Saturday, October 29, 2016

Me and the Chimp (1972)

Me and the Chimp
Stars: Ted Bessell, Anita Gillette
13 episodes

It is a simian Gilligan’s Island. (NY Daily News)

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Furry critter unexpectedly ends up living with a nice suburban family. Hilarity and hijinks ensue. Well, that's gotta be ALF (1986-90). Right?

Well, no. Rewind to about a decade before ALF. The furry critter, in this case, is not an alien life form from the planet Melmac but rather one of those most comedic of all creatures - a chimp.

Well, that's gotta be Me and the Chimp, a short-lived sitcom from 1972. Short-lived, meaning 13 episodes worth. The premise here is that Buttons the chimp, who turns out to be a refugee from some Air Force program, tags along home with the young daughter of the Reynolds family. They are a fairly typically middle class (perhaps leaning toward upper middle class) family, at least as far as the TV landscape of 1972 was concerned.

Based on the unnamed episode I watched, mother, daughter and son are pretty much unfazed by the presence of Buttons and his assorted and sundry antics. Not so for Mike, the patriarch of the Reynolds family, who is quite frequently fazed by it all. According to the episode synopses I read, it seems this was the case throughout the series' short run.

Many of those involved with this televisual gem moved on to bigger and better things, though it seems that Ted Bessell's (Mike) biggest role, as the boyfriend of Marlo Thomas in That Girl, (1966-71) was already behind him. Son Scott Kolder went on to star in the even more bizarre Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (1973-75), while Kami Cotler moved on to more sedate environs as the youngest daughter of the Walton clan.

As for Garry Marshall and Thomas L. Miller, who had a hand in bringing this all to fruition, they would go on to much bigger and better things with the likes of Happy Days (1974-1984) and Laverne and Shirley (1976-83), to name a few. Happy Days dad Tom Bosley takes a guest starring turn in this series, as does Love Boat (1977-87) doctor, Bernie Koppell.

Much has been made of the godwaful awfulness of this particular show. Apparently there were those who dubbed it the worst TV show ever, but I have to admit that I don't really get it. It's certainly no masterpiece of the sitcom form and maybe the rest of the episodes gaveth off an even more odious stench, but the episode I saw doesn't really seem to merit such venom. Save your venom for the likes of this ever so "cute" publicity piece, supposedly written by none other than Buttons himself.

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