared as "Roberta" in a season 4 episode.

Episodes

Main article: List of Mr. Belvedere episodes

Theme song

The show's theme song was performed by ragtime singer Leon Redbone. It was written by Judy Hart-Angelo and Gary Portnoy, who had previously written the theme songs to Cheers and Punky Brewster.

The song was originally composed in 1984 for a rejected TV pilot called Help (which was later resurrected as Marblehead Manor for NBC in 1987). It starred a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards as an inept member of an eccentric couple's household staff, who were perpetually conniving to pull the wool over the eyes of the mansions' newly hired head butler. With a minor lyrical re-write, it quickly became the theme song to Mr. Belvedere.

In 2007, a never-before-heard full-length version of the theme was released by Portnoy on his CD, Destiny.

For syndicated reruns, a shorter 30 second version was recorded, in order to accompany the shorter opening for the syndicated airings. The original theme song was 55 seconds long. The 55 second version has been restored on Shout! Factory's DVD releases.

There were three different ending themes during the show's original run:

  1. An instrumental version of the theme song was used as the ending theme for Seasons 1 and 2.
  2. A Dixieland rendition of the ending theme was used in Season 3.
  3. A jazzier rendition of the ending theme was used in Seasons 4"6.

Ratings and cancellation

The series did not rate in the Top 30 shows in any of its six seasons, but it did have a relatively solid ratings base, and often won its time slot.

Its first season (1985) was exempt from the Nielsen ratings as it aired too few episodes before the end of April to be counted.

In its second season (1985"86), the show ranked #45 with a 14.8 rating.

In season three (1986"87), the show fell to #51 with a 13.7 rating. At the end of the 1986-87 season, ABC decided to cancel the show, but brought it back in October 1987.

In season four (1987"88), the show fell to #64 and an 11.5 rating for the year.

In season five (1988"89), the show rose to a 12.2 rating and #47 for the season.

However, in the sixth and final season (1989"90), the show was moved to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday nights, which led to a steep ratings decline from its old Friday night slot. Mr. Belvedere fell to a 6.3 rating. In its final airing before being shelved (December 30, 1989), the series ranked #70 out of 83 shows. The two-part finale, which aired on July 1 and July 8, 1990, ranked #59 and #37, respectively, out of the 86 shows airing those weeks.

Syndication

The show first went into reruns on ABC's daily daytime schedule from September 7, 1987 to January 15, 1988, (replacing the game show Bargain Hunters). The daytime reruns consisted entirely of seasons 1"3.

On September 11, 1989 (around the same time the show entered its final season), and continuing in an on-again, off-again manner until 1997, it was seen in local syndication on select Fox affiliates. Along with the addition of seasons 4-6, ten previously unaired episodes (two from season 5 and eight from season 6), were also added to the syndication package. Advertisements for the shows' upcoming back-end syndicated run began appearing in issues of Broadcasting & Cable magazine, as early as 1986, long before there were plans announced for ABC daytime reruns. Initially, this syndication package consisted of all 95 half-hour episodes made up until the end of season 5 in 1989, but a year later, season 6 (the remaining 22 half-hour episodes) was finally included. The series never had any special hour-long episodes during any of its six seasons that could have been potentially edited into two parts for syndication.

The series was also seen on the Fox satellite channel Foxnet in the early 2000s.

It also aired in Canada on CTS from 2002"2004. Certain episodes were not shown due to their perceived offensive nature.

On December 17, 2009, American Life Network showed both of the shows' Christmas-themed episodes, as part of their month-long block of Christmas-themed episodes from TV shows owned by Twentieth Century Fox Television ("Christmas Story" from season 4 and "A Happy Guy's Christmas" from season 6). This was the first time in a little over a decade that the show has been seen in US syndication.

As of October 3, 2011, reruns are currently airing on FamilyNet, the first time in over 15 years this show has been in regular syndication. Like the CTS reruns, some episodes were not shown due to their perceived offensive nature. Around November 2012 Dish Network began broadcasting Rural channel (part of FamilyNet), making the show viewable in the US nationwide weeknights (with commercial bumpers intact briefly).

DVD releases

Shout! Factory (under license from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) has released the first four seasons of Mr. Belvedere on DVD in Region 1. Currently, Shout! Factory doesn't have the rights to seasons 5 & 6, and is still in long-drawn-out negotiations to acquire those remaining episodes (46 in total).

All episodes released so far are presented as they originally aired, but without the commercial bumpers.

DVD Name Ep# Release Date Special Features
Seasons One & Two 29 March 17, 2009
  • New interviews with Bob Uecker, Ilene Graff, Rob Stone, and Brice Beckham
  • "The Guy who Plays Mr. Belvedere Fanclub" sketch from Saturday Night Live with Tom Hanks from 1992
Season Three 22 September 8, 2009
  • Six audio commentaries with Ilene Graff, Rob Stone, Tracy Wells and Brice Beckham ("Debut", "Kevin's Date", "Pills", "The Crush", "The Competition", "Kevin's Older Woman")
Season Four? 20 January 19, 2010
  • Episode promos created for the syndication package
Season Five 24 TBA
  • TBA
Season Six 22 TBA
  • TBA
? - Shout! Factory select title, sold exclusively through Shout's online store.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1985 Primetime Emmy Award Won Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Series George Spiro Dibie
(For episode "Stranger in the Night")
1986 Young Artist Awards Nominated Best New Television Series " Comedy or Drama
-
Best Young Supporting Actor in a New Television Series Brice Beckham
Won Best Young Actress Starring in a New Television Series Tracy Wells
1987 Nominated Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress, Starring in a Television, Comedy or Drama Series Tracy Wells
Exceptional Performance by a Young Actor Starring in a Television Comedy or Drama Series Brice Beckham
1988 Nominated Best Family Comedy Series
-
Best Young Female Superstar in Television Tracy Wells
Best Young Male Superstar in Television Brice Beckham
1989 Nominated Best Young Actress Guest Starring in a Drama or Comedy Series Laura Jacoby
(For episode "Pigskin")
Best Young Actress " Starring in a Television Comedy Series Tracy Wells
Best Young Actor " Starring in a Television Comedy Series Brice Beckham
Best Family Television Series
-
2004 TV Land Award Nominated Best Broadcast Butler Christopher Hewett



This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mr._Belvedere" 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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