Q & A: Happy; Cover Up

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

I have a very vague memory of a TV show from the late 50’s or early 60’s. It was about a baby. The premise of this comedy was that you could hear the babies thoughts. It was on for a very short time and might have been called “Happy”. Can you tell me anything about it. I would appreciate it.
Jeffrey

I really do remember this. It was about a baby who talked (his thoughts), just like “Look Who’s Talking” movie. I believe the baby’s name was Happy. I remember it in B/W.
John

Happy premiered on Wednesday, June 8th, 1960 on NBC as a summer replacement series for The Perry Como Show. The sitcom ran from 9-9:30PM and was followed by another summer replacement series — this one a Western — called Tate. Both were produced by Como’s Roncom Productions. Happy starred Ronnie Burns and Yvonne Lime as Chris and Sally Day, managers of a Palm Springs Hotel. Their 18-month-old son, Happy, was played by 18-month-old twins David and Steven Born.

Sounds like a typical sitcom, right? What made Happy atypical was that Happy “talked” to the viewers at home. The plots were standard sitcom fare with the added twist that the audience could hear what Happy was thinking but not his parents or anyone else on the series. Also part of the cast were Lloyd Carrigan as the always-in-trouble Uncle Charlie and Doris Packer as Clara, owner of the hotel. Happy was voiced by Leone Ledoux.

Larry Wolters called Happy “a fresh sort of a comedy that will lmake a l ot of summer listeners happy” that “will make pleasant hot weather viewing” [1]. Cecil Smith wrote that “the only thing that distinguishes the show from a hundred counterparts is that Happy is given to making off-scene comments — a la Cleo, the pooch from the old People’s Choice series. Some of these are very funny coupled to the remarkable expressions that cross the infant’s face” [2].

Smith had this to say about David and Steven Born, the twins playing Happy:

They spell each other before the cameras. At the ripe old age of 1 — or thereabouts — the pair have become old hands at show business. On the set when the director cries “Cut!” the infant at work looks up with delight and cries “All Done!” Sometimes, when the director wants a certain reaction from the child-at-work, he cries “Cut” and keeps the cameras rolling while the baby goes through his act. [3]

Happy ran for 15 weeks during the summer of 1960 (thirteen new episodes, plus two pre-emptions and two repeats) and then returned as a mid-season replacement in January 1961. During its second season it was broadcast on Fridays from 7:30-8PM; it ran from January 13th to September 8th. It was followed on Fridays by another sitcom called One Happy Family, starring Dick Sargent and Jody Warner.

Trying to remember or get info about a show I watched a few times as a kid, it was an action drama, the female characters real name was Jenifer, she had been a semi famous model in the 70,s. The male characters role on the show was like an ex-military dude who worked with the girl to solve crimes or somesuch thing, I think the theme song might have been that song “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero til the morning light, he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be larger than life….” Hope that is enough info to id. the show!
Gyneth

Those lyrics are from a song called “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler that served as the theme song to a series called Cover Up. Created by Glen A. Larson, the series ran from 1984 to 1985 on CBS. Jennifer O’Neill starred as Danielle Reynolds, a photographer who learns her husband was a secret agent after he is murdered. To track down his killer she hires Mac Harper (played by Jon-Eric Hexum), an ex-Green Beret. The two are then offered jobs by the same people Danielle’s husband worked for; Danielle will pose as a fashion photographer and Mac as a model. Richard Anderson played Henry Towler, their boss.

Jon-Erik Hexum and Jennifer O'Neill
Jon-Erik Hexum and Jennifer O’Neill – September 8th, 1984
Copyright © TV Guide, 1984 [1]

Critics were not kind to Cover Up. Sylvia Lawler, in The Morning Call‘s Sunday Call-Chronicle, called Cover Up “a Glen Larson contrivance seemingly geared to show as much star flesh as network censors allow. Flimsy stuff, indeed, with a decidedly dislikable pilot film but maybe sleazy enough to catch fire” [4]. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s David Bianculli wrote just two words about the show: “Send back” [5].

John J. O’Connor of The New York Times, on the other hand, noted that “the action was kept at a full boil, the pointless banter was fairly amusing and the entire project could be taken as seriously or as lightly as the eye of the beholder might require” [6]. The two-hour premiere on Saturday, September 22nd ranked 33rd for the week; the second episode dropped to 38th [7].

On October 12th, Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally shot himself in the head with a pistol loaded with blank cartridges. He was pronounced brain dead on October 18th and his organs were donated. In what critic Stuart Bykofsky called “an illustration of morbid fascination,” the October 20th episode of Cover Up — the first to air following Hexum’s death — jumped from 53rd to 31st place [8].

Jack Major, Providence Journal, lambasted CBS on October 26th for not acknowledging Hexum’s death, writing that “the network has routinely run three episodes of Cover Up without so much as a brief mention of the actor. […] CBS just charged ahead with Cover Up, even running nightly promos for the series, promos that emphasize Hexum’s role in the program. The opening credits of the series are especially hard to take because they show Hexum, as a soldier, weapon in hand, firing at the audience” [9].

Regarding the opening credits a CBS publicist stated the following: “We are led to believe that Glen Larson Productions and 20th Century Fox are going to deliver Hexum’s remaining episodes as is. You can’t whitewash the fact that this is a show about a man who is involved with guns” [10].

Hexum had completed eight episodes at the time of his death, the last of which was shown on November 3rd. Hexum’s character was written out of the series in the following episode, broadcast November 24th, and Antony Hamilton joined the cast as Jack Striker. At the end of the episode star Richard Anderson narrated a brief tribute to Hexum. Twice, however, his name was misspelled.

Noting that “the network really embarrassed itself” Jack Major asked 20th Century-Fox, the production company, about the mistake and a spokesman replied “I was mortified. I couldn’t believe it” and then blamed the network [11]. The last new episode of Cover Up was broadcast on April 6th, 1985. For the 1984-1985 season as a whole Cover Up tied for 47th (out of 75 programs) with Airwolf and It’s Your Move, each having a 13.3 Nielsen rating [12].

Works Cited:

1 Wolters, Larry. “2 Summer Shows Get Como Spot.” Chicago Daily Tribune. 9 Jun. 1960: E2.
2 Smith, Cecil. “The TV Scene—Silver Lining in Cloud of Reruns.” Los Angeles Times. 8 Jun. 1960: A10.
3 Ibid.
4 Lawler, Syliva. “Networks Accelerate Glamour and Violence.” Sunday Call-Chronicle. Morning Call. 16 Sep. 1984: F.01.
5 Bianculli, David. “Which Shows Should Go the Distance.” Philadelphia Inquirer. 23 Sep. 1984: I.13.
6 O’Connor, John J. “TV: 2 Series, ‘Partners in Crime’ and ‘Cover Up’.” New York Times. 29 Sep. 1984: 1.48.
7 Byfofsky, Stuart D. “Good Start for NBC, Bad for ABC.” Philadelphia Daily News. 4 Oct. 1984: 66.
8 8 Bykofsky, Stuart D. “NBC Has to Settle for Second-Best.” Philadelphia Daily News. 24 Oct. 1984: 62.
9 Major, Jack. “CBS runs Cover Up and ignores death of star Jon-Erik Hexum.” Providence Journal. 26 Oct. 1984: A-17.
10 Shister, Gail. “‘Cover Up’ Will Still Open with Hexum Firing a Gun.” Philadelphia Inquirer. 23 Oct. 1984: D.7.
11 Major, Jack. “If only the networks would spare us those pesty promos.” Providence Journal. 30 Nov. 1984: C-05.
12 Associated Press. 24 Apr. 1985: PM Cycle.

Image Credits:

1 From TV Guide, September 8th, 1984, Page 36.


5 Comments

  • Rick says:

    There are four episodes available on DVD. I wish the rest could be made available. (if they even still exist)

  • Rick says:

    Sorry, In the previous post I was talking about Happy, I see that there are two shows listed here.

  • Here is the odd follow-up to the “Cover Up” TV show. After Hexum’s death, the CBS newsmagazine show “West 57th” did a story about the man who received Hexum’s heart, Michael Washington.

    It can be seen here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q2Qxp6k6eU

  • noella says:

    Hexum was adorable, but Hamilton was a perfection in my opinion. Even though he was gay, he was soooo hot and masculine in that show. I thought he had great chemistry with Jennifer O’Neil. It’s too bad the show didn’t continue.

  • Jm says:

    on this website

    http://jon-erik.99k.org/finale.htm

    it says at the bottom of the page, in note two, the following about the man who got Jon’s heart:

    “Michael Washington was a Vietnam war hero, twice wounded in action, and received the Bronze Star for valor. He lived in Las Vegas, Nevada where he ran an advertising agency and the small, but lucrative, Swinging Suzyâ’s Escorts. Though the media painted him as a pimp, his business was fully licensed by the state. Michael Washington himself passed away on December 14, 2002. Jane Wallace, West 57th, NBC”

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