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Benson
Benson title screen.jpg
Benson title, from the extended opening
Format Sitcom
Created by Susan Harris
Starring Robert Guillaume
James Noble
Inga Swenson
Missy Gold
Rene Auberjonois (1980-1986)
Ethan Phillips (1980-1985)
Caroline McWilliams (1979-1981)
Didi Conn (1981-1985)
Lewis J. Stadlen (1979-1980)
Billie Bird (1984-1986)
Country of origin  United States
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 158 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time 24-25 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run September 13, 1979 – April 19, 1986
Chronology
Preceded by Soap

Benson is an American television sitcom which aired from September 13, 1979 to April 19, 1986 on ABC. The series was a spin-off from the soap opera parody Soap. The title character, portrayed by Robert Guillaume, originally appeared on Soap as the wise-cracking yet level-headed black butler for the highly dysfunctional Tate family.

Contents

Series summary

In the show, Benson DuBois had been hired to be the head of household affairs for scatterbrained and widowed Governor Eugene Gatling (James Noble), and his daughter Katie (Missy Gold). Governor Gatling was cousin to Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond), a character on Soap. The state of which Gatling was governor remained unidentified throughout the series, although Soap had taken place in Connecticut. In spite of his somewhat off center personality, Governor Gatling proved to be a very capable and commanding figure when a crisis arose.

Benson's housekeeping dilemmas, his fights with the German cook Gretchen Kraus (Inga Swenson - one of Guillaume's fellow alumni from Soap), and his interactions with Clayton Endicott III (Rene Auberjonois), who assisted Governor Gatling as chief of staff. In the first season, Clayton's job was filled by John Taylor (Lewis J. Stadlen), who was written out by having him run for political office and actually snub his employer's endorsement. In spite of their adversarial relationship (during the early years, Kraus' trademark line was a loud "I can hear you!!!"), Benson and Kraus eventually became good friends. Benson also had very good friendships with the Governor's secretary, Marcy Hill (Caroline McWilliams), and her successor, Denise (Didi Conn). Marcy left after the second season after getting married.

Benson worked his way up the ladder during the series, going from head of household affairs, to state budget director (at which time his surname—DuBois—was revealed), and eventually was elevated to the position of Lieutenant Governor. During the final episodes of the 1985-1986 season, Benson ran for governor against Gatling. Kraus (who had herself moved up to head of household affairs, then state budget director) proved to be Benson's biggest supporter during this time as well. So much so, that he made her his personal assistant and campaign manager.

Benson has the distinction of being the first TV series to reference the Internet on an American network television. This occurred on the episode airing February 22, 1985 ("Scenario") - in the episode, they were accessing the ARPANET, the progenitor of the Internet.

Series finale

The premise was that initially Gatling was prohibited from running for re-election due to term limits. Later it was revealed that he could run again if he did so as an independent candidate, which he decided to do. By this time, Benson had already won the nomination of Gatling's party, setting the stage for the two to go head-to-head in the general election.

At the end of the series' final episode (seventh season finale), it was election night, and with the race still too close to call, Benson and Gatling, who had strained relations due to the race, made their peace with one another and sat down together to watch election returns on television. As the broadcaster began to announce that a winner in the close election (with a third candidate also a potential winner) was at last being projected, the episode ended on a freeze frame of Benson and Gatling, leaving the series with an unresolved cliffhanger. Coincidentally, Guillaume's previous series, and the one from which Benson spun off, Soap, was also canceled with unresolved cliffhangers, though Guillaume had moved on to Benson by that point.

According to the Internet Movie Database, three endings were supposedly shot involving either a Gatling win, a win by Benson, or a surprise win by a wildcard candidate in the form of a crooked senator, putting both of them out of a job. None of these endings proved satisfactory to anyone involved in the show, so the decision was made to keep the ending unresolved.

In 2007, Benson showrunner Bob Fraser said that the season ended on a cliffhanger at the request of the network. The show was canceled after the cliffhanger had aired. Fraser indicated that, had the show continued, Gatling would have won the election and Benson would have become a Senator.[1]

Episodes

DVD release

On July 24, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Season 1 of Benson on DVD in Region 1 for the first time. Subsequent releases of the remaining seasons have yet to be announced.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 24 July 24, 2007

Awards

Over the course of the show's seven-year run it was nominated for a total of 17 Emmys. It won two, including Best Actor in a Comedy Series for Guillaume's second-to-last season portraying the title character, marking the first, and to this day only time an African-American actor has won the award.

Setting

The exterior shots of the "governor's mansion" are actually of a private home located at 1365 South Oakland Ave. in Pasadena, California. The same house was seen in the 1993 movie The Beverly Hillbillies, and in a 2006 U.S. television commercial for the RE/MAX real estate company.

References

External links








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