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More Than Mr. C


 

First June Cleaver dies, then Howard Cunningham, Tom Bosley. Not a good time for TV parents.

I first knew Bosley not from TV but from the cast album of Fiorello!, a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical where he didn’t have that much to sing (not that he was really a singer) despite playing the lead role. The songs don’t always do Fiorello! justice — good though they are — because it’s a musical where the book scenes are often more important than the musical scenes, and the title role is more of an acting than singing challenge (many of the songs are sung about him by other characters). But though its very New York-centric subject makes it hard to revive out of that city, it is in my opinion one of the ten greatest musicals ever written, the perfect “serious musical comedy” that uses the tools of the Broadway musical to deal with an ambitious and seemingly dry subject matter, municipal politics, and make it gripping.

Here’s Bosley in 1971, before he achieved TV stardom, re-creating a scene from Fiorello! on the Tony Awards. It’s the scene where Fiorello LaGuardia launches his underdog campaign for Congress, taking on the Tammany Hall machine that dominates New York, and we see how how he manages to win: by delivering the same messages in different languages to different ethnic audiences (playing on his mix of Italian and Jewish ancestry). Obviously it works better in the actual stage production, with the full sets and a full chorus, but this at least gives an idea of it.

Also, he nailed the final speech from the surprisingly strong Happy Days finale, even selling the brief fourth-wall break. Though I wish I could find the legendary (apocryphal?) outtake from the scene where he supposedly mentions “raising two kids,” does a double-take, and adds: “Hey, what happened to Chuck?!”


 
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More Than Mr. C

  1. I always think of Tom Bosley as the voice of the father on "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home". It used to play in reruns on Global on Saturday afternoons when I was a child. I caught a couple of episodes on Teletoon Retro a couple of years back, and was actually shocked by the content. His voice made a great centerpiece of calm on a show of post-hippie teens and a Nixonian paranoid.

    • I watched it too on Global — I couldn't remember if it was Sunday or Saturday. I guess I watched it because it was one of the few cartoons on on Saturday afternoons; I certainly didn't understand most of it, particularly what the neighbour was raving about (though an episode did introduce me to the concept of a tax refund).

      Later I discovered it was Hanna-Barbera's attempt to get back into the prime-time cartoon market years after The Flintstones went off the air. Like a lot of old-school TV producers in the Norman Lear era they turned out an odd combination of old-fashionedness and attempted hipness — Bridget Loves Bernie was a somewhat similar show in live-action. But it does say something for the vibrancy of TV in the early '70s that everyone felt they had to incorporate politics and social change into their shows in order to stay viable in prime time.

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