I don’t always listen to music while I’m working. Working at home alone, I usually need some sort of noise in my home office as too much silence bothers me because when it’s too quiet all I can hear is the ringing in my ears. My number one choice for sound is ambient music of some sort; words can distract me when I’m deep in a project. But around mid-week I might change it up a bit and have a television show playing in the background or something. After being alone in the house for a couple of days, hearing any sort of conversation going on is a good thing.
Today I dialed up YouTube on my iPad and started looking around for something to play in the background when a familiar face caught my eye. The thing that was odd about the suggestion from YouTube was that the familiar face wasn’t paired with an appropriate name. I expected to see “Maude”, “The Golden Girls” or even “The Stars Wars Holiday Special” but next to a picture of Bea Arthur was a different title, “Amanda’s By The Sea”.
The suggestion was a playlist containing 13 episodes of this series, “Amanda’s By The Sea”, or as it was shortened to, “Amanda’s”.
A brief search on the Internet filled me in. In 1983, Bea Arthur starred in the aforementioned “Amanda’s” as Amanda Cartwright, widow and the owner of a small hotel in California appropriately named “Amanda’s By The Sea”. The show was loosely based on the UK’s “Fawlty Towers”. The series lasted just half a season on ABC before cancellation; 13 episodes were filmed by only 10 made it to the air. The other three were later shown in some obscure syndication run.
I decided to watch an episode at lunch time. While not awful by any means, I can see why the show didn’t make it. The cast is a little unbalanced. Watching “Amanda’s” made me realize that while Beatrice Arthur was a magnificent actor, she needed someone strong to play off and the supporting cast didn’t quite fit the bill. Fred McCarren plays her son (and the hotel manager) Marty, his wife is played the same actress that played Stan’s second wife Chrissy on “The Golden Girls”. The cook is played by the actor that played Boss Hogg’s nephew or something on “The Dukes of Hazzard”. Another character, I think his name is Alto, played much comic relief being short and speaking with very broken English. The show is a little more slapstick than “The Golden Girls”.
And here’s where it gets a little odd. MANY of the guest stars on “Amanda’s” later appear on “The Golden Girls”. Since the series was filmed in 1983, Bea Arthur looks a lot like Dorothy on “The Golden Girls”. Some of the sight gags used on “The Golden Girls” are seen here, for example, “would you hand me that loaf of bread. No, the other one” and then Amanda proceeds to slam it over the head of the person she is annoyed with, much like Dorothy hitting Rose over the head with a newspaper. In one scene, Amanda is arguing with a customer about a restaurant bill and she argues with the exact same customer, in practically the same set, during her guest appearance on “The Golden Palace” only there her name is Dorothy.
It’s a little like watching Pert Kelton play Alice in the original version of “The Honeymooners”.
Of course, Bea is Bea. While there are some similarities between mannerisms and the like between her portrayals of Maude and Dorothy, since there was eight years between the two series, there are obvious differences, whereas, since “Amanda’s” came only two years before the premiere of “The Golden Girls”, it’s easy to spot the much closer similarities between Amanda and Dorothy. Heck, Bea is even wearing the same type of wardrobe as what was found later on “The Golden Girls” complete with the boots and the long skirts. I can’t help but think that some of the storyline ideas also made it over to “The Golden Girls”. It’s weird watching the show because it feels familiar but out of place at the same time. Kind of like when you walk into a Kmart in a different city, it’s a Kmart, it feels like Kmart but everything is in a different place.
As I wound up my workday I played a couple more episodes while I tidied up email and such. I definitely believe that Bea can be Bea when she plays off other strong actors. Both the casts of “Maude” and “The Golden Girls” balanced Bea out brilliantly, but like “The Golden Palace” after Bea left “The Golden Girls”, when an element is missing, it can be OK, even quite good, but it feels very out of balance. And that’s the way “Amanda’s” feels, out of balance.
I’ll probably finish watching the series over the next couple of days because I have always adored Bea and it’s fun seeing her in something else that feels comfortable yet I can’t recite line by line. It’s available on YouTube if you’re interested in checking it out.