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Benson (1979–1986)

TV Series  |   |  Comedy, Family
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Jessica Tate's sharp-tongued former butler, Benson DuBois, moves up in the world, becoming first the governor's "director of household affairs," then the state's budget director, then lieutenant governor and candidate for the executive mansion.


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1986   1985   1984   1983   1982   1981   … See all »
Nominated for 4 Golden Globes. Another 3 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete series cast summary:
 Benson DuBois (159 episodes, 1979-1986)
 Governor Eugene Xavier Gatling / ... (159 episodes, 1979-1986)
 Miss Gretchen Wilomena Kraus / ... (159 episodes, 1979-1986)
 Katherine 'Katie' Olivia Gatling / ... (158 episodes, 1979-1986)
 Clayton Runnymede Endicott III (135 episodes, 1980-1986)
 Peter 'Pete' John Downey / ... (97 episodes, 1980-1984)
 Denise Florence Stevens Downey (73 episodes, 1981-1984)


In this spinoff of "Soap", Benson DuBois is sent out West to serve as butler to widowed state governor Gene Gatling, an honest but bumbling servant of the people. Although he has his rivals in German maid Kraus and persnickety aides Clayton and Taylor, Benson, armed with an acerbic wit and plenty of smarts, becomes the Governor's close friend and helper, and eventually is elected Lieutenant Governor! Written by Marty McKee <mmckee@soltec.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Family





Release Date:

13 September 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Poderoso Benson  »

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Did You Know?


The show marked the acting debut of a then-unknown young comedian, Jerry Seinfeld. See more »


In the episode "Fools Gold" the blueprints Benson was hiding in his robe weren't visible in early shots (long or close-up) of the scene, but can be clearly seen sticking out of his robe right before he takes them out to show the Governor. See more »


Pete Downey: Hi, Denise. Whatcha reading?
Denise Florence Stevens Downey: It's a magazine article that uses the quantum theory to describe infinity.
Pete Downey: Is it any good?
Denise Florence Stevens Downey: Yeah, but it goes on forever.
See more »

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User Reviews

"Benson" : The Butler Did It (and Did It Well) .
5 March 2008 | by (Phx. Arizona ("Arizona Smells Funny"!- Homer Simpson)) – See all my reviews

In Sept. of 2007,we marked the 30th anniversary of the first time we met Benson DuBois on the ABC show "SOAP".

Played wonderfully by Mr. Robert Guillaume for just two years,1977 to 1979, Benson the butler proved the overall foil and sometimes good friend for the certifiably cuckoo Tate family.

In the beginning Benson was the kind of butler seen on comedy movies,wise-cracking to his boss's every few minutes. (Doorbell rings) "You want me to get that?" said as if it's not his job to do so. Jessica Tate:"If you don't mind." He basically did nothing for Mr. Tate because he loathed him.

He truly was the only sane person in the middle of it all,his best show in that series was leading the rescue of Billy Tate from the "Sunnies" cult. "We're the Step Brothers,where's the audition?"

Not long after that show,ABC did what it did best at that time,gave a great character a spin-off and hoped it worked with audiences. Benson hit the fall schedule in 1979 and it certainly did fly with fans of Soap.

At first Benson was just the man who made sure things ran smoothly at the Governor's Mansion. Governor Gatling was Jessica's cousin and like Jessica a little short in clear thinking. Gretchen Kraus was head of the kitchen but ended up at odds with Benson. Causing Benson to make comments about her after she'd leave a room,only to hear her shout "I hear you!!",a long running gag.

The Governor was also a widower with a little girl to raise named Katie,who in the first show wants to attend a KISS concert.Gatling:"They're always sticking their tongues out"!

Gatling had a secretary named Marcie and an assistant named Taylor in the first season but next season Marcie was gone and Talylor was later replaced by Clayton (brilliantly played by Rene' Aubenjournois,late of "Boston Legal"). Clayton took a page from the Charles Winchester book of snobbery and made it an art form. His funniest show with Benson is the insult contest in the kitchen. (Gee,guess who won?) There was also Peter and Denice who met while working for the Governor & Benson and fell in love and got married and then left the show.

Benson slowly rose up in status at the Mansion. He was appointed by the Governor to be the new budget director and then Benson became the Leuitenant Governor of a state with no name. Kraus left the kitchen and became Benson's assistant. Katie simply grew up before our eyes.

Benson was also the kind of character we saw a lot of in '70s/'80s TV,the one everyone comes to with their problems. That,thankfully faded overtime.

The wit on this show was sharp and Guillaume as Benson made great use of it. During a debate,his opponent points out sarcastically,that he (Benson) is the "black" candidate. Benson shoots back with,"It's just as obvious sir,that you are the "bald" candidate!" Humor also came from trying to cover up potentially embarrassing situations that could ruin the Governor's credibility or Benson's.

The history of Benson shows up in later shows,his family,like most of his generation,had little to nothing but through his hard work and determination (and maybe a little luck) arrives at a point he most likely never could have imagined. In that sense,he was a great role model.

The ratings,yes,were down in 1985-86 and the unexpected "non-resolved" ending was what viewers had to settle for. Most were not pleased with this ending and even TV guide gave it a "jeers",saying they should at least come back and finish it. It never happened.

In a way it makes sense that it ends with the Governor and Benson shaking hands,the election almost cost them their friendship. It also makes sense because it's parent series SOAP ended with no conclusion either. As mentioned in other reviews here,sitcoms like this just aren't made anymore and in viewing today's slim pickings,something like this would be a God-send.

One thing Guillaume did make sure of was that Benson would never be in any sense a stereo-typed black character. He was intelligent,educated,witty,hard working and suave and most importantly successful. Something most people credit to The Cosby Show and Cliff & Clair. Before them,remember,there was Benson. (END)

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