Gimme a Break
Gimme a Break! was a sitcom which aired on NBC from October 29,
1981 until May 12, 1987. It starred stage actress Nell Carter as the
housekeeper for a police chief and his three daughters, who were left
without a mother after she died.
The sitcom took place in a fictional town of Glen Lawn, California.
Nellie Ruth "Nell" Harper (Nell Carter) agrees to be a
housekeeper for the Kanisky household as a special favor to her late
friend, who was the wife of police chief Carl Kanisky (Dolph Sweet). His
three daughters were (oldest to youngest) Katie (Kari Michaelson), Julie (Lauri
Hendler), and Samantha ("Sam"; Lara Jill Miller). Officer Ralph
Simpson (Howard Morton) was a dopey police officer who worked with Carl.
During the second season, Carl's parents, Grandpa Stanley (John Hoyt) and
Grandma Mildred (Jane Dulo), were occasionally seen, as was his brother,
Ed (Pete Schrum), an overweight mortician who loved to play practical
jokes. Grandma, however, passed away after that season, and Grandpa moved
in with Carl and his family. Ed got married and was written out of the
The third season saw occasional appearances of Addy Wilson (Telma
Hopkins), Nell's childhood friend who worked as a teacher. Joey Donovan
(Joey Lawrence) was a six-year-old orphan who joined the Kanisky household
that year. Addy became a regular cast member one year later. That same
year, Julie married Jonathan Maxwell (Jonathan Silverman), a
pizza-delivery man, who moved into the household.
The fifth season saw the passing of the chief (actor Dolph Sweet had
died), and Jonathan became the head of the household. In order to keep the
falling ratings from dropping, the producers of Gimme a Break! made
several changes after the fifth year. Katie moved to San Francisco; Julie,
Jonathan, and their baby, Nell, moved to San Josť; and Samantha attended
college in New Jersey. Addy got a job in New York City, so Nell and
Grandpa and Joey came to New York to join her. There, they discovered
Joey's irresponsible father, Tim, who showed him his brother, Matthew
(played by Matthew Lawrence, Joey's real-life brother), and left them with
Nell and Grandpa. Marty (Paul Sand) was their landlord who also owned a
Mexican restaurant under the name "Esteban." One of their New
York neighbors was a young lady named Maggie O'Brien, played by then
up-and-coming comedienne Rosie O'Donnell.
While the show was very successful, it relied heavily on a formula that
wasn't deviated from very much throughout the series: there was always
unintentional as well as intentional comedy stemming from Nell's success
(and sometimes lack of success) with losing weight. To her credit, Carter
did not suffer from typecasting as a result of the way her character was
written in the series.
This series was the first major gig for Joey Lawrence, who would again
have a notable television role on Blossom.
As a promotional gimmick, one episode of this series was performed and
broadcast live. The episode aired on March 2, 1985.
The show was produced by Alan Landsburg Productions, whose
successor-in-interest, Reeves Entertainment Group, took over production in
1985. The American syndication rights are held by Universal Pictures. The
creators of the show were Mort Lachman and Sy Rosen.