Q & A: Hank; The Pruitts of Southampton

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 even decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to pull out a few e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to enjoy. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

Do you have any information on the 60’s TV show HANK. I believe it was on Friday nights either just before, or just after CAMP RUNAMUCK. I would like to know who played Hank.

NBC’s Hank aired after Camp Runamuck on Fridays during the 1965-1966 season. Dick Kallman played the title character, a teenager left to care for his younger sister after their parents are killed in a car crash. Forced to drop out of high school, Hank begins auditing classes at Western State University, disguising himself as actual students registered for those classes.

To earn money, Hank drove a food truck that also sold a wide variety of other goods that college students might need, including frogs for scientific experiments. It also offered shoe shines. He dabbled in running his own dating service as well. Somehow, between school and work he also found time to date–the daughter of the university registrar, whose mission was to sniff out unregistered students like Hank.

Dick Kallman as Hank – September 11th, 1965
Copyright © TV Guide, 1965

With the exception of the series premiere, Hank was broadcast in color. A total of 26 episodes were produced and aired. The final episode of Hank was a true series finale, wrapping up the series quite nicely, making it almost unique in the history of 1960s television.

Tomorrow (November 3rd), Hank will be released on DVD courtesy of Warner Archive. How’s that for timing?

I vaguely remember a short-lived sitcom called “The Pruetts of South Hampton” or something like that. I know it was The “Someones” of South Hampton. I can’t find it in a search and I believe it was the early to mid 60’s. Can you find it?

The Pruitts of Southampton was an ABC sitcom starring Phyllis Diller that premiered in September 1966. The Pruitts were a tremendously wealthy family who secretly were broke and owed millions to the IRS. The government decides to let them live in their mansion and keep up appearances, afraid that news of the family’s downfall would lead to an economic collapse.

Diller played the widowed head of the family, who was desperate to maintain the facade of affluence while also plotting ways to raise money to pay back the IRS. Diller and other members of the main cast sang the opening theme song, composed by Vic Mizzy.

In January 1967 the series was retitled The Phyllis Diller Show–complete with a new opening credit sequence–and the Pruitt mansion was turned into a boardinghouse. Several new characters were introduced, played by the likes of John Astin, Richard Deacon, and Marty Ingels.

Ratings were poor for both versions and ABC cancelled the series at the end of the 1966-1967 season. A total of 30 episodes were aired (17 as The Pruitts of Southampton and 13 as The Phyllis Diller Show.

[NOTE: Back in 2009 and 2010 I regularly ran a Q & A blog feature and today I’m reviving it. Taking a cue from television, I’m planning an initial 13-week run but we’ll see how it goes and whether I have enough unanswered questions to keep running it longer than that.]

11 Replies to “Q & A: Hank; The Pruitts of Southampton”

  1. It was reported the show ‘finished 77th among the 91 shows rated during the 1966-1967 season.’, Ouch. Seems Diller didn’t care for it much, either.
    Again, this shows how hard it was (and still is?) to predict what would click with the public, as the premise isn’t any worse than dozens of successful sitcoms.

    1. Phyllis Diller said in an interview that the pilot had a really good script, but that it was all downhill after that.

  2. ‘The Pruitts of Southhampton’ had a spectacular debut rating (especially for ABC), with a 33.6/55% for its first episode. The problem is that most people didn’t like what they saw, and the ratings began a steep erosion pattern, falling to 13.7/22% by the start of the November Sweep.

    I think viewers wanted a nice ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ with a twist, but instead were delivered a show built around the zany antics of Miss Phyllis Diller, with a style of comedy more suited to stand-up (which she pioneered for females) or variety (which she got a year later when she ankled ABC for NBC to star in a Sunday night series, ‘The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show’).

    1. I did not know the premiere ratings were so high, but it makes sense, because Phyllis Diller was at the height of her popularity at that time. Another thing she said in the interview was that they had a different director practically every week, and that prevented the show from developing a particular tone. When they tried to save it, they had her doing physical comedy similar to Carol Burnett, which she felt uncomfortable with, because that was not her style at all.

      1. That’s a nonsensical remark on why the show didn’t work. In television, the writer-producer sets the tone of a series, not the director. Besides, directors never handle consecutive episodes because shooting schedules overlap with pre and post production duties that involve the director as well.

  3. Do the show again starring the Clintons! (“The Clintons of Chappaqua…live like the richest folk…But what those folks don’t know is…that the Country is flat broke!…(Bill:) ‘We’re out of champagne…I don’t know what to do!’ Hillary: ‘Ask the Chinese to lend you a buck, my dear…How to do, how to do, how to do!'”) Probably will be cancelled again after 17 weeks, due to low ratings!

  4. David made a critical mistake in this article… tiny, but crucial. He stated that the plot of “Pruitts” centered around the matriarch scheming ways “… to raise money to pay back the IRS.”

    It is the same leftist trap that causes people who have earned what they have, to use the term “give back”.

    If they are charitable, they give. Conversely, the IRS has never given anyone anything. Even Bill Clinton referred to “contributions” as “voluntary” (neither term is correct). Government takes.

    The American consciousness has so eroded that many seem to believe that everything we have comes from some sort of societal benevolence, and that we can never own what we have, (which we have taken, not earned), and are now simply returning some of what we took.

    Barack Obama (and Al Gore) didn’t start this web site, David did.

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