1 9 7 5 – 1 9 7 6 (USA)
24 x 30 minute episodes
At the height of the success of the UK sitcom Porridge (starring Ronnie Barker), writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais instigated an American adaptation of the series, entitled On The Rocks, with ABC.
After weathering initial criticism from the US National Association For Justice, which worried it painted too rosy a picture of prison life, the series – set in the Alamesa Minimum Security Prison – enjoyed some success, especially with its employment of real-life inmates as extras and walk-ons. The UK series had done likewise.
Running to 24 episodes in 1975 and 1976, the US version starred José Perez as the scheming streetwise petty thief Hector Fuentes and Mel Stewart as his adversary, the stern prison officer Mr Gibson.
Fuentes’ accomplices were his three cellmates – cool DeMott (Hal Williams), timid Palik (Bobby Sandler) and oafish Cleaver (Rick Hurst).
The more inmate-friendly and lenient guard, Mr Sullivan, was portrayed by Tom Poston. Warden Wilbur Poindexter was played by Logan Ramsey.
Some of the storylines were directly transposed from the British show, with the debut episode reprising the ‘bad feet’ set-up from the original.
A proposed spin-off called I’ll Never Forget What’s Her Name introduced Rosa Dolores, the cousin of prisoner Hector Fuentes, a New York girl who dreams of becoming a star in Hollywood.
Her adventures with her girlfriend (Lillian) and her ex-con boyfriend (Howie), as she struggled to make a name for herself, were to be the focal point of the unsold series. A pilot was produced featuring Rita Moreno in the lead role.
Warden Wilbur Poindexter