Double Trouble

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1984-85 NBC

DAD: Art Foster (Donnelly Rhodes) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Dance Studio Owner

KIDS: Kate Foster (Jean Sagal), Allison Foster (Liz Sagal) (17)


STAND-IN "MOM": Beth McConnell (Patricia Richardson) / Dance Instructor

The Patty Duke Show without all the special effects. Kate and Allie (you tell ME where they got the names — the eponymous CBS show appeared a month before this show first aired) were teen twin daughters of Art Foster (played by Donnelly Rhodes, whom most people remember as Dutch, Chester’s escaped ex-con pal in Soap), living in Des Moines, Iowa. The plotlines almost exactly matched Ms. Duke’s show of two decades previous, with Allison being the Cathy Lane role (quiet, studious) and Kate being the Patty role (rambunctious little bundle of Trouble Waiting to Happen). And they did the old Kate-pretends-she’s-Allie bit. Zzzzzz.

Cool trivia on this show is that the twins were the real-life sisters of a famous TV Mom of the late 80’s and 90’s: Katie Sagal, who achieved her fame as Peg on Married With Children. Of course the other famous Mom icon in this cast is Patricia Richardson, who played Mrs. Tim Taylor on Home Improvement in the 90’s.

Inspector Gadget

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1983-85 Nickelodeon

DAD: Inspector Gadget (voice of Don Adams) / Single Guy / Uncle

DAD’S JOB: Police Inspector

KIDS: Penny (voice of Holly Berger [1983], then Cree Summer [1984-85]) (10)

WHERE’S MOM?: Don’t know. Dad’s whereabouts a mystery, too.

STAND-IN "MOM": Perhaps Brain, the dog (voice of Frank Welker)

Nancy Drew, except it’s (a) a cartoon, and (b) the single uncle is a RoboCop-like semi-android.

Another good analogy is Remington Steel, where the female character is the power behind the image. However, the Remington Steel character actually had a brain in his head, compared to the Inspector Clouseau-like Gadget.

Gun Shy

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1983 CBS

DAD: Russell Donovan (Barry Van Dyke) / Single Guy

DAD’S JOB: Gambler

KIDS: Clovis (Keith Mitchell, then Adam Rich) (10), Celia (Bridgette Anderson)

WHERE’S MOM?: Don’t know.

STAND-IN "MOM": Don’t know that, either

Six, count’em, six episodes. That’s how long this little comedy lasted. Russell Donovan won the two kids in a card game out in the Wild West town of Quake City, California, and tried to raise them as best he could in the rip-roaring little town.

I’d go into more detail about the plot, but it was just a TV version of The Apple Dumpling Gang. Go watch that movie: Bill Bixby (hey! another Single Dad role for Mr. Eddie’s Father!) played Russell Donovan to a tee. Why tamper with perfection?

St. Elsewhere

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1982-88 NBC

DAD: Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Hospital Chief of Staff

KIDS: Lizzie (Dana Short) (15) Tommy (Chad Allen) (9)


STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Don’t forget to mail in your note about the show saying, "in the last episode, it was revealed that Dr. Westphall wasn’t really a doctor and the whole series was just a dream of his autistic son."

Star of the Family

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1982 ABC

DAD: Buddy Krebs (Brian Dennehy) / Divorced

DAD’S JOB: Fire Captain

KIDS: Jennie Lee Krebs (Kathy Maisnik) (16)

WHERE’S MOM?: Ran off with a bellhop

STAND-IN "MOM": "Moose" (Judy Pioli) / Jennie’s Agent

Think Hannah Montana, but country/pop crossover. Jennie Lee was a talented country/pop crossover singer, and though just 16 years old, she had all the signs of being a hit singer. Trouble was, Dad Buddy didn’t want his little girl out doing concerts and acting grown-up at all.

The story framework seemed a little thin, so the writers tacked on this big pile of weirdos at Dad’s firehouse. That part of the show was like Barney Miller set in a firehouse. The show didn’t start any fires and was reduced to ashes by Christmas of 1982.

Silver Spoons

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1982-86 NBC

DAD: Edward Stratton III (Joel Higgins) / Divorced (married final season)

DAD’S JOB: Wealthy guy who plays with toys (just happened to own a toy company, too)

KIDS: Ricky Stratton (Ricky Schroeder) (11)

WHERE’S MOM?: Divorced. Mom dumped Ricky in military school. Ricky finagled a way to live with the Dad he never knew until he was 10.

STAND-IN "MOM": Kate Summers (Erin Gray)

This show qualifies by the skin of its teeth, as Dad married the secretary (Kate Summers) in the last season. Silver Spoons was about role reversals, mostly. Ricky was a lot more mature in attitude than Dad. The downside of Ricky was that he did not have as much fun as his old man. Ricky’s positive influence on his Dad was that he could reconcile his father with the more dour members of his family, especially Edward’s own father (played by John Houseman). Perhaps the best influence Ricky had on his Dad was in his ability to get Dad to focus on being a real parent, instead of just a selfish boy with expensive toys.

Father Murphy

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1981-84 NBC

DAD: Father Murphy (Merlin Olsen)/ Single

DAD’S JOB: Drifter — Hiding out from crooks, winds up impersonating a reverend at an orphanage

KIDS: About 15 orphans

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, probably. A few years. Unknown cause.

STAND-IN "MOM": Mae Woodward (Katherine Cannon)


Jim 1980s

Aired: 1981-92 NBC

DAD: Papa Smurf/Single

DAD’S JOB: Be the smurfiest

KIDS: 9,999 Smurfs and 1 Smurfette

WHERE’S MOM?:There IS no Mom – they’re SMURFS!

STAND-IN "MOM": Smurfette?

Belgian cartoonist Peyo Culiford invented these blue creatures in the late 1970’s, and licensed Smurf toys for sale in America. NBC president Fred Silverman, noticing how much his own daughter loved her Smurf doll, quickly cranked out a cartoon series.

This show, which was the smash hit of NBC’s 1981 cartoon lineup, stayed on TV in one form or another for more than a decade and a half, including reruns on cable networks.


Jim 1980s

Aired: 1981-82 CBS

DAD: Jack Shannon (Kevin Dobson) / Widower


KIDS: Johnny Shannon (Charlie Fields) (10)

WHERE’S MOM?: "untimely death"

STAND-IN "MOM": Paul (Al Ruscio) and Irene (Karen Kondazian) Locatelli / In-Laws

Okay, here is a TEMPLATE for writing a Single Dad show: "Following the tragic death of his wife, single dad [name here] moves his family from [name of place] to [far away place from that original location]."

Here’s the details from THIS show: Following the tragic death of his wife, single dad and NYPD cop Jack Shannon moves his family from New York City to San Francisco.

The reason for moving, according to the plot, was so that little Johnny could be closer to Jack’s in-laws. Of course, Jack joins the SFPD and finds they don’t DO things the way he did "back East." Gee, from one template to another. And the show lasted from Election Day to Easter.

I’m a Big Girl Now

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1980-81 ABC

DAD: Dr. Benjamin Douglass, DDS (Danny Thomas) / Abandoned-Separated?

DAD’S JOB: Dentist

KIDS: Diana Cassidy (Diana Canova) (20-ish)

WHERE’S MOM?: Ran off with Dr. Douglass’s partner

STAND-IN "MOM": Don’t know.

This is one of those bend-the-definition-around-the-plot shows in order to qualify for the Hall of Fame.

Here’s the detail: Dr. Douglass’s wife runs off with his partner, leaving him alone in a big house. Meanwhile, Dr. Douglass’s daughter, Diana, gets a divorce at the same time. So, in paraphrasing The Odd Couple: Can two divorced Douglasses share a house, without driving each other crazy?

I get mail arguing about this show sometimes, claiming that Diana shouldn’t count under the Mindy McConnell Rule – that she is self-sufficient and is not living "under" her father’s rule. My ruling? It *does* count – the house is in Dr. Douglass’s name and she’s living under his roof. If you disagree, go build your own website. Sheesh.

Of note is that the show is produced by Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, creators of Ms. Canova’s previous television outing, Soap.