Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Forgotten TV: At Ease (1983)

The sitcom sub-genre of service comedies had all but died by the early 80's. Despite the fact that he had a poor track record with half-hour sitcoms while at Four Star, Aaron Spelling decided to give it one more try.

He sold ABC a modern-day service comedy, At Ease, which lasted three months in the spring of 1983. Considering that over on NBC, the action-adventure series, The A-Team, routinely presented military officers in pursuit of the titular heroes as being inept, a sitcom that tried to be a new generation Gomer Pyle was asking for trouble. Small wonder, then, that viewers tuned it out.

The ensemble cast Spelling assembled included Roger Bowen (ex-Arnie), who had been in the feature film version of "M*A*S*H", Richard Jaeckel (ex-Salvage 1), Jimmie Walker (ex-Good Times), whose last series for Spelling, B.A.D. Cats, similarly flopped a few years earlier, Josh Mostel (ex-Delta House), George Wyner, later of She's The Sheriff, and David Naughton ("An American Werewolf in London", ex-Makin' It), the former Dr. Pepper pitchman who was returning to television. Unfortunately, this would be his last go-round.

As memory serves, At Ease aired on Fridays, as B.A.D. Cats did before it. Unfortunately, CBS still had the Dukes of Hazzard. Ballgame over.

Right now, let's take a look at the series opener, "A Tankful of Dollars":



Believe it or else, At Ease sprang from the mind of John Hughes, better known for his teen comedies later in the decade (i.e. "Sixteen Candles", "The Breakfast Club") and the "Home Alone" films. Producer E. Duke Vincent, a long time Spelling aide, had worked on Gomer Pyle, USMC. Edward H. Feldman, who directed one episode, had been a producer-director on Hogan's Heroes. Hy Averback's resume includes F-Troop and, if memory serves me, he might've also worked on You'll Never Get Rich, aka The Phil Silvers Show, aka Sgt. Bilko, from which At Ease gets most of its pedigree. Unfortunately, it was the last of its kind.

Rating: B-.

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