Mr. Belvedere

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Mr. Belvedere
Mr Belvedere.jpg
Mr. Belvedere title card, from seasons 3–6
GenreSitcom
Developed byFrank Dungan
Jeff Stein
StarringChristopher Hewett
Bob Uecker
Ilene Graff
Rob Stone
Tracy Wells
Brice Beckham
Theme music composerJudy Hart-Angelo
Gary Portnoy
Opening theme"According to Our New Arrivals" performed by Leon Redbone
Composer(s)Lionel Newman (music supervision, seasons 1 & 2)
Ben Lanzarone (additional music, seasons 3-6)
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes117 (10 unaired)
Production
Executive producer(s)Frank Dungan
Tony Sheehan (1985-1987)
Jeff Stein
Liz Sage (1989-1990)
Producer(s)Patricia Rickey
Jeff Ferro
Editor(s)Edward J. Brennan
Jessie Hoke
Don Wilson
Location(s)ABC Television Center
Camera setupVideotape
Multi-camera setup
Single-camera setup (on-location shoots for at least two episodes)
Running time24 mins.
Production company(s)Lazy B/F.O.B. Productions
20th Century Fox Television
Broadcast
Original channelABC
Picture format1.33 : 1 (Full screen)
Audio formatMonaural
Original runMarch 15, 1985 (1985-03-15) – July 8, 1990 (1990-07-08)
 
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Mr. Belvedere
Mr Belvedere.jpg
Mr. Belvedere title card, from seasons 3–6
GenreSitcom
Developed byFrank Dungan
Jeff Stein
StarringChristopher Hewett
Bob Uecker
Ilene Graff
Rob Stone
Tracy Wells
Brice Beckham
Theme music composerJudy Hart-Angelo
Gary Portnoy
Opening theme"According to Our New Arrivals" performed by Leon Redbone
Composer(s)Lionel Newman (music supervision, seasons 1 & 2)
Ben Lanzarone (additional music, seasons 3-6)
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes117 (10 unaired)
Production
Executive producer(s)Frank Dungan
Tony Sheehan (1985-1987)
Jeff Stein
Liz Sage (1989-1990)
Producer(s)Patricia Rickey
Jeff Ferro
Editor(s)Edward J. Brennan
Jessie Hoke
Don Wilson
Location(s)ABC Television Center
Camera setupVideotape
Multi-camera setup
Single-camera setup (on-location shoots for at least two episodes)
Running time24 mins.
Production company(s)Lazy B/F.O.B. Productions
20th Century Fox Television
Broadcast
Original channelABC
Picture format1.33 : 1 (Full screen)
Audio formatMonaural
Original runMarch 15, 1985 (1985-03-15) – July 8, 1990 (1990-07-08)

Mr. Belvedere is an American sitcom that originally aired on ABC from March 15, 1985, until July 8, 1990. The series is based on the Lynn Aloysius Belvedere character created by Gwen Davenport for her 1947 novel Belvedere, which was later adapted into the 1948 film Sitting Pretty.[1] The sitcom stars Christopher Hewett in the title role, who takes a job as a housekeeper with an American family headed by George Owens, played by Bob Uecker.

Development[edit]

The character of Lynn Belvedere was originally created by Gwen Leys Davenport in her 1947 novel, Belvedere. The following year, the title character was portrayed by Clifton Webb in the film Sitting Pretty. Webb's performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Sitting Pretty told the story of an arrogant genius who answers an employment ad for a baby sitter for three bratty kids. He accepts such employment because he is secretly writing a novel about a community filled with gossips and busybodies. Webb reprised the role in two more movies, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951).[1] (During her senior year at Vassar College, Davenport, under her maiden name "Gwen Leys," had a starring role in Can You Hear Their Voices?, a brand-new play by Hallie Flanagan from a short story by Whittaker Chambers.)

As early as the 1950s, attempts were made to adapt the character to television, with three pilots made during the 1950s and 1960s, including a 1965 version starring Victor Buono in the title role. All efforts, however, were unsuccessful until 1985, when ABC finally launched Mr. Belvedere as a mid-season replacement with British actor Christopher Hewett playing Lynn Belvedere.[2]

Pre-production[edit]

The shows creator/producer team pitched the series as "a very elegant, very British sophisticate hired to restore order to a chaotic household in a Pittsburgh suburb." The show eventually developed with a middle-class family in suburban Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. According to Frank Dungan & Jeff Stein, the co-creators/producers of the show, Pittsburgh was chosen because "It was either Pittsburgh or Paris and Paris doesn't have the Penguins . . . we wanted someplace with seasons and sporting activity . . . A city kinda going through a resurgence . . . with character and traditions that is moving into the '80s, a blue collar community that is moving into the up and coming, yet with the traditional spirit of the country. From everything we've read, Pittsburgh is moving into high tech."

Weeks after choosing Pittsburgh, the city was named by Rand-McNally as the most livable American city, "national publicity" the producers promised to use. Both Dungan (from Philadelphia) and Stein (from Cleveland) admitted to never having been to Pittsburgh prior to the series premier, though Dungan's sister attended Carnegie Mellon University. "I remember for four years she talked about how Pittsburgh was changing, and about how different it was from Philadelphia." Stein admitted that early on "We thought about setting the show in Cleveland, but that's too jokey" and that "We're not doing Pittsburgh jokes. We like Pittsburgh. We like the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's a classy ballclub. And we like Willie Stargell." No scenes from the pilot nor the first season's six episodes were shot in Pennsylvania however the producers promised if they "get picked up for fall [1985-86] we'll probably come to Pittsburgh."[3]

The producers educated themselves on Pittsburgh locales with a promotional calendar provided by the Pittsburgh Media Group (PMG) of public officials and Western Pennsylvania media. Dungan and Stein used it for story ideas during season 1 after the PMG pitched several studio groups in Los Angeles in January 1985. "People were impressed . . . the calendar has Pittsburgh scenes for each month. The Bridge of Sighs is February. The PPG Building is March. Three Rivers Stadium gets three months."[3]

Premise[edit]

The posh housekeeper, Lynn Belvedere, struggles to adapt to the Owens household. The breadwinner, George (Bob Uecker), is a sportswriter. His wife Marsha (Ilene Graff) is attending law school. At the show's start, oldest son Kevin (Rob Stone) is a senior in high school, daughter Heather (Tracy Wells) is a freshman, and Wesley (Brice Beckham) is in elementary school. Over the course of the series, George becomes a sportscaster, Marsha graduates from law school and starts a career as a lawyer, Kevin leaves for college and gets his own apartment, and Heather moves up in high school.

Several episodes deal with Wesley and Mr. Belvedere, who are always at odds with one another, with Wesley constantly antagonizing Mr. Belvedere. Deep down, however, they really love each other. In one of many very special episodes, one of Wesley's classmates contracts HIV via Factor VIII, like Ryan White. The friend is taken out of school due to the ignorance and uncertainty that many of the other children's parents share. This leads Wesley to shun his friend in fear of getting the disease himself. Mr. Belvedere is there for him and the child, and he helps Wesley to shed his fear of the boy and publicly accept him as his friend.

Throughout the series, Mr. Belvedere serves as a mentor of sorts to Wesley as well as to the other children. Being a cultured man with many skills and achievements, he also comes to serve as some sort of a "counselor" to the Owens clan, helping them solve their dilemmas and stay out of mischief.

Each episode ends with Mr. Belvedere writing in his journal, recounting the events of the day with the Owens family and what he got out of it in terms of a lesson.

A frequent gag on the show involves Heather's air-headed best friend Angela (Michele Matheson), who always (except for in one episode) mispronounces Mr. Belvedere's name - such as calling him "Mr. Bumpersticker", "Mr. Bellpepper" or "Mr. Butterfinger". Another frequent gag involves George and Mr. Belvedere butting heads, with George being annoyed with his "nosy English housekeeper" always interfering. Yet another recurring gag features George always trying to be initiated into the "Happy Guys of Pittsburgh" - a local charity club. Wesley's highly acrimonious relationship with the never-seen next door neighbors, the Hufnagels, and the shenanigans he pulls on them was another recurring plot element.

In the two-part series finale, Mr. Belvedere marries and moves to Africa, thus leaving the Owens family.

Cast[edit]

Main characters[edit]

Recurring characters[edit]

Episodes[edit]

Theme song[edit]

The show's theme song was performed by ragtime singer Leon Redbone. It was written by Judy Hart-Angelo and Gary Portnoy,[4] who had also written the theme songs to Cheers and Punky Brewster.

The song was originally composed in 1984 for a rejected TV pilot called Help (which was later resurrected as Marblehead Manor for NBC in 1987). It starred a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards as an inept member of an eccentric couple's household staff, who were perpetually conniving to pull the wool over the eyes of the mansions' newly hired head butler. With a minor lyrical re-write, it quickly became the theme song to Mr. Belvedere.[5] In 2007, a never-before-heard full-length version of the theme was released by Portnoy on his CD, Destiny.

There were three different ending themes during the show's original run:

  1. An instrumental version of the theme song was used as the ending theme for Seasons 1 and 2.
  2. A Dixieland rendition of the ending theme was used in Season 3.
  3. A jazzier rendition of the ending theme was used in Seasons 4–6.

For syndicated reruns, a shorter 30 second version was recorded, in order to accompany the shorter opening for the syndicated airings. The original theme song was 55 seconds long. The 55 second version has been restored on Shout! Factory's DVD releases.

Ratings and cancellation[edit]

The series did not rate in the Top 30 shows in any of its six seasons, but it did have a relatively solid ratings base, and often won its time slot.

Its first season (1985) was exempt from the Nielsen ratings as it aired too few episodes before the end of April to be counted.[6] In its second season (1985–86), the show ranked #45 with a 14.8 rating.[7]

During season three (1986–87), the show fell to #51 with a 13.7 rating.[8] At the end of the 1986-87 season, ABC decided to cancel the show,[9] but brought it back in October 1987.[10] In season four (1987–88), the show fell to #64 and an 11.5 rating for the year.[11] In season five (1988–89), the show rose to a 12.2 rating and #47 for the season.[12]

In the sixth and final season (1989–90), Mr. Belvedere was moved to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday nights, which led to a steep ratings decline from its old Friday night slot. Mr. Belvedere fell to a 6.3 rating. In its final airing before being put on hiatus on December 30, 1989, the series ranked #70 out of 83 shows.[13][14] ABC canceled the series in February 1990.[15] The two-part finale, which aired on July 1 and July 8, 1990, ranked #59 and #37, respectively, out of the 86 shows airing those weeks.[16][17]

Broadcast history[edit]

Network history[edit]

Sources: Mr. Belvedere Online, Los Angeles Times

Syndication history[edit]

The show first went into reruns on ABC's daily daytime schedule from September 7, 1987 to January 15, 1988, (replacing the game show Bargain Hunters). The daytime reruns consisted entirely of seasons 1–3.

On September 11, 1989 (around the same time the show entered its final season), and continuing in an on-again, off-again manner until 1997, it was seen in local syndication on select Fox affiliates. Along with the addition of seasons 4-6, ten previously unaired episodes (two from season 5 and eight from season 6), were also added to the syndication package. Advertisements for the shows' upcoming back-end syndicated run began appearing in issues of Broadcasting & Cable magazine, as early as 1986, long before there were plans announced for ABC daytime reruns.[18][not in citation given] Initially, this syndication package consisted of all 95 half-hour episodes made up until the end of season 5 in 1989, but a year later, season 6 (the remaining 22 half-hour episodes) was finally included.

In the early 2000s, the series aired on the Fox satellite channel Foxnet,[19] and on CTS in Canada from 2002 to 2004.

On December 17, 2009, American Life Network showed both of the shows' Christmas-themed episodes, as part of their month-long block of Christmas-themed episodes from TV shows owned by Twentieth Century Fox Television ("Christmas Story" from season 4 and "A Happy Guy's Christmas" from season 6). This was the first time in a little over a decade that the show has been seen in US syndication.[19]

As of October 3, 2011, reruns were airing on FamilyNet, the first time in over 15 years this show has been in regular syndication. Around November 2012 Dish Network began broadcasting FamilyNet's successor channel, Rural TV, making the show viewable in the US nationwide weeknights (with commercial bumpers intact briefly).[19] In 2015, Antenna TV will pick up the series.

DVD releases[edit]

Shout! Factory (under license from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) has released the first four, unedited seasons of Mr. Belvedere on DVD in Region 1.[20][21][22] Currently, Shout! Factory does not have the rights to seasons 5 & 6, and is still in long-drawn-out negotiations to acquire those remaining episodes (46 in total).[23]

DVD NameEp#Release DateSpecial Features
Seasons One & Two29March 17, 2009
  • New interviews with Bob Uecker, Ilene Graff, Rob Stone, and Brice Beckham
  • "The Guy who Plays Mr. Belvedere Fanclub" sketch from Saturday Night Live with Tom Hanks from 1992
Season Three22September 8, 2009
  • Six audio commentaries with Ilene Graff, Rob Stone, Tracy Wells and Brice Beckham ("Debut", "Kevin's Date", "Pills", "The Crush", "The Competition", "Kevin's Older Woman")
Season Four♦20January 19, 2010
  • Episode promos created for the syndication package
Season Five24TBA
  • TBA
Season Six22TBA
  • TBA

♦ - Shout! Factory select title, sold exclusively through Shout's online store.

Awards and nominations[edit]

YearAwardResultCategoryRecipient
1985Primetime Emmy AwardWonOutstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a SeriesGeorge Spiro Dibie
(For episode "Stranger in the Night")
1986Young Artist AwardsNominatedBest New Television Series – Comedy or Drama
-
Best Young Supporting Actor in a New Television SeriesBrice Beckham
WonBest Young Actress Starring in a New Television SeriesTracy Wells
1987NominatedExceptional Performance by a Young Actress, Starring in a Television, Comedy or Drama SeriesTracy Wells
Exceptional Performance by a Young Actor Starring in a Television Comedy or Drama SeriesBrice Beckham
1988NominatedBest Family Comedy Series
-
Best Young Female Superstar in TelevisionTracy Wells
Best Young Male Superstar in TelevisionBrice Beckham
1989NominatedBest Young Actress Guest Starring in a Drama or Comedy SeriesLaura Jacoby
(For episode "Pigskin")
Best Young Actress – Starring in a Television Comedy SeriesTracy Wells
Best Young Actor – Starring in a Television Comedy SeriesBrice Beckham
Best Family Television Series
-
2004TV Land AwardNominatedBest Broadcast ButlerChristopher Hewett

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Gwen Davenport, 92, 'Belvedere' Author". New York Times. 15 April 2002. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Proctor, Melanie (July 14, 1988). "Mr. Belvedere at your service". New Straits Times. p. 14. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Holsopple, Barbara (March 10, 1985). "Pittsburgh Gets a TV Series". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 5. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  4. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (October 17, 2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 903. ISBN 0-345-49773-2. 
  5. ^ garyportnoy.com
  6. ^ "'Dynasty' Ends As No. 1 Series". The Albany Herald. April 27, 1985. p. 2B. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Season's Final Ratings". South Florida Sun - Sentinel. April 23, 1986. p. 4E. 
  8. ^ "Year-end ratings". USA Today. April 22, 1987. p. 3D. 
  9. ^ "Parton Show Heads 8 New ABC Fall Series". Philadelphia Inquirer. May 16, 1987. p. C1. 
  10. ^ "Thank you, ABC, for bringing back "Mr. Belvedere"...". latimes.com. December 20, 1987. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Final rankings for the 1987-'88 season". The Miami News. April 20, 1988. p. 3C. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  12. ^ Walker, Joseph (April 26, 1989). "Poking Around Through the Rubble Of the 1988-89 Television Season". The Deseret News. p. 6C. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  13. ^ "ABC Puts Two More On Cancellation List". Wichita Eagle. December 7, 1989. p. C1. 
  14. ^ Ratings for the week of December 25, 1989
  15. ^ Bark, Ed (February 15, 1990). "For ABC, the King is dead". The Dallas Morning News. 
  16. ^ Ratings for the week of June 25, 1990
  17. ^ Ratings for the week of July 2, 1990
  18. ^ americanradiohistory.com
  19. ^ a b c "FamilyNet Fall 2011 Schedule Part II With Sitcoms Like Mr. Belveder; The Parkers Return to BET". sitcomsonline.com. September 6, 2011. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Mr. Belvedere - SCOOP: Get Your First Look at DVD Package Art for Mr. Belvedere - Seasons 1 and 2!". 
  21. ^ "Mr. Belvedere - The Butler is Back! A Season 3 DVD is Scheduled for Release". 
  22. ^ "Mr. Belvedere - Fans Get a Season 4 Set from Shout! Factory...But Not in Stores". 
  23. ^ Lambert, David (November 12, 2012). "The "What's The Hold-up?" FAQ". tvshowsondvd.com. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 

External links[edit]