Ever thought of becoming a landlord? I sure have. I mean, if TV has taught us anything–and I think it has taught many of us everything–it has taught us that being a landlord is one of the truly great jobs out there. You can enter other people’s living quarters at will. You have an inordinate amount of influence on those lives. And you obviously get enough money to make a living without having to do a real job. The landlord is a TV staple that will never disappear. Not as long as there is a God in heaven.
The title is also the manner in which the tenants would greet him. In 1970, a movie about fresh-faced young white guy becoming the landlord of a ghetto tenement starred Beau Bridges. “Hey Landlord” premiered on NBC in 1966 and featured Ohio college boy who became the landlord of a Manhattan brownstone he inherited from an uncle. The rent payments were intended to support him while stationed his search for meaning in the NYC. But the lousy condition of the building meant he was working twice as hard as landlord as a potential existential hero.
About three decades or so after “Hey Landlord” went off the air, “Hey Arnold! appeared on Nickelodeon. Arnold’s Grandpa is the owner/landlord of a rooming house that includes your usual assortment of wacky tenants: lazy good-for-nothing Oskar Kokoshka, brief country music sensation Mr. Hyunh, the diminutive wrecking ball operator and others. Arnold’s Grandpa is basically one of the better landlords in TV history, but even he occasionally gets fed up with his tenants.
The landlords to whom Sandy Duncan’s character Sandy Stockton paid rent were Mr. and Mrs. Harwell. The landlords on “Funny Face” were of the nosy variety, like the Ropers on “Three’s Company” only not nearly as randy. What makes the Harwells such memorable TV landlords? After all “Funny Face” barely lasted three months on the air before it disappeared altogether. Because they are part of one of the more stranger occurrences in TV history. Just one day shy of exactly one year after “Funny Face” premiered, the character of Sandy Stockton was back on TV in the exact same time period. “The Sandy Duncan Show” featured the very same Sandy Stockton, but had jettisoned her landlords and everybody else from “Funny Face.” Weird, huh?
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Every once in a while a landlord or landlady become popular enough to warrant exploration as a leading character in a spin-off of their own. This idea almost always results in failure due to the inability of network executives to understand the value of group dynamics. Go figure. Phyllis Lindstrom was a minor supporting character on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” who owned the rooming house in which Mary Richards lived. Perhaps because she was played by the great Cloris Leachman, CBS execs for some reason imagined she could be spun off into a show of her own. After all, they’d experienced inexplicable success with Rhoda. No so much with Phyllis Lindstrom, who went from being a landlady of great success to a photographer’s assistant.
It can be easy to forget, but don’t allow it to slip your mind that Howard Cunningham was one of the longest-serving landlords in TV history. He only had the one tenant, Fonzie, but wouldn’t that be enough? I mean if you were to be a landlord and you had your choice of Fonzie or the ditzy trio on “Three’s Company” who would you take? I don’t even care if you are single guy, you’d probably go with Fonzie. Overflow, after all.