The premise: Her husband Lars had died. She and her daughter Bess (played by Lisa Gerritsen) moved from Minneapolis to her old home town of San Francisco, where his mother (played by Jane Rose) and stepfather (played by Henry Jones) still resided. Beyond that, the supporting cast changed from time to time as the writers struggled to find the kind of “family” that was the norm in sitcoms from the MTM Company. They never quite made it. Even with occasional cameos from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show cast, Phyllis only lasted two seasons…and probably would have run one, had it not come with such a promising pedigree.
My favorite moment in the series occurred in the first series when the cast included Richard Schaal, playing a guy who wasn’t the brightest of bulbs. In one episode, Bess was dating (and talking about marriage to) a boy of normal height but whose parents were played by well-known “little people” Billy Barty and Patti Maloney. Phyllis was creeped-out at the genetic possibilities if Bess and the lad married and had children and was acting more nervous than usual. Schaal’s character asked her what was wrong. She replied, “Bess wants to marry a boy whose parents are midgets!”
Schaal responded, “Well, I hope she finds one.” Big laugh.
Cloris/Phyllis said, “No, no. Bess is dating a boy whose parents are midgets!”
Schaal: “Well then, there’s no problem!” Even bigger laugh. If they’d had more like that, the show might have lasted longer.