Friday, May 7, 2021

Deja View: Take "Two!"

In the vast television landscape, many sitcoms have come and gone. Some became cultural touchstones and have never gone off the air thanks to syndicated reruns. Some linger in the memory, though we don't see much out of them anymore. Some are completely forgotten if we ever even knew about them at all! I don't know how many of my readers will recall the 1982 show depicted at right, It Takes Two. Springing from the creator of hits like Soap and Benson, it was unfortunately fated to land closer to Fay, Loves Me, Loves Me Not and I'm a Big Girl Now, also by the same creator, Susan Harris. You'll surely recognize some of the show's familiar faces.

The concept of It Takes Two concerned the issues that sprang up between a middle-aged, married, Chicago couple with two successful careers who sometimes ran into conflicts as a result. That, and their colorful family life provided the story fodder.

Though he tends to be remembered for movie roles and dramatic television fare, Crenna was a TV comedy veteran, with scores of episodes of Our Miss Brooks and The Real McCoys under his belt. He portrayed a successful surgeon here.

Oscar-winner Patty Duke also had significant sitcom cred, having played two leading parts in The Patty Duke Show during the mid-'60s. As Crenna's wife, she played a district attorney.

This was a pretty big opportunity for character actress Billie Bird, who had portrayed scads of bit parts in movies and on TV since 1950. Here she played Duke's sassy, blunt mother, who lived with the couple.

As the family's daughter, Helen Hunt brought a childhood full of prolific acting work to the table. She would, of course, go on to win an Oscar of her own in addition to costarring in the successful sitcom Mad About You.

Then at the dawn of his career, Anthony Edwards had Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) in the can, along with a couple of other small parts, before playing the family's son. His character had moved out, but was still around frequently. He would proceed to costar on the monster hit medical drama ER, among other things.

Richard McKenzie, who played a colleague of Crenna's at the hospital, was a veteran of countless bit roles. This was his only regular series role, surely thanks to several appearances on Soap - as a doctor.

But the purpose of this post isn't really to delve into the intricacies of the show. Nor to expound on the gravity-defying hairdo that Duke adopted for the role, though that would be fun!

We're here to talk about Crenna and Duke's living quarters. Anything stand out about this kitchen to you? (Apart from its heavily-'80s decor.)

Does this help?

Yes, Crenna's and Duke's 1982 kitchen was redressed and used as the one for 1985's The Golden Girls! Actually, the rendition shown in these last two photos are following a makeover. In season one of TGG, the set had been left in a version closer to the one seen in ITT. It was only after that successful first season that the wallpaper and some of the other decor was upgraded and further feminized.  I have prepared some comparison photos. Apologies in advance for some of the shitty visuals from It Takes Two. The lesser-known show is not readily available in high quality.

Although it doesn't read that way, thanks to the poor video quality, the two shows featured the same kitchen wallpaper. A beige background with a paler, cream, diamond pattern on it.

The very same baker's rack in the niche.

The "Girls" had a wall calendar on their swinging kitchen door.
For the sake of everyone's health, I do hope that is not the same fruit leftover from two years or so before...! LOL

Earlier eps of ITT had a small butcher block in the middle of the room, which was replaced by the table with the fruit on it. As you can see, TGG got a new refrigerator, but those cabinets remained.

When Helen Hunt used the kitchen phone, it was on a side table against the wall. But in the second show, a wall-mounted phone was installed.

As I say, ITT was created by Susan Harris.

The characters lived in a Chicago high-rise.

Yet, hilariously, when Harris created TGG, it was set in suburban Miami, where the precise same kitchen could be found!

So while Crenna & Co. looked out the kitchen window to see other skyscrapers in their midst...

...the Girls had a view of their neighbors' similarly-built ranch-style, Florida homes!

Here is a photo of the kitchen set soon after its remodel for season two of The Golden Girls.

I've wondered to myself if that yellow cup behind Crenna is the same one used in the AIDS awareness episode of TGG in which Sophia puts an R on it for "Rose."

This angle shows the back doorway of ITT's kitchen, a shot rarely-seen in TGG.

In the pilot for TGG, you'll see that the back doorway area is cleared out with no cabinetry. (And note that Coco's frying pan in dead empty as he's stirring away......) 
There's that cup again, along with the familiar (and peculiar) stove-top placement.

Could the recycling have extended to this coffee cup?
Here's a shot of that wallpaper up close. But the kitchen isn't the only room of ITT's set to be recycled... Take a look at these comparison shots from the living rooms!

The condo living room is very much the same as the Miami house but with some tweaks. The door and general furniture placement is similar, but a fireplace has been moved.

The back hallway is still there. In ITT, it leads to most of the bedrooms. In TGG (apart from the pilot, when it led to Blanche's bedroom), it leads to the lanai.

The balcony area has been removed and in its place is a seldom-used seating area (and an even less-used fireplace.)

In ITT, there was a modern chair in front of the fireplace for Duke to look over legal briefs, etc... This area was kept open on TGG.

One bigger change was on the right side. Where Billie Bird once had a single bedroom, this now has been adjusted to make a longer hallway, leading to the Girls' rooms.

This shows how the bedroom door was closed off and an angled hallway created further left.
This shot allows a little peek into Bird's bedroom. Most of this area would later be the hallway on TGG.

Before Harris came up with the Golden character of Sophia, she had experimented with similar ideas before. There was Audra Lindley as Lee Grant's live-in mother on Fay and then Bird, who offered many zany remarks as the live-in mother of Duke here.

I know you wish I was done, but I'm not...! Take a look at this, too. They reused Crenna and Duke's bedroom, turning it into Blanche's boudoir! Looks like Duke really liked to moisturize at night...!

All of this was in the mid-1980s, before it was as fashionable as it is now to "go green" and recycle. They really made good use out of the existing sets from It Takes Two when preparing The Golden Girls. When watching ITT, you can see similarities in the way the shows are handled. The timing, the dialogue, the music, etc... One show clicked and the other didn't.

McKenzie even found himself recycled as a guest star on a 1990 episode of Girls as an ex-con set up on a blind date for Dorothy by a matchmaker her mother has hired.

During the pandemic and all its attendant stressors and annoyances, I've gravitated to everything simple and/or amusing in order to get my mind off of things. For some reason, this tickles me far more than it probably ordinarily would, but I can't quit cackling about it! It Takes Two's opening credits featured a theme song by Paul Williams, which he sung with Crystal Gayle. Called "Where Love Spends the Night," it played while all the usual clips from the show were flashed on-screen along with the actors' names. Trouble is, the song was a LULLABY! I can tell you from experience that from age 50 on, it's enough trouble to stay awake in front of the TV set. So a perkier song (like the rejuvenated "Thank You for Being a Friend?") would be more in order if one wants people to stay tuned. This poor song, which isn't bad on its own terms, limped along and every time one thought it was over, it kept on going! LOL It also contained a really fascinating descending verse end which makes me howl with laughter every time I hear it. Maybe it's just me. And to bring everything full circle, the oddball pairing of Williams and Gayle brought to mind for me the famed duo Sonny and Cher...
...which, of course, reminded me of this stellar Golden Girls moment! Till next time.


jobj69 said...

Hey Poseidon! Hope all is well. Thanks for the fun post! Two comments - I imagine Crenna using that moisturizer (wink wink!) instead of Duke Astin! I have seen him on a few series recently, as a young man - quite sexy (not the awkward goofy teen he portrayed in Our Miss Brooks)!

And that Golden Girls capture at the end of Dorothy and Sophia as Sonny and Cher. So much of the comic dialog on that show relates to the pop culture of the era. For example, when Rose sees Sophia dressed as Sonny...

Sophia: Well, Rose, do I look like the mayor of Palm Springs?

Rose: Doug Henning is the mayor of Palm Springs?!?

Well, I just laugh my ass off every time I see that (hell, I am even chuckling as I type!) but I know TGG appeals to a lot of young viewers, too, and I wonder how many references like this simply go over their heads...ah well, their loss!...thank you for getting my weekend off to a good start! Take care...

Polly Esther said...

Hi Poseidon! Since you’re delving into TV, how about the show I think of every time I hear Billy Joel’s “My Life”: of course I mean Bosom Buddies! Talk about unconvincing drag... but Mr. Peter Scolari had a hot little body on him! Would love to see you dig up some hot pics. And Tom Hanks? Well, a fantastic career after this show but way too white-bread for my taste!
Thanks again for the posting!

rigs-in-gear said...

I must admit that I've never seen It Takes Two, which is odd because it had an appealing cast, but it must have been on opposite a must-see program for me and this was well before the DVR. I hope you didn't lose sleep trying to figure out where you had seen this apartment before. Did it come to you in a flash, or were you watching an episode of Golden Girls after your ITT marathon and it was like the title of your post - deja view? I envy your eye for detail. And yes, discussions of gigantic 80's hair is always fun.

normadesmond said...

Patty had thick, fabulous hair.

hsc said...

I *LOVE* this sort of thing-- recycled sets, props, costumes, etc.-- so this type of post is my second favorite thing you do! (And you know what the first is, I'm sure!)

Trust me, you could never get too deeply into it for me-- that coffee cup is exactly the type of detail I obsess over.

A lot of sitcoms either reuse sets for budget reasons (while build from scratch when you don't need to?) or at least have the same layout due to ease in filming scenes.

But what's great is when you spot two series with this much recycling, and from the same producer yet!

Keep up the great work! Love and be safe and well, everyone!

Dean W. said...

Many of the shows, and actors, that you profile were only of passing interest to me, back when. But now, I remember so many details, that it's clear those shows really made an impression, and even shaped my view of the world, and myself – I just didn't see that then! So, thank you for bringing back so many formative memories from my youth!

A said...

Love this! Another good reuse of sets is the stairway that was in the movie Auntie Mame. It was reused probably dozens of movies and TV shows (also redone several times in the movie). You can google Auntie Mame Staircase.

Thank you so much, Poseidon.


Poseidon3 said...

I was a little bit afraid that this post would be a let-down after a trio of ones featuring bulging baskets, but it seems that it appealed to quite a few of you, so that's terrific!

jobj69, I have wondered about all those pop cultural references, too. But they just need to google whatever they aren't "getting!" Then they can enjoy the laugh that much more. I always loved that exchange you quoted. It resonates with me since I have had so many instances in my young life when I couldn't differentiate between certain people. Such as, why is everyone mourning Elvis' passing when he's still hosting "Wheel of Fortune?!" LOLOL

Polly Esther, about a month or two ago, I had the first season of "Bosom Buddies" in my hand (for, I think $8.00) and almost bought it, then put it back!! I never watched that show and later developed a considerable aversion to T.H. Haven't seen a movie with him in it for more than 20 years...! If I come across it again, maybe I'll jump off the cliff and see what's up. As a kid, I used to think that the now-forgotten Teri Whatserface was so pretty. And then there's Wendi Jo Sperber? Ha ha!

Rigs-in-Gear, I once read somewhere about the Golden Girls' kitchen being appropriated from It Takes Two, so I piqued my curiosity. Fewer people seem to have noticed that the living room and master bedroom were cribbed, too! So I felt obligated to bring that up. I watched ITT SOME as a kid. I liked Helen Hunt then (she had been on a favorite program of mine, "Swiss Family Robinson") and also enjoyed dotty Billie Bird. But it was gone before very long, so... Thanks!

normadesmond, her hair seemed to really hit its zenith in the immortal "Valley of the Dolls!"

hsc, I'm so glad you liked this so much! As a theatre actor for 25 years, we would nearly always have a set built from scratch each time. Rarely did one set or even part of one work well enough for the next show. So it fascinates me when a cast goes to work on a set that was fully inhabited by another group of actors beforehand. Thanks much!

Dean W., thanks so much for commenting and for your remarks. TV is so much more powerful an influence than many of us realize. I am always against censorship, but I am very much in favor of parental guidance as to what is seen by the young ones. I was raised mostly pre-cable when the networks limited what could be said and shown. Today? Sweet Jesus, what children can witness, even on basic satellite/cable channels.

A, I've watched that remarkable video of the Warner Brothers staircase several times. It's unreal how many projects it found its way into!! I'm glad you enjoyed this post. Thanks.

Gingerguy said...

I'm fascinated by this. How do you notice this? It's amazing. I watch GG occasionally and the set "feels " like Florida to me. I always thought the table was weird in middle of the kitchen like that. I like everyone in the cast except the older Actress I don't know. Helen grew into a great Actress. Lol Crystal's hair in photo. I had a friend who described it as tragically long. Fab post!

Huston said...

Hey, Poseidon, this is one helluva post. I have absolutely no recollection of ITT, but I know TGG of course. Did you ever notice that they always talked about going out on the Lanai but never did? When I lived in Boston in the 80s there was a gay bar called Sporters, where when TGG came on everybody would drop what they were doing to watch. Whatever that was. Huston

Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, I can't recall exactly when I found out about the usage of the kitchen set - it's been a number of years. But it was something I read rather than having discovered it. (There was one I discovered on my own once, the "Bewitched" set being used on a later show.) But few, if any, people ever mention the living room and bedroom, too! So I wanted to point those out. You (and I!) are in the minority when it comes to Estelle Getty. SO many people love her. I enjoyed her well enough the first few years, but I felt she really was more the beneficiary of "can't miss" lines than any stellar acting chops. I felt she became too "in on the joke" as the show progressed, much like Joyce DeWitt on "Three's Company" and I prefer more grounded performances, even amongst all the zaniness. I still marvel that Crystal Gayle was the sister of Loretta Lynn! Two more different types you could not find, at least when it came to overall appearance. As a blue-eyed kid, I resented her hit song "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" until I further understood the pun. LOLOL

Huston!! LOL about the people dropping what was (dangling?) in front of them to watch TGG. We had a bar here called "Shooters," though it was western-themed with lots of country line dancing. The girttier (and, thus, more fun) places included "Spurs" and "The Serpent." !! In the pilot, Blanche's bedroom is back that way which later became the lanai! So jarring to see that now. Nothing about the layout of the house made architectural sense based on the exterior, but I suspect few people noticed. I can recall maybe 6 or 8 lanai scenes, but maybe it was too hot out there when you're wearing three or four layers of clothing like Dorothy did!!! Ha ha!! Thanks.

Ken Anderson said...

Hi Poseidon
Just catching up with a backlog of posts and found this one especially enjoyable because I often think I'm the only one who takes note of recycled, sets, costumes, etc, on old TV shows.
I don't remember this series at all, but it looks like an awfully talented cast for a routine sitcom. And that theme song! I can see why it tickles you. What an odd choice for a comedy...even if it's a sappy sentimental one.
Thanks for this and all your enjoyably unique posts. You find these gems and give us the pleasure of reading your reactions to them.

Poseidon3 said...

Thanks, as always, Ken for your kind remarks and insights. It's amazing how some shows fail and others take off. It's like a chemistry set. One off thing, like music, time slot, a key casting error or the set can make or break it. And then some shows just go on and on and leave us wondering how and why! Ha ha!! Take care!