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November 18, 1987 - Image 23

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-11-18

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ern Pennsylvania, Patchett and Tarses
formed a stand-up duo. "We wanted to be
the Smothers Brothers, but we weren't
musicians," says Tarses, adding, "of
course, neither were they."
For six years Patchett and Tarses toured
with some success, opening for jazz acts
such as Art Blakey in clubs and appearing
on talk shows. Tiring of the road, they de-
cided to try writing for TV, so they moved to
L.A., landed Brillstein as a manager and
began to free-lance scripts. In 1972 the two
became staff writers for "The Carol Bur-
nett Show" and won an Emmy. Then they
entered the high holy shrine of TV comedy:
MTM. Working as partners on "The Bob
Newhart Show," Patchett and Tarses rose
to become executive producers. Despite
some friction, they stayed together, creat-
ing "The Tony Randall Show" in 1976,
which ran for two seasons, and the ac-
claimed "We've Got Each Other"-The
New York Times called it the best series of
1977-which ran for 11 episodes.
That same year, however, Patchett and
Tarses produced "The Chopped Liver
Brothers," a pilot about a struggling
stand-up comedy team, starring them-
selves, that never got picked up. That was
followed, in 1978, by a serious flop,
"Mary." This attempt to put Mary Tyler
Moore in a variety format was canceled
after only three outings, despite the pres-
ence of such talent as David Letterman,
Michael Keaton, Dick Shawn and Swoosie
Kurtz. Tarses says, "We were sort of per-
sona non grata in the business for a while
after that."
So they wrote a couple of movies, "Up the
Academy" and "The Great Muppet Ca-
per." (In the latter, Tarses played a man
who threw the Muppets off a plane in
flight.) In 1982 they returned to TV with
"Open All Night" on ABC, which lasted for
only 11 shows despite a warm critical re-
ception. By 1983, when they created "Buf-

been modestly decorated with ribbons and
lace. One wedding cake sits on the table and
three more on the floor. Susan Anspach,
playing the wife of Slap in a weddinggown,
shoves a slice of the cake into the face of
Dabney Coleman, playing Slap in a tuxedo,
four times in four takes. The crew, outfitted
with party hats in honor of the occasion,
cheers when the scene is over.
Jay Tarses didn't start out to be a TV
genius. It was only after flunking out of
Williams College-twice-and starting

over at Ithaca College that he "took a
flier" by majoring in drama. After gradu-
ating in 1964, he went to New York and
worked at a variety of jobs, including driv-
ing a truck for "Candid Camera." After
about eight months Tarses shifted to an
advertising/promotion job for what was
then Armstrong Cork in Lancaster, Pa.,
where he met Hugh Wilson, now execu-
tive producer of "Frank's Place," and Tom
Patchett, the man who was to become his
comedic partner for the next 17 years.
Bored with their jobs and southeast-

A focus on hard-to-predict characters: Scenes from 'The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd' (left) and 'The "Slap" Maxwell Story'


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