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[FAN]: Barry......07/01/98

With divorces on the rise in the mid and late 1970s and the role of the single parent a vast unknown, a number of sitcoms of this format popped up around the same time with a plethora of angles. CBS' two hits were "Alice" and "One Dat At A Time". NBC had mixed successes with "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Hello, Larry".

In "Alice", Linda Lavin's character is almost exclusively seen at work (Mel's Diner) which is a wonderful setting because of her colorful, naturally humorous co-workers, most notably owner Mel (who likes to call his waitresses "dingies") and waitress Flo (who is an impressario at snapping off a perfectly timed "kiss my grits" to an offending party).

"One Day At A Time" is almost totally set in the mother's (Bonnie Franklin) home where she has a wonderful, mature relationship with her soon-to-be adult daughters (played by Mackenzie Phillips and teen idol Valerie Bertinelli). This show has its goofy situations, but we always appreciate Franklin's judgement, ethics, love for her daughters and the ability to make a wise decision.

Such maturity is not always apparent or necessary in "Diff'rent Strokes", which features the adopting of two young black boys by a rich white widower and his teenage daughter. Their mischief is cute and wiser heads never prevail when young Arnold (played by Gary Coleman) draws the wrong conclusions or somehow gets into mischief.

The least successful of the four, "Hello, Larry" seems caught in between these underlying themes, yet in many ways is probably the most realistic. Larry, just divorced and a talk-shot host in Portland after living in L.A., has a lot of trouble with everything - bringing up two daughters, adjusting to job difficulties and middle age.

Whereas we admire Lavin's and Franklin's characters because they are liberated women who are making it on their own and the underlying social implications of Conrad Bain's character (Mr. Drummond) taking on two black orphans to share his wealth, McLean Stevenson's character Larry Alder doesn't come across as well because of societal stereotypes of male strength. Alas, he is just as loveable. Stevenson, who was so approachable as Henry Blake in "M*A*S*H", is once again the guy everybody feels they could be friends with. He's easy to talk to, goodhearted and level-headed.

The relationship between Larry Alder's daughters seems more natural in season 1, when Kim Richards (Ruthie) is paired with Donna Wilkes (Diane), opposed to Richards and Krista Errickson (Diane) in season 2. Errickson seems to mature, too wise for this show, which really is about likeable people who really don't have their acts together and aren't really close to any kind of answers. At its core, this is what a broken home is really about. Richards' character Ruthie, who seems to have inherited her father's goofiness, as well as his kindness more than the other two daughters, naturally hits it off with Arnold during the crossover episodes with "Diff'rent Strokes".

An attempt to add a more colorful character in Meadowlark Lemon in the second season meets with little success. But to those who love the show, we must always appreciate the irony of Stevenson's character in that he is such a success professionally, yet constantly struggling at home with many of the same issues. Theory and reality rarely meet in this series. There are no magic formulas to make ends meet. Yet, when all is said and done, there is still love in the Alder household..and while we wouldn't necessarily want to be them, they're the type of people we'd be happy to have as friends.


[FAN]: Darren........07/03/98

My first rememberances of "Hello, Larry" go back to some time in the second season of the show. I was somewhere between nine and ten years old at the time. It was about the same time I began watching "Diff'rent Strokes" from week to week, or as often as I could remember to do so. At first, I'd see just parts of "Hello, Larry" here and there. Eventually, I became hooked into watching it as much as I could.

I recall one night I had to get to the very nearby local library before it closed. I was in the middle of watching "Hello, Larry" while Earl, the radio station engineer, was providing a good amount of entertainment. For some reason, this is always my first real recollection of my connection to this show. I was basicly upset I had to leave my house and hurry over to the library before it closed...and really, I normally liked going to my little local library at the time.

Firstly, I think what really attracted me to the show was that it was more realistic to me, in surely an unconscious way at the time. I've always thought the casting for the show was quite good. I think the cast is the real strong point in this show, as it normally is to any show, especially sitcoms. The main set, the Alder apartment, always seemed well done to me. Sounds crazy, but I like the general design and I guess it seemed quite realistic as well.

Back to the cast, McLean Stevenson carried this show without any doubts. I think it was great that he got to star in his own sitcom. He really proved he was worthy of being the lead role in a sitcom. Stevenson always conveys a believable image of a guy sincere about raising his daughters right, doing his job right and most of all - creating as much fun as he can along the way. Larry Alder was an older guy, yes, but he had a crazy sense of humor and was never too shy to show it. He was also never to proud to admit his faults and/or ignorances in raising his two teenage girls. McLean played this role perfect. He was meant to play Larry Alder for very good reasoning indeed.

Basicly, the rest of the cast, besides Kim Richards and McLean, were unknowns in the tv business. Richards may have had as much acting experience as Stevenson, who got into acting later in life. Richards had done numerous ads as a younger child, some Disney films, a couple tv series and many guest spots on tv shows. In hindsight, it really shows how well Richards carries herself in the shows, yet she's still a teen during "Hello, Larry". It's no surprise she was awarded the role of the more comical, entertaining daughter, Ruthie. Kim Richards proved her talents as Ruthie in this series. Most notably, she proved to be good at comedic acting. She was an asset to this series.

The other and eldest daughter Diane, was played by two actresses in the series. In the first season, Donna Wilkes plays the part. In the second season, Krista Errickson took the role. It seems to me like the writers wanted one daughter (Ruthie) to be comical and quirky like their father; and the other (Diane) to be more grounded and even a bit cynical, like their mother, Larry's ex-wife Marion (seldom on the show). This being said, it may sound like the Diane character may be a bit uninteresting. In defense of this notion, Diane has her calling, she draws a balance to the mix and is in short a logical, needed character...a devil's advocate of sorts. Finally, she's not without her own degree of comic imput.

Donna Wilkes' portrayal of Diane is my least favorite of the two. I'm thinking that a good deal of how she played the part was greatly related to how she was likely directed to do so. My problem with her portrayal is her general personality and delivery of her lines. She seems to have this underlying whining tone with nearly everything she says. Maybe it seems like she's just too bored or unhappy with who and where she is. Basicly, I just don't think she fit into the role as well as Errickson did. Donna did go on to appear in some small movie roles and even the lead in a couple other b-type movies.

Krista Errickson plays the role of Diane quite well in the second season of the show. Errickson seems more emphatic and convincing in delivery of her lines and actions. When she portrays opposition or cynicism, she does a much better job with it. Her character-acting here seems to fit into the whole scheme better than the way Wilkes' had done. I think the chemistry between she and Richards was better, making them seem more realistic as sisters to me. In summation, Errickson's portrayal brought more personality and believablity to the role of Diane.

As far as the secondary cast goes, again, I think the casting was great. Joanna Gleason, who hadn't any major tv experience prior to this series, portrayed Larry's talk-show producer very well. Morgan is not afraid to jump on Alder's case and express her opinions in this series. She's an independent modern woman who brings good energy and personality to the show. Gleason also fits into the show well as a new face.

George Memmoli is another actor who had very little real tv experience before this show. He plays the talk-show's engineer. He's a good part of the chemistry that goes on while Alder does his talk-show. He can give and take the best wisecracks there is. He's a very likeable character that always brings a laugh or two.

John Femia played Tommy, a fellow tenant in the Alder buidling, also a young teen. Femia has the uncanny knack to play the witty, whimsical and sometimes obnoxious Tommy character. Femia also had little tv experience to this point in time. Two years after the show he went on to play a fair sized role in the teen based series "Square Pegs".

The final character I'll give mention to is Meadowlark Lemon. This former globetrotter was brought on to play himself in the second season. All I remember is that I always liked to see him on the show, hopefully with a basketball in hand and performing tricks! His character had some type of connection to the radio station and Larry's talk-show. His character wasn't the most vital by any means, but I think he made a nice addition whenever he perodically appeared.

I've always had a problem in watching a sitcom whose storyline gets too serious of a plot and you forget it's supposed to be a comedy. I think "Hello, Larry" bordered on this at times, especially near the end of it's run. Maybe it was to attract more viewers, they had a number of multiple part episodes. All in all, it's basically a minor criticism. I think this show had a good storyline and background to build a series around. The show had a number of different script writers over its short existence. I wonder how much this affected the continuity of the show? I imagine it did to some extent.

This show did quite a bit in it's short time on the air. The main characters all had their times of comedy, maturation and at times conflicts amongst each other. Although the series got cancelled after basically just one and a half seasons, it's safe to say that it accomplished much of what it set out to do and remained a very worthwhile television series. In conclusion and most of all, "Hello, Larry" always has had the ability to make me laugh out loud while watching it...and that's saying something in my case!



Much Thanks to all of those who've sent in their comments. NOTE: Any and all errors on this page were made during transfer of the text from my e-mail to this page. This was not transferred by me, but by my secretary, of course!

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