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).
The 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.
Nell was built like a medicine ball and emphasised her lines by tossing her enormous torso from side to side.
In an exchange with Carl, she would punctuate a putdown by ramming her formidable bustline into his chest (and considering the size of his belly, this was quite a feat).
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
Chief Carl Kanisky
Lara Jill Miller
Officer Ralph Simpson
Grandpa Stanley Kanisky
Grandma Mildred Kanisky