I now know the truth about Hello, Larry. That it was a bomb among bombs during NBC’s time in the ratings cellar in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, as a particularly terrible sitcom in an era in which the consensus was that the traditional family sitcom itself was dying out (until The Cosby Show brought it back in a big way). I now know that it was the third consecutive flop for McLean Stevenson after he unwisely left M*A*S*H at the peak of its popularity. I now know that Johnny Carson used “…worse than Hello, Larry” as a frequent punchline for a decade after Hello, Larry came and went in the 1979-1980 season. I mean, the opening sequence features an overweight man both dancing and, of course, eating. Even for a time period in which the guy who played Schneider on One Day at a Time won Emmys, this was obviously going to be a terrible show.
But if you grew up, as I did, in my household, you would’ve thought that Hello, Larry was a great classic cancelled years prior after a phenomenally successful and popular multi-season run. Well into the 2000s, my mother has been known to compare new television shows, unfavorably, to Hello, Larry. “Mad About You is pretty good,” she might say, “but it’s certainly no Hello, Larry.”
Hello, Larry’s iconic status in my family may have something to do with the fact that it was set (but not shot) in the city we lived in, Portland, and because my dad’s name is Larry.
The theme song, however, was pretty good. It was not actually Steely Dan performing it, but the producers of Hello, Larry really hoped that you thought it was.