Monday, September 28, 2015

What Might've Been: Me & The Chimp (1972)

It has been derided as one of the worst sitcoms of all time. The funny thing is, it came from the mind of one of the most prolific writer-producers in television history, Garry Marshall.

The Odd Couple was halfway through its second season at ABC when Marshall made what I thought might be his first sale to CBS. Me & The Chimp was a mid-season replacement series that bowed in January 1972, and lasted three months on the air. Apparently, Marshall and co-creator Thomas Miller hadn't learned anything from the failure of The Hathaways at ABC a few years earlier. It's one thing to showcase a chimp in a dramatic series in an appropriate setting (i.e. Daktari), but another altogether to put a chimp in a domestic sitcom.

Ted Bessell (ex-That Girl) played a dentist, and the titular chimp, Buttons, was the playmate of his two children (Scott Kolden & Kami Cotler). Anita Gillette, more familiar from appearing on almost every game show on the planet back in those days, played Ted's wife.

Let's take a look at a sample episode, and see if you can figure out where Marshall & Miller went wrong.

In this writer's opinion, and bear in mind, I never saw the show when it first aired, substituting a chimp for a dog or a cat makes this no different than your average sitcom. Marshall just wanted to be different. Unfortunately, unless I'm mistaken, Marshall didn't sell another series to CBS, though some of his writers and producers, such as Mark Rothman & Lowell Ganz, would develop shows at Paramount for the network. Marshall enjoyed his greatest success at ABC, and would strike gold 2 years later with Happy Days.

As for the cast, it'd be several years before either Anita Gillette or Ted Bessell would land another series. Gillette got about 2 years out of The Baxters, but Bessell would bomb again. Kami Cotler moved directly into The Waltons the following fall. A year later, Scott Kolden would resurface on the NBC Saturday morning series, Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, which would run for 3 years.

Based on what I saw in the above video, this merits a C.

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