Why Is MR. BELVEDERE So Popular? (Porqué Es MR. BELVEDERE Tan Popular?)

Long before Shout! Factory announced that they’d acquired the DVD rights to Mr. Belvedere, I had noticed that it was probably one of the most-requested TV titles — constant message board posts all over the place demanding to know why Mr. Belvedere wasn’t on DVD yet. Ironically, this announcement means that it’ll come to DVD before the movie it’s based on, Sitting Pretty (unless Shout! includes the movie as a special feature, which would be cool but might not be possible).

I’m happy for fans of the show, but I don’t quite understand why it has so many fans. I have, as readers know, a lot of affection for the cheesy family sitcoms I grew up watching, but this one wasn’t one of my favourites, not even maybe in the top 10. I remember that I didn’t like anybody in the cast except Christopher Hewett, I kept wondering what kind of family would have Bob Uecker in it, and it wasn’t that funny. I did like the endings where Belvedere would write in his journal — kind of a low-tech predecessor of Doogie Howser — but I never went out of my way to watch it. I did like the theme song, though, especially in its full version.

Of course, the late great Christopher Hewett — best known as Roger De Bris from Mel Brooks’ The Producers, and still described at Wikipedia as “a lifelong bachelor” — was enough of an asset to the show that he might be sufficient explanation for its popularity. He was as unusual a lead as Clifton Webb in the original movie, and his obvious seething contempt for this horrible family kind of cut through the treacle and made you believe that he really did hate them, in spite of what the scripts forced him to say. And at least it was better than that U.S. sitcom where Peter Cook played a stuffy horrible for a horrible American family. But I don’t quite get why it’s more in demand than other, better “family” shows of the period

One thing I later found out was that this show was kind of a debased Barney Miller reunion, as this was one of the projects that a lot of Barney Miller writers went on to do after that show was canceled. Frank Dungan, Jeff Stein and Tony Sheehan, who developed and ran the show, were all veterans of Barney Miller. But Bob Uecker is no Abe Vigoda, I’ll tell you that.