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This Week in Sitcom History – April 23rd-29th
1969: Dick York Bails on Bewitched
The season five finale of Bewitched, "Samantha and Darrin in Mexico City," aired on April 24th, 1969. It was the final episode to feature Dick York as Darrin before Dick Sargent took over the role in season six. York badly injured his back while shooting the 1959 film, They Came to Cordura, which caused him to become addicted to painkillers. In 1968, he collapsed on the set of Bewitched and decided to leave the show. After that, York struggled to get acting work and only made a few guest appearances in the early 80s before disappearing from TV altogether.
1975: TV’s First Gay Couple Checks Out
"Ainsley's Secret," the final episode of the short-lived controversial sitcom, Hot l Baltimore, aired on April 25th, 1975. (The title comes from a hotel sign with a burned out E.) The show, which was based on an off-Broadway play, generated a big buzz at the time because of its somewhat racy content, including references to one-night stands and a prostitute as a regular character. It also featured the first gay couple in an American television series: George (Lee Bergere) and Gordon (Henry Calvert). Certainly, if the show had aired in more recent years, it would've lasted more than 13 episodes.
1987: FOX Sets the Stage to Scratch its First Series
The series premier of the short-lived sitcom, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, “Jerry’s Mission,” aired on April 26th, 1987. It was based on the 1986 film starring Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, and Richard Dreyfuss, and it featured Hector Elizondo as Dave Whiteman, a newly-wealthy man who moved his working class family to Beverly Hills. Eight of the 13 episodes produced were broadcast before it became the first show ever canceled by the young FOX network, and as we all know, it was the first of many.
1966: Color Conversion Causes The Patty Duke Show’s Conclusion
The very last episode of The Patty Duke Show, "Do a Brother a Favor," aired on April 27th, 1966. The show was earning steady ratings, and the network wanted to renew it; however, they wanted all their shows broadcast in color from then on, and The Patty Duke Show was still in black-and-white. The producers asked for more money to shoot in color, but the network didn’t want to cough it up, so they decided to cancel the show and make a new, color show instead.
Exactly 33 years later, on April 27th, 1999, the original cast of The Patty Duke Show reunited for the TV movie, The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin' in Brooklyn Heights. The network’s plan was to create a new series with the original cast called “The New Patty Duke Show,” but the movie's ratings weren't high enough to warrant it.
1971: Green Acres Bottoms Out with Two Backdoor Pilots
The network really did Green Acres dirty at the end of its run by allowing two backdoor pilots to serve as the last two episodes of the show. Backdoor pilots are almost always poorly received, but using two in a row to end a series is an unforgivable sitcom sin. The second of the two, "The Ex-Secretary," which was the very last episode broadcast, aired on April 27th, 1971.
1979: Rejected Raises Retire What’s Happening!!
The very last episode of What’s Happening!!, “The Benefit Show,” aired on April 28th, 1979. While the show was still raking in ratings as high as Monday Night Football, the network chose not to renew it for another season because they didn’t want to give the three stars a raise. Most of the original cast returned in What’s Happening Now! in 1985, but that show, too, was plagued with contract disputes as the network continually refused the actors’ requests for raises.
1987: Sledge Hammer! Explosive Season One Finale
The season one finale of Sledge Hammer!, “The Spa Who Loved Me,” aired on April 28th, 1987. This episode ended with Sledge accidentally blowing up the city with a nuclear bomb. The show’s creator didn’t expect it to be renewed for another season, so he decided to—quite literally—go out with a bang. When the network unexpectedly renewed the show, the writers had to find a way to continue it after the whole city was destroyed in a nuclear explosion. At the beginning of the season two premier, text appeared on the screen explaining that the events of that season took place five years before the events of the first season.
1993: Sam Bears His Bald Spot on Cheers
In one of the last episodes of Cheers, “It’s Lonely at the Top,” Sam (Ted Danson) reveals to Carla (Rhea Perlman) that he wears a toupee by taking it off his head, and Carla reacts with total shock. Danson has stated in interviews that he began wearing a toupee in 1989 after he was outfitted with one for a movie and found that it boosted his confidence. Many Cheers fans were as shocked as Carla when Sam uncovered his bald spot.