The Good Guys
Bob Denver, Herb Edelman and Joyce Van Patten starred in this low-key sitcom which premiered in September 1968. Denver played a taxi driver constantly hatching get rich quick schemes while Edelman played the owner of a small diner and Van Patten his wife. Critics were for the most part not impressed with the series although some felt the Denver/Edelman pairing was fruitful. Alan Hale and Jim Backus, two of Denver’s co-stars from Gilligan’s Island, were recruited in early 1969 for recurring roles. The series was renewed for a second season and changes made in an attempt to improve ratings. Only a few months into the 1969-1970 season CBS pulled the plug and the series has not been seen since its initial run.
In mid-December 1967, months into the 1967-1968, CBS held a commanding lead in the Nielsen ratings. The network was running 11 percent ahead of NBC and 26 percent ahead of ABC . That meant it wasn’t going to be making a whole lot of changes in its schedule for the 1968-1969 season. Certainly, some low-rated programs would be cancelled but only a handful of new shows would be needed. Because it would be making so few changes, CBS hoped to have its 1968-1969 schedule set as early as the middle of January .
One of the sitcom pilots in contention was Good Guys, to star Bob Denver, formerly of Gilligan’s Island, which had aired on CBS for three seasons from 1964-1967. Other sitcom pilots included Harry and David, Stanley Against the System, Blondie and Missy’s Men . In its February 12th, 1968 issue, Broadcasting reported that CBS would announce its 1968-1969 schedule on February 22nd and added another sitcom pilot to the list, Rome, Sweet Rome . The New York Times published the CBS schedule on February 19th . Four programs (He and She, Good Morning, World, Lost in Space, and Cimarron Strip) had been cancelled and were replaced by five news ones: The Doris Day Show, Blondie, Lancer, Hawaii Five-O and The Good Guys, which had been given the 8:30-9PM time slot on Wednesday evenings following Daktari.
Jack Rose created the series, which would be produced by Talent Associates with Leonard Stern executive producing. The pilot was written by Rose and directed by Stern. Others involved in the production of The Good Guys were story editor Milt Rosen and scriptwriter Mel Tolkin, who had both also worked with Stern on He and She, one of the CBS series cancelled after the 1967-1968 season.
In the series, Bob Denver would play cab driver Rufus Butterworth. Co-starring was Herb Edelman in his first series role as Bert Gramus, owner and cook for a diner called “Bert’s Place.” Rounding out the main cast was Joyce Van Patten as Bert’s wife, Claudia. Rufus and Bert were life-long friends who spent much of their time trying to strike it rich through hair-brained schemes that inevitably fell apart in the end, much to Claudia’s eternal chagrin.
Copyright © TV Guide, 1968 
Claudia, who worked as a teacher, spent her days trying to keep “Bert’s Place” running smoothly, her husband grounded in reality and their money intact. Rufus spent his spare time — which seemed to be all of it — hanging around the diner, brainstorming outrageous ideas that he then convinced poor, gullible Bert were sure-fire ways to make millions. He very rarely was shown actually being a cabbie. His bizarre, yellow taxi — it had a special pets entrance, horns, luggage rails and signs for Bert’s on the sides — was designed by George Barris, who also designed the Batmobile and whose company also designed and built vehicles for The Munsters, My Mother, The Car and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Morris Gelman, in the June 1968 edition of Television Magazine, referred to the series as Two Good Guys, perhaps an early working title. He suggested that the series was hoping to bring back the comedy duo and quoted executive producer Leonard Stern as saying “it’s a comedy of losers so there’ll be plenty of identification” . According to Gelman, a pilot had been completed in January and the series would be filmed live using the three-camera style .
The Good Guys would be Denver’s third regular series, following The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and Gilligan’s Island. In a July 1968 interview, Denver explained that critics had not been fond of either of those series and yet they had been successful (running four seasons and three seasons, respectively) so he hoped critics wouldn’t like The Good Guys either . Edelman, in an August 1968 interview with The Chicago Tribune‘s Clay Gowran, promised that the series would “involve itself with issues of our day” like credit cards, while also involving “slapstick in the W.C. Fields tradition, only more contemporary. We’ve got slapstick routines which have been as carefully choreographed as many dances” . Gowran had a hard time believing that any sitcom with Bob Denver could have any sort of message but was willing to give The Good Guys a chance based on the involvement of Stern and others from He and She, which he called a “more sophisticated comedy” .
Cynthia Lowry, writing for the Associated Press in late August, called The Good Guys “one to keep an eye on” because every season come a few shows that either get little attention or aren’t critically acclaimed yet become sleeper shows that succeed with viewers . In early September, Edelman discussed the production schedule for the series, which started with a run-through of the script on Monday, a revised script made available on Wednesday and culminated with filming in front of a live audience on Friday nights .
The Good Guys premiered on Wednesday, September 25th, 1968 (the first episode broadcast was not the pilot, which aired as the third episode on October 9th). In the series premiere, Bert buys a new grill for the diner which promptly catches fire. Bert, who purchased insurance from a friend, soon finds himself under investigation for insurance fraud. Claudia doesn’t react well to any of this. Some critics were appalled by the premiere, others more indifferent. George Gent called the premiere “a waste of precious air time” in a brief review for The New York Times, writing that “every television season presents its candidate for the year’s Idiocy Award” and suggesting that The Good Guys fit the bill for the current season . Herb Kelly of the Miami News wrote “the comedy material is shallow, the near-slapstick carries no surprises” but admitted “juveniles may get some fun out of this one” .
Other review snippets, as excerpted in Broadcasting‘s September 30th issue , including a few backhanded compliments:
“…it’s pretty inane.” Aleene MacMinn, The Los Angeles Times
“…does manage to get laughs…” Ben Gross, New York Daily News
“…wouldn’t bet on this one not catching on…” Eleanor Roberts, Boston Herald Traveler
“…a simple-minded comedy exercise.” Bernie Harrison, Washington Evening Star
“The taxi…may turn out to be the star of the show” Bill Irvin, Chicago’s American
“…impoverished sufficiently to become a TV hit” Lawrence Laurent, Washington Post
One fairly positive review came from The Chicago Tribune‘s George Cohen, who praised Edelman as “a comedian with a great sense of timing and a pliable face” and insisted that if the series lasted the season it would be because of him; the premiere, however, was “not as funny as the laugh track would have you believe” . Wade H. Mosby of The Milwaukee Journal was practically gushing in his review, which acknowledged the fact that the premiere was “corny and full of sight gags and laugh tracks” while arguing that it “offered a few good belly laughs in its premiere Wednesday night, and that’s enough to keep the customers coming back” . Mosby also took note of Edelman’s comedy talent, calling him “a delightful practitioner,” writing that together he and Denver “might be the new season’s comedy click” .
Competing against Peyton Place on ABC and the final half-hour of The Virginian on NBC, the premiere of The Good Guys ranked second its time slot according to Trendex ratings, drawing a 31.8 share (compared to a 36.1 share for Peyton Place and a 24.3 for The Virginian and was first according to early New York City Nielsen ratings with a 28.1 share (compared to a 27.8 for Peyton Place and a 21.0 for The Virginian) .
Based on “fast” national Nielsen ratings for the week of September 23rd through September 29th (rather than the traditional report that averaged two weeks worth of ratings), the premiere ranked 16th making it the third-highest new series debut behind The Doris Day Show, which ranked sixth, and Juila, which ranked 10th . The second episode again ranked second in its time slot based on Trendex ratings and first in the New York City Nielsens . By the third episode viewers in New York City had apparently begun to lose interest in the series, which fell to third place .
Certainly, three week’s worth of preliminary ratings information offers little more than a snapshot of the overall ratings performance for the series as the 1968-1969 season got underway. However, after a strong start The Good Guys did begin to fade. Although additional national Nielsen numbers are not available, in early November, CBS announced it was dropping Daktari and was rumored to be considering cancelling either The Good Guys or Blondie as well . For the network to be thinking about pulling the series means it had to be under performing.
Cyntia Lowry reported in early December that The Good Guys was doing better in the Nielsen ratings after having “started out dismally” and was in the top third of the latest Nielsen report . Ultimately, Blondie went off the air following its January 9th, 1969 broadcast while The Good Guys was picked up for the remainder of the 1968-1969 season.
As critics were quick to point out, The Good Guys relied only relatively low-brow comedy. And as the stars of the series were equally as quick to note, there was a lot of slapstick. Many episodes saw Rufus come up with a wild and wacky plan to make money, convince Bert to get involved, and wind up facing a slew of unexpected problems. Other episodes involved Rufus getting himself — and by association Bert — into trouble and Claudia coming to the rescue.
The pilot episode, which was broadcast as the third episode on October 9th, involved Rufus convincing Bert to represent a struggling musician. To do so they turn to Claudia’s former boyfriend, now a record executive, but in order to get him on board Bert must convince him that Bert’s Place is part of a chain of successful restaurants. An order for 3,000 rolls is placed as part of the ruse and the two struggle to hide them all before Claudia finds out.
Bob Denver as Rufus Butterworth
Other episodes saw Bert and Rufus attempt to film a television commercial for “Bert’s Diner” only to argue over production (Bert also developed stage fright); Bert signing up for a credit card despite warnings from Rufus, spending like crazy, and then the card getting lost; Rufus and Burt trying to find the perfect recipe for pancakes made with Japanese wine and going overboard on the wine; a film company asking to use the diner as the setting for a movie and casting Rufus, Bert and Claudia; Rufus buying a toupee for Bert and then being hurt when Bert won’t wear it; Rufus injuring himself in a fall outside the diner, forcing Bert to pay for a hospital stay involving some very pretty nurses; Rufus accidentally buying the diner after Bert is forced to put it up for auction; Bert and Rufus deciding to keep Bert’s Place open 24 hours a day; and Rufus and Bert having a falling out when Rufus falls for a waitress and Bert tries to keep them apart.
During the second half of the season, Alan Hale appeared in three episodes as a trucker named Big Tom. He and Rufus were old friends. Pairing Hale and Denver was obviously an attempt to recapture the chemistry the two shared on Gilligan’s Island. Hale insisted on performing his own stunts during the first episode he appeared in and both Hale and Denver agreed that The Good Guys was a far more comfortable working environment than Gilligan’s Island. Hale: “I always had sand in my teeth from your kicking it in my face;” Denver: “And you knocked me into the lagoon so much my sneakers were always damp” .
In the January 8th, 1969 episode Rufus convinces Claudia to transform herself into Frisco Fritzi, a sexy waitress, an an attempt to appeal to truck drivers. It works and the truckers, Big Tom included, descend on Bert’s Place, leaving Bert stuck trying to cook for them all while also keeping them away from Claudia. Later, in the January 30th episode, Big Tom gets cold feet before his wedding to Gertie (played by Toni Gilman), which isn’t good news because Gerti has three brothers who will blame Bert and Rufus if Big Tom doesn’t show up at the alter. Finally, in the March 5th episode, Big Tom moves in with Rufus after getting into a fight with Gertie. But Rufus can’t stand living with the boisterous Big Tom so he and Bert begin planning to get rid of him. Their plan require Rufus to romance Gertie.
Alan Hale wasn’t the only Gilligan’s Island cast member to appear on The Good Guys. Jim Backus also appeared in three episodes during the second half of the season (none of which coincided with Hale’s appearances) playing Claudia’s stuffy father, Henry. In the February 19th episode, Henry comes for a visit and can’t believe his little girl is working at a diner. In the March 12th episode, Bert tries to play matchmaker for Henry and a lady astrologer but everything goes wrong when the astrologer sends Henry after Rufus’ mother (played by Marjorie Reynolds). And in the March 26th episode, Bert gets the wrong idea when Henry gets Claudia invited to a party thrown by an old boyfriend.
Herb Edelman as Bert Gramus
In addition to Hale and Backus, The Good Guys featured a few other recurring characters during its first season: Titos Vandis as a Greek handyman named Tito, Oscar Lane as Harry the mail man, Ron Masak and George Furth as Andy and Hal, two diner regulars, Jack Perkins as Mr. Bender, a drunk, and Liam Dunn as D.W. Watson, who worked for a restaurant change competing with Bert’s Place. Guest stars during the first season included William Daniels, Gary Burghoff, Sherry Lansing, Angel Tompkins, Michael Constantine, Tom Poston and Herb Voland. A total of 26 episodes were broadcast during the first season, which ended on March 26th, 1969. Repeats were shown throughout the summer.
In mid-February 1969, Broadcasting reported that the networks were hard at work revising their schedules for the 1969-1970 season. Among the shows CBS was reportedly considering cancelling was The Good Guys, although it was said to have “at least a fighting chance to make the new schedule” . Shortly thereafter, Broadcasting revealed an unofficial CBS schedule that would shift The Good Guys to Fridays from 8-8:30PM between Get Smart (which was moving from NBC) and Hogan’s Heroes .
Rick Du Brow of United Press International revealed in July 1969 that he was happy The Good Guys would be returning for the 1969-1970 season, explaining that “good slapstick comedy, and good slapstick comedians, are hard to find, and I personally would rather enjoy a belly laugh than most of the heavyhanded social humor that passes for sophisticated nowadays” . In August, Cynthia Lowry reported that changes were in store for The Good Guys. Rufus would give up his cab and go into business with Bert in a “new, more attractive diner” . The new diner was really the old diner, literally picked up and moved to the beach, and rechristened Bert and Rufe’s Place.
Production changes were made for the second season. The theme song was rewritten and the live studio audience was dropped. Gone, too, was most of the supporting cast from the first season, including Alan Hale and Jim Backus. Lew Perkins was retained, however.
Copyright © TV Guide, 1969 
In its new Friday time slot The Good Guys competed with The Brady Bunch on ABC and the second half-hour of High Chaparral on NBC. Its second premiere was broadcast on September 26th, 1969. Based on New York City Nielsens, it ranked second behind High Chaparral with a 14.2 rating and a 25 share . The following week the series dropped to third in New York City with a 12.2 rating and a 23 share .
On November 3rd, after six episodes had aired, The New York Times reported that CBS was planning on replacing The Good Guys with The Tim Conway Show at some point after January 1st, 1970 . The following day Rick Du Brow lamented the cancellation of what he called a “rather good slapstick series” and reported that the final episode would air on January 23rd with The Tim Conway Show taking over the time slot on January 30th . He also revealed that the October 24th episode had ranked a mediocre 66th out of 88 programs for the week .
In the second season premiere, Bert places Rufus in charge of moving the diner to its new beachfront location while he takes Claudia out for a night on the town so he can surprise her. She’s definitely surprised. With Rufus now a full partner with Bert, most episodes during the second season revolved entirely around the diner. In the October 3rd, episode, for example, the two get into a dispute and decide to divide the diner in two, with Bert taking on all of Rufus’ responsibilities. In the October 10th episode, Bert can’t believe Rufus has been stealing money from the cash register but sets out to trap him in the act anyway.
A few episodes did feature plots that only incidentally involved the diner. In one, Bert and Claudia learn Rufus comes from a long line of cowards but decide to fake some heroic ancestors to up in confidence so he can confront a neighbor. In another, Bert and Rufus run into their former Army captain and, thinking he’s down on his luck, decide to stage a benefit. In reality, he’s a millionaire. And another episode saw Bert, Rufus and Claudia searching for gold using an old treasure map, with Bert convinced Rufus is going to double-cross him and Claudia.
Joyce Van Patten as Claudia Gramus
Other stories during the second season involved the police mistaking Claudia’s innocent seeding of flowers as an attempt to toss illegal drugs; Rufus and Bert applying to be firemen and Rufus only getting the job because the firehouse dog is fond of him; Rufus accidentally dropping a contact lens belonging to Claudia into a pie; Rufus undergoing hypnotism to get over his addiction to candy and becoming stuck in a trance; and Claudia losing her wedding ring and the ensuing battle over the insurance money.
Two high-profile guest stars made appearances during the second season. In the October 17th episode, Vincent Price played a health inspector whose threats force Bert and Rufus to give the diner a makeover so it will pace inspection. And in the November 21st episode, Phyllis Diller played a famous restaurant magazine editor named Lilli who Bert and Rufus hope will give the diner a good review. Bert even wears a toupee. But it is Rufus who charms Lilli and she agrees to sample a picnic lunch. Perhaps the most ludicrous episode was broadcast on December 5th. In it, Rufus takes care of a chimpanzee and discovers he’s a talented waiter. So talented, in fact, that he is offered his own restaurant.
Only 17 episodes were broadcast during the second season, for a total of 43. The final episode, aired on January 23rd, 1970, involved an artist drawing portraits for food and driving off all the other customers. Guest stars during the second season included Yvonne Craig, Hamilton Camp, Frank Campanella, James Gregory, Eddie Mayehoff, Richard Deacon and Danny Bonaduce. Because The Good Guys was cancelled partway through the season, none of the second season episodes were ever repeated
The theme song to The Good Guys, at least for the first season (and presumably the second as well) was titled “Two Good Guys” and was written by Jerry Fielding with lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Who performed the actual song is unknown. The lyrics were changed for the second season.
We’re the good guys, who
Never let a friend down.
Friends forever, ask anyone in this town.
When you’re in a tussle, need some muscle,
I’ll be there at your side.
And if you’re hung up, pal
I will see that you’re soon untied.
If you want my shirt,
I will give it with pride.
When you’re up the creek, I’ll swim out
And then will paddle up.
When you shout, I will saddle up.
Blow by blow, I’ll be with you, mate.
And I know, you’ll reciprocate.
Head to toe, we’ll be two good guys.
I’m a good guy, hey, you’re another one too.
Like a brother, each to the other one, true blue.
When there’s trouble, we’re a double
Stickin’ out a double nut chin.
But when our ship comes in,
Then we’re gonna be fat, not thin.
Even if it’s just by the teeth of our skin.
When you think of those heroes who,
Things are said about.
Good guys you mighta read about.
Very few had a magic touch like I do.
And I’ve gotta put faith in you.
‘Cause you’re a good guy too.
The Good Guys was never syndicated in the United States following its original network run. It may have been broadcast internationally. There were no tie-in novels or comic books published. A 1/25 scale model of the Rufus’ taxi was released in 1968 by MPC (Model Products By Craft Master). The UCLA Film & Television Archive has a copy of the pilot episode in its collection. At least nine episodes circulate among private collectors, although many are sourced from black and white prints.
As noted earlier, the pilot episode was completed in January 1968 but was not aired as the series premiere, instead being shown as the third episode on October 9th. The opening and closing credits featured in this article are from a black and white print of the pilot. Notice that the taxi depicted in these credits is a very traditional vehicle, nothing at all like the outrageous, yellow taxi Rufus used. The music also sounds slightly different. It is possible these are from alternate version of the pilot and were never aired. Or perhaps new footage featuring the yellow taxi was filmed and used for all other episodes.
4 “TV networks hurry plans for fall.” Broadcasting. 12 Feb. 1968: 50-51.
5 Dallos, Robert E. “Few Changes Due in C.B.S. Programs.” New York Times. 19 Feb. 1968: 80.
6 Gelman, Morris. “On Location.” Television Magazine. June 1968: 4-12.
8 Pearson, Howward. “Bob Denver in Series.” Deseret News [Salt Lake City, UT]. 20 Jul. 1968: A9.
9 Gowran, Clay. “TV Today: CBS Series to Offer Slapstick in W.C. Fields Tradition.” Chicago Tribune. 15 Aug. 1968: C23.
11 Lowry, Cynthia. “‘Good Guys’ May Be Sleeper Show.” Sunday Times [Spencer, IA]. Associated Press. 25 Aug. 1968: 2.
12 Witbeck, Charles. “Small Town Folks Look for ‘Good Guys’.” Toledo Blade. 3 Sep. 1968: 34.
13 Gent, George. “TV Review: The Idiocy Award.” New York Times. 26 Sep. 1968: 95.
14 Kelly, Herb. “‘Good Guys’ Isn’t.” Miami News. 26 Sep. 1968: 8-B.
15 “The laurels and brickbats.” Broadcasting. 30 Sep. 1968: 39.
16 Cohen, George. “TV Today: Two More Fall Series Make Bows on Big Tube.” Chicago Tribune. 26 Sep. 1968: B29.
17 Mosby, Wade H. “‘Good Guys’ Cavort in High-Low Comedy.” Milwaukee Journal. Section 2. 26 Sep: 1968: 13.
19 “First showdown at the ratings corral.” Broadcasting. 30 Sep. 1968: 33.
20 Gowran, Clay. “Only 3 New Series in Top Ten in Nielsen Count.” Chicago Tribune. 8 Oct. 1968: B21.
21 “NBC takes 6 of 7 in NTI rankings.” Broadcasting. 7 Oct. 1968: 58-60.
22 “CBS goes to front in latest NTI.” Broadcasting. 14 Oct. 1968: 74.
23 “Jelling: an obit list of network shows.” Broadcasting. 11 Nov. 1968: 64.
24 Lowry, Cynthia. “‘Poor Health’ Shows Are Easier to Spot.” Ocala Star-Banner [Ocala, FL]. 4 Dec. 1968: 3C.
25 “Throws 280 pounds into his acting.” Geneva Times [Geneva, NY]. 4 Jan. 1969: 12.
26 “Network program gears grind.” Broadcasting. 17 Feb. 1969: 76.
27 “‘Get Smart’ switches networks, nights.” Broadcasting. 24 Feb. 1969: 64.
28 Du Brow, Rick. “TV Critics Not Snobs; They Have Favorite Programs Too.” Times Record [Troy, NY]. United Press International. 7 Jul. 1969: 22.
29 Lowry, Cynthia. “Overhauling the shows for fall.” Geneva Times [Geneva, NY]. Associated Press. 5 Aug. 1969: 12.
30 “Advantage of an early start.” Broadcasting. 6 Oct. 1969: 42-43.
31 “NBC-TV clings to Nielsen lead.” Broadcasting. 13 Oct. 1969: 46-47.
32 “C.B.S. Set to Cancel Miss Uggam’s Show.” New York Times. 3 Nov. 1969: 95.
33 Du Brow, Rick. “Glen Campbell Moving to Sunday Competition.” Times Record [Troy, NY]. United Press International. 4 Nov. 1969: 4.
Greg provided a TV Guide advertisement for this article.
Greg and Matt sent along interpretations of the lyrics to the first season theme song.
Originally Published October 14th, 2003
Last Updated January 5th, 2013