Q & A: One in a Million; Oh Nurse!

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.

Hi! I was wondering if you have any info on the 1980 series “One in a Million” about a cab driver who inherits a big corporation when one of her clients passes away. I look all over your site and couldn’t find it listed. Please let me know. I am very interested in this show. Thanks.

One in a Million was first announced as a mid-season replacement for ABC in November 1979, along with a handful of other new shows (The Goodtime Girls, B.A.D. Cats and Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, among others). According to an Associated Press article from February 1980, the series was “an old script off the shelf” originally developed as a potential Desi Arnaz vehicle, where he would star as a deli owner who inherits a company from one of his customers. Producers Saul Turteltaub, Bernie Orenstein and Bud Yorkin (a.k.a. TOY Productions) decided to change the lead role to an African-American cabbie and Shirley Hemphill was given the starring role [1].

The series was given two special “preview” airings in January 1980. The first, on Tuesday, January 8th, ranked 15th for the week [2]. The second, broadcast Tuesday, January 15th, ranked 24th [3]. But when the show moved to its regular Saturday timeslot on January 26th, the ratings tanked. The March 8th episode ranked dead last (63rd) and the March 15th episode ranked 57th out of 59 programs [4, 5]. Thirteen episodes were broadcast, the last of which aired April 5th. Repeats were shown in June.

Critic James Brown of The Los Angeles Times called the series “a marginally amusing inanity that features a decent case, three or four good one-liners and that’s about it. It is also resoundingly overplayed, beyond even the slightest belief and thoroughly anchored to cliche — which means it should fit in nicely with most of the rest of the TV comedy crowd” [6]. And John J. O’Connor of The New York Times said the show “is on a general dopiness par with most other situation comedies” [7].

Viewers seemed to agree judging by the ratings the sitcom received.

I am trying to recall a one-time summer test run sitcom pilot about 3 nursing students, that I believe appeared on NBC on a Friday night in mid-June of either 1971, 1972, or 1973. I can’t recall the title, but thought that Judy Pace was one of the 3 fresh-looking actresses and can’t recall the other 2 actresses’ names. Any online references about Judy Pace’s credits do not mention it. Can you jog my memory correctly for me? Thanks much!

The Chicago Tribune reported in late January 1972 that some 70 pilots were under consideration by the networks for the 1972-1973 season. One of them was a sitcom called “Oh, Nurse!” starring Judy Pace [8]. On March 3rd The New York Times announced that CBS would be broadcasting nine of its sitcom pilots as three special ninety-minute installments of The CBS Friday Night Movies. The first, to be aired on March 17th from 9-10:30PM, wouuld include the pilot episode of M*A*S*H and two other sitcom pilots: “Oh, Nurse!” and “The Singles” [9].

On the evening of March 17th, however, the pilot to M*A*S*H had been replaced by “The Living End,” starring Lou Gossett as a football player and Diana Sands as his wife. “The Singles” starred Michele Lee and Ruth Buzzi as employees at a greeting card company who share an apartment and are robbed by a bungling burglar. “Oh, Nurse!” followed the trials of a group of student nurses — played by Judy Pace, Susan Foster and Lori Saunders — trying to live and learn under the watchful eye of their head nurse, played by Pat Carroll.

Cecil Smith suggest that the three sitcoms should have been shown under the title “cavalcade of flops” and noted that there was “an awful lot of gorgeously undressed females cavorting about in “Oh, Nurse!” [10]. The three sitcoms were repeated on Friday, July 2nd, 1972.

Works Cited:

1 Buck, Jerry. “Tube Talk: Shirley Hemphill in ‘One in a Million’ on ABC.” Associated Press. 15 Feb. 1980: BC Cycle.
2 “CBS Makes Fourth Straight First-Place Finish.” Associated Press. 15 Jan. 1980: AM Cycle.
3 “CBS Tops Ratings Thanks to Super Bowl.” Associated Press. 22 Jan. 1980: AM Cycle.
4 “CBS Takes Nielsen Weekly Ratings Race.” Associated Press. 11 Mar. 1980: AM Cycle.
5 “ABC Regains First Place in Ratings.” Associated Press. 18 Mar. 1980: AM Cycle.
6 Brown, James. “The Tube Tonight: ‘One in a Million’.” Los Angeles Times. 8 Jan. 1980: G12.
7 O’Connor, John J. “TV: ‘Preview’ of ‘One in a Million’ Comedy Series.” New York Times. 8 Jan. 1980: C19.
8 Petersen, Clarence. “Petersen: Network Pilots for Next Season Prepare for Their First Flights.” Chicago Tribune. 24 Jan. 1972: A10.
9 Gent, George. “C.B.S. Will Televise its Pilots As Three 90-Minute Specials.” New York Times. 3 Mar. 1972: 79.
10 Smith, Cecil. “Cecil Smith: BBC Series Dies With Elizabeth I.” Los Angeles Times. 23 Mar. 1972: H22.

1 Comment

  • Mike Smith says:

    Surely let a Big One get away (And replaced it no less than one with a interracial couple of little or no interest)!!!

    However, as the old saying goes, The Rest Is History!!!

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