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.


3 comments:

  1. Too bad Rob Stone didn't take his shirt off more. He was the only reason I watched the show.

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  2. This is one show I love that didn't feature anyone in the main cast that I was attracted to (there were the occasional "teen idol" guest stars that appeared, but only occasionally). I just thought (and still think) the entire show was well written and perfectly cast. I liked everyone (in a non-sexual way) from Christopher Hewitt to Brice Beckham; hell, I even liked the teenage daughter played by Tracy Wells. The Mom was just meh for me, but I didn't find her overly annoying either, so I can't complain.

    And there actually was an episode that addressed the "gay" issue head on. Teenage daughter, Heather develops an interest in a hunky jock at school and tries desperately to get his attention. After he shows absolutely zero interest in her, she asks (rhetorically) "Are you gay or something?" This prompts the boy to genuinely begin to question his sexuality and the episode ends with the question of his sexuality unanswered (for him as well as the audience). Of course, being a sitcom, the episode was played for "laughs" but the subject was actually handled fairly open-mindedly for its time and you can find the episode on YouTube if you search "Mr Belvedere S03E16".

    There was also another somewhat "coded" gay episode where Wesley takes an interest in studying ballet. Dad, predictably, becomes uncomfortable with his son taking ballet (and the various implications associated with it). Finally, at a dance recital where one of the girl's fathers begins referring to the Wesley as "Tinkerbell" and "Fruit-loop", George comes to the decision to defend his son's less-than-macho (coded: "gay") interests. You can find the episode on YouTube if you search "Mr Belvedere SEASON 1 Episode #03".

    Neither of the above episodes actually showcases the show at its best. Probably my favorite episode (or at least one that stands out in my mind) was entitled "The Play" and can be found on Youtube if you search "Mr Belvedere SEASON 2 Episode #22". I think it showcases Hewitt and Beckham at their best, but if one is primarily only interested in Rob Stone, then it probably won't interest you.

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  3. It was a simple, funny show. I enjoyed t but have to admit that it was always easy to look at Rob Stone. He was such a gentle yet masculine guy. When he took off his shirt in that Matlock episode and revealed his pecs I melted.

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