Trick or Treat? The Halloween Episodes of Bewitched

Happy Halloween! It doesn’t seem right to discuss Halloween episodes without considering the series that made witches fun—Bewitched. During its eight years from 1964-1972, Bewitched produced five Halloween episodes.  Let’s discuss each of these shows in more depth.

The Witches Are Out – 1964  (Episode 7, Season 1)

The show opens with Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and three of her aunts, including Clara (Marion Lorne), in her living room complaining about humans’ tendency to portray witches as ugly old crones. Endora, (Agnes Morehead) absent, is apparently in France where she is said to spend every Halloween avoiding the holiday. Darrin (Dick York) is designing a campaign for a company that makes Halloween candy.  The client, Brinkman, wants a stereotyped ugly witch for his logo.  When Sam sees the sketches for the new campaign, she and Darrin have a fight. He designs a beautiful witch instead, and when the client does not like it the next day, and Darrin refuses to design a logo with an ugly witch, Larry (David White) fires him. Feeling bad about Darrin losing his job, the aunts and Samantha pay a visit to Brinkman while he is sleeping.  They turn his phone into a snake, “twitch” him to a spot where he is ready to be shot by the Foreign Legion, and finally turn him into an old witch before he begs forgiveness and agrees to show them in a favorable light. The next day he has Darrin rehired and uses the beautiful witch. Things turn out great for everyone because it turns out fathers buy most of the Halloween candy, and they like the beautiful witch so sales skyrocket.

Fun Fact:  This is Aunt Clara’s first appearance in the show.  She mentions her door knob collection and when Brinkman wakes up the next day, all 150 of his door knobs have been taken. In real life, Marion Lorne did have a door knob collection.bewitched-7

Trick or Treat – 1965 (Episode 43, Season 2)

This was my favorite Halloween episode. Endora (Agnes Moorhead) wakes Sam up to tell her to be ready to go to the “sacred volcano” in four hours for Halloween.  Sam refuses because they are having the Tates and a client and his wife for dinner. While they are talking later, Sam gets a box of ugly witch decorations delivered.  Endora is furious thinking that it came from Darrin; actually it was sent by Larry and made by the client’s company. Endora goes to visit Darrin at work. He tells Endora he will not encourage Sam to go the volcano.  Later that night as they are waiting for their company to arrive, Endora turns herself into a little girl in a gypsy costume, played by an adorable Maureen McCormick. When Darrin opens the door to give her candy, she tricks him and turns him into a werewolf.  Sam immediately retrieves her mother as the little girl, and Endora pretends to forget the spell.  Sam makes her sit in the den to think about it.  As they are entertaining their guests, Darrin is in and out of the room, cutting his long nails when they grow, and running upstairs to shave his face and hands.  When he becomes a full-blown werewolf, he goes outside to hide and runs into Larry and the client.  The client loves the “costume”.  When Darrin goes upstairs to “change,” Sam tells her mother that she is behaving just like the stereotype witch humans portray them as and to the one person who believes in them.  Endora changes Darrin back to himself, turns back into herself, and stays for dinner.

Fun Fact:  Maureen McCormick also appeared on I Dream of Jeannie and My Three Sons before becoming a regular on The Brady Bunch.

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Twitch or Treat – 1966 (Episode 81, Season 3)

Endora creates a house across the street from Sam and Darrin so she can hold a Halloween party there. Darrin forbids it, so she changes the party to Sam and Darrin’s house. Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde) arrives early and has most of the funniest lines in the show. Mrs. Kravitz (Alice Pearce) goes to spy on the house for Halloween, and Uncle Arthur twitches her back to her own front door.  When she turns around, she sees a man arriving at the Stevens’ home with a cat which he changes to a beautiful woman.  She calls the city councilman running for re-election to tell him there is something fishy in the neighborhood he needs to deal with.  The rest of the show occurs at the party.  When the councilman and his manager come to the door, Uncle Arthur has them walk through it only to be in the backyard.  This happens several times and then they try a window and the same thing happens so they can’t get to the party.  During their predicament, the cat/woman decides she likes Darrin and curls up at her feet and asks him to scratch behind her ears; he of course has no idea she’s a cat.  The councilman finally gives up and goes home.  The girlfriend is turned back into a cat at midnight.  At that point, Endora recites her “The Night Before Halloween,” but Arthur keeps interrupting with funny lines, and she gets so annoyed she puts him in the middle of a fountain and takes her guests to the Riviera.  One of the best moments in this show is when Sam waves and says “Hi Willie,” and we see Willie Mays across the room.  Darrin, surprised and speechless, finally asks if that is indeed Willie Mays.  Sam says of course, and Darrin asks if he is “you know”, and Sam says “with a career as amazing as his, could he be anything else.”

Fun Fact: Mr. and Mrs. Kravitz, played by Alice Pearce and George Tobias, played Mr. and Mrs. Fenimore  in the Doris Day movie, The Glass-Bottom Boat in 1966.  Paul Lynde was also in the movie. The Kravitz house on Bewitched later became the house for The Partridge Family.

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The Sane and Safe Halloween – 1967 (Episode 115, Season 4)

Samantha reads Tabitha a Halloween story before bed.  The Stevens have decided to raise Tabitha as a human with the same traditions and books other children her age have. When Sam leaves the room, thinking her asleep, Tabitha brings three of the book characters (an elf, a goblin, and a jack o’lantern) to life. Once again, Samantha refers to Endora being in France where she spends every Halloween. Samantha makes Tabitha a leopard costume.  Across the street, Gladys Kravitz (now played by Sandra Gould because Alice Pearce died from cancer) is fixing her nephew’s costume, a jack o’lantern that is identical to the character from Tabitha’s book.  She explains to him why they are not going to the Stevens’ home for candy. While Sam and Tabitha go trick or treating, the three book characters catch up to them.  Thinking they are friends of Tabitha’s, Sam invites them along.  At the first house, the woman handing out candy suddenly has a beard.  Sam reprimands Tabitha, thinking she used her powers to do that. At the next house, someone freezes the man handing out candy and the elf grabs a bunch more.  Now Sam is really mad and tells Tabitha she has to go home and right to bed. When they get home, Sam sees the open book with the characters missing and puts two and two together.  She goes back to look for the characters.  In the meantime, Gladys’s nephew who runs away from her sees the three characters, and they decide to play a joke by sending the other jack o’lantern back with Gladys.  Sam arrives shortly after and makes all three characters go home with her. In the meantime, the jack o’lantern with Gladys throws a pie at a woman handing out dessert and Gladys takes him home.  When they get home and she can’t remove his head, she gets worried.  When he gets a chance he runs off. In the meantime, Sam realizes she has Gladys’s nephew. When she goes to look for the real jack o’lantern, the elf turns the nephew into a goat.  Just in time, Sam gets home, has Tabitha put the three characters back in the book and then turns the goat back into a boy just as Gladys comes looking for him. Luckily, he can’t remember the evening at all.

Fun Fact: Although we never hear them, the Bewitched theme song had lyrics.  Singer Steve Lawrence recorded a version of the song and lyrics.

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To Trick or Treat or Not To Trick or Treat – 1969 (Episode 177, Season 6)

The show opens with Sam making final fittings to Tabitha’s princess costume.  Endora pops in and gets mad when she sees witches’ costumes.  Sam tells her she is heading up UNICEF in the neighborhood. Endora and Darrin get into an argument about trick or treating.  Neither will give in and Darrin (now played by Dick Sargent) insults Endora.  When he gets the office, he realizes that he is slowly becoming a witch.  He heads home and apologizes, so Endora returns him to normal, but then he insults her again and she turns him back into a witch. Sam agrees not to trick or treat for UNICEF if Endora fixes Darrin.  In the meantime, Larry is upset because their client’s wife is head of UNICEF and is mad Sam quit.  Darrin tells Sam she can’t fight his battles.  After Sam and Tabitha leave to trick or treat, he takes the UNICEF kids out.  Sam and Tabitha see him and help out.  While they are at the school UNICEF party, the client and his wife think Darrin looks so good as a witch, they want that for their new trademark.  They make lotion and the witch is the “before” look. When they get home, Sam tells Endora that she’s given the stereotype witch more publicity than most people. Endora restores Darrin to normal, and Darrin introduces Sam, the “beautiful” witch to the client who likes the idea and uses the good witch as the “after” photo for their lotion. This was the weakest episode of the bunch.  Apparently, the writers could not come up with a new idea because they did an almost identical writing of the first Halloween episode.

Sad Fact:  Dick York had a seizure on the set on season five.  He had excruciating back pain from an injury he sustained making a movie in the 1950s.  He stepped down from the show, never received royalties from reruns, and died on welfare. When Dick Sargent replaced him, the show never referred to Uncle Arthur, Aunt Clara, or the Kravitzes again.

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The first four Halloween Bewitched episodes are treats and well worth watching.  The last episode is a trick, and like the series itself the last three years, is tired and lacking interest.  Skip that show and watch The Glass-Bottom Boat instead. If you’re looking for an unusual theme party, play the episodes that feature Uncle Arthur and use the best one-liners as part of your menu and decorations.

See you in November.

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A Haunting We Will Go

The leaves are full of color and falling off trees, and every Friday night brings the sound of cheering and marching bands at high school football games.  That must mean that Halloween is right around the corner.  Sadly, the real evidence that Halloween is coming is all the Christmas decorations for sale in the stores, but that’s another discussion.

Let’s look at some of the best Halloween episodes from my favorite television shows from the past fifty years.

The Brady Bunch – “Fright Night” 1972

This spooky episode aired October of 1972.  The girls wake up in the middle of the night by mysterious sounds and a ghost hovering outside their window.  When their parents investigate the mystery, and find the attic window open, they assume it was the wind making a rocking chair move.  What they don’t realize is that the boys were pulling a prank on the girls. Marcia suspects the boys, so the girls come up with a prank of their own that includes having the boys sleep in the attic. Mike and Carol put a stop to the pranks. Alice mentions that she does not scare easily, so the kids team up to put her to the test. Alice thinks a burglar is in the house, and when she sees a bust that Carol has been sculpting of Mike for an art contest, she hits it, thinking she has the thief. Carol and Mike come home in the middle of the melee, lecture the kids, and take their allowance for two weeks as a punishment.

Cheers – “Fairy Tales Can Come True” 1984

It’s Halloween at Cheers and the regulars come in costume.  Cliff as Ponce de Leon starts up a conversation with a woman dressed as Tinkerbell.  They dance to “Moon River” and in character, they easily charm each other.  The next day when they are supposed to meet out of costume, Cliff gets the jitters.  “Tinkerbell” finally calls to say that she is nervous for the same reasons, and she slowly comes down the stairs to meet Cliff.  They pick up where they left off, dancing to “Moon River” as themselves. The subplot has Frasier out of town so he suggests Sam and Diane go to the Boston Pops concert as friends, their first time alone together since their break-up.

Dick Van Dyke – “Ghost of a Chantz” 1964

After Mel mixes up reservations at a lodge, Rob, Laura, Sally, and Buddy are forced to spend a night at an allegedly haunted cabin. They were told it’s haunted by Amos Chantz, who disappeared three years before, presumed to be murdered. Dispelling the haunted theory, the four friends take the cabin only to find a fireplace that lights itself, a creaky door, a rocking chair that rocks itself, and a mysterious face in the mirror.  Everyone but Rob is abducted by hooded figures. Anyone who watched Scooby Doo probably saw the end coming.  Suddenly, the face in the mirror becomes Mel Cooley and he reveals that the group was set up for a new hidden-camera program called “Sneaky Camera.”

Friends – “The One with the Halloween Party” 2001

Monica and Chandler decide to host a Halloween party. Monica wants him to dress as the Velveteen Rabbit, his favorite childhood book, but all she can find is a pink rabbit, more like Harvey.  His costume doesn’t seem so bad next to Ross who is Sput-nik, a cross between a satellite and a potato. Phoebe and Monica come as Catwoman and Supergirl and get into an argument about whether Ross or Chandler would win a fight.  Ross and Chandler have an arm-wrestling match and it goes on so long that Ross asks Chandler to let him win and he does. Rachel, in the meantime, is handing out candy to children.  She bores the first group with a fashion story, and when one girl finally likes her, she gives her all the candy and is forced to give money to the rest of the trick-or-treaters.  Finally Gunther arrives with more candy. Rachel decides she might not be ready for motherhood.

Happy Days – “Haunted” 1974

Ralph hosts a Halloween party each year, and this year he wants to hold it at the old Simpson House, rumored to be haunted. He asks Richie to check out the house when he takes Joanie to her Junior Chipmunk meeting.  At the house, Richie thinks he sees a headless ghost in the closet.  Richie goes to the party nervously.  He comes as a skeleton, Potsie is Superman but with an “F” on his chest, Ralph is Alfred Hitchcock, Fonzie is the Lone Ranger and his date is Tonto. Potsie and Ralph set Richie up with a date which turns out to be the dressed-up dummy in the closet which scared Richie originally. The show ends with Marion and Joanie sorting candy.  One good line comes from Howard who says that their carved pumpkin looks like Aunt Bessie.

Home Improvement – “The Haunting of Taylor House” 1992

This show is made up of a lot of small, funny moments. On “Tool Time”, Tim carves a pumpkin and instead of a small knife, uses power, always a disaster. At home, Tim turns the basement into the Catacombs of Terror, his version of a haunted house. Tim dresses as a woman, Jill as a carrot, Brad as Raggedy Andy, and Mark as his father.  Brad’s girlfriend, dressed as a biker chick, brings another guy to the party because she thinks Brad was insensitive. Tim makes it his mission to scare the poor boy as often as possible.

M*A*S*H – “Trick or Treatment” 1982

Halloween night 1953 finds the gang of the 4077th at a party at Rosie’s with Hawkeye as Superman, B.J. as a clown, Margaret as a geisha girl, Col Potter as a cowboy, and Klinger as Al Capone. Winchester, who doesn’t care for Halloween, is on surgical duty. Two marines need treatment, one for getting a pool ball stuck in his mouth and one who tried to punch an electrical fan at the party.  Party plans are put on hold when wounded arrive.  One man appears to be dead and has a toe tag.  However, Father Mulcahy realizes he is alive before the grave registrars take him away.  Like most M*A*S*H episodes, this one as some laugh-out-loud moments with bittersweet realizations of life in the trenches.

Mr. Belvedere – “Halloween” 1986

The subplot is that George, the always funny Bob Uecker, is about to join the Happy Guys of Pittsburgh on Halloween night, but George and Marsha discover the club has a dark side. Heather comes into the kitchen with a sexy French maid costume that her parents forbid her to wear to the school party.  When they leave the house, she puts it on anyway.  When she comes home and her parents are in the living room, she is wearing a suit of armor.  She tells them she disobeyed them and the senior guys gave her so much attention that she traded costumes.  Before we learn whom she traded with, her brother Kevin enters the house telling her she owes him as he is dressed as a French maid. Out of character, Mr. Belvedere goes wild toilet papering a house while taking Wesley trick or treating.

Modern Family – “Halloween” 2010

Claire has decided to go all out completing a haunted house.  Phil, after learning their neighbors just divorced, worries that he needs to be more spontaneous to keep their marriage healthy.  His attempts all fail. Mitchell is happy to learn he can wear a costume to work, but after wearing Spiderman, quickly pulls a suit on over it when employees say only losers wear costumes. Gloria is mad at Manny and Jay making fun of her accent. When the haunted house starts, nothing goes right.  Alex is a bad actor as a prisoner, Cam keeps talking about his traumatic Halloween story, Jay can’t get the timing for the special effects, and Gloria has adopted an “English” voice. When trick or treaters are not scared, Claire walks out. Phil goes to talk to her and realizes their marriage is fine.  She was consumed by the haunted house because other family members have taken over Christmas and Thanksgiving which she used to host, and all she has left is Halloween. By the time they get back inside, the rest of the family has fixed the problems with the haunted house.

Newhart – Take Me to Your Loudon” 1987

George wants to dress up for the holiday, so he talks Dick and Joanna into having a party. George shows up as the Cowardly Lion, Dick as the Tin Man, Joanna as Vampira, Stephanie as a Princess, and Michael as a Canadian Mountie. This episode featured a take on Orson Wells narration of “The War of the Worlds”. Michael replays the radio episode, thinking everyone knows what it is, but many of the town residents believe they are being invaded. The town thinks Bob is the alien infiltrator.  He tries to explain it’s an old radio gag. When Darryl, Darryl and Larry show up and hear what everyone thinks, Larry says even he wouldn’t fall for that.

Ozzie and Harriet – “Halloween Party” 1953

Ozzie is not in the Halloween spirit.  His neighbor Thorny reminds him about all the fun holidays they’ve had in the past.  The boys decide that the problem is nobody plans anything so they take over preparations for the party. Ricky shows up in a skeleton costume because it makes him look thin and people feel sorry for him and give him more cake and ice cream at the school Halloween party. Ozzie comes to the party as a devil and Thorny is a Scotsman. Their wives let the guys know they just forgot two minor details: a location for the party and food!

Yes Dear – “Halloween” 2001

On Halloween night, Greg has to wear a hot dog costume because that’s what Sam picked for him when he and his mom went to look for costumes.  Sam is a kitten and Kim a genie. Sam is scared by a neighbor.  When she says she’ll get candy, it’s the cue for her son to jump out of the bushes as a Wolfman. Sam begins crying, and his parents decide to get revenge on the family. They do the polite thing and write a letter.  They hide to watch the family’s reaction, only to see the couple laugh hysterically.  They decide to get eggs, toilet paper, and shaving cream instead.  Unfortunately, they had grabbed hard-boiled eggs, and they break a window.  To avoid being caught, they hide in the family’s car in the backseat. As they’re hiding, the mother hops in the car to drive to Las Vegas.

One thing I learned from reviewing these episodes, is that writers have a hard time coming up with creative Halloween titles; hence the title “Halloween” for one-fourth of these shows and the unimaginative “Halloween Party” and “Haunted” for two other episodes. If you want to celebrate Halloween by watching some of these fun shows, you’ll have to invest in DVDs.  Antenna TV is showing the Addams Family all day on Halloween and a variety of episodes on Sunday.  The only episode from this blog they have scheduled is Mr. Belvedere. Me TV will show “Trick or Treatment” from M*A*S*H on Sunday night.  On Halloween they are running their normal schedule but including Halloween episodes when available, so you can see the Brady Bunch’s “Fright Night.”

Before leaving Halloween episodes I do have to give a big shout-out to Last Man Standing for their Halloween show this year.  In order to get the family to abandon having Halloween parties, Mike talks everyone into dressing as each other, realizing that this will cause numerous hard feelings and no one will want a party in the future.  The party starts out that way but then the family has to tell Vanessa she was fired due to expenses and as they all gather around to make her feel better, she is so happy that she declares they will have a party every Halloween.  The impersonations they cast does of each other and the detailed costumes are worth watching the show for.

Next week on Halloween, we’ll take a closer look at the Halloween episodes of Bewitched.

Married . . . with Children

The title is the only reference I’ll be making to that 1980s show.  In honor of our 29th anniversary today, I thought I would look at sitcoms dealing primarily with marriage.  Surprisingly, there have not been as many as one would think.  It’s amazing how many sitcoms are about single parents, families, friends, or co-workers.  If there are any similarities between our married life and Al and Peg Bundy’s life, I really don’t want to know about them.  So, let’s look at a few sitcoms that did focus on blessed unions.

The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show – George Burns and Gracie Allen filmed 120 episodes for their television series.  They were married in real life, and the set design for the show was based on their real-life home. Gracie was zany, but her literal perspective of the way life worked made uncanny sense.  George loved Gracie and knew that she was the center of his marriage and career. George was very generous and made numerous gifts to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center which is at the intersection of George Burns Road and Gracie Allen Drive. I love looking at marriage that way – it’s an intersection found at the center of a very diverse couple.

Burns And Allen Show

I Love Lucy – In 1953, I Love Lucy joined the Monday night line-up with The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. Lucy and Ricky (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) are probably the most famous married couple. For six years, they took ordinary situations and exaggerated them. Lucy’s hare-brained schemes created an endless source of comedy. However, the problems with couple faced were believable, and they were the same problems other young couples were facing the first couple years of marriage like how to pay the rent, buying a new dress, and dealing with in-laws.

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Pete and Gladys – Starring Harry Morgan and Cara Williams, this was one of, if not the first, spinoff.  Pete Porter was a neighbor featured on December Bride for six years.  When the show went off the air, we finally met Gladys, his wife.  He was an affectionate and caring husband and she was a very nice homemaker.  Unfortunately, the show only lasted two seasons, although Harry Morgan went on to star in many television shows.

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The Dick Van Dyke Show – Dick and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore) showed us an intimate side of married life for five years.  They were funny and had an interesting life.  Sometimes they even watched a bit of television at night.  They were a couple who admitted they were a bit insecure about parenting.  They worked through their problems with humor and logic. Although Dick was a writer and Laura a stay-at-home mom, they were equal intellectuals and that was the basis of their relationship.

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The Bob Newhart Show – Bob and Emily Hartley (Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette) were another couple who were intellectual equals.  They were funny, understanding, and warm.  They argued about real issues, and they made up.  Both the characters had very definite identities, and they did not always see eye to eye, but they respected each other and loved each other deeply.

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Mork and MindyMork and Mindy was a sitcom about an alien and the girl next door (Robin Williams and Pam Dawber). If most American couples think they have some impossible issues to work through, they should watch a few episodes of Mork and Mindy. The show lived on for four years, primarily because of Robin Williams’ wild improvisations and Pam Dawber’s believable love for Mork. Mork and Mindy was not only a spinoff from Happy Days, but it was actually inspired by a Dick Van Dyke Show episode “It May Look Like a Walnut.” Director Jerry Paris created the idea when Garry Marshall mentioned that his son would like to see a spaceman on television. Paris, who played Jerry Helper on the Dick Van Dyke Show, remembered that episode and invented Mork.  In season four, Mork laid an egg, in more ways than one, and the show was cancelled.

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Dharma and Greg – When free spirit Dharma and lawyer Greg (Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson) get married on their first date, the show was born.  They have conflicting views on everything except how much they love each other.  These views lead to comical situations – imagine a Republican and Democrat married in today’s political climate! Dharma overshares all her views and feelings, while Greg was raised to not talk about such things.  I think a lot of us can relate to that.

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Mad About You – Paul and Jamie Buchman (Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt) are newlyweds who cope with life as a recently married couple.  They point out the gentle humor of everyday life situations. One description of the show said that this show starts after a party when the husband and wife are alone in the car discussing the evening. For seven seasons, they tackled the issues so when the series was over, there was no “seven-year itch” to worry about.

A fun fact, Carl Reiner reprised his Alan Brady role from the Dick Van Dyke Show on Mad About You.  The episode made several references to the classic sitcom, including Jamie saying “Oh Paul,” an aside to Laura Petrie’s famous “Oh Rob.”

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These were several of the couples we watched during our life who indirectly influenced the way we viewed marriage. Each of the couples has something to teach us about successful marriages. One review of Burns and Allen concluded that “the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show exuded excellence, with a unique format, interesting plots, a great cast, and virtually non-stop comedy featuring the unparalleled zany wit of Gracie.”  I would consider it a compliment if that was a review for our marriage as well.

“The Ultimate Definition of Success is to Repeat It” says Jeffrey Benjamin

After reading about That Girl and what a tough time Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell had finding new roles that did not stereotype them as Don and Ann, I thought about actors who were able to transcend that hurdle.  I could think of numerous actors and actresses who were able to have two important television roles.  Mary Tyler Moore began as Laura Petrie but Mary Richards was also a strong character.  Ron Howard grew up from Opie Taylor to Richie Cunningham.  Kristy McNichol lived out her adolescence in Family and then moved to Florida as Barbara in Empty Nest.

I started to do some research and found the following actors who had numerous television series.

Alan Alda – Of course, his iconic role was Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H.  From 1972-83 he kept us laughing or crying in Korea.  Since M*A*S*H he has taken on roles in several television series including ER (1999), West Wing (2004-06), 30 Rock (2009-10), The Big C (2011-13), and The Blacklist (2013-14).

Fun Fact:  He got his start on the Phil Silvers Show in 1957.

Meredith Baxter – Most people remember her as Elyse Keaton in Family Ties (1982-89), but for me it was Nancy in Family (1976-80).  Other shows include Bridget Loves Bernie (1972-73), The Faculty (1996), Cold Case (2006-07), The Young and the Restless (2014), and Finding Carter (2014-15).

Fun Fact:  Her mother was Whitney Blake, Missy on Hazel.

Sally Field – I think most people will always think of Sally Field as the Flying Nun (1967-70).  Her first show was Gidget (1965-66). As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, she had a role in the forgettable Hey Landlord (1967) and she was The Girl with Something Extra (1973-74).  Like Alan Alda, she also had a recurring role in ER (2000-06), and her most recent show is Brothers and Sisters (2006-11).

Fun  Fact:  She won an Emmy for her appearance on ER.

John Forsythe – While younger people only know him as the voice of Charlie on Charlie’s Angels (1976-81) or Blake Carrington from The Colbys (1980-86) which led to Dynasty (1981-89), one of my favorite sitcoms of all is Bachelor Father which John starred as Bentley Greg from 1957-62.  Before Bachelor Father, he starred in Lights Out (1951-2), Suspense (1951-52) and Studio One (1949-55). Before Charlie’s Angels, he was in the John Forsythe Show (1965-66) and To Rome with Love (1969-71). His last show was The Powers That Be (1992-93).

Fun Fact: Along with Harry Morgan and Meredith Baxter, he was on episodes of The Love Boat.

Harry Morgan – Harry Morgan is the king of shows, with 12 series to his credit.  He is probably best remembered for three of them–Pete and Gladys (1960-62), Dragnet (1967), and M*A*S*H (1974-83). His first sitcom was December Bride (1954-59) which spun off Pete and Gladys.  In the 60s before Dragnet he was in Kentucky Jones (1964-65) and Dr. Kildare (1965).  The seventies saw him in Hec Ramsey (1972-74) and Gunsmoke (1970-75).  After M*A*S*H, he literally was in After M*A*S*H (1983-85), Blacke’s Magic (1986), You Can’t Take It With You (1987-88), and Third Rock From the Sun (1996-97).

Fun Fact:  He was in an episode of the Partridge Family in the first season.

Bob Newhart – Bob Newhart gets the award for having the most shows with his name it in.  Fans fondly remember The Bob Newhart Show set in Chicago when he played Dr. Hartley (1972-78) or Newhart where he was the inn owner Dick Loudon (1982-90).  His first show was The Bob Newhart Show (1961).  After Newhart, he tried out Bob (1992-93) and George and Leo (1997-98).  Like Alan Alda and Sally Field, he also had a recurring role on ER (2003) and most recently has had a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory (2013-15).

Fun Fact:  The 1982-90 show had the best finale ever when the show ended with Bob in bed with his wife from the 1972-78 series thinking Newhart had been a dream.

Ed O’Neill – If any actor should have been stereotyped after a role, Ed O’Neill seemed doomed after Al Bundy in Married. . . With Children (1987-97), yet he now has an even bigger hit in Modern Family as Jay Pritchett (2009-16).  In between he was on the Big Apple (2001), Dragnet (2003-4), a remake of Harry Morgan’s show, and John From Cincinnati (2007).  Like Alan Alda, he took on a role on The West Wing (2004-05).

Fun Fact:  He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 but was cut in training camp.

Dick Van Dyke – Finally, we have Dick Van Dyke.  Before I researched this blog, I thought he and Bob Newhart might have the most sitcoms to their credit.  He comes in with only four starring shows overall.  Like Bob, he never wanted to stray far from his name:  We had the iconic Dick Van Dyke Show as Rob Petrie (1961-66), The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971-74), The Dick Van Dyke Show (1988), and then Diagnosis: Murder (1993-2001). Like so many of these actors who have something in common with Alan Alda, Dick Van Dyke’s first appearance in a sitcom was also The Phil Silvers Show (1957-8).

Fun Fact:  He can trace his family line back to the Mayflower.

Why do some stars get locked into a role that they are never able to separate themselves from?  Think Henry Winkler as the Fonz, Lucille Ball as Lucy, or Don Knotts as Barney.  I think part of it is that we get so attached to these characters we almost want to believe they are real and the actor moving on destroys that image.

The above actors all had different situations that allowed them to move on more easily.  Alan Alda never had that hit show again.  After M*A*S*H, he took on dramatic recurring roles.  Meredith Baxter was in a  mixed genre of shows. Of her two hit shows, one was a drama, Family, and one a sitcom, Family Ties.  Dick Van Dyke had the same formula:  The first Dick Van Dyke Show, a sitcom, and Diagnosis: Murder, an action/mystery series.  John Forsythe and Harry Morgan came into show business during the golden days of television.  They were able to have extremely successful shows and characters and then start over.  Forsythe had 10 series to his credit, Morgan had 12. Sally Field, although starting out in television, was certainly better known as a movie actress.  Audiences were seeing her on the big screen as other characters so they perhaps don’t pigeon hole her into one role so much.  Ed O’Neill actually had success on two sitcoms about families.  Maybe Jay Pritchett is so successful because he shows what Al Bundy may have been like growing up in a more enlightened era where the fathers help parent and run the house.  And Bob Newhart, I think, was successful because he actually plays the same character in most of his shows, and we love that character so we keep looking for him, no matter what the show is actually titled.