Home Television Comedy Gimme A Break

Gimme A Break

1 9 8 1 – 1 9 8 7 (USA)
137 x 30 minute episodes

Fresh from Broadway and her Tony Award-winning performance in the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’, Nell Carter starred in this comedy as Nellie Ruth Harper, a singer who cuts short her musical career to keep house for the crusty but lovable, widowed police chief, Carl Kanisky (Dolph Sweet).

gimmeabreak2The series revolved around their shared problems in keeping law and order over Carl’s three troublesome young daughters, Katie, Julie and Sam. Because Nell Carter was a heavy-set woman, lots of good-natured fat jokes prevailed.

Dolph Sweet died of cancer in May 1985 shortly after filming the fourth season’s final instalment. His place as “man of the house” was taken by Jonathan Maxwell (Jonathan Silverman), who had married Julie (Lauri Hendler).

Joey Donovan, an orphan, had joined the cast in 1983, and when Katie and Julie left the show at the end of the fifth season, Nell moved to New York with Joey and Grandpa and her best friend Addy.

By then the series was so far removed from its original premise that it lasted only one more season.

The 23 February 1985 episode was presented ‘live to air’ – a rare event by that stage on television. It was mostly a gimmick to generate interest in the series, whose popularity had begun to fade.

The show’s theme was sung by Nell Carter herself. Sadly, Nell collapsed and died of natural causes in her Beverly Hills home on Thursday, 23 January 2003. She was just 54 years old.

Nellie Ruth “Nell” Harper 
Nell Carter
Chief Carl Kanisky 

Dolph Sweet
Julie Kanisky/Maxwell 

Lauri Hendler
Katie Kanisky 

Kari Michaelson
Samantha Kanisky 

Lara Jill Miller
Jonathan Maxwell 

Jonathan Silverman
Officer Ralph Simpson 

Howard Morton
Grandpa Stanley Kanisky 

John Hoyt
Grandma Mildred Kanisky 

Jane Dulo
Uncle Ed 

Pete Schrum
Joey Donovan

Joey Lawrence
Addy Wilson 

Thelma Hopkins
Matthew Donovan 

Matthew Lawrence

Paul Sand
Maybelle Harper 

Rosetta LeNoire
Maggie O’Brien 

Rosie O’Donnell