was a half-hour Sitcom
that aired on ABC
from 1979-1986. A Spin-Off
, it starred Robert Guillaume as Benson DuBois, who took over as head of household affairs at the Governor's Mansion
under Gov. Eugene Gatling (James Noble) - cousin to Jessica and Mary of Soap
. This put him in immediate conflict with Kraus (Inga Swenson), the head cook who coveted the position for herself. Other characters included Katie (Missy Gold), Gene's daughter; Clayton Endicott III (Rene Auberjonois), Gene's Chief of Staff; Pete Downey (Ethan Phillips), the Governor's official press secretary/photographer; and Denise Stevens Downey (Didi Conn), Benson's ditzy personal secretary.
As the show went on, Benson climbed up the political ladder, thanks to Gov. Gatling's trust in him, going from working in the mansion staff to state Budget Director, and then to Lt. Governor, before finally running for Governor himself in the final season.
Benson contains examples of following tropes:
- An Astral Projection, Not a Ghost: Soap ends with Jessica about to be shot by a firing squad in Central America. In the next season, she shows up on Benson as a ghost which only Benson can see. But then she finds out she's not really dead, she's just in a coma in a Central American hospital.
- Benevolent Boss: Governor Gatling
- Breakout Character / Ensemble Darkhorse: A rare case of said character getting spun off into his own show as opposed to the original show restructured completely around them.
- The Cast Show Off: At least one episode a season gave Robert Guillaume a chance to show his singing chops.
- The Christmas Episode "Mary and her Little Lambs" gave us this piece of him singing "O Holy Night."
- The second Christmas Episode had him sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" with the extra bonus of lighting the tree with his music.
- Season five's "Too Pooped To Pip" let him do a duet with Gladys Knight.
- The season six two-parter, "Made in Hong Kong," shows Rene Auberjonois speaking fluent Chinese and displaying an impressive amount of local knowledge about Hong Kong.
- Chess with Death: Or in this case, Trivial Pursuit with Death—for the fate of a busload of schoolkids. "G.Reaper" ends up losing because he missed a question on Charles Bronson—the answer was "Death Wish."
- Christmas Episode: They had at least two.
- The first, "Mary and her Little Lambs," had Kraus sing a German version of "Silent Night," followed by the above bit of Benson singing "O Holy Night."
- The second was an Itsa Wonderful Plot where Benson had a serious car accident and the spirit of his late mother was trying to convince him to go back to Earth. Benson sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: John Taylor, Gene's Season 1 Chief of Staff.
- Commuting on a Bus: Katie, in later seasons
- Deadpan Snarker: Benson, Clayton (and Kraus on occasion)
- Election Day Episode: Being that it takes place in the Governor's mansion, naturally has one of these every four years or so.
- In the first season Taylor runs for office and loses quite badly.
- In the last season Benson is running for Governor because the current Governor is constitnutionally enjoined from seeking another term. But then a loophole appears and he decides to run as an independent. The last episode of the series ends on a cliffhanger as the Governor and Benson sit together watching the election results come in.
- The last three episodes of season three surround the Governor's reelection. The first of the three involves the Governor trying (and failing) to secure his party's nomination. The second has them take a trip to the Gatling family lumber mill and Benson convincing him to run as an independent. The third shows the election itself. (Considering the show lasts four more years, it's not hard to guess who wins.)
- The fourth and fifth episodes of season six revolve around an emergency election for lieutenant governor who was impeached in the season premiere. The two candidates are Benson and Senator Tyler. Needless to say, Benson wins.
- Epic Fail: In season one, Taylor's attempt at a political seat.
Gov. Gatling:How did Taylor do?
Marcy:He lost. He came in sixth.
Benson:How did he come in sixth? There were only five candidates.
Marcy:There was a very large write-in for "none of the above".
- Expy: Gene Gatling is clearly based partly on Jimmy Carter, with a similar, kind but scatterbrained personality to his cousin Jessica.
- With a Lampshade Hanging in a first season episode, when Benson and Gov. Gatling are alone at the oval office. Gatling: "If he could do it, why not me?"
- Genius Ditz: Denise, who could do complex math entirely in her head. Gov. Gatling, to a slightly lesser extent.
- Halloween Episode: "The Stranger"
- The Heart: One episode had a young Katie as it, others showed it was Benson.
- It's a Wonderful Plot: One Christmas Episode had Benson be seriously hurt in an accident, and his mom's angel showed him how bad things would be if he died.
- Left Hanging: The show was cancelled at the end of its 7th season. The series finale ended on a freeze frame of Benson awaiting the election results. Conflicting accounts exist for this - one is that the staff shot three different endings to cover three scenarios, but wasn't satisfied with any of them and used the freeze frame instead. The other, from a staff member of the show, suggests the network insisted on the cliffhanger and planned to cancel the series due to dissatisfaction with the storyline of a potential 8th season.
- Let's Put On A Show!: Season four's "Kraus Sings the Blues" has the gang having to take over an entire Jerry Lewis-style telethon, complete with having to fill in for the acts.
- Locked in a Room: Seemingly happened at least once a season.
- Loophole Abuse: Gene uses a loophole in the state constitution to run for a third term, despite the fact that he'd already endorsed Benson in the race.
- Losing the Team Spirit: One episode has Gene's sister convince him to put Katie in a boarding school—and the whole cast is depressed afterwards without Katie. Benson and Gene later drive through the night to get Katie back to the mansion the next day. Everyone's happy, with Katie asking Kraus for "a big bowl of her oatmeal."
- Also, the second Christmas episode, where a Bad Future happened when Benson didn't survive a car accident.
- Missing Mom: Gatling is a widower.
- No Party Given: It was never disclosed which party Gene was a part of - though it was "None of the above" by the final season.
- Our Governors Are Different Gene Gatling, Gov. Genius Ditz.
- Pointless Civic Project: In one instance, federal auditors discover an unexpected budget surplus of $8 million and insist that the state spend that money or their federal distribution will be reduced by twice that much the next fiscal year (which starts tomorrow). Benson & Clayton try to find a way to spend it before the end of the day. In the end Benson decides that's stupid, and just announces that they have a surplus.
- Put on a Bus:
- Marcy Hill, Gov. Gatling's first secretary. Got married and moved because of her husband's job. She got a farewell party early in Season Three.
- Pete and Denise in the sixth season. Denise took a job with NASA and Pete went with her.
- Required Spinoff Crossover: Jessica Tate showed up in a couple of episodes.
- Running Gag: Gov. Gatling frequently told stories about his past, which Benson and the other staffers hated listening to. They couldn't usually say so, though, not only because Gatling was their friend, but also their boss.
- Shoot the Money: A two-part episode in Hong Kong in season 6.
- Simple-Minded Wisdom: Benson still had this even when he went up the job ladder.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Clayton and Denise to Taylor and Marcy (In the screenplay, Benson: A Family Reunion, Clayton and Denise have their own Suspiciously Similar Substitutes, their children, Clayton IV and Anne. Also, Marcy has her own Suspiciously Similar Substitutes, her daughters, Jenny and Molly, and Benson has his daughter, Rachel as this, too.)
- Trash Talk: A duel between Benson and Clayton is decided when Benson opts to have them "playing the dozens" and use insults at the weapon of choice. By the end Clayton is punch-drunk from being on the receiving end while Benson shows why he's the Master.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Benson and Kraus evolve into this by the end of the series.
- Viva Las Vegas: A sixth-season episode had them going there for a lieutenant governor's convention.
- What Might Have Been: A show runner revealed that if the show hadn't been cancelled, the eighth season would've featured Gene winning re-election and Benson becoming a Senator.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The state Benson was set in was never revealed (other than it was a Southern state), nor was the name of the city the mansion was located in.
- The capital city is always referred to as...Capital City. That might be its proper name.
- Which would theoretically put it in the same state as the Trope Namer?
- They do mention a "Springfield" in one season 3 episode, which is good enough for this troper to make it an official WMG.
- You Look Familiar: Both from the parent show, Soap. Inga Swenson (Kraus) played Corrine's birth mother Ingrid Svenson. Caroline McWilliams (Marcy) played Burt's secretary, who claimed to have had an affair with him at the behest of Svenson. It was never mentioned on Benson.