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"Gimme A Break" was one of those shows that always had something going for
itself and for one this was out of a pick of standard 80's family shows that
hit a home run and so much more with the prime essential element of actress
Nell Carter,who was also a accomplish Broadway singer/dancer who won a Tony
award for her work in "Ain't Misbehavin" in 1978.
The show "Gimme A Break" was based on a cop who moved his family from New
York to California after his wife Margaret passed away and also became the
chief of police in a small fictional California town who in turn had this
housekeeper named Nell who was no only in charge of the household,but also
was in charge of his three daughters too in which Nell was not only the
mother to them,but she had some tough love around that too. For the six
seasons that in ran on NBC-TV(1981-1987) in the eighties,this was one of
those shows that was constantly in the top ten ratings during its run on the
Peacock network. Though the sitcom was hardly groundbreaking for its
time,the series earned Nell Carter two Emmy nominations for her work and in
turn gave her an opportunity to sing and dance in some of the episodes
The show itself was a launching pad for three young performers who would go on to be stars: Joey Lawrence,Matthew Lawrence(both of whom landed key roles on other TV sitcom series and also have recording careers),along with actress Telma Hopkins(of Tony Orlando and Dawn,and later on with Family Matters,and Half and Half),and in its final season Rosie O'Donnell(before she would break out in daytime television). The series was produced by Alan Landsburg(who was also crank out other sitcoms like Kate & Allie,and In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy). However,when the show went off the air in 1987,she returned to do several other series and also was a spokeswoman for Liberty Medical Insurance Company(who in turn spoke out about the effects of diabetes since she was a diabetic herself). However,Nell Carter is no longer with us(she passed away on January 23,2002 at the age of 54)but her presence with that series will always remained in our hearts since she was a entertainment legend. She will be truly missed.
Nell Carter will always be known as Nell from Gimme a Break than her Broadway background which included singing and dancing. Sadly, she died in her fifties. She plays a beloved housekeeper in a Caucasian American home led by the wonderful Dolph Sweet who passed away during the show's run. The cast also included three teenage daughters. The show had an extended family of regular cast members like Telma Hopkins who played Nell's best friend. Sweet's character was a police chief of Glenlawn, California. Over the years during it's run, Nell welcomed Joey and Matthew Laurence and other cast members. The show dealt with sensitive topics like depression, suicide, teenage angst, death, loss, racism, etc., without being preachy or dumb. It was never a critical favorite but you felt at home with Nell and the gang.
Gimme A Break was in the sitcom line-up, on NBC in the 80s. NBC had
many quality sitcoms on the air in the 80s, such as Diff'rent Strokes,
The Facts Of Life, Silver Spoons, etc. Gimme A Break, was certainly in
the same league as any of NBC's other popular comedy shows. It was
warm, funny, and presented many contemporary topics that modern
families struggle with, such as teen sex, drugs, alcoholism, dating,
Nell Carter played the main character, Nell Harper. On the show, Nell often got to display her considerable singing and dancing talents. This made the show quite entertaining overall. And Nell held this show together, with her no nonsense brand of comic delivery. She had a feisty charm, that made her shine above the rest of the cast. Her co-star Dolph Sweet (who played the family patriarch, Carl Kominski), was lackluster by comparison. Only Thelma Hopkins, as Nell's best friend Addy Wilson, had nearly as much comedic talent as Nell. If you like 80s sitcoms, I'd highly recommend watching Gimme A Break on DVD.
Unlike movies which appear once, it's hard to rate a TV show since
you're dealing with dozens of episodes and several seasons.
For 'Gimme a Break!', the synopsis on TV reads: 'A feisty housekeeper named Nell helps a widowed police chief raise his three daughters'. This was true for the first few seasons and this was when the show was at it's best.
It dealt with controversial issues but gave a balanced approach as the chief represented the more conservative side and Nell represented the more liberal side. Unfortunately, the actor Dolph Sweet ran into health problems during the show's run and soon past away. I think this changed the nature of the show and it was never the same after.
The show turned more into a talent exhibition for Nell Carter and her singing voice and away from family comedy. By the last season, she was no longer a housekeeper, nor helping a widowed police chief nor raising three daughters. The whole successful premise of the show was gone and the show was deservedly cancelled as it was not nearly as funny anymore.
Had Dolph Sweet not incurred health problems, who knows what might have been.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This show was one of my favorite's as a kid growing up in the 1980s It had me laughing constantly. Gimme a Break starred the late great Nell Carter who plays a housekeeper that promises her friend to take care of her husband and three daughters when she dies. The husband (played by Dolph Sweet) is the chief of police of Glenlawn CA. so it is a very stressful job on top of raising his daughters without their mother, But the chemistry Nell and Dolph had was terrific. Sadly Dolph Sweet passed away during the 3rd season but the show was able to continue thanks to a stellar cast including the 3 daughters Katie, Samantha, and Julie (Kari Michaelsen, Lara Jill Miller and Lauri Hendler) also Silver screen legend John Hoyt as Grandpa Stanley, Howard Morton as the lovable but bumbling Officer Simpson as well as Thelma Hopkins as Addie and Joey Lawrence round out the cast. But the show belong to Nell Carter who was a joy to watch. Give her a break!
I was 9 years old in 1981 when this show debuted. Though I watched
Gimme a Break from the start, it goes without saying that I lacked the
maturity at that age to fully understand the adult humor and social
issues being explored.
As Gimme a Break only enjoyed average ratings at the time, it was not a big candidate for syndication. As a result, it has been decades since I last saw the show.
I caught it again recently on YouTube, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was better than I remembered as a kid, perhaps because I could fully understand everything now. It's funny, charming, well-written, and even manages to tackle some serious issues. Most notably, it holds up surprisingly well today, which can't be said for many of the more popular sitcoms at the time.
The show was also fairly unusual in that its strongest episodes were in the first two years. Most successful shows take some time to find themselves, but Gimme a Break hit its stride early. Sadly, the show started to slip starting from season 3. Nell Harper's increased creative control was part of the problem. She was a very talented actress and singer, but not so much on the creative side. The series really took a nosedive in its final season when the girls left and the setting moved to New York.
Even so, this was a good show, and in fact deserved better ratings when it was on the air. Try watching it again, and I bet you'll enjoy it more the second time around.
This was a reasonably funny comedy starring Nell Carter. A very young
Joey Lawrence also appeared in it as a young
street-hustler-turned-foster-kid-for-the-family. It was basic fare for
a sitcom, featuring the cute kids, family values, and little lessons
learned at the end of each episode. In the show, the chief of police's
wife has just died, and he asks Nell (Nell Carter) to come in and work
for him, helping him raise his three daughters in the process. Nell
becomes sort of a mother figure for the girls, and everyone tries to
learn from each other. There were some memorable episodes (such as when
Samantha puts Joey in black face to get back at Nell, or when Nell
undergoes hypnotherapy to remember where she had put something only to
become helpless whenever someone knocked three times, or when the chief
was on a stakeout with another officer and told him a horrible gay
joke, only to learn that the other officer was gay), but the show was
fairly standard. Nonetheless, I thought it was funny, and it managed to
stand out due to its good cast and themes in its episodes and type of
humor. It was sad when the actor who played the chief died. Jonathan
Silverman was a good addition after that. I also love the grandfather
character. He was funny, and changed as the show went on, from the
senile old goat to a wise old man.
Unfortunately, the show went downhill after Nell and Addy moved to New York, and they changed the premise of the show. I didn't think it was as good after that, and I hardly watched it anymore.
Overall, anyone into '80s TV show might like this one. I used to enjoy watching it when I was younger. **1/2 out of ****
I am so happy that this show has finally made it to the era of DVD. I still remember watching this show on Saturday nights back in the '80's over at my grandparents house.I believe it was on NBC-at 830pm right after Diff'rent Strokes (another classic sitcom that also has finally made it to DVD).It was an amazing show-It had the premise of a maid taking care of her employer-a police chief and his 3 teenage daughters.After 25 years since its premiere, several cast members have went to that great casting couch in the sky- Dolph Sweet (Chief Kanisky), Nell Carter (Nell Harper) and Howard Morton (Officer Ralph Simpson: They will live on forever via DVD.
Nell Carter as an overweight housekeeper, a devout guardian to 3
teenage white girls and a force not to be reckoned with whenever she
dealt with the Chief of Police - Carl Kanisky, pretty well sums up what
this 1980s sitcom is about.
I found the show hilarious when I was a kid and faithfully tuned in during the first 2 seasons. Nell Carter was unmatched for laughs - I'd always be belly rolling on the floor in laughter, especially the episode where she stays at her friend Angie's and was enraged over Angie's lovable and talking teddy 'Mr. Bear'.
Nell was good friends with Carl's wife and before Mrs. Kanisky died of cancer and went floating up to the Sitcom Heavens above, made Nell promise to look after the family after her ultimate demise. Nell kept that promise, always going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure the Chief and the girls 'behaved themselves'.
It was no easy task. Grandpa Kanisky was a major treat in upsetting the household with his senile wit and slapstick comedy of errors - the moment when he spilled Nell's partially completed jigsaw puzzle off the table was priceless! There was also the moment when Carl said he wanted to have a father and son 'talk', but grandpa said, "You already have 3 children, Carl. There's nothing left for me to tell you."
That was the Gimme A Break! I loved, but it all changed after season 3 and I quit tuning in after that. The theme song I loved was replaced with another tune, Joey Lawrence (and later his brother) was thrown in as the new cute kid and "Nell Harper" wasn't the same anymore.
She was no longer the self conscious, overweight and frumpy housekeeper I adored, but turned into a sassy, well dressed and (by the help of new writers) a totally different woman.
Things got worse later on when the Chief died, the girls went their separate ways and new characters like 'Addy' came into the picture. The setting was EVEN moved from GlenLawn, California to New York City! The show had the most changes I've ever noticed in a sitcom!
To say Nell Carter had an attitude during the show's run makes perfect sense, considering the show's format underwent major changes by Season 3 and became a 'shadow of it's former self'. Allegations from Rosie O'Donnell about Nell's bad behavior during the final seasons adds to the demise of what it once was.
My recommendation: check out Gimme A Break!, but only the first 2 seasons. It all goes downhill from there by the 3rd.
Very good show that was one of many throughout TV sitcom history that revolved around a housekeeper/butler. Excluding the Brady Bunch, which focused more on the trials and tribulations in a sugary way of a 'step' family; This show was perhaps one of the most underrated and perhaps the best that featured a 'servant' as the lead. Hazel,The Nanny, Mr. Belvedere, Benson,and Family Affair. Nell Carter portraying Nell Harper was awesome. She can do it all sing, dance and act. She was basically the whole show , which dealt with many cast changes, perhaps the most shocking being Chief Carl Kaminskys death- Dolph Sweet. Mr. Kaminsky was a widower with 3 daughters, in the initial seasons and Nell was the surrogate mom/housekeeper. Wonderful show with many risqué , over the top episodes. Future seasons adding 'child' Joey Lawrence,Jonathon Silverman and Telma Hopkins as a fine tandem to Nell, especially proving more so important after Dolph Sweets sudden death with 2 seasons left. Ditzy friend Angie, senile Grandpa and many credible guest stars , including Tom Poston,Helen Hunt, Don Rickles, Rue McClanahan and Danny Glover. Not a brilliant show by any means, but certainly a show that highlights the great talents of Nell Carter, in basically her only venture in TV. Enjoy all of Ms. Carters' talents and cherish them for all time. Unfortunately she passed way too early.
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