Too Close for Comfort is an American television sitcom which ran on the ABC network and in first-run syndication from 1980 to 1986. It was modeled after the British series Keep it in the Family. Its name was changed to The Ted Knight Show during the latter part of its run.
Synopsis and First Season
Ted Knight and Nancy Dussault star as Henry and Muriel Rush, owners of a two-family house in San Francisco. The two story red house, seen at the opening and closing of each episode was shot at 171-173 Buena Vista Avenue in San Francisco.
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 ventroliquism talents for comical conversations with a hand-puppet version of "Cosmic Cow." Muriel is a laid back freelance photographer, having been a band singer in her earlier days. They have two grown daughters, brunette Jackie (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) who works for a bank, and the younger Sara (Lydia Cornell), a blond bombshell and college student.
At the start of the premier episode, Jackie and Sara are living with their parents in an awkward, cramped arrangement. Their long time downstairs tenant, Rafkin, dies suddenly. 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 Rafkin's gaudily decorated apartment. In a running gag, Henry falls off of the 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 meddles in their affairs constantly.
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 only 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.
During the first season, Sara's addle-headed friend Monroe Ficus, played by actor Jim J. Bullock, is added to the cast. Although the character was originally intended to be used for only a single-episode, the incompetent Monroe quickly became Henry's principal (if unintended) foil.
Developments in Seasons Two and Three
Ted Knight's character Henry became famous for wearing sweatshirts of various American colleges and universities. It was revealed in one episode that he wore the different sweatshirts because he himself had never gone to college. Eventually fans would send in sweatshirts from universities around the country hoping they would be used during filming.
During its second season, the series' principal stories are focused around Muriel's pregnancy. Additionally, Henry's niece April (Deena Freeman) comes from Delaware to live with the Rush family. The season concludes with Muriel giving birth to a son, Andrew.
For the third season, April departs and the character of Muriel's mother, Iris Martin (Audrey Meadows) is added in order to help take care of Andrew. Iris was a perfect sparring partner for Henry.
In the fall of 1982, ABC moved the series to Thursday nights, which proved to be a disaster for the show. Paired with failures such as Joanie Loves Chachi, Star of the Family and It Takes Two, Too Close for Comfort's ratings plummeted. At the conclusion of the season, Too Close for Comfort was canceled by ABC. The last first-run episode broadcast by ABC on May 5, 1983 was a pilot for a proposed spin-off series called Family Business. The series was to have focused on the misadventures of Lucille Garabaldi (Lainie Kazan) and her two sons (played by George Deloy and Jimmy Baio) as they tried to run a construction business.
ABC aired reruns of the show at 11:00 a.m. (ET) from June 27 to September 16, 1983.
During the early 1980s, Metromedia was attempting to build a fourth major television network around original programming, which would eventually become the Fox Broadcasting Company. When Too Close For Comfort was canceled by ABC, Metromedia elected to pick up the series and began producing all-new episodes to run in syndication on its various stations throughout the country.
Starting in April 1984, a total of 14 new episodes were broadcast for the show's fourth season, featuring the same cast as seen on the ABC episodes. Monroe and Iris were still around to bother Henry, and Jackie and Sara were still downstairs. Monroe eventually moves in to a remodelled attic, with the entrance from the Rushes' kitchen.
The show's ratings had improved in syndication, and Metromedia would order an additional 30 episodes, airing through November 1985. With a total of 107 episodes of Too Close for Comfort having been produced, the show became a popular staple for syndicated reruns throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Ted Knight Show
In late 1985, several changes were made before further episodes were produced, including changing the show's title to The Ted Knight Show (not to be confused with the short-lived 1978 CBS show of the same name). Jackie and Sara were written out of the show, and Henry and Muriel, along with Monroe, move to a house in Marin County, north of San Francisco. Henry leaves the cartoonist profession and becomes editor and 49% owner of a newspaper, The Marin Bugler, while Muriel takes a job with the paper as a photographer. Hope Stinson (Pat Carroll), owns the other 51%, creating friction with Henry. Lisa (Lisa Antille) was also added to the cast as the Rushes' maid and eventual romantic interest for Monroe. Along with the new title, a new opening was filmed in Marin County. The theme song was re-recorded in a smoother style.
First-run episodes of The Ted Knight Show were broadcast starting in April 1986. A total of 22 episodes were produced prior to the summer of 1986. The revamped show continued to be successful and was scheduled to resume production for another season, but Ted Knight, who had been battling colon cancer since 1985, died on August 26, 1986, aged 62, and the series was not continued. First-run episodes continued to air through September 1986.
With only a single season complete, The Ted Knight Show was added to the Too Close For Comfort re-run syndication package. However "The Ted Knight Show" title in the revamped opening was replaced with the original "Too CLOSE for Comfort" logo instead.
Created by Brian Cooke
Deborah Van Valkenburgh
Jim J. Bullock
Theme music composer Johnny Mandel
Opening theme "Too Close for Comfort" performed by Johnny Mandel
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 129
Executive producer(s) Earl Barret
Producer(s) Douglas Arango
Running time 30 mins.
Original channel ABC (1980-1983)
Picture format NTSC
Audio format Monaural
Original run November 11, 1980 – September 1986
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