Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Good Guys

(TV) (1968-70)
Created by Jack Rose
Starring Bob Denver, Herb Edelman, Joyce Van Patten
Bert's Place on the Web, a Good Guys Fan site*

Bob Denver is a TV icon. His role of Maynard G. Krebs in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis put him on the comedy map, but, of course, the character he is best known for is Gilligan. In 1968, after Gilligan's Island was cancelled, Denver got a starring role in a new and different series, The Good Guys. The name referred to two lifelong friends Rufus Butterworth (Denver) and Bert Gramis (Herb Edelman). Rufus ran a taxi service, while Bert owned a diner, which he operated with his wife, Claudia (Joyce Van Patten).

This was a different style of comedy for Denver. Bert was less slapstick than Gilligan, and the humor was much more character oriented. The predicaments were the type of thing that really happened to people. Rufus was a little bit dim, but his friendship for Bert was an endearing quality, and he would as often as not help to fix the problems he caused.

What made the comedy work was the cast. Denver was fine as Rufus, with only a slight hint of Gilligan in the role. Herb Edelman had a long career as a character actor, best known as Murray the Cop in the film version of The Odd Couple. He did a lot of TV, but rarely in a recurring role except for the part of Stan in The Golden Girls. Joyce Van Patten (yes, she's Dick's sister) had a long career as a character actor in TV.

The show premiered to critical acclaim and mediocre ratings. And, as is too often the case with a gem like this, the network got involved and ordered changes. Alan Hale, Jr., and Jim Backus from a well-known TV island showed up as guest stars, and the show veered more and more toward slapstick.

The show was renewed, but CBS required a revamping (has that ever improved ratings?). Bert's diner was moved from the city to the shore, Rufus ditched his taxi to be Bert's partner, and it was no longer filmed in front of a studio audience. The ratings languished, of course, and the show was cancelled after two seasons.

Denver's next role was the execrable Dusty's Trail -- Gilligan's Island in the west, right down to the mix of characters. He did some guest star work, but was probably too well identified with Gilligan to ever break free of the role. It too bad The Good Guys wasn't a bigger success to show that Denver could be more than just Gilligan.**

*No link to the IMDB. Their current policy of not listing the credits of series regulars unless someone comes in and spends hours highlighting every single episode is just plain nonsensical. Why not put the regulars in every episode when the show is created? Then users can remove them on the few occasions they aren't in the show. But for obscure TV, you have to search and scroll down to find any of the actors who starred in it.

**Krebs is a great role, too, but when was the last time you saw Dobie Gillis on TV?

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