TV Week: Benson

Benson was on in the early evening after school.  Even when I was nine I knew it was crap.  Of course I watched it everyday.  Unlike The Greatest American Hero I can actually remember quite a wide range of characters and can recall a couple of scenes.  Not what anyone said, but the vague feeling of potted plants in bad sets, and a lot of talk in a kitchen.

In the opening credits I was always fascinated by the fact that the girl in the show was played by an actor called Missy Gold.  Who, I wondered, would  call their kid Missy?  Turns out she was Melissa Goldstein, and is now Dr. Melissa Gold a practising psychologist.

I used to watch these opening credits with the same pleasure as slipping into a well worn pair of slippers.  Each character intro was a familiar and reassuring stereotype.  The perky girl, the probably psychopathic German, the pompous slightly English sounding fool with the silly name.  I seemed to never tire of the Benson and the Clayton Endicott III tie gag.  Now I watch the credits and sort of wish Benson would get savaged by the dogs on the lawn.  Just once.

The Listener in March ran an interview with one of the stars of the show, Kraus the housekeeper who, it turns out, was American, and had been a star of the second rank on the stages of Broadway.

Regrettably Kraus never did fillet anyone.

This piece in The Listener reminded me that the show Benson was purely about predictable verbal sparring, and catchphrases, and that nothing ever really happened.  Benson and Kraus had an obligatory spar every episode.  The Governor meandered in between pot plants and a flimsy set and said something daft, absent-mindedly, and then wandered off again, Benson quipped with the pretty secretary and needled the officious male assistant.  Over and over and over again.

Why did I watch it? 

It was there.

It was there and we were living in an age in New Zealand when there were only two TV channels.  Benson was on at 5pm on TV Two.  God only knows what horror was on TV One at 5pm, but Benson was clearly better in the mind of a nine-year old boy in 1982 (which is a low critical bar to leap).

8 thoughts on “TV Week: Benson”

  1. Hilarious! I loved that show. I also have no idea why. Course we had one little black and white set and my brothers and I fought over the three channels and they usually won.

  2. I didn’t think I watched this, but I know Kraus so I guess I must have? I know I watched Soap. She wasn’t on Soap? I can remember Kraus, but little of American history…is that bad?

  3. Two stations and Benson was playing on one of them. I imagine that hell is just Benson being on TV all day, only there’s no alternative station.

    Oddly, my post today mentioned Benson. I can’t take credit for scraping up this obscure sitcom reference like you just did — it was brought up in the new Muppets movie I watched this weekend. I had only a vague memory of Benson and the little girl. But then I played the intro song and it was like hearing a familiar lullaby sung to me as a baby if I happened to be born in hell.

  4. Maybe you watched Soap. Benson was a Soap spin off and Kraus was in both as well. I only know this because Wikipedia tells me so.

  5. The theme song irritates the hell out of me. It is cheerfful and inane. A lullaby in hell is perfect.

  6. The thought of someone in New Zealand watching Benson is somehow completely bizarre to me…or really any American sit-com. I see you guys as being much too intelligent for it.

    Thanks for the update on Missy Gold, that made me laugh!

  7. Wait a minute. Wasn’t there a whole different “Benson,” show, one with Ben Vereen in the title role?

    Or is my memory of the important fact, ummm fading.

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