1 9 8 7 – 1 9 8 8 (USA)
22 x 30 minute episodes
CBS ‘dramedy’ Frank’s Place was an innovative television programme and won critical praise for the ways in which it used situation comedy to explore serious subject matter.
As Rolling Stone writer Mark Christensen commented, “rarely has a prime-time show attempted to capture so accurately a particular American subculture. In this case, that of blue-collar blacks in Louisiana”.
Tim Reid, who had previously played super-cool disc jockey Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinnati, starred as Frank Parrish, an African-American professor of Italian Renaissance history from Boston who inherited a New Orleans restaurant from his estranged father.
From the beginning, Frank’s Place looked and sounded different (it had no laugh track for a start). The humour was subtle and often poignant, as Frank encountered situations his formal education had not prepared him for.
He was the innocent lost in a bewildering world, a rich and complex culture that appeared both alien and increasingly attractive to him.
The ensemble included Hanna Griffin (Tim Reid’s real-life wife, Daphne Maxwell Reid), a mortician who became a romantic interest for Frank, and Bubba Weisberger (Robert Harper), a white Jewish lawyer from an old southern family.
The restaurant staff included Miss Marie Walker, the matriarch of the group (Frances E Williams); Anna-May, the head waitress (Francesca P. Roberts); Big Arthur, the accomplished chef who ruled the kitchen (Tony Burton); Shorty La Roux, the white assistant chef (Dan Yesso); Tiger Shepin, the fatherly bartender (Charles Lampkin); Cool Charles, his helper (William Thomas Jr.), and Reverend Deal (Lincoln Kilpatrick), a smooth-talking preacher in constant search of a church – or a con man’s opportunity.
Frank’s journey into the world of the southern working-class African-American began when he visited Chez Louisiane, the Creole restaurant he had inherited and planned to sell. The elderly waitress, Miss Marie, put a voodoo spell on him to ensure he continued running the restaurant in his father’s place.
After Frank returned to Boston, his plumbing erupted, telephones failed him, the laundry lost all his clothes, his girlfriend left him, and his office burned.
Convinced he had no choice, he left the white academic world and returned to New Orleans to the matter-of-fact welcome of the staff, the reappearance of his father’s cat, and the continuing struggle to turn the restaurant into a profitable venture.
Tim Reid won a 1988 NAACP Image Award for his portrayal of Frank Parrish, but unfortunately, the series never found its audience (or perhaps vice versa) and was cancelled after one season.
Sy “Bubba” Weisburger
Daphne Maxwell Reid
Francesca P. Roberts
Miss Marie Walker
Frances E Williams
William Thomas Jr.
Shorty La Roux