Sunday, February 15, 2009

Elegy for a forgotten sitcom

In the comments section of my recent Open All Hours post, my feuding partner Sam Johnson mentions a short-lived ABC sitcom from 1981-82 entitled Open All Night, which he and many others have argued was a transplant from the better-known Britcom. There’s certainly a strong argument to be made that there are a lot of similarities between the two shows, but to the best of my knowledge I don’t believe the creators of Night—Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses—ever officially acknowledged that the Roy Clarke creation subsequently inspired their program.

Night is one of those series that has slipped through the cracks of TV sitcom history; it was hysterically funny, and starred George Dzundza as a luckless shlub named Gordon Feester, who managed a convenience store (364 Store) along with his fluttery, scatterbrained wife Gretchen (cult fave Susan Tyrrell) and nitwitted stepson Terry (Sam Whipple). Providing security for the joint was a gentle giant named Robin (Bubba Smith), because the cops on the beat—Steve (Tarses) and Edie (Bever-Leigh Banfield, who I firmly believe was one of the foxiest women on the tube)—were coffee-drinking, donut-scarfing buffoons. (Not at all meant to represent real law enforcement, I’m sure.) To say the show was quirky would be like calling Einstein that guy who could do math; I can certainly understand why it had a short run (it wasn’t everybody’s cup of Orange Pekoe) but it was on ABC—what did they have to lose?

Sam suggested that the show might be available on YouTube, but I went a-lookin’ and all I could find was this clip featuring some doofus who later landed a late night gig:

If Open All Night is to be remembered for anything, it certainly should go down in TV history as featuring one of the best theme songs of all time:

And in the fairness of equal time, here’s the opening credits to Night’s “cousin” (though I wish someone had posted the closing credits of Hours, as the theme gets a bit more lively during them):


frank said...

Daily motion has a fullpilot episode

HouseT said...

My child brain seems to think it vaguely recalls this, which would be possible but not likely. Could that theme song have been any faster. And since it was as expository as many themes are wont to be, it just made it seem like someone couldn't condense the shows synopsis to under 50 words.

Also, I'm glad I checked it out, or else I'd still be trying to figure out where I knew the name Sam Whipple from. I'm sure he's done many things, but I recall him as the wheelchair bound genius that helps oversee Operation Backstep on the old UPN show Seven Days. That's stil a decent show, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I remember an episode in which the son runs off after being dumped by his girl, and the step-dad finds him working in a motel, surrounded by stuffed birds. It all seemed so familiar to him, but he just couldn't put his finger on it, even when a woman from Phoenix checked in - Philip Schweier

Rick Brooks said...

I really appreciated this post, as this is one of the great "forgotten TV shows" my Dad and I talk about sometimes. I remembered little besides that theme song, and I considered it a great achievement to spot the opening on YouTube a while back.

I had wondered if the show was really as good as Dad and I thought it was. I guess it was!