Charles in Charge

Charles in Charge

Scott Baio was a hot ticket item in the early 80s, fresh off of his stints on Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi. Though nobody would consider the latter a success, TV execs decided the time was right to try him in a new series, something without quite as much spin-off baggage. Girls were desperate for another television dose of the hunky celebrity. Enter Charles in Charge.

The series debuted in the fall of 1984. Baio portrayed Charles, a man entrusted with the Pembroke kids in exchange for room and board while he was attending college. The parents, Jill and Stan, were busy with their careers, so their children, 14-year old Lila, 12-year old Douglas and ten-year old Jason, were left to cause general havoc for Charles, who had a certain talent for making things right before mom and pop came home. Rather than your typical boring ‘filler’ kids; the Pembroke youngsters had personalities all their own; Lila was boy crazy, but really didn’t know how to handle herself; Douglas, on the other hand, was a straight-up nerd, into sci-fi and just… geeky; Jason seemed the most ‘normal’ of the three, but was the youngest, thus suffering as a result. The 19-year old Charles suddenly had to provide answers to these ‘coming-of-age’ questions he’s only just starting to figure out, himself.

Then there was Buddy Lembeck. As Charles’s zany best friend, he caused as many problems as he helped solve for poor Charles. And, of course, what show would possibly have Baio be babe-less. While she was always just out of his reach, Gwendolyn Pierce was the girl of his dreams. Each week, Charles was left with the challenge of balancing his complex life while trying to further his education.

At the same time Charles in Charge was on the air, a similar program aired on ABC, the Tony Danza hit, Who’s the Boss? and Charles had some pesky competition. Despite the promise the series held, CBS cancelled Charles in Charge after just one season, much to the chagrin of Baio-holics around the country. Miraculously, Charles in Charge managed to get a second chance (a rarity in Hollywood) returning to the airwaves in 1987 after enjoying moderate success in syndication. New episodes were created, all seemed right in the world, except for one little detail. Where did the Pembroke family go?

Well, by Season 2, picking up two years later, the Pembrokes sold their house to the Powells. Along with the house came Charles, ‘a male college student who loves taking care of children.’ The Powell kids included 14-year old Jamie, 13-year old Sarah and 12-year old Adam. Mom Ellen worked all day and dad was at sea. The kids’ grandfather, Walter, was the ‘man of the house’ – a retired Navy man who often disagreed with Charles when it came to the kids, despite both of them having the best of intentions. The new series also gave Charles a mom, who coincidentally played Chachi’s mom prior to this role. Never meaning harm, her greatest desire was to meddle in her son’s life. She moved into the area and bought up the kids’ favorite pizza place, turning it into a 50s diner called The Yesterday Café (how very Happy Days of her).

When he wasn’t dealing with the trouble that came from the children’s varied personalities, Charles was often left trying to figure out what was going on in Buddy’s brain. And some things just never change. While there was no Gwendoyln, there were plenty of pretty girls to drive Charles crazy, one of which was a very young Meg Ryan. Of course, life couldn’’t be easy for Charles, and most dates were ruined because of some issue with the kids.

The series remained on the air for three and a half years, closing with Charles getting accepted to grad school at Princeton. By 1990, it seemed Charles was finally ready to be in charge of his own life for a change. Sure, the female followers were distraught, but thankfully, Beverly Hills 90210 was right around the corner.

Were you a faithful fan of Charles in Charge back in the 80s? We hope you will share what made the show special to you in our comments section below as we tip our hats to this memorable sitcom.

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