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Frank's Place

By Saintlywife

Frank's Place was, by far, one of the finest television series to grace the small screen. It was created by Hugh Wilson, who also created the wonderful "WKRP In Cincinnati." Like other "dramadies" it was taped on film instead of videotape and contained no laugh track.

The basic premise: A college professor from Boston inherits a New Orleans restaurant (the Chez Louisianne) from a father he never knew. He's first thought is to sell the place. But Miss Marie has had a voodoo curse put on him to make him stay. Superstitious Frank returns to Boston only to have his fiancée leave him (for a lady golfer), the laundry lose all of his clothes, his plumbing become possessed, and his office burn down; he returns to New Orleans to run The Chez. He spends the series (the ONE season) learning from his mistakes and getting to know his dead father and the culture that is New Orleans.

"Frank's Place" never disappointed. It was funny and poignant, without fail. Wilson's portrayal of New Orleans was always accurate, from the distinction between Creole and Cajun food, to the appearance of cooked okra. As a Louisianan, I am always fearful when Hollywood takes a stab at our state (i.e. "The Waterboy") but Wilson never disappointed. Of course, it didn't hurt that he recruited a New Orleans native to take part in the show (Don Yesso, who Wilson met on an airplane.)

Some episodes were down-right hysterical (such as the episode I call "The Body." You know which one I mean.) But most were thought-provoking with elements of humor (The Capital "C" Club, Cool Charles's drug dealing two-parter, and of course "The Bridge")

There was speculation that CBS cancelled the series because of the virtually all black cast. Wilson has disputed this. Because of the excellent production values, it was an expensive series to produce (at the time.) But in my opinion, CBS was never interested in renewing the show. They pre-empted it constantly, and moved it to a different day/timeslot most every week. The audience that may have been out there for it never had a chance to find it.

BET Network was astute enough to air the series during the early '90's, and I was lucky enough to get each episode on tape. But it is a crime that "Frank's Place" is not (nor probably ever will be) available on DVD.

The fine cast included Tim Reid (Frank Parrish), Daphne Maxwell Reid (Frank's love interest and mortician Hannah Griffin), Robert Harper (lawyer Sy "Bubba" Weisburger), Francesca P. Roberts (waitress and spitfire Anna-May), Frances E Williams (head waitress and matriarch Miss Marie), Virginia Capers (Hannah's mother and shrewd Funeral Home owner Mrs. Bertha Griffin-Lamour), Tony Burton (Head Chef Big Arthur), Charles Lampkin (bartender Tiger Sherpin), William Thomas, Jr. ("In charge of this and that" Cool Charles), Dan Yesso (Assistant Cook), and Lincoln Kilpatrick ("Currently without a church" charlatan The Right Reverand Deal.) In 1988, "Frank's Place" won two Emmys for the (one of many) fine episodes, "The Bridge." (Best Writing in a Comedy: Hugh Wilson, and Outstanding Guest Performance in a Comedy: Beah Richards).

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of Frank's Place? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"My favorite episode of Frank's Place was "Where's Ed?" It was so hilarious I almost fell on the floor laughing! The whole show was really great, and some subliminal messages went over well. Episodes that had social statements were very well done, and I thought very much like real life to this Louisianan."

--Fran

"Frank's Place is my favorite TV show. Best episode is the one where Big Arthur fights boxer Randall "Tex" Cobb over a recipe."

--Shawty

"I loved Frank's Place. When it went off the air I eventually fell for Northern Exposure and immediately saw a strong resemblance between the two shows. So I wrote my first and only letter to a network, CBS, in which I accused them of white-washing' Frank's Place and turning it around 180 degrees to dump the show down in Cicely Alaska. HAHAHA! I thought I showed them all right. My favorite all time show is Northern Exposure, and it's been so long since I watched Frank's Place that I now only recall how furious I was when it was taken off the air. But I never watch Northern Exposure without thinking of N.E.'s 'Grandpa' which is Frank's Place. I'd buy Frank's Place on DVD in a heartbeat. Heck, I didn't even own a VCR when F.P. was on. Sigh. Great Show. I'm still livid about its cancellation. No, its MURDER at the hands of CBS!"

--Magpye

""Frank's Place" was by far the best "sitcom" ever produced for network television. Every aspect of the show was lovingly crafted, from the sets and lighting to the superb scripts to the subtle ensemble acting. It did comedy and drama equally well, which consistantly kept the show from falling into stereotypical characterizations and plots. In an early episode, Frank finds that Miss Marie, the "waitress emeritas", has come to his upstairs room to ask him to go down and greet customers in his recently enherited restaurant. The place is filled with celebrities and New Orleans society, and we are caught up in his happiness until it gradually dawns on Frank and the viewer that it's all a dream. The tip off should have been that we knew already that Miss Marie could not walk, and could never have managed the stairs, but our brief doubt was swept away by our desire to see Frank and his employees succeed. It's a sweet, poignant scene that I still remember after all this time. Every show had an equally wonderful moment. My husband and I were inspired to visit New Orleans during the show's run, and I remember having dinner at the very restaurant that Frank's Place was modeled after watching the show on the TV over the bar! The city, with its cultural mix and preoccupation with mystery and death, was and integral part of the show's appeal. Restaurant owners have told us that the show presented the most realistic view of that life they have seen.

Our efforts to get others to watch "Frank's Place" were foiled by the network's constant scheduling changes, and I didn't realize the show was in trouble until it was too late. Everyone involved should look back on this show as one of their finest acheivements. It's such a shame that it didn't get the support it deserved at the time."

--Anonymous

" I have most of the shows on tape, but would love for dvd's to be made. "Dramedy" is an ugly word but Frank's Place is the best example of one I know. Too many shows seem to have characters making speeches at each other instead of relating to each other as people; F. P. wasn't like that. And as a show featuring African-Americans there still may not be a more decent portrayal around today; characters good, bad or indifferent were finely written and interesting and never stereotyped."

--Anonymous

"The best TV series ever made. I remember when Frank was in love with a girl whose other love interest was great looking, former college quarterback, astronaut, etc. etc. Remember when Frank finally got to meet this guy?"

--Anonymous

"I loved the show so much, and was crushed when it was cancelled. I had just moved away from south Louisiana, and I watched regularly. The details in the sets (Zapp's chips, in a few episodes, Dixie beer, Tabasco everywhere), the look of the street scenes, the picture of N. O. life, all made me smile through my homesickness. I taped most of the episodes when they ran on BET, but after 13 years, the tapes are not as good as they used to be. Oh, to have this on DVD. . . Gladly would I pay for that bit of pleasure."

--nanacious

"FRANK'S PLACE 'had to be' the finest television show ever made. The humor of the episodes was flawness. You either got 'it' or you didn't. Those of us that got 'it', enjoyed a comdey show like no other. My all-time favorite was "Where's ED". My gosh I laughed myself silly. We could all be so lucky after death. Kudos to Tim Reid and Company for a job WELL DONE."

--guzzie

"Please please please someone find me videos of Frank's Place. My mother loved this show. Especially the one about the dead man who ends up in the back of the church. . She still laughs about that one show. I loved the characters and the honesty about the color lines in the black community. If anyone has videos or DVDs please let me know."

--Anonymous

"This was the best show of all time. I occasionally search the internet to see if it has been released on DVD. One of my favorite episodes had the hillybilly band hired to entertain Frank's customers. Hilarious! It was a show that took some effort to find because it was in a different time slot almost every week. We were very upset when it was cancelled-too good for primetime?"

--Anonymous

"I also saw a few of the original showings of "Frank's Place", and a few of the BET repeats; I've written Mr. Reid's production company to see if it will ever be released to DVD, but am not encouraged (and would gladly like to find ANY copies for purchase, anywhere). The show was well-written, well-filmed, poignant, intelligent, and absolutely compelling at times; the episode of the businessman who stops at the Chez for dinner
("I'd like a cheese sandwich"; Frank: "But your guy gave me $75 for your dinner";
"well, then make me a $75 cheese sandwich -- ")
and who afterward pulls Frank and the Reverend into a phone-tag counter-play to keep his company from being stolen from him is both tense and delightful; the scene at the end of the two-part episode on Charles and the druggie where Charles breaks down (after which the scene changes to the inside of the mail slot at the orphanage spewing $100 bills into the room) is nearly heartbreaking to recall."

--DanC

"It's astonishing how similar the reactions are from those who loved "Frank's Place. " I had the exact reaction as Magpye to Northern Exposure (and I grew up first in a Southern City and then in the Pacific NW, so I know both locales intimately)--NE was FP in Alaska--right down to the displaced urban professional who fears one of the locales is going to murder him in his bed. It's simply naive to say this had nothing to do with race--can you even think of another all-Black televsion show of any kind that was as serious, funny, and intelligent as FP that achieved the same popularity as a show like "The Hughleys" or some other similar piece of drek? (And, sorry, Mr and Mrs Reid, I have to include "Fresh Prince" and "Sister, Sister" there. )

There just isn't enough room to say what was right about FP. It came along at a time when a Black man could re-enter his culture and feel as awkward and anxious as any white person--even around the native whites. Shorty, "Soap, " and "The Rev" were among my favorite characters; in fact, just thiking about the episode "But the LORD loves me!" still makes me howl.

Probably "The Capital 'C' Club" Episode epitomizes the excellence of FP. Anna-May laughed over how they would "paper bag that boy and send him home for Christmas, " and Frank, after discovering that he would, in fact, be subjected to the modern equivalent of "paper-bagging, " left his newfound friend with the parting shot: "I've been the token black everywhere I've been in my life; but asking me to be the token black in an-all black club is just a little too much, don't you think?" When Frank joins Tiger at his Driver's Club with the doo-wapping group singing, "If I Didn't Care, " it's the turn-around point for Frank and the series.

It never got better than that, but to its credit, it was always that good. "Walk like man, talk like a girl, " and make more t. v. like Frank's Place."

--AE

"It&'s astonishing how similar the reactions are from those who loved "Frank&'s Place. " I had the exact reaction as Magpye to Northern Exposure (and I grew up first in a Southern City and then in the Pacific NW, so I know both locales intimately)--NE was FP in Alaska--right down to the displaced urban professional who fears one of the locales is going to murder him in his bed. It&'s simply naive to say this had nothing to do with race--can you even think of another all-Black televsion show of any kind that was as serious, funny, and intelligent as FP that achieved the same popularity as a show like "The Hughleys" or some other similar piece of drek? (And, sorry, Mr and Mrs Reid, I have to include "Fresh Prince" and "Sister, Sister" there. ) There just isn&'t enough room to say what was right about FP. It came along at a time when a Black man could re-enter his culture and feel as awkward and anxious as any white person--even around the native whites. Shorty, "Soap, " and "The Rev" were among my favorite characters; in fact, just thiking about the episode "But the LORD loves me!" still makes me howl. Probably "The Capital &'C&' Club" Episode epitomizes the excellence of FP. Anna-May laughed over how they would "paper bag that boy and send him home for Christmas, " and Frank, after discovering that he would, in fact, be subjected to the modern equivalent of "paper-bagging, " left his newfound friend with the parting shot: "I&'ve been the token black everywhere I&'ve been in my life; but asking me to be the token black in an-all black club is just a little too much, don&'t you think?" When Frank joins Tiger at his Driver&'s Club with the doo-wapping group singing, "If I Didn&'t Care, " it&'s the turn-around point for Frank and the series. It never got better than that, but to its credit, it was always that good. "Walk like man, talk like a girl, " and make more t. v. like Frank&'s Place."

--AE

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: September 14, 1987 - October 1, 1988

Cast: Tim Reid, Robert Harper, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Francesca P. Roberts, Virginia Capers, Tony Burton, Charles Lampkin

Network: CBS

Genre: Sitcom

Theme song: 'Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?' by Louis Armstrong

Image courtesy of CBS


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