A Look at Sitcom Production Companies-Miller/Boyett Productions
100 Blogs!! Forgive the self-congratulations, but I just canâ€™t believe I have written 100 blogs on here since last August! Ok, sure some of them kind of sucked but thatâ€™s cool. Â Â Â I hope that you have enjoyed reading them half as much as I have enjoyed writing them.
To celebrate, I am going to do something a little different this week. Going to have a theme week! I give you, production week!
Now, I know how it sounds but keep reading anyway. Of course all movies and TV shows have producers, and sometimes producers will collaborate and form production companies which are responsible for making sure there is money for the project, overseeing the production, and making sure that it will actually air. If done correctly the company will crank out several shows under the same umbrella. This is especially true for sitcoms. Â All week I am going to pick out one of the more famous production teams and discuss the programs that they produced. Those not in the know may be surprised to find out how many classic shows one company produced. Those who do know this, well, just sit back and enjoy a little trip down memory lane. Today I am starting with one of my favorites. Miller/Boyett Productions!
I love them so much I made my own fans boy tribute video for them. Alas, I canâ€™t seem to find a way to get it on here. It was on YouTube until they made me remove it.
Alright, at the risk of boring everyone to death let me explain that this company originated in 1974 when it was called Miller-Milkis Productions. Thomas L Miller and Edward K Milkis founded the company, and in 1980 they were joined by Robert Boyett. When Milkis resigned, the company formally became Miller/Boyett five years later.
Enough history. I promise the rest of this article will be more opinion. Now, letâ€™s talk about the shows that spawned from this production company. When the company was known as Miller-Milkis, itâ€™s most famous show was a little program called:
I have said lots of stuff about Happy Days. Itâ€™s one of those shows you love and hate at the same time. I think what saves it is the actors in it. It was probably hard to believe when the show first premiered, but now the cast roster is a very respectful list. Ron Howard and Anson Williams are established directors, Henry Winkler is a director and a respected actor, Tom Bosley, Marion Ross, Scott Baioâ€¦.well, ok thatâ€™s a bad example. This show was corny, it was sillyâ€¦.and I still watch it every so often. Although it was on for eleven years I will never understand!
Well, of course if they did Happy Days you know they had to produce this one;
This spin-off starring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams was really good, although I have likewise never been a loyal fan. It was also on a year or two too long. It did have a great supporting cast, especially Micheal McKean and David Landers as Lenny and Squiggy. I will be talking more about them down the line. This show a little more realisitic than Happy Days, the girls struggled with a crappy job at a brewery while trying to find mr.right. The big thing about this show was the physical comedy. There was tons of it in the show, almost all done by Penny Marshall and Cindy Willians themselves. It seems like that was the trend with this co, their shows were either warm family shows or broad physical comedies like another show we will discuss in a minute. All in all, it was funny and well done. I just wish they hadn’t move to California!
Here are some other shows that Miller-Milkis produced:
Mork & Mindy, Angie, Blanskyâ€™s Beauties, Out of the Blue. Later on after Boyett joined the company they produced Joanie Loves Chachi, and a little show called Bosom Buddies which starred a relatively unknown actor named Tom Hanks. One of the things I love about Tom Hanks is that rather than be embarrassed by that show, he embraces it and enjoys the fact that one of the greatest actors today appeared in such a silly, silly sitcom.
After Milkis resigned the company became known as Miller/Boyett officially. Then they started coming out with the most unique series of family comedies ever. I loved these shows; I think I was just about the right age when they came on. They were ABC staples (except one, and actually pretty much every show they produced appeared on ABC), and these shows made TGIF what it was in the 90â€™s. One of the cool things about these shows is the openings. They all had unique, original songs which you donâ€™t hear on TV anymore (or, really, back then) along with a corny opening featuring scenes of the characters doing various things (usually around the city the show was set in) mixed with shots of the characters smiling at the camera while their name appears. These openings kind of became a trademark for these shows, and have often been made fun of by others.
First, letâ€™s talk about the one show that did not appear on ABC Friday night, instead it appeared on NBC Monday night, right after Alf.
The Hogan Family.
This is a little show with a lot of controversy. After Valerie Harper left the show in a contract dispute, Sandy Duncan took her place. To tell the truth, I always enjoyed the Sandy Duncan episodes better. This show has kind of been forgotten over the years (though anyone who saw the episode with Willieâ€™s zombie nightmare sure hasnâ€™t forgotten it). This show has a very special place in my childhood memory, the explanation of why I will not bore you with. The real amazing thing is that I love this show even though Jason Bateman is in it. Man I hate him today. I am thankful that I still have episodes of this show recorded on tape, since I doubt it will ever come out on DVD.
This show was on Fridayâ€™s but ABC tended to bounce it around the schedule. However, when TGIF started it was Perfect Strangers which led the way (along with Mr.Belvedere, and Just The Ten of Us). Actually Mr.Belvedere just missed out, but that is a subject for another article. I am getting off track this article isnâ€™t about TGIF.
Perfect Strangers was about Larry Appleton and his cousin Balki, who was from a distant country called Mepos. Basically every episode the two would get into some ridiculous situation, and have to find a way out of it. This show could be really funny, and while some episodes get a little too silly the really good shows were, well, really good. Through the course of the series Larry and Balki dated and married Jennifer and Mary Ann. Also Larry went from working a lousy job in a store to being a photo journalist for the Chicago Chronicle. If you liked broad physical comedy, this was the show for you. Jusrt like Laverne and Shirley, almost every show involved some crazy stunt that Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn Baker did themselves. This show kind of faded away, and ABC burned off the last of the episodes during the Summer of 1991.
This was the other show that began TGIF, and I have talked about this show a lot. Either you love it, or you hate it. I loved it. I freely and openly admit it. This show was set in San Francisco and featured three guys raising little three girls. What can I possibly say about this show that hasnâ€™t been said? Bob Saget, John Stamos and Dave Coulier were the stars. It also featured Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen who were adorable in the beginning and kind of whiny toward the end (when the show moved to Tuesdayâ€™s). Full House was also produced in association with Jeff Franklin Production, which also gave us Hangin w Mr.Cooper.
If Full House and Perfect Strangers created TGIF, Family Matters turned it into a hit. Well, to be more accurate Steve Urkel turned it into a hit. This show was a Perfect Strangers spin-off produced in association with Bickley-Warren, a production company established in 1991 that was started and run by William S. Bickley, Jr. and Michael Warren. They also had a hand in the next program we will talk about. This show was supposed to simply be about a middle class black family (sounds an awful lot like an NBC show I used to watch), but Jaleel White came along and the show suddenly became a little more than that. The truth is, if not for Urkel this show probably would have just faded into obscurity because, really, it wasnâ€™t that good. Steve Urkel was so popular he appeared on Full House and Step By Step as well. I still remember my first reaction to seeing Steve Urkel, which was I had never seen a better example of a nerd on a TV show before. Anyway, Family Matters was a decent enough program. The show got silly and stupid toward the end, but for awhile it was a really decent comedy which also tackled serious subjects from time to time.
Step By Step
What can I say about this little show? Basically a modernized version of The Brady Bunch. Except here, the kids donâ€™t exactly get along very well. I will be honest; I was never what you would call a loyal fan of this show. I have seen some episode and it was decent enough. This may be the only thing Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers did that I actually liked. This show was also saved by a breakthrough character, Cody played by Sasha Mitchell. As I said I never watched it regularly so I really canâ€™t comment. Also like Family Matters, this show went on a little too long.
Of course they werenâ€™t all gems. During their huge run in the early to mid-90â€™s we also got Getting By, Going Places, On Our Own, and Two of a Kind which would be the last show to be produced by this company. This show was another vehicle for Mary Kate and Ashley, which didnâ€™t last very long.
I find it funny that Hogan Family, Family Matters, and Step By Step all ended their run on CBS. That was it for this production company, but their legacy will last forever. The shows they produced are such a unique part of TV history, and some are still on to this day on ABC Family and Nick @ Nite. I mean, how can you forget characters like Fonzie, Balki, Michelle, or of course Steve Urkel?