1 9 8 6 (USA)
11 x 30 minute episodes
This short-lived ABC sitcom starred Jeffrey Tambor starred as a blind English professor at Kenyon College who relied on his dry wit to overcome a number of obstacles.
Tambor played Paul Stark, who had been blinded in an accident not too long ago and also recently divorced. But blindness or loneliness were nothing compared to his real stumbling block – he confused pity with concern.
Determined to be totally independent, he refused help and was embarrassed to use his cane. Consequently, he ran into things and literally fell on his face at least once. Eternally cynical, he was christened “Mr Sunshine” by his students.
Mrs June Swinford (Barbara Babcock) was a chatty Southern belle who reluctantly became his landlady. Initially, she babbled that she wouldn’t be comfortable “with a blind man over my head” but eventually realised that Paul would not be a burden.
The most annoying character in the group was Grace D’Angelo (Nan Martin), Paul’s caustic secretary. In the pilot, she was distressed by his missing social life and goaded him into attending a singles club for divorced people.
If Paul didn’t start dating, she warned him, he would wind up “coming home to a bottle of cheap wine and Fanny Hill in braille”.
At the singles gathering, Paul immediately (and literally) ran into attractive divorcee Janice Hall (Cecilia Hart). Janice quickly chewed him out for acting like a jerk whenever someone tried to help him.
Leonard Frey appeared as Paul’s egocentric colleague, Leon Walters.
David Lloyd of Cheers wrote the script and Tambor was meticulous about his preparation for the series. He trained at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles, talked to dozens of blind people, studied walking cane techniques and even took cooking classes for the blind.
But sadly, the show had trouble striking a balance between laughing with a blind man and laughing at him. Not many viewers could have felt comfortable with the howling laugh track as Paul crashed into walls and talked to people who had left the room.
Mr Sunshine ran for less than half a season before the series was pulled.
Professor Paul Stark
Professor Leon Walters
Mrs June Swinford