Jan 6, 2013

The Bodybuilder and the Nanny: Mr. Belvedere

An unconventional free spirit arrives out of nowhere, talks his/her way into a job as a maid, nanny, butler, or housekeeper for  a dysfunctional family, and ends up being "just exactly what the doctor prescribed."   It was the premise of a dozen sitcoms, beginning with Hazel and Nanny and the Professor in the 1960s, and going through  from Charles in Charge to The Nanny.  

Mr. Belvedere  (1985-1990) had the sophisticated, gay-coded British butler (Christopher Hewitt) intruding upon the household of macho, somewhat homophobic sports writer George Owens (Bob Uecker). Many episodes involved the journey of the mistrustful odd couple toward mutual respect and eventually friendship. Unfortunately, there were no actual gay characters, nor even a "college friend coming out" episode, though they did deal with juvenile AIDS, gender transgressions (George's young son Wesley studies ballet), and a boy who was "confused."

George had a standard sitcom family: wife, teenage son and daughter, and grade school son.  Oddly, 23-year old Rob Stone, who played high schooler Kevin, received little attention from the teen magazines, and gave gay fans only one beefcake shot, when he signs up to be a nude artist's model to impress a girl.  And even then, they didn't see a lot.

Brice Beckham (grader schooler Wesley) received more attention, even though he was barely adolescent when the program ended.  Maybe it's a reflection of the program's popularity among pre-teens.

Christopher Hewitt, who was gay in real life, died in 2001. Rob Stone is involved in many directing and producing projects, specializing in documentaries.

Brice Beckham has continued to act. In 2012 he organized a number of former child stars, including Jeremy Licht (The Hogan Family) and Maureen Flanigan (Out of This World), to produce a pro-gay response to Kirk Cameron's infamous homophobic comments.