1 9 8 9 – 1 9 9 5 (USA)
170 x 30 minute episodes
Widowed paediatrician Dr Harry Weston has plans to get along with his new life alone, but two of his three daughters move back into the Miami family home.
The creators of this NBC sitcom were also behind The Golden Girls and, on several occasions, characters from that show appeared in Empty Nest (notably Estelle Getty as the irascible Sophia). The shows were both set in the same Miami neighbourhood.
Kristy McNichol (who played one of Harry’s daughters, police officer Barbara) left the show suddenly in 1992 due to an ongoing struggle with her bipolar disorder. She returned for the show’s final episode in July 1995.
Lisa Rieffel joined the cast as another Weston daughter, Emily in 1993, but stayed for only half a season.
As if having his daughters trying to run his life wasn’t enough, Dr Weston was also constantly being managed by his office receptionist, La Verne Todd, a sharp-tongued woman with a thick Arkansas drawl (played by Park Overall).
Weston’s neighbour, Charley Dietz, was an offensive, skirt-chasing cruise ship employee who kept dropping in on Dr Weston’s home trying to mooch a free meal and trading insults with daughter Carol.
Dreyfuss, the dog who served as a best pal to Dr Weston was a mix of Saint Bernard and golden retriever. But as far as co-star Dinah Manoff was concerned, all that counted was that the big, lovable pooch upstaged her: “Enough with the dog already. Okay?” the actress complained when asked about Dreyfuss (his real name was Bear) by an interviewer in 1989.
“I mean, I have to say nice things about everyone in the show, but I’m getting a little tired of hearing about that damn dog. My friends say, ‘Oh, Dinah, we love your show, but what’s it like working with that dog?’ Everyone wants to know about the damn dog. What is the dog, John Travolta?”.
Paul Provenza who came onboard as a boyfriend for Manoff’s Carol in 1992, lasted only a season but was around long enough to get Carol pregnant (her son was born the following season).
Seventeen months before the series’ premiere in the USA, NBC aired a pilot of Empty Nest as if it was an episode of The Golden Girls.
In this, Paul Dooley and Rita Moreno were cast as George and Renee Corliss, the Golden Girls’ next-door neighbours, a middle-aged couple who have to repair their marriage after their daughter Jenny (played by Jane Harnick) goes off to university.
Of the principal cast, only David Leisure appeared in both the pilot and the full series, albeit as different characters. Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty appeared in the pilot in their Golden Girls roles of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia.
Dr Harry Weston
La Verne Todd