A Dom Com developed and executive produced by Frank Dungan and Jeff Stein, produced by their production company, Lazy B/F.O.B. Productions, and 20th Century Fox, and airing on ABC in The '80s, about a posh British butler being employed by an otherwise typical American Nuclear Family. The Belvedere character had been created by novelist Gwen Davenport in her 1947 book, Belvedere, and portrayed by Clifton Webb in a trio of late-'40s and early-'50s films.
In the series, butler Lynn Belvedere (Christopher Hewett), struggles to adapt to the Owens household. The breadwinner, George (Bob Uecker), is a sportswriter. His wife Marsha (Ilene Graff) is attending law school. At the show's start, oldest son Kevin (Rob Stone) is a senior in high school, daughter Heather (Tracy Wells) is a freshman, and Wesley (Brice Beckham) is in elementary school. Over the course of the series, George becomes a sportscaster, Marsha graduates from law school and starts a career as a lawyer, Kevin leaves for college and gets his own apartment, Heather moves up in high school and is a senior by the show's final season, and Wesley is in junior high. In the two-part series finale, Mr. Belvedere marries and moves to Africa.
A number of episodes played on the dynamic between Mr. Belvedere and Wesley. Several times, Wesley was annoyed or irritated about something or another with the butler ... and once even tried to have him deported. But when things truly mattered, the two became very close friends and could rely on each other to help the other out in their time of need.
The series spanned six seasons from 1985 to 1990.note It returned to the air in reruns on FamilyNet in October 2011, and can currently also be seen on Antenna TV.
- Abhorrent Admirer:
- Wesley gets one in season 2's "Valentine's Day", when a girl named Beth comes on much stronger than anticipated.
- George gets it twice, once in season 3's "Reunion", when he goes to a high school reunion with Mr. Belvedere while Marsha goes to a law convention in Atlantic City and he meets up with Donna Flanigan, an old flame he once had a crush on and who's eagerly fanning it around him, and the other time in season 5's "Black Widow", when Barbara Collins, a local morning talk show host at the station where he works, has him as a guest on her show when the scheduled guest (Michael Jackson) cancels and then has him be a co-host with the intent of luring him to bed, as she has done with other male co-hosts on her show in the past.
- Marsha also gets it twice, once in season 2's "Rivals", when a boyfriend of Heather's named Sean tries to come on to her all while Heather and George are blissfully unaware, with only Mr. Belvedere knowing what is going on, and the other time in season 4's "Marsha's Job", in which she finally becomes a lawyer and her new boss, Doug Metcalf, has anything but the law on his mind.
- Mr. Belvedere gets one in the above-mentioned "Reunion", which has him fending off the advances of a persistent high school classmate of George's named Penny Nichols.
- Accidental Misnaming:
- Heather's best friend, Angela (Michele Matheson), frequently mispronounces Mr. Belvedere's name with such variations as "Mr. Bumpersticker" and "Mr. Bellybutton". She has pronounced Belvedere's surname correctly twice: in "Cheerleader" and "The Crush". The second instance Retcons the first as Belvedere acknowledges that this is the first time she has called him "Mr. Belvedere" (though in this instance, it's chalked up to Angela not being herself as she's developed a major crush on Kevin).
- In "Almost Heaven," an angel resembling Angela appears to Belvedere while he's in a coma following an accidentnote to show him what life would be like for the Owens family if he wasn't around. He expects her to blunder his name, though the lookalike angel insists that she is not Angela (she not only gets his name right, but even calls Belvedere by his first name "Lynn", something Angela never did).
- In addition, Robert Goulet, mentioned below in As Himself, would frequently mangle Kevin's name in his various guest appearances.
- Alliterative Family: The Bilinkis in "Moonlighting". They thought it was hilarious that the Owenses all had names with different letters.
- Animal Wrongs Group: Kevin gets caught up with one in "What I Did for Love" and spray-paints a mink at a fur shop, landing him in jail for the day. Turns out it was all to impress a girl.
- As Himself: Robert Goulet. Occasionally sings duets with Marsha. George finds him to be irritating.
- Black Gal on White Guy Drama: In the season 6 episode, "Runaways"note , Wesley gets a part-time job at a doughnut shop owned by an African American woman named Lou-Anne and gets a crush on her daughter, Sheila.
- Bookends: The series (and the opening title sequence) begins with Mr. Belvedere arriving at the house with a suitcase, hat, suit, and tie. The series ends with him leaving the house permanently, with virtually the same clothes and suitcase.
- Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Wesley's best friend, Miles Knobnoster (Casey Ellison), has these.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Wesley is a genius who gets placed in an advanced class but he'd rather skip school and cause mischief.
- Camp: The scenes in the episode "Marsha's Secret", where Marsha as Singing Waitress, and two other singing waitresses, lip-sync to "Lollipop" and "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)". Both songs were covers recorded for the show.
- Captain's Log: Mr. Belvedere's diary, which he would write in at the end of each episode.
- Christmas Episode: "Christmas Story" in season 4 and "A Happy Guy's Christmas" in season 6.
- Cliffhanger: The show had three different two-part episodes. "Deportation" in season 3, "The Trip" in season 4, and the series finale, "Mr. Belvedere's Wedding" in season 6.
- Clip Show: "The Attic". However, this episode was shelved by ABC until Syndication.
- Continuity Nod: Marsha hums Land of 1,000 Dances by Cannibal and the Headhunters in "Pills". In part 2 of the series finale, when Robert Goulet, Wesley, George, and Kevin go to the Steele Town Inn to pick up Mr. Belvedere, the actual recording by Cannibal and the Headhunters plays.
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: Marsha is occasionally inferred to be this. It's confirmed though in the season 5 episode "The Dinner,"note given her kids' reactions her cooking, causing her to get Belvedere to teach her how to cook. This doesn't work out well, as she doesn't follow Belvedere's recipes to the letter. This leads Wesley and Belvedere to try to convince her guests at a business dinner she's hosting to stop eating her cooking, when Wesley believes Marsha's salmon spread poisoned his frog.
- Couch Gag: The Stinger of each show consisted of Belvedere making an entry in his journal which was often funny or ironic. Usually this was in his bedroom at a desk, but if the episode ended with the cast somewhere else, he always managed to have it.
- Covered in Gunge: Happens to Wesley multiple times. Usually courtesy of Heather or Mr. Belvedere.
- Date Rape Averted: In "Homecoming," one of the show's Very Special Episodes, Heather is assaulted by her prom date, Keith, a star wide receiver for her school's football team and whom George had been planning to interview for a feature story (as Keith was being recruited by several big-name colleges). The scene ends with him pushing her down (off-screen) as she screams "no." The next day, she's edgy and distracted, and refuses to go to the game but won't tell her parents why. Not until she finally confides in Mr. Belvedere does she have the courage to tell her parents, particularly her father. George confronts Keith and tells him to never come near his family again or else. In the coda, Heather later reveals to her parents that she was able to fight him off before he could complete his attack.
- Description Cut: Season 2's "Valentine's Day":George: "I know. It's just that I've heard what these heavy metal guys are like." Spoken in response to Kevin having joined a band called The Young Savages. Cut to the next scene, in which The Young Savages are actually an absurdly clean cut '50s type teenage group performing a cacophonous rendition of the show tune "Standing on the Corner", originally from The Most Happy Fella and later, more popularly covered by Canadian traditional pop quartet The Four Lads.
- Disproportionate Retribution: In "Deportation," Wesley calls immigration on Mr. Belvedere, after he informs George and Marsha that Wesley had cheated on a test... this after Wesley fails to take any openings to tell his parents the truth in order to get a puppy they promised him as a reward if he passed, which they took away upon learning the truth. It ends up backfiring, as Belvedere was working for the family without an active work visanote , and he ends up being detained, stands trial and deported... although Status Quo Is God, so the latter doesn't last long.
- Dom Com: Everything centers around the family/home.
- Drag Queen: Kevin ended up wearing women's clothing unsettlingly often... and usually looked quite stunning.
- Dumb Blonde: Besides mispronouncing his name, Heather's friend Angela often says things that just don't make sense, much to Belvedere's annoyance.
- Episode Code Number: Like many TV shows from 20th Century Fox over the years, a funky episode code system was used, as their way of labeling each episode in production order. "3T##" for season 1, "4G##" for season 2, "5A##" for season 3, "5M##" for season 4, "5V##" for season 5, and "6V##" for season 6. 7 episodes were produced for season 1, with 22 episodes being produced for each subsequent season for a total of 117. At least two episodes that aired during season 5 had season 4 episode codes.
- Every Episode Ending:
- Mr. Belvedere writing in his diary.
- Subverted, however, in part one of "Deportation," when Wesley writes an entry into the diary instead as a result of Belvedere being in a detention center before his deportation trial.
- Averted in part one of "The Trip," as the closing scene has Wesley, who's in the car with Heather, Angela and Mr. Sparks (an elderly man the girls befriended as volunteers at a nursing home), thinking about their trip to Atlantic City and how Mr. Belvedere would react if he found out what they did.
- Also averted in the fourth season episode, "The Counselor", which dealt with Wesley confronting a camp counselor who had molested him. The episode instead ended with Christopher Hewett and Brice Beckham in an in-show PSA, talking directly to the audience about what they should do if they find themselves in a similar situation.
- Wesley's accordion teacher, Peter Zabriskie (see below in I Wished You Were Dead) is pretty much a carbon clone of music teacher Benjamin Shorofsky in Fame. Not really surprising, however, since both roles were played by Albert Hague.
- In season 3's "Grandma", in which Wesley joins an Adopt-a-Grandparent program with Heather and Angela and befriends an older woman names Eunice Townsend who has Alzheimer's disease, while Heather and Angela befriend a grumpy old man named Mr. Sparks who does nothing but complain, Mr. Sparks is pretty much a clone of Inspector Frank Luger from Barney Miller. Again, both roles were played by the same actor, James Gregory.
- Fictional Pinball Game/Personal Arcade: In one episode, George gets a Firebomb pinball tablenote to relive his youth. He later grows tired of it and stops playing. Belvedere, on the other hand, takes a better liking to it and becomes addicted to the game, later taking up residence in the local arcade after George sells the machine.
- Game Show Appearance: Season 6's "Brain Busters", in which George and Wesley teamed up to appear on the titular GS, until Wesley decided to dump his father as a teammate in favor of Belvedere.
- Gender-Blender Name: Belvedere's first name is "Lynn". In the original movie with Clifton Webb, this leads to the family hiring him as housekeeper from a newspaper ad on the mistaken assumption that he's a woman. Lampshaded at the end of "Triangle," when he comments that he's perfectly happy with his name, when noting in his journal about Heather deciding not to change her name to Bianca after all. Then...:Mr. Belvedere: "Lynn?! Maybe I'm more of a Steve... or a Biff... no, Spike!"
- Although, originally, Lynn was a man's name. A current example is Lynn Nolan Ryan, Jr. Yes, that Nolan Ryan.
- Gilligan Cut: Season 6's "Fear of Flying":George: "Ready? Are you kidding? You just watch me walk on that plane!". Cut to the next scene, where Mr. Belvedere is dragging a scared George into the plane.
- Grand Finale: Despite this show never getting the proper respect it deserved from ABC, at least they let them do a proper series finale for its 6th season. Originally, the series was supposed to end at season 5, which is why it ended with a clip show. Season 6 was merely an afterthought.note
- Halloween Episode: "Halloween" from Season 3. Belvedere starts getting depressed about his age, so Wesley takes him out trick-or-treating to have some fun. George and Marsha attend a spooky induction ceremony at The Happy Guys of Pittsburgh. Heather wants to wear a revealing costume to a high school party and immediately has second thoughts.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: The Hufnagels, a family living next door to the Owenses.
- Heroic BSoD: Belvedere in the Halloween Episode. He suddenly needs some cataract surgery. It's over quite quickly, but the situation gets him thinking about his age and how he'll eventually "spring more leaks than they can plug." After seeing Belvedere mope and feel sorry for himself, Wesley shakes him out of it by encouraging him to pull a prank on an obnoxious neighbor.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Wesley does this to Belvedere in "Brain Busters". As revenge for Belvedere answering all of the questions during an appearance on the (fictional) game show of the same title and not giving him the chance to answer any, Wesley, with a very creepy gleam in his eye, discovers the perfect opportunity to get back at Belvedere after finding out that the show's revamped lightning round inflicts "super-goopy" punishments on the adult contestants if their kid partners get an answer wrong. He throws the round out of spite, leaving Belvedere an egged-oatmealed-chocolatey-pied-whipped-creamed mess (with a cherry on top for extra humiliation). Belvedere gets back at Wesley at the end of the episode, drenching him with a bucket of chocolate hanging on Belvedere's bedroom door.
- Hollywood Law: In "Deportation", when Wesley has Mr. Belvedere deported, Mr. Belvedere is able to get back into the country legitimately, through the lengthy immigration process. Except in Real Life, people who violate U.S. immigration law, as Belvedere did, are barred from attempting to re-enter the country legally for, at minimum, a number of years. (While a waiver on such a prohibition can be obtained in theory, in practice, such waivers are seldom granted.)
- Hypocrite: In one episode, Kevin is challenged by his fraternity to bring the ugliest date he can find to a frat party. He decides to take his nerdy, Hollywood Homely lab partner. But then he ends up actually liking her, and decides not to take her, but she finds out (not knowing that it's a contest to see who can find the ugliest date) and has her feelings hurt, so Kevin relents and takes her. At the party, when she finds out that it was just a contest to find the ugliest date, she mercilessly chews out a very remorseful and embarrassed Kevin, and refuses to see him again. However, with her parting words, she reveals that she had won a contest with her science club to see who could find the dumbest lab partner.
- Innocent Innuendo: In the AIDS episode, in attempting to reassure Wesley that hanging out with his friend won't kill him, George says that you can't get AIDS by fooling around — then falls silent as he realizes exactly what he just said.
- I Wished You Were Dead: In Season 2's "Requiem", Wesley silently wishes death on his accordion teacher, Peter Zabriskie, after being constantly scolded by him during accordion lessons. Mr. Zebriskie does die, and Wesley blames himself for it.
- MayDecember Romance: George and Marsha.
- Midseason Replacement: Premiered in the middle of the 1984-1985 television season.
- Never Learned to Read: Featured in one episode with one of Wesley's classmates.
- Papa Wolf:
- George and Mr. Belvedere in "The Counselor" episode from Season 4, when Wesley reveals that he had been in a scary situation with the counselor. The scene cuts just as the counselor gasps in disbelief that he's been found out and with George and Belvedere starting to advance toward him.
- Again, George in the "Homecoming" episode from season 6, where Heather nearly gets raped. Mr. Belvedere too. He doesn't physically attack the guy, but his reaction when Heather tells him what happened make it clear that he wants to.
- Pilot: The original unaired version of the pilot didn't surface until Antenna TV in 2015. Among the differences:
- The opening titles had a purple family portrait book, instead of beige like in season 1, and different photos of the cast. The most notable oddity was a picture of George at his Construction job. This picture was replaced in Season 1.
- The theme song was performed by an unknown singer, instead of Leon Redbone. The ending features a rock version of the main theme; both were arranged and conducted by Jimmie Haskell.
- George was a Construction Worker, instead of a Sportswriter and later Sportscaster; the recut version removed his line "I'm in Construction!".
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: Season 5's "The Curse" was supposed to be the Pilot for a spin-off starring Kevin titled Livin' it Up. Anatole was going to be Kevin's roommate, and the landlord, named Bruno, would have had a wife played by Nancy Walker. Bruno also would have had an assistant played by Cheech Marin, and there was supposed to be a loud overbearing neighbor played by Rose Marie.
- Primal Scene: In "Love Fest," while trying to evade Kevin and get some alone time, Heather and Carl (who have started dating) convince Wesley to make Kevin think that they have gone to his apartment. Awaiting him in the bedroom was not his sister and best friend, but George and Marsha. However, the audience only hears the two of them scream and sees Kevin's priceless reaction afterward to seeing his parents making love in his bedroom ("I was not supposed to see that!").
- "Rashomon"-Style: "Fall Guy". One day, after returning home, Marsha becomes furious when she finds her beloved "Home Sweet Home" pillow ruined. She automatically blames Wesley, who was the only kid in the house last night. Soon, evidence begins to emerge of what really happened, and as it turns out, Wesley took the fall for something he didn't do.note However, the episode ends with all three kids being grounded anyway.note The episode is actually a twist on the typical Rashomon, as the wild stories are actually assumptions made by Marsha, George and Mr. Belvedere of what happened (though Wesley came up with a fake story out of corroboration).
- Recycled Soundtrack: The show's theme song, "According to Our New Arrival." According to Wikipedia, it was originally composed in 1984 for a rejected NBC pilot named Help, which was later resurrected as Marblehead Manor in syndication from 1987-1988. The show starred Paxton Whitehead as Albert Dudley, the third generation butler for the titular mansion, who was always having the wool pulled over his eyes. The other regulars were chauffeur Jerry Stockton (Phil Morris), handyman Dwayne Stockton (Rodney Scott Hudson), the cook, Lupe (Dyana Ortelli), Lupe's son, Elvis (Humberto Ortiz), the gardener, Rick (Michael Richards), and the mansion's owners, Randolf Stonehill (Bob Fraser, who also co-created the series with writing partner Rob Dames), and his wife, Hillary (Linda Thorson).
- Running Gag: Angela always getting Belvedere's name wrong. In fact, he knew something was up the one time she got it right.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: How Belvedere ended up returning to the U.S. (legally, mind you) at the end of "Deportation," even though he was deported from the country months earlier (shown via a Time Skip at the end of Part 2). Marsha even mentions that it would normally take years for someone who was deported to make it back into the country legally.
- Servile Snarker: Mr. Belvedere himself, much of the time.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: Happened with script supervisor Shelley Herman, production executive Robert Braithwaite, stage manager Melinda Casey, and editor Ed Brennan. Herman and Braithwaite both worked on Sesame Street at various times, the former as assistant to the producer, the latter as production supervisor. Braithwaite was also an associate producer for 3-2-1 Contact, while Casey also worked for the show as well as associate director for the program's celebrity segments. Finally, Brennan was editor of the Mathnet segments on Square One TV.
- References abound to Sesame Street and The Muppets occasionally throughout the run. In real life, Ilene Graff's brother, Todd Graff, was one of the original children who sang the theme song to Sesame Street, in addition to playing Short Circus member Jesse on The Electric Company (1971).
- In the season 4 episode, "Fall Guy", when Kevin asks if his parents and Mr. Belvedere are going out for the night, Mr. Belvedere sarcastically replies that they're just going to stay home and watch Punky Brewster. In real life, both shows' theme songs were composed by Judy Hart Angelo and Gary Portnoy. In addition, Casey Ellison, who played Miles, also simultaneously had a recurring role on Punky Brewster as Allen Anderson, one of Punky's friends.
- In season 4's "Commentary", when George is reassigned away from the news desk as a result of a commentary attacking the national anthem, one of the jobs he's given instead is hosting a horror show in a vampire costume quite akin to the character of Count Floyd on SCTV. In real life, writer and executive story consultant Doug Steckler actually was a writer for SCTV, and also acted on the series in various uncredited background roles.
- In season 5's "Hooky", Heather is seen listening to a station called "The Light Touch of Lanzarone". This is a reference to Ben Lanzarone, Ilene Graff's husband, who wrote incidental music for the show from season 3 on as well as had uncredited cameos as a pianist in season 3's "Debut" and season 4's "Heather's Monk".
- In the season 1 episode, "What I Did for Love", when Kevin is arrested for spray-painting a mink coat, the squad room he is brought to looks eerily similar to the squad room set on Barney Miller. In real life, developers and executive producers Frank Dungan and Jeff Stein previously worked on Barney Miller as writers, producers, and story editors. In addition, writer and executive producer Tony Sheehan and director Noam Pitlik also worked on Barney Miller as producers.
- In season 2's "Strike", Belvedere says one of the movies he has a choice of seeing is Commando with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- In Kevin's apartment during the final two seasons, he has a poster of the Marilyn Monroe film The Seven Year Itch; Monroe was Fox's hottest property during the 1950's.
- The Season 5note episode "The Book" was similar to the plot of the first film in Fox's Clifton Webb trilogy, where Belvedere writes a tell-all book on the Owenses, compiling from three years' worth of material from his journals.
- In season 3's "Grandma", Heather tells a disgruntled Mr. Sparks, who doesn't wanna go to the movies, that Cocoon (which is about old people) is playing there.
- Stereo Fibbing: Happens in "Truckin" when the Owens children try to cover for Belvedere and George, who are away transporting a truck with 200 pigs to West Virginia:Marsha: I can't wait to tell your father [that she won a court case she was representing]. Where is he?Kevin: Oh, he's, uh... with Mr. Belvedere.Marsha: Oh, what are they doing?Kevin: Hunting.Wesley: Fishing.Heather: Shopping.Kevin: Uh, the — they're hunting for — for a place to shop for fish.Marsha: Oh, that's strange. When will they be back?Wesley: Tuesday.Kevin: Thursday.Heather: Sunday.
- Sudden Name Change: Angela's last name was originally given as Gilbert in an early appearance, but was changed to Shostakovich in season six's "The Pageant".
- Thematic Theme Tune: The ridiculously catchy "According to Our New Arrival", written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo and performed by ragtime singer Leon Redbone.Streaks on the china never mattered before, who cared?
When you drop-kicked your jacket as you came through the door, no one glared
But sometimes things get turned around, and no one's spared
All hands look out below, there's a change in the status quo
We're gonna need all the help that we can get
According to our new arrival, life is more than mere survival
And we just might live the good life yet.
- There Is a God!: Uttered by Belvedere, who got stuck while working on a furnace in Kevin's apartment building when Kevin (who is supposed to be the building's new super, something he volunteered to do in order to pay lower rent) pawns the job off on him to go on a date, in "Ghostwriter," after Kevin gets his arm stuck in a vending machine in the same room while getting Belvedere something to eat and the machine refuses to give back his change.
- Those Two Guys: The Happy Guys of Pittsburgh, a couple recurring characters who turn out to be devil-worshipping shoe thieves
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: George Owens, played by Bob Uecker, who frequently jokes about his homely appearance in real life, is paired with gorgeous Marsha. She is beautiful and appears to be a generation his junior.
- Very Special Episode: This show - particularly the 1988 episode "The Counselor," where Wesley is touched inappropriately by a summer camp counselor, and the 1989 episode "Homecoming," where Heather is nearly raped by her date, a popular jock is one of the Trope Codifiers.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Belvedere has this relationship with both George AND Wesley. However, while his relationship with George mellowed from this over time (as George began to respect how much Belvedere is a help to his kids), his relationship with Wesley remained this way for the rest of the series, leading to occasional moments of Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other at times.
- Wedding Finale: The Grand Finale has Mr. Belvedere getting married and preparing to accompany his new bride to Africa.
- What Could Have Been: In-universe, and frighteningly so in the Season 4 episode "The Counselor" (the episode where a camp counselor, Perry, inappropriately touches Wesley when the two are alone). Throughout the rest of the episode, Wesley keeps his experience to himself, traumatized by what had happened, but it isn't until near the episode's end that he learns Perry has talked one of Wesley's cabin-mates, a younger boy named Kyle, into letting him take him home in his convertible. Wesley realizes the danger that an unwary Kyle might be in and reveals with his parents and Mr. Belvedere standing nearby that Perry had tried to molest him. While it is never outright suggested by George or Marsha what might have happened had Kyle gone with Perry some longtime fans have speculated that Kyle may have never made it home George does tell Wesley that he spoke up when it counted and that he helped Kyle out before Perry was able to get him alone and possibly do God-knows-what.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After Raleigh Bond, who played as Burt Hammond, one half of The Happy Guys of Pittsburgh died in 1989 following the season 5 episode "Stakeout", his character was written out, and only Jack Dodson, who played as Carl Putnam, came back for "A Happy Guys' Christmas" in the next season. There was no in-show explanation of what happened to Hammond.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: Mr. Belvedere dreams he is visited by the three ghosts, each one in the form of one of the Owens children. It was probably not the first show to ever represent the Ghost of Christmas Present the way they did, but you don't see it that often.