Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rant #683: From Nothing to Something

Gavin MacLeod has had a very interesting career, and today, on his 81st birthday, he can reflect on the fact that he is one of the few actors who appeared in a regular role in not one, not two, but in three classic TV shows.

MacLeod had acted in several movies and TV shows before his role as Happy Haines on "McHale's Navy," but he began to make his name as one of McHale's (Ernest Borgnine) henchman on the classic Navy comedy of the early 1960s. He often was in the background on the show, perhaps having one or two lines of dialogue on each episode. But he was there.

But it did not foresee what was to come next.

As Murray Slaughter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," he solidified his place on television as one of the most popular characters on that show. Moving on up from his previous TV role, McLeod had many lines on this early 1970s show, as the news writer in the newsroom, writing copy that Ted Knight's talking head character would inevitably bumble and fumble. And he sat next to Mary, so his on-screen time was at a maximum on this show.

But again, even this role did not foresee what was to come next.

As Captain Merrill Stubing on "The Love Boat," MacLeod cemented himself as one of television's most popular and prolific actors. He led the cast of this popular 1980s-1990s series, which featured has-been and third-rate actors and actresses picking up a paycheck with performances from hell. But the public loved this series, it did wonders for the cruise industry, and MacLeod became the cruise ship captain to which every cruise ship captain must be compared.

Sure, MacLeod has done many other things in show business, but he will forever be identified with these three roles.

Most actors are lucky if they get one prime TV role; MacLeod has had three!

Can you name another actor who was a regular character in three classic television shows?

I don't think you can.

MacLeod is in a unique group, where he might just be the only member.

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