Wednesday, June 08, 2022

When Betty White Was an 'Undercover Woman'

Like most humans, I'm still hanging out with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross when it comes to the death of Betty White. As such, I have spent the past six months watching reruns of "Password," "Password Plus," "Super Password," "Tattletales" and, of course, "Match Game." Then the other day, when the game shows just weren't cutting it anymore, it occurred to me that I had never seen Betty's short-lived sitcom that premiered the fall after "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" went off the air. 

Creatively called "The Betty White Show" -- not to be confused with her 1954 or her 1958 series of the same name -- this 1977 sitcom had everything you could hope for: Produced by the legendary MTM Enterprises; created by Ed. Weinberger -- of "Taxi" fame, who played (Goodnight) Mr. Walters in the closing logo! -- and Stan Daniels -- who won eight Emmys for his work on "MTM" and "Taxi" -- and featuring a terrific cast that included a pre-"Magnum P.I." John Hillerman and Georgia Engel. (Caren “My Tutor” Kaye replaced Carla Borelli from the pilot as Betty’s younger/sexier costar.) In it, Betty plays Joyce Whitman, a struggling actress who lands the lead on a "Police Woman" knockoff called "Undercover Woman." (They show the opening credits of the show within the show at the beginning and it made me die laughing each time!) 

 When the network hires her ex-husband (Hillerman) to direct the pilot, zingers fly as Betty tries to navigate her mixed feelings about her former flame. Although the series only lasted 14 episodes -- in part because it was up against ABC's "Monday Night Football" and The NBC Monday Movie -- it's a delight from beginning to end, especially if you think of it as a British show that isn't intended to last for years on end. Damian's first question was: "On a scale of Sue Ann Nivens to Rose Nylund, where does she fall" Answer: Betty is definitely a lot closer to the Happy Homemaker than she is to her Golden Girl, or her "Hot in Cleveland" character, Elka Ostrovsky. 

Both Sue Ann and Joyce are television personalities who aren't shy about their romantic feelings. But unlike Sue Ann, Joyce is neither a narcissist nor nasty, so the character definitely has a personality of her own. 

Most of the episodes are on YouTube, but not all of them. So if you're curious, I recommend that you visit the Internet Archive HERE. The episodes are mislabeled, but they're all there and are just what the grief counselor ordered. 


Jack said...

Can't wait to watch this! Thanks, Kenneth!

grapecherry said...

Funny! Def of its era