Weekend Flop Viewing: WORKING STIFFS

After the aforementioned, horrible, and never-to-be-mentioned-again Who’s Watching the Kids?, Paramount still liked Jim Belushi enough to put him in another sitcom in 1979. Created by Bob Brunner and Arthur Silver, two busy staff writer-producers at the studio, Working Stiffs was one of the few Paramount shows of the era that aired on CBS. (Though networks didn’t produce shows themselves in those days, there were certain unofficial relationships between studios and networks. ABC and Paramount were so inter-related that executives like Michael Eisner routinely went back and forth between network and studio, and CBS had first refusal on almost anything from MTM.) CBS had been looking for something that was more like Laverne and Shirley than its other comedies, and this was essentially a male Laverne and Shirley, starring Belushi and Michael Keaton as two doofus brothers who work as janitors but dream of moving up in the world, but encounter only slapsticky humiliation. (Sample plot: Keaton and Belushi are trapped in an elevator with a bomb.) To make the L & S kinship even clearer, the pilot was directed by Penny Marshall, whose only previous directing credit was a single episode of L&S that same year.

In terms of quality it was about where Laverne and Shirley was in 1979, which is not exactly a compliment. ABC would finally come up with a successful male-buddy slapstick show six years later, with Perfect Strangers; given the popularity of this kind of comedy, it’s surprising that there have been so few shows that really tried to use that kind of Laurel/Hardy, Abbott/Costello dynamic. Working Stiffs only lasted eight episodes, only four of which were aired, but it acquired a certain cult reputation because Keaton and Belushi went on to bigger things.

There is no complete episode on YouTube, but there are several scenes. The main title:

A scene from the pilot:

Another scene from the pilot:

A scene from the third episode:

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