Friday, April 10, 2020

Too Close for Comfort

Too Close for Comfort is an American sitcom television series that aired on ABC from November 11, 1980, to May 5, 1983, and in first-run syndication from April 7, 1984, to February 7, 1987. Its name was changed to The Ted Knight Show when the show was retooled for what would turn out to be its final season.

Ted Knight and Nancy Dussault star as Henry and Muriel Rush, respectively; owners of a two-family house in San Francisco, California. Henry is a conservative cartoonist who authors a comic strip called Cosmic Cow. During scenes in which Henry draws in his bedroom, Knight used his earlier acquired ventriloquism talents for comical conversations with a hand-puppet version of "Cosmic Cow." Muriel is a laid back freelance photographer, having been a lead singer of a band in her earlier days. They have two grown children, older daughter, brunette Jackie (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) who works for a bank and younger daughter Sara (Lydia Cornell), a blonde bombshell and a college student at San Francisco State University.

At the start of the premiere episode, Jackie and Sara are living with their parents in a cramped, awkward arrangement. Their longtime downstairs tenant, Myron (later called Neville) Rafkin, recently died. The family discovers Rafkin was a transvestite and the many strange women Henry had been opening the door for all those years were actually Rafkin himself. Jackie and Sara convince their parents to allow them to move into the now-vacant downstairs apartment. In a running gag, Henry falls off the girls' ultra-modern chairs or couch every time he attempts to sit down. Despite the daughters' push for independence and moving into the downstairs apartment, Henry proves to be a very protective father and constantly meddles in their affairs.

Due to an actors' strike led by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, new programming for the fall 1980 season was pushed back several months. As a result, Too Close for Comfort did not debut until November 11, 1980, and its initial season consisted of 19 episodes. The show garnered high ratings, benefiting from its placement in ABC's powerhouse Tuesday night lineup following hits like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Three's Company. Both the latter series and this series were recorded in the same studio, CBS Television City in Los Angeles, during Too Close for Comfort's ABC years.

A few episodes into the series, Sara's addle-headed friend Monroe Ficus, played by actor Jim J. Bullock, made an appearance. Although he was originally intended to be used for only a single episode, producers added the character to the series. Monroe was introduced to Henry by Sara as a depressed, lonely fellow student and street musician. Although Sara (with help from Jackie) tried to help him and send him on his way, Monroe found himself getting woven into the entire family's affairs and he became just a "friend" of Sara's and Henry's principal (if unintended) foil. During the first two seasons, Selma Diamond made guest appearances as Mildred Rafkin, sister of the late Myron. Sardonic, deadpan Mildred initially showed up to collect belongings left by Myron/Neville in the downstairs apartment, but continued to visit thereafter. Seemingly, there were sentimental reasons, but occasionally she would attempt to make time with the much younger Monroe, with whom she was infatuated.

Also added in early 1981 was Arthur Wainwright (Hamilton Camp), Henry's boss and head of Wainwright Publishing, who nearly decided to force the veteran cartoonist and Cosmic Cow into retirement in order to maintain a youth-oriented staff. The short-statured Mr. Wainwright, who spoke with Shakespearean diction and fancied himself an amateur detective (as a result of the famous mystery novels his company published), eventually let Henry stay with the firm, after the latter proved adept in helping him solve the mystery of Sara's stolen purse. Wainwright no longer appeared in person after the first season, but was referred to. Later, at the start of the fifth season, Graham Jarvis began appearing as Wainwright in a few guest appearances.

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