One of the more charming sitcoms to air in the 80s, Mr. Belvedere told the story of a proper English gentleman employed as a nanny/housekeeper for a typical American family. Starring Christopher Hewitt in the title role, the series was an overnight success and proved that Hollywood still had the ability to come up with new and original concepts.
Well, not so fast. The history behind Mr. Belvedere far surpasses his foray into television. The character was actually the brainchild of author Gwen Davenport, who first introduced him in her novel, Belvedere. The book would later be adapted into the 1948 film, Sitting Pretty, which starred Clifton Webb as a novelist who hires a stuffy live-in babysitter in the hopes that the ensuing adventures will provide him with material for his writing. Upon the success of the film, two sequels were released, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951.) From there, it seemed only natural to bring the concept to television and many failed attempts were made. It would be decades before programming executives finally decided to give Mr. Belvedere his small screen debut.
Mr. Belvedere was employed in the home of gruff sports broadcaster George Owens (played by equally gruff sportscaster Bob Eucker,) his wife Marsha and their three offspring – eldest son Kevin, teenage daughter Heather and precocious tyke Wesley. George and Mr. Belvedere had very little in common, with George being the macho sports guy and Mr. Belvedere, a cultured, well-read intellectual. But they soon found some common ground as George couldn’t help but come to respect the servant’s advice and wisdom. Not to say that they didn’t have their occasional conflicts; there was always plenty for the two men to butt heads about.
But it was undeniable that Mr. Belvedere loved his new family and cared deeply for the children, even if he didn’t always show it on the surface. And plenty of conflict arose as he did his best to guide the children in life and pass along valuable lessons. Youngest son Wesley proved to be the most trying of the three, a far cry from the royals that Mr. Belvedere was accustomed to dealing with in his previous employment. His patience was tested on a regular basis, such as the time that Wesley decided to sell his prized Faberge Egg at the family garage sale (a gift bestowed upon Belvedere by the Queen herself.) But no matter how much chaos and misunderstanding ensued around the Owens household, each episode ended on a positive note, with Mr. Belvedere dutifully writing in his journal and reflecting on the lessons learned by the family, and often by himself in the process.
As the series progressed, Kevin and Heather became young adults and Marsha became a law student, while Wesley entered the awkward teen years, leading to plentiful new challenges for the portly housekeeper. Finally, in 1990, Mr. Belvedere made a shocking announcement on a very special two-part episode. The old coot was finally getting hitched and taking his new bride to the continent of Africa to begin life anew. In America, his work was done.
If you spent a portion of your youth following the heartwarming antics of Mr. Belvedere, we’d love to hear your thoughts and memories in our comments section as we pay tribute to this beloved 80s show.