Irwin Shaw's Rich Man, Poor Man


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

One of the first American television miniseries, Rich Man, Poor Man aired on ABC from 1 February to 15 March 1976. Adapted from the best-selling 1970 Irwin Shaw novel, Rich Man, Poor Man was a limited twelve-part dramatic series consisting of six two-hour prime-time made for television movies. The televised novel chronicled the lives of the first-generation immigrant Jordache family. The story focused on the tumultuous relationship between brothers, Rudy (Peter Strauss) and Tom Jordache (Nick Nolte), as they suffered through twenty years (1945-65) of conflict, jealousy, and heartbreak.

The serial was enormously successful, leading the weekly ratings and ending as the second highest rated show for the 1976-77 television season. Along with its enormous audience popularity, it also garnered critical praise, reaping 20 Emmy nominations and winning four--two for acting achievement, one for directing, and one for musical score.

The success of Rich Man, Poor Man hinged on its employment of several innovative techniques. The narrative struck a unique combination which contained both the lavish film-style production values of prestigious special event programming while relying upon the "habit viewing" characteristic of a weekly series. Also, by utilizing historical backdrops like McCarthyism, the Korean War, campus riots, and the Black Revolution, Rich Man, Poor Man suggested larger circumstances than those usually found in a traditional soap opera. However, the limited series also liberally applied a range of risqué melodramatic topics including adultery, power struggles, and alcoholism. Another inventive concept introduced by Rich Man, Poor Man was the use of multiple, revolving guest stars throughout the series. While the three principal cast members were relatively unknown at the time, shuffling better known actors throughout the six-part series was a way to maintain interest and achieve some form of ratings insurance on the six-million dollar venture.

By invigorating the concept of adapting novels into television miniseries, Rich Man, Poor Man began a rapid proliferation of similar prime-time programming, including a sequel. The continuation, Rich Man, Poor Man--Book II, was a twenty-one part weekly series that aired in the fall of 1976. Although the sequel was not as successful as its predecessor, the idea of extended televised adaptations of popular novels quickly became a component of network schedules. In the season following the debut of Rich Man, Poor Man, all major networks scheduled at least one miniseries, including an adaptation of Harold Robbins' The Pirates and Alex Haley's historical epic Roots.

Although eclipsed by the record-breaking 1977 miniseries Roots (aired 1 January through 30 January on ABC), Rich Man, Poor Mann nonetheless has staked a spot in television history. It helped to create a special niche for televised novels as an economically viable miniseries genre that can still be found in such offerings as North & South and Lonesome Dove.

-Lisa Trevino

CAST--BOOK I

Rudy Jordache......................................... Peter Strauss

Tom Jordache............................................... Nick Nolte

Julie Prescott Abbott Jordache................ Susan Blakely

Axel Jordache ..........................................Edward Asner

Mary Jordache..................................... Dorothy McGuire

Willie Abbott.................................................. Bill Bixby

Duncan Calderwood..................................... Ray Milland

Teddy Boylan .............................................Robert Reed

Virginia Calderwood....................................... Kim Darby

Sue Prescott......................................... Gloria Grahame

Asher Berg.............................................. Craig Stevens

Joey Quales......................................... George Maharis

Linda Quales ................................................Lynda Day

George Nichols............................................ Steve Allen

Smitty ........................................................Norman Fell

Teresa Sanjoro............................................. Talia Shire

Marsh Goodwin......................................... Van Johnson

Irene Goodwin .......................................Dorothy Malone

Kate Jordache................................................ Kay Lenz

Sid Gossett .........................................Murray Hamilton

Arnold Simms............................................. Mike Evans

Al Fanducci............................................... Dick Butkus

Clothilde........................................... Fionnula Flanagan 

Brad Knight................................................ Tim McIntire

Bill Denton..................................... Lawrence Pressman

Claude Tinker ..........................................Dennis Dugan

Gloria Bartley........................................... Jo Ann Harris

Pete Tierney............................................... Roy Jenson

Lou Martin ..........................................Anthony Carbone

Papadakis...................................................... Ed Barth

Ray Dwyer ......................................Herbert Jefferson, Jr.

Arthur Falconetti ......................................William Smith

Col. Deiner ............................................Andrew Duggan

Pinky .......................................................Harvey Jason

Martha ........................................................Helen Craig

Phil McGee........................................... Gavan O'Herlihy

Billy................................................... Leigh McCloskey

Wesley .................................................Michael Morgan

PRODUCERS

Harve Bennett, Jon Epstein

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

9 Episodes

ABC

February 1976-March 1976   Monday 10:00-11:00

May 1977-June 1977   Tuesday 9:00-11:00

CAST--BOOK II

Senator Rudy Jordache............................. Peter Strauss

Wesley Jordache .......................................Gregg Henry

Billy Abbott ...................................James Carroll Jordan

Maggie Porter......................................... Susan Sullivan

Arthur Falconetti ......................................William Smith

Marie Falconetti ........................................Dimitra Arliss

Ramona Scott .........................................Penny Peyser

Scotty....................................................John Anderson

Charles Estep ..........................................Peter Haskell

Phil Greenberg........................................ Sorrell Brooke

Annie Adams........................................... Cassie Yates

Diane Porter ...........................................Kimberly Beck

Arthur Raymond ..........................................Peter Donat

Claire Estep....................................... Laraine Stephens

Senator Paxton........................................ Barry Sullivan

Kate Jordache ................................................Kay Lenz

John Franklin ............................................Philip Abbott

Max Vincent.......................................... George Gaynes

Al Barb.er .................................................Ken Swofford

Senator Dillon ..........................................G. D. Spradlin

PRODUCERS

Michael Gleason, Jon Epstein

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

21 Episodes

ABC

September 1976-March 1977   Tuesday 9:00-10:00 

Highlights
Ed Asner on acting in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man
05:43
Harve Bennett on the casting of Rich Man, Poor Man
08:40
Brandon Stoddard on developing Rich Man, Poor Man
06:18
Russell Johnson on appearing on Rich Man, Poor Man
00:45
Who talked about this show

Edward Asner

View Interview
Ed Asner on acting in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man
05:43

Harve Bennett

View Interview
Harve Bennett on the casting of Rich Man, Poor Man
08:40
Harve Bennett on the genesis of Rich Man, Poor Man
02:11

Russell Johnson

View Interview
Russell Johnson on appearing on Rich Man, Poor Man
00:45

Brandon Stoddard

View Interview
Brandon Stoddard on developing Rich Man, Poor Man
06:18

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