Created by Ann Marcus and Norman Lear
Starring Barbara Baxley, Eileen Brennan, Vanessa Brown, Anita Gillette, Linda Evans, David Haskell, Chuck McCann, Lois Nettleton, Wes Parker, Gary Sandy, Louise Shaffer, Tim Thomerson, Jessica Walter.
In the 1970s, Norman Lear ruled sitcom TV, creating socially prograssive comedy that pushed what was acceptable on TV. Many of his shows were classics, but even his flops had their strengths. All That Glitters was one of his biggest flops (I can’t seem to find any clips of it on Youtube), but it also was one of his most audacious ideas.
It was developed after the success of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. That show had become a phenomenon despite being a syndicated late night soap opera parody, and Lear decided to try it again. This time, though he wanted to make a soap opera with a different premise and the idea suddenly came to him: create a show set in a world where gender roles were reversed.
Lear got Ann Marcus (who had worked on Mary Hartman) to write the book and first script, attaching it to that concept.** In it, women held the positions of power: company presidents*** and political leaders. Men ran the households for their wives, and could only get low paying jobs like secretaries or waiters. And the women were the ones who had affairs and dalliances while their husbands were supposed to be demure and happy to keep their husband’s dinner warm. It was like a reverse Mad Men.
The show focused on Globatron, a big multinational corporation run, like everything else in this world, by women. The company president was L. W. Carruthers (Barbara Baxley), who would sexually harass her female workers (usually secretaries). The other executives has the same type of privilege men had in the 50s. Meanwhile the men were househusbands with the worries of a stereotypical 50s woman. For instance, Bert Stockwood (Chuck McCann) worried about his weight and whether he was still attractive to his executive wife, Christina Stockwood (Lois Nettleton). Dan Kinkaid (Gary Sandy) was complemented on having the best looking ass in the company. One major subplot involved finding a new woman to show the right image for the company’s new cigarette line – rugged and strong. The choice was Linda Murkland (Linda Gray), who turned out to be a transsexual.
Note that this avoided the usual joke about gender reversals: the women are perfectly competent in their jobs and the jokes come from them acting like men, not being unable to act like men.
It was a solid cast of people who ended up with long careers after the show. The most amusing bit of casting was Wes Parker as Glenn Langston; Parker had played in two world series as the starting first baseman of the Los Angeles Dodgers and got the part out of the blue. I also loved seeing Chuck McCann; in the early 60s, he was one of the great triumvirate of TV kiddy show hosts in New York City, along with Sandy Becker and Sonny Fox. Some have said that McCann was the best part of the show; his issues were more real than those of the people in charge.
The show was controversial (not surprising for anything for Lear). The opening theme mentioned that God was female and created Eve first; some religious groups objected. Another problem was that the concept was probably not suitable for a five-day-a-week soap opera format; the idea has limited variations and came off as a bit heavy-handed. It was also a difficult sell to individual stations. It only ran about three months before the plug was pulled.
And it was pulled hard. The show has never been on DVD,**** was never syndicated, and doesn’t even have clips on Youtube. Even photos of the show are hard to track down. It’s truly been forgotten.
I wouldn’t expect the show to hold up particularly well over the years, but it might be interesting to see again.
*Like The Hot L Baltimore.”
**Marcus, who worked with him writing Mary Hartman, really didn’t want to work on the new show, but did the script and bible and soon returned to MH. She does not like the fact that Lear took sole credit for the show’s creation.
***The show appeared before the redundant term “CEO” was coined.
****Possibly for the same reason it took so long to get Mary Hartman onto disk – too many episodes. Five times a week adds up quickly.