Gimme a Break! (TV Series 1981–1987) Poster

(1981–1987)

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A Stunning tribune to Nell Carter
raysond28 January 2003
"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 occasionally.

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.
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7/10
Gimme A Stroke! Only Kidding! This show made Nell famous!
Syl21 March 2007
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.
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What could have been.
kandit121 April 2015
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.
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9/10
Warm, funny 80s sitcom.
sonya900286 August 2009
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, etc.

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.
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8/10
Holds up surprisingly well 30+ years later
severe_td26 November 2014
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.
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8/10
Above average sitcom
Greatornot21 November 2009
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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reasonably funny
mattkratz16 June 2006
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 ****
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Gimme a Break-The Game is Survival!
Vlad 120 February 2006
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.
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8/10
Great 80's sitcom
SHB_7321 February 2011
Warning: 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!
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6/10
Don't Gimme A Break Until After Season 2
Camelot_200029 August 2013
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.
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10/10
Wonderful show
ali-8425725 August 2018
This show is in syndication on Antenna Tv and the episodes are on YouTube . I forgot about this show and I've been watching the reruns . It has been nice revisiting the story lines, how real they were , and how people can still relate .i am glad to eee some of the cast is extremely successful RIP to some of the cast who I loved as a teenager .
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Bring this hit sitcom back on the air, immediately!
mfloyd-312 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This was and to this day is still one of my all time favorite sitcoms of the eighties. Nell Carter was absolutely magnificent. I watched reruns of this show when it aired on USA in 1998. When I tried to tape it when I finally got my cable back and I was shocked to learn that it had been taken off the air. To this day I have written letters to the Hallmark Channel, KSMO WB 62, KCMI 38, USA, and KCWE 29 networks requesting that they bring this show back on the air. I still have not received not even an email from them and I still continue to check on all the following channels just to see if they have brought back this show. The next networks I'm going to write to are TBS, PAX TV, and possibly ABC Family and request that they bring this incredibly show back on the air so I can tape it.
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5/10
Average 80's fare
irishm23 March 2015
This is one of many shows I used to watch just because it was on, not because I particularly enjoyed it. All these years later I watched a couple episodes just to "check in", and it was pretty much as I'd remembered it. Now, maybe it's just because I watched the three or four episodes that were the exception to the rule, but... didn't that oldest daughter ever have any lines? I saw episodes from Seasons One and Two and it seemed like the middle and younger daughters got all the speaking parts, and the youngest one all the zingers. The blonde oldest girl was very pretty but didn't have much to do, just a "hi Nell" or "bye Dad" and that was it. She might as well not have been there at all. Never could quite figure out what made Nell Carter such a big deal, either... I know she did musicals but her singing voice is like chalk on a blackboard, very nasal. Typical family situation comedy, nothing special.
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9/10
Good show
I used to watch this show when I was a little girl. Although I don't remember much about it, I must say that it was a pretty good show. Also, I don't think I've seen every episode. However, if you ask me, it was still a good show. I vaguely remember the theme song. Everyone was ideally cast, the costume design was great. The performances were top-grade, too. I just hope some network brings this series back one day so that I'll be able to see every episode. Before I wrap this up, I'd like to say that I'll always remember this show in my memory forever, even though I don't think I've seen every episode. Now, in conclusion, when and if this show is ever brought back on the air, I hope that you catch it one day before it goes off the air for good. Enough said.
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