Sunday, February 5, 2017

What Might've Been: Father Murphy (1981)

Life after the NFL was pretty good for Merlin Olsen.

After retiring from the gridiron, Olsen went to Hollywood and was cast as Jonathan Garvey on Little House on the Prairie. In 1981, Olsen was given his own show, created and produced by Little House star Michael Landon.

However, Father Murphy lasted just 2 seasons, and deserved a better fate than it got. NBC was struggling to find a primetime hit aside from Little House, and would've been better served if Murphy were coupled with Little House. However, by the 80's, Little House had settled in on Mondays ahead of Monday Night at The Movies, and Father Murphy was placed, as memory serves, on Tuesdays, replacing the cancelled Lobo.

The concept was this. John Murphy (Olsen) and a colleague (Moses Gunn, ex-The Cowboys) happen across an orphanage that is on the verge of closing. Murphy poses as a priest, befriends the kids and their house mother (Katharine Cannon), and keeps a greedy landowner (Burr DeBenning) at bay. However, at season's end, the jig is up, as Murphy admits he's not a priest after all. However, he & Katharine are married, and adopt the kids in season 2.

For the 2nd season, Murphy was moved to Sundays, and ultimately cancelled. Olsen returned to Little House for the end of its run, and would later land another series, Aaron's Way, which lasted just 1 season, all the while pulling double duty as a game analyst for NFL football for NBC, partnered with the recently retired Dick Enberg.

Let's take a look at a sample clip from season 2:



Rating: A.

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