Don Rickles Show, The

There was a time when network executives were sure that Don Rickles could be the star of a big hit TV series if only someone could find the right vehicle. In a very short time, Mr. Rickles went through more vehicles than Jay Leno has in his garage. There were pilot scripts that were filmed, pilot scripts that were not filmed, specials and even a couple of shows that made it onto the air. One attempt in 1972 basically tried to turn him into Dick Van Dyke but with a slight twist. Rickles, someone said to someone else, would articulate the anger that we all feel in day-to-day problems. So one episode was about him trying to get his TV repaired and running into bureaucracy and insane people. Another was about him trying to get his car repaired and running into bureaucracy and insane people…and so on. Otherwise, it was pretty much The Dick Van Dyke Show but without the magic.

The Rickles sitcom took place in a living room set that looked like it had been furnished by the same people who designed Rob and Laura Petrie’s home. Don Robinson had a lovely wife (Louise Sorel) who kinda reminded you of Laura, a daughter (Erin Moran) who was a lot like Ritchie, and a best friend (Robert Hogan) who had all the traits of Jerry Helper. Instead of writing The Alan Brady Show, he worked in an ad agency and instead of New Rochelle, he lived in Long Island, New York. Sheldon Leonard, who had executive produced The Dick Van Dyke Show, executive produced The Don Rickles Show. Mr. Leonard also did the audience warm-up, at least at the filming I attended, and I wrote about it in this article. In it, I also note that when Leonard wrote his autobiography years later, he discussed every TV show with which he was involved except that The Don Rickles Show went curiously unmentioned.

The series was quickly forgotten after its thirteen weeks were up. And judging from the lack of promotion it received and the fact that CBS moved it around between several less-than-promising time slots, it would seem everyone had given up on this one long before the final episode aired. Rickles wouldn’t find a decent format for television until four years later and C.P.O. Sharkey…and even that only lasted two years.