Guest Author - Robin Rounds Whittemore
We know people play characters on TV and they are not real. We also know that in real life, actors have families and go about their business as normal people do. Every once in a while we are rewarded with a glimpse into two dimensions. One deals with the make-believe world of the media, and the other deals with real life. On occasion, we witness the two coming together when real life family members get together on TV shows. Here are just a few of the many examples of those occurrences.
In a Christmas episode of “Coach”, Luther Van Dam, played by Jerry Van Dyke, found other Van Dams and went to a family reunion. There were many people in the room, and if you noticed off to one side of the room, a tall white-haired man walked by and exited. His actions were rewarded with applause from the audience. The man, of course, was none other than Dick Van Dyke, Jerry’s real life brother.
In a switch on that scene, Dick Van Dyke used to play Rob Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. Jerry Van Dyke made numerous appearances as Rob Petrie’s brother Stacy. Stacy’s visits highlighted Jerry’s skill at playing the banjo.
“Here’s Lucy” had Lucille Ball’s real life son and daughter playing her on stage son and daughter. Desi Arnaz Jr. portrayed her son Craig. Lucy Arnaz portrayed her daughter, Kim. Not exactly family, but almost family in the way familiarity becomes; Gale Gordon played her brother-in-law, Harrison Otis Carter; and again, her boss.
“The Partridge Family” had David Cassidy playing the son to his real life stepmother, Shirley Jones. They played the characters of Keith Partridge and Shirley Partridge respectively. Of course, as you remember, the singing Partridge family toured the country in a bus painted in a variety of colors.
Tom Arnold, who was married to the actress, Roseanne, made a number of appearances on her show as Arnie. He played the best friend of John Goodman’s character, Dan Connor.
In “The Odd Couple”, Jack Klugman played Oscar Madison to Tony Randall’s Felix Unger. They were both divorced men in the show and their ex-wives characters were sometimes on the show as well. In real life Jack Klugman was married to Brett Somers, the actress who played his ex-wife.
“Family Ties” character of Alex P. Keaton, played by Michael J. Fox, had a steady girlfriend named Ellen Reed. She was portrayed by Tracy Pollan. Michael and Tracy were not married at the time; they ended up marrying later.
Two and a Half Men has seen the real-life father and brother of Charlie Sheen. Martin Sheen, Charlie’s dad in real life played the father of the downstairs neighbor, Rose. He tried hooking up with Charlie’s on-screen mom, Evelyn, played by Holland Taylor. In another episode, Emilio Estevez, Charlie’s brother in real life did not play his brother on the show. In a much earlier episode, Charlie’s then wife, Denise Richards, also played a long lost girlfriend from his past.