1 9 7 3 (USA)
13 x 30 minute episodes
Although on television for a mere three months, the CBS series Calucci’s Department – which starred roly-poly comic James Coco as Joe Calucci, the kind-hearted supervisor at the New York State Unemployment Office – is, for some reason, one of many American viewers’ most fondly remembered shows.
Calucci had to cope with the problems of unemployed claimants, friction amongst various members of his staff and the frustrations of governmental red tape. As if that wasn’t enough, in his heart of hearts, he wanted to be a sportswriter.
Joe had a soft heart and found it difficult to be a tough boss. He constantly found himself at odds with his position of authority, and stories followed his efforts to curtail the antics of his staff of rude and raucous bureaucrats.
This collection of miscreants consisted of Ramon Gonzales (Jose Perez), the office narcissist; Shirley Balukis (Candy Azzara), Joe’s hunt-and-peck secretary and girlfriend (she was able to see the inner beauty beneath his girth); the high-strung Oscar Cosgrove (Jack Fletcher) who was the office claims adjuster; Elaine Fusco (Peggy Pope) who was a whiz in the stock market; Jack Woods (Bill Lazarus); Walter Frohler (Bernard Wexler); and Mitzi Gordon (Rosetta Lenoir).
The various supporting characters in the series depicted every ethnic and racial group in the United States and humorously satirised the foolish bureaucratic nonsense so prevalent in Civil Service offices.
Calucci’s Department was created by the husband and wife team of Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna, who had written the successful play and film Lovers and Other Strangers and wrote and starred in the film Made For Each Other (1971). Taylor made several guest appearances on the show.
Unfortunately, the show was scheduled at 8:00 PM on Fridays, opposite NBC’s Sanford and Son, so never really stood a chance.
Stand-up comic Jimmie Walker performed the studio audience warm-ups for the show. It was during one of these performances that he was discovered and cast as J.J. Evans in Good Times.