Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Gimme a Break!

Gimme a Break! is an American sitcom television series created by Mort Lachman and Sy Rosen, that aired on NBC for six seasons from October 29, 1981, until May 12, 1987. The series starred Nell Carter as the housekeeper for a widowed police chief (Dolph Sweet) and his three daughters.

The sitcom takes place in Glenlawn, a fictional suburb, located in either central or northern California. Nellie Ruth "Nell" Harper (Nell Carter) agrees to look after the Kanisky household as a special favor to her dying friend Margaret Huffman Kanisky (played in flashback by Sharon Spelman), who was the wife of police chief Carl Kanisky (Dolph Sweet), serving as a parental figure to the Chief's three teenage daughters, Katie (Kari Michaelsen), Julie (Lauri Hendler), and Samantha (Lara Jill Miller). A foster son, Joey (Joey Lawrence), was added to the Kanisky household in Season 3.

Five episodes into the sixth and final season, the show changed locales from Glenlawn to New York City, when Nell, concerned for Joey's welfare after he moved there with his absentee father, traveled there to check on him. She subsequently assumed guardianship of Joey and his younger brother Matthew (played by Joey Lawrence's real-life brother Matthew Lawrence) at their father's request and was forced to permanently relocate there after Chief Kanisky's father Stanley (John Hoyt) sold the family's Glenlawn home.

Over the six-year run, a number of celebrities appeared on the show, including singers Whitney Houston, Andy Gibb, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ray Parker Jr., and The Pointer Sisters. More often than not, the guest singers would perform a song with Nell on the episodes. During the third season, Pat Sajak guest-starred as himself when Nell and her friend Addy (Telma Hopkins) were contestants on Wheel of Fortune. Other notable guest stars included Milton Berle, Danny Glover, Rue McClanahan, Tony Randall, Helen Hunt, Don Rickles, Gwen Verdon, Dennis Haysbert, Ernie Hudson, Gary Collins, and Elizabeth Berkley.

The episode "Cat Story" was performed and broadcast live on March 2, 1985, as a promotional gimmick, which the cast performed without major incident. An earlier episode (from the 1984–85 season), "Baby of the Family," ranked No. 38 on TV Land's list of "The 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments;" it depicted Joey dressing and performing in blackface at Nell's church benefit, a plan hatched by Samantha to retaliate for Nell forbidding her to go on an unchaperoned camping trip.

The location of Glenlawn is never fully clarified, and various contradictory location information is presented during the series. Season 3 episode "James Returns" states that Glenlawn is "over 300 miles" from Santa Barbara, and "The Mayor", an episode from the same season, shows the chief boasting that a new police car could make it to Sacramento in 23 minutes. These would place Glenlawn somewhere near Stockton. However, another episode from Season 3, "Flashback", placed the town an hour away from Fresno, in the direction of Bakersfield. In another episode where exterior shooting took place, GlenLawn is on the ocean with palm trees. The proximity to the Bay Area is supported by later season episodes where Katie moves to San Francisco and Julie moves to nearby San Jose.

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