Hello Larry

Hello Larry

Being a beloved character on a hit television series is the dream of many an actor, and McLean Stevenson certainly had that as Col. Henry Blake on the iconic television show M*A*S*H. But he wanted to be the star and Alan Alda already had that role filled, so he opted out of his contract to headline his own sitcom on NBC. It was goodbye Henry Blake and Hello Larry.

Debuting in 1979, Hello Larry centered around recent divorcee Larry Adler (Stevenson), host of a popular radio show in Portland. His professional life was simple – the occasional witty banter with his call-in guests and the show’s rotund engineer Earl, and a little flirting with the show’s beautiful producer Morgan. It was almost enough to make Larry forget the turmoil that waited at home.

The turmoil was the result of his two teenage daughters, who missed their mom and friends who remained in their former hometown of Los Angeles – not to mention the typical plight of teenage girls everywhere as they faced various high school issues and plenty of boys. Making matters decidedly more difficult was the fact that their father was a famous on-air personality who often gave advice on child rearing, but wasn’t so good at following it.

Hello Larry was produced by Dick Bensfield and Perry Grant, who had already found success with another single-parent sitcom called One Day at a Time. Since the series was given a timeslot right after another single-parent show called Diff’rent Strokes, it seemed only natural to create a little backstory to link the two shows and perhaps increase the ratings.

The writers did this by making Larry an old army chum of Philip Drummond, who had his own share of child-raising problems. Drummond also supposedly worked for the corporation that owned Larry’s radio station. As a result, both shows occasionally featured characters from the other in many episodes.

Other familiar cast members included Shelly Fabares, as Larry’s former wife, Joanna Gleason, and Kim Richards (Nanny and the Professor, Escape to Witch Mountain) as the youngest daughter. In the second season, famed Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon was added to the cast, playing himself as a local owner of a sporting goods store.

Unfortunately, in the winter in 1979, the Iranian Hostage crisis developed – resulting in numerous news interruptions and regular preemption of the show. As a result, audiences started tuning out and, when the spring of 1980 arrived, it was goodbye Larry.

When Stevenson first left M*A*S*H, the producers offered to let him return should the sitcom fail to take off. But they later rescinded, deciding to kill off his character instead, thereby making a return impossible. Stevenson later admitted that he greatly regretted his decision, especially since his former show lasted another eight seasons without him and became one of of the most beloved sitcoms ever created.

Hello Larry, on the other hand, only managed two partial seasons and holds the distinction of being considered one of the all-time most awful sitcoms ever created. Ironically, McLean Stevenson will always be remembered both for his best work, and his worst.

Were you one of the few that tuned into Hello Larry during its brief run on television? If you have any memories of the series, we would love to hear them in our comments section below.

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