25th Anniversary of Morton & Hayes

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Morton & Hayes, an unusual and short-lived sitcom that ran on CBS for six episodes during the summer of 1991. Rob Reiner and Phil Mishkin created the series. Kevin Pollack and Bob Amaral starred as Chick Morton and Eddie Hayes. Morton and Hayes were slapstick comedians whose “forgotten” films from the 1930s and 1940s were rediscovered, restored, and presented for the enjoyment of TV viewers.

25th Anniversary of Morton & Hayes: Title Card from Society Saps

Morton & Hayes Title Card from “Society Saps”

Morton & Hayes premiered on Wednesday, July 24th, 1991. Each episode opened and closed with segments featuring Reiner. He provided history about the fictional films and the equally fictional actors who appeared in them. Reiner’s segments were in color but the films themselves aired in black-and-white.

Plots were simple. For example, in “Daffy Dicks,” Morton and Hayes are private detectives hired by a wealthy woman who believes her husband is cheating on her. In “The Bride of Mummula,” the two travel to Bavaria and face off against the monstrous Mummula. In “Oafs Overboard,” they wind up on an island ruled by a beautiful princess who wants to sacrifice them to the giant Ooloo.

Kevin Pollack as Chick Morton

Kevin Pollack as Chick Morton

Guest stars included Michael McKean, Courtney Cox, Catherine O’Hara, Christopher Guest, Allison Janney, and Penelope Ann Miller. McKean and Guest were also involved behind the camera; Guest directed five of the six episodes and co-wrote two while McKean directed one and co-wrote another.

As I explain my article about Morton & Hayes, the series received mix reviews from critics. It was universally dismissed by viewers, however, drawing very low ratings throughout its brief run. Maybe it was because of the concept. Maybe because nobody wanted to watch black-and-white TV.

Do you remember watching Morton & Hayes back in 1991? If so, did you enjoy it? Hit the comments with your memories of the series.


5 Comments

  • DuMont says:

    I remember watching an episode that followed an encore the ‘All in the Family’ retrospective and I found the series premise stretched and the comedy underwhelming. The episode I watched had a ‘Honeymooners’ vibe to it, and I don’t think I watched it past the first commercial break.

    I looked up and the series averaged 5.0HH/8% over its summer run.

  • Patrick McNamara says:

    If you do the math it’s easy to see why the concept didn’t work. It came out in ’91 and was imitating stories of the 1940s. That’s a 50 year difference. The only audience that would be sentimental about that period were past the 18-49 demo. Happy Days however was a 70s show about the 50s, so it’s audience was young enough to relate.

  • Jason Wentworth says:

    I definitely remember watching this all summer of ’91. It was paired with “All In The Family” reruns. I remember being excited to see a show that old airing in primetime, and the “Morton and Hayes” show appealed to me because, as an old movie and TV nerd, I totally got what they were going for.

    I seem to remember seeing a very similar show, entirely in color, on CBS in the Spring–the pilot I’m guessing?

  • Arthur Mee says:

    Watched it in ’91. Interesting, off-beat concept and well-cast — but I kept wishing it were funnier. For all the incredible creative talent both in front of and behind the camera, this was pretty thin on laughs or memorable bits. Still remember the “Cold Potatoes” musical number, though!

  • Karen Martin says:

    Most of the Morton & Hayes episodes can be viewed on You Tube. I just watched Daffy Dicks and agree with earlier comments on the show being rather lean on laughs. On the plus side the period costumes and settings seem accurate, so the show is visually appealing.

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