For Mature Audiences Only (People & Television)
Some may say that television hasn’t been too good to senior citizens in terms of their stereotypical depictions. Regardless of the unflattering portrayals there had been some memorable oldsters (in this case over 60) that have given us equal shares of both laughs and cries. In “For Mature Audiences Only”, let’s take a look at some of the more mature characterizations that had an impact on our daily doses of entertainment on the glorious boob tube.
Instead of doing a typical top ten or top twenty listing let’s go in between with a top fifteen selection, shall we? The “For Mature Audiences Only” choices are not necessarily a tasting that everyone will agree on. Perhaps you have your own preferences that were omitted or something that you feel should be added? Anyway, here are the candidates in alphabetical order…
Now for our pop cultural Pepto Bismol personalities:
1.) Doc Galen Adams, Gunsmoke/Explanation: Doc Adams was the go-to medical miracle worker in Dodge City, Kansas. Although seemingly irascible at times, Doc was a gentle soul stuck in a Midwestern malaise where brutality was a necessary means of survival in a dusty bowl of desperation and despair. Whether it was good friend Marshal Matt Dillon or some despicable gunslinger that got seriously wounded, Doc Adams equally treated his patients without reservation. Sure, he had his share of frustration (and not just reserved for stand-by pest Festus Hagen) in the way fellow men mistreated one another but hey…his job was to patch up his casualties the best way he knew how under limited conditions. The late great Milburn Stone won an Emmy Award playing this sleepy-eyed hound dog frontier physician with convincing humanity and determination.
2.) Ed Brown, Chico and the Man/Explanation: The late Jack Albertson (Oscar, Emmy and Tony winner) played the cantankerous Ed Brown, owner of a rundown auto garage in Los Angeles. Widowed, bigoted, lonely and disillusioned the only true friends that Ed considered were the bottle and his dwindling business. When an animated Chicano youth named Chico Rodriguez (the late comedian Freddie Prinze) entered Ed’s dumpy garage (and his life) he soon started living and realized that Chico was very therapeutic in his miserable existence. Ed Brown was the typical codger that wore his cynicism on his sleeve but learned to mellow out a bit and let the exuberance of a young ethnic man change his outlook for the better.
3.) Bernice Clifton, Designing Women/Explanation: Bernice Clifton started out as a minor character that was a friend of the Sugarbakers’ mother and soon evolved into a popular supporting player in later years. Bernice was scatterbrained, forgetful, dippy and politically incorrect in her outspokenness. Still, Bernice was an instant riot whenever her kooky presence was acknowledged. The late character actress Alice Ghostley played Bernice Clifton with an effortless charm and spirited air-headedness that made CBS’s Designing Women more of an enjoyable hoot that especially accompanied breakout star Delta Burke’s outrageous and self-indulgent ex-beauty queen Suzanne Sugarbaker.
4.) Endora, Bewitched/Explanation: Endora was the mother-in-law from hell-just ask poor Darren Stevens a.k.a. “Durwood”. More important, she was a witch in every sense of the word…blessed with magical powers and armed with a drollness not to be reckoned with at all. Endora had no use for her moralizing mortal of a son-in-law and her daughter Samantha didn’t quite know how to handle Mommy Dearest. Endora was deliciously naughty and intimidating to say the least. Late legendary character actress Agnes Moorehead’s Endora was an icy cold broad that brought humor and haunting hysterics into the Bewitched landscape.
5.) Thelma “Mama” Harper, Mama’s Family/Explanation: Singer-comedienne-actress Vicky Lawrence first showcased her Mama Harper character on the long-running variety hit The Carol Burnett Show. Thankfully, she spun off her immensely popular Mama characterization into a short-lived NBC sitcom entitled Mama’s Family. As Mama, Lawrence’s gut-splitting Thelma Harper was brash, loud, opinionated and hysterically uncouth. Mama Harper didn’t pull any punches and one knew where they stood as far as she was concerned. Lawrence’s spunky turn as Thelma “Mama” Harper was one for the ages.
6.) Fred Mertz, I Love Lucy/Explanation: The late William Frawley’s Fred Mertz was either the moody landlord you loved to hate or hated to love…take your pick. Fred was old, pot-bellied and a plain grump. Fred loved his money and didn’t want to part with a dime. He constantly made his wife Ethel a continual punchline that was always an amusing diversion for Ricky Ricardo as he cracked up at his old cohort’s wise quips. Deep down, the cranky Fred Mertz was a pussycat with a heart covered by his tough, wrinkled exterior.
7.) Ida Morganstern, Rhoda/Explanation: The late Nancy Walker’s Ida Morganstern was the prototypical nagging mother that was never satisfied with anything as her need to be judgmental and nitpicking was almost an impeccable art. It’s no wonder why poor daughter Rhoda had such a self-deprecating wit about her and the fact that her self-esteem constantly needed a jumpstart. However critical or particular Ida was personally she oozed a sense of vulnerability yet was perceived as a strong little gal that no one should take lightly…that’s for sure!
8.) Daisy “Granny” Moses, The Beverly Hillbillies/Explanation: Granny may have been part of the clueless Crampett clan but she was no fool. Granny despised phony city folks and was the only one not that impressed with the polished surroundings in Beverly Hills. Granny yearned for the simple life and kept true to herself. Even shady banker and Clampett confidante Milburn Drysdale realized that Granny was the one he had to appease as her skepticism for wealth wasn’t going to end anytime soon. Granny could be hasty and have a quick trigger finger if she thought her kin would be harmed. Still, one needs to admire the dignity and defiance the late Irene Ryan incorporated in her elder hillbilly hellraiser. Granny was the emotional glue that kept The Beverly Hillbillies in comical stitches.
9.) Grandpa Munster, The Munsters/Explanation: Grandpa wasn’t exactly a Munster as he was Lily’s father, not Herman’s. A vampire by nature, Grandpa was the mad scientist of the group and tagged along with son-in-law Herman in some of the madcap shenanigans that ensued. The late Al Lewis was indeed an instrumental part of why The Munsters was a two-year guilty pleasure in its original run back in the mid-60s. Notoriously wacky and inspired, Grandpa was the cool eccentric among the family load of eccentrics.
10.) Coach Ernie Pantusso, Cheers/Explanation: Coach was a lovable flake that served drinks behind the bar as a clueless yet caring lost soul that didn’t know the difference between tape and tapestry. As dimwitted as Coach was in common sense he also commanded the respect of his friends at the Cheers establishment because they knew his good-natured heart and ability to be humane regardless of his playful disorientation. When Coach (and actor Nicholas Colassanto) passed on, we raised out beer mugs to a daffy coot we missed so terribly. In short, hanging out at Cheers was never the same again.
11.) Sophia Petrillo, The Golden Girls/Explanation: Sicilian-born Sophia Petrillo (as played by the late Emmy-winning actress Estelle Getty) was the absolute hoot and in some circles was the most desired Golden Girl of them all. Sharp-tongued, spontaneous, blunt and slightly absent-minded, Sophia was a magnet for the comical timing. Whenever her mouth opened up there was sure to be something viciously riotous about her naughty-minded verbiage. Sophia in many ways is a descendant from wise-cracking old gals such as The Beverly Hillbillies’ Granny because she’s fearless in what she believes and refuses to conform properly. Sophia Petrillo was genuine and real; she calls it as she sees it.
12.) Colonel Sherman T. Potter, M*A*S*H/Explanation: Col. Potter was an old school army man and joined the service at an early age. As the mentor and commanding officer at the 4077th MASH unit, Potter was sufficient but could also let his hair down at times and roll with the flow. Granted Potter was demanding and rough-around-the-edges occasionally but he was also fair and approachable. Potter wasn’t the typical army brat and could actually see the senselessness in war. He was by the book and wasn’t as goofy-minded as his predecessor Col. Henry Blake. Nevertheless, Col. Sherman T. Potter was the appropriate elder statesman that the 4077 outfit required in getting these weary medical wonders through the insanity that is war.
13.) Fred Sanford, Sanford and Son/Explanation: The late comedy king Redd Foxx found more fame and fortune playing the grouchy junk dealer Fred G. Sanford in the hilarious NBC sitcom Sanford and Son. Fred was incorrigible to almost everyone he came across. In fact, Fred was a constant thorn to his adult son Lamont that aided him in their limping junk business in the Watts sections of Los Angeles. The foil for Fred-and comically so-was his Bible-toting sister-in-law Esther Anderson for whom he despised with a passion. Fred was a 65-year old grump and instigator but he was also misunderstood and had a heart amongst his scheming and other designated agendas. The funny fake heart attacks, his wacky and sometimes poignant monologues to his late wife Elizabeth and his association with off-kilter pals (Grady, Bubba, Skillet, Leroy, Melvin, etc.) are all are indicative of a humorous, roguish man after our collective funnybones.
14.) Arthur Spooner, King of Queens/Explanation: Veteran funnyman Jerry Stiller had already played an offbeat senior citizen Frank Costanza on the 90’s cult hit Seinfeld. Well, Stiller got another chance to shine as another cockeyed coot in the exasperating Arthur Spooner on the long-runningCBS hit King of Queens. Stiller conveyed an impishness that was refreshing as the annoying Arthur who’s forced to live with his blue-collar working daughter and son-in-law. Arthur was at times opportunistic, meddling and needy but always the contributing spark plug that kept us in stitches on Queens.
15.) Marcus Welby, Marcus Welby, M.D./Explanation: Dr. Marcus Welby, as portrayed by the late actor Robert Young, was a throwback of the kindly physician that had that kind-hearted bedside manner. He was the medicine man that dared to care about his patients more than what was humanly possible. Soft-spoken yet firm and full of conviction, Dr. Welby was a quiet rebel that served medicine-and more importantly his sickly people-with the professionalism and passion that was unselfishly unwarranted.
Frank and Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond