Wednesday, May 23, 2012

He & She

Count me among those who consider HE& SHE to be THE great forgotten and unknown sitcom from the sixties. As a kid I loved it because the main character was a cartoonist. As an adult I devour the rare episodes wherever and whenever I can find them and I love it all the more. 

The behind the scenes folks at 1967's HE & SHE were largely the folks who ended up at MTM in the next decade and this series looks for all the world like a template for an MTM sitcom. 

Sexy Paula Prentiss was originally sought by the networks for a regular series but she insisted her husband co-star alongside her. Luckily her husband happened to be the extremely talented actor Dick Benjamin.

Not that it mattered because this guy, Broadway actor Jack Cassidy, stole the show with his hammy characterization of Oscar North, the actor who played Dick's superhero, Jetman, on TV.

Cassidy's character was vain, narcissistic, egotistical, supercilious and oblivious. The concept was later used for Ted Baxter on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. Jack Cassidy would turn up in one episode as Ted's brother. 


There were a couple of other regulars including Kenneth Mars as the firefighter who lived in the apartment across the way. Mars appeared soon afterwards in Mel Brooks' THE PRODUCERS and started on a long, successful career as a big screen character actor.

(Hamid) Hamilton Camp was hilarious as the diminutive handyman of the building. Camp was always a welcome character actor but was also an important figure in sixties folk music.

Paula had had a successful career for a number of years prior to HE & SHE and it would continue on afterwards. Benjamin bounced into a series of major film roles in films such as PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, GOODBYE COLUMBUS and WESTWORLD before lighting on TV again in the sci-fi cult classic. QUARK.

HE & SHE was canceled after a single season but went on to win awards. The show was given a second chance in a brief revival a couple of years later before being cast into oblivion. Fans--myself included--continue to impatiently await an eventual DVD release.

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