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Arnie Nuvo has worked on the loading dock at Continental Flange for years, and is quite content in his blue-collar life. When he suddenly gets promoted to Head of Product Improvement one day, his life is turned upside-down. Unsure of how to deal with his new white-collar coworkers and feeling isolated from his old friends, Arnie and his family must make some big adjustments as they struggle to get used to their new surroundings. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The history of TV sitcoms can be divided up into all sorts of categories. The "winners" and "losers" are easy to identify. Within those divisions, however, there is one grouping that remains most puzzling: the "near-miss" sitcom. Why didn't a certain show become a bona fide hit? What happened to derail the program before it hit the syndication jackpot?
"Arnie" was one such sitcom. Though the plot was simple (a blue collar dock worker promoted to a management job), it in truth offered all sorts of possibilities. "Arnie" (Arnold Nuvo) was played by the well-respected Herschel Bernardi, an established stage actor (notably Fiddler on the Roof) whose considerable talents were easily adaptable to comedy. On the show, Arnie remained blue-collar at heart despite the promotion, which provided a never-ending stream of conflict (and laughs) with his boss, the stuffy Hamilton Majors, Jr., played to the hilt by Roger Bowen. Established comedienne Sue Ane Langdon played Arnie's wife, Lillian. The show had other dimensions, too, including the Nuvo's two teenage kids, son Richard (played by Del Russel) & daughter Andrea (played by the blonde Stephanie Steele, who briefly challenged the Brady Bunch's Maureen McCormack and Partridge Family's Susan Dey as the teen girl sirens of the day), and Arnie's old dock-worker buddies, including the rotund Julius (played expertly by Tom Pedi), who contributed their own laughs.
The writing was smart and funny as the episodes bounced between work and family-related matters. The ingredients seemed to be in place for a longer run than just two seasons. What happened?
A confluence of factors apparently contributed to the show's demise. Not the least of which was CBS's decision to move "Arnie" away from its coveted Saturday night slot for the 1971-72 campaign, to the incredibly awkward time of 10:30 PM on Monday nights. 10:30 on Monday nights? In the spring of '72 the network finally wised up and moved the show back to its old Saturday slot, but the damage had apparently been done.
Let's also not forget the metamorphosis TV comedy went through at the same time, the introduction of the Norman Lear-style sitcoms like "All in the Family" (which made its debut shortly after "Arnie" in fall 1970) forever changing the TV comedy landscape.
"Arnie" also made some ill-advised structural alterations for the second season. Bowen and his "Hamilton Majors" character left the show, replaced by Charles Nelson Reilly ("Randy Robinson"). The delicious give-and-take between Bowen and Bernardi was thus absent for year two. And the Bernardi-Langdon coupling started to seem a little far-fetched, too, the very middle-aged, balding Bernardi hardly seeming appropriate company for the ravishing Sue Ane, who began to don more seductive attire (like mini-skirts and hot pants) to highlight her astonishing figure after being routinely "dressed down" in season one.
Maybe "Arnie" just lacked the legs to stand on its own, especially after Bowen departed after the first season. It might have been good enough to retain some of the crowd after MTM on Saturday nights, but lacked the pull to recruit viewers on its own. Still, we wish Nick at Nite or another network would bring back "Arnie," even if just for a summer run, especially the first season with Bowen.
In conclusion, had "Arnie" been introduced a few years earlier, before "All in the Family" and the new-style sitcoms, we get the feeling it might have had a longer run. Maybe the timing was just a little off. No matter, it serves as a reminder to sitcoms that there is fine line between making it big, and falling off the radar.
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