Bob Boyett Rules Broadway

I mentioned this to someone the other day, and I realized that this isn’t all that well-known a factoid, so I’ll mention it here as well: did you know that Robert L. Boyett, of the team that brought you Balki, Urkel, the Olsen Twins, the Hogan Family and many, many more of the sappiest but most successful “family” shows in television history, is now one of the most successful producers on Broadway?

If you ever see a reference to “Bob Boyett” in articles on Broadway theatre, like for example the fact that Bob Boyett’s shows have 40 Tony nominations this year alone, that’s him. After the end of ABC’s TGIF put an end to the market for his kind of show, he moved to New York to pursue his first love, theatre, and after a year of producing plays, scored multiple Tony nominations. His name is on a lot of new shows, revivals like South Pacific, many British imports from the National Theatre and also on the occasional Canadian import like The Drowsy Chaperone.

Except for the time he brought in Bob Saget to join the cast of The Drowsy Chaperone, there has rarely been any coverage devoted to his previous career; and I’m guessing that’s the way he wants it; that’s presumably why he bills himself as “Bob Boyett” now, reducing the chance that people will remember that he’s the “Robert L. Boyett” they saw at the end of Step By Step and Family Matters and Perfect Strangers and Angie and Joanie Loves Chachi. But it really is an interesting transition, and not just it reminds us of the artificiality of the snobby distinction between TV and theatre (I mean, because somebody can come in with a background in frowned-upon TV shows and immediately become a powerful force in live theatre), but because it actually makes a lot of sense: Miller and Boyett’s shows may have been a little saccharine, but they had phenomenal casting instincts — there were tons of actors who either were first discovered or displayed an unexpected comedic ability in Miller-Boyett shows — and a good sense of how to assemble and package a solid piece of middle-brow entertainment. TV can’t use that any more, so he took his instincts to Broadway, and they still work.

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