Gimme a Break!

Last updated
Gimme a Break!
Genre Sitcom
Created byMort Lachman
Sy Rosen
Directed by John Bowab
Hal Cooper
Jim Drake
Linda Day
Dick Harwood
Jules Lichtman
Will Mackenzie
Patrick Maloney
Phil Ramuno
Tony Singletary
Oz Scott
Howard Storm
Starring Nell Carter
Dolph Sweet
Lara Jill Miller
Lauri Hendler
Kari Michaelsen
Howard Morton
John Hoyt
Joey Lawrence
Telma Hopkins
Jonathan Silverman
Rosetta LeNoire
Matthew Lawrence
Paul Sand
Rosie O'Donnell
Theme music composer Jay Graydon
Opening theme"Gimme a Break" performed by Nell Carter
Composer(s)Bob Christianson
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes137 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Hal Cooper
Mort Lachman
Rod Parker
Producer(s)Arthur Julian
Coleman Mitchell
Geoffrey Neigher
Running time24–25 minutes
Production company(s) Alan Landsburg Productions
(seasons 1-4)
Reeves Entertainment Group
(seasons 5-6)
Distributor MCA TV
Original network NBC
Audio formatMonaural (1981-1984)
Stereo (1984-1987)
Original releaseOctober 29, 1981 (1981-10-29) 
May 12, 1987 (1987-05-12)

Gimme a Break! is an American sitcom that aired on NBC for six seasons from October 29, 1981, until May 12, 1987. The series starred Nell Carter as the housekeeper for a widowed police chief (Dolph Sweet) and his three daughters.

NBC American television and radio network

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American English-language commercial terrestrial television network that is a flagship property of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The network is headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, with additional major offices near Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The network is one of the Big Three television networks. NBC is sometimes referred to as the "Peacock Network", in reference to its stylized peacock logo, introduced in 1956 to promote the company's innovations in early color broadcasting. It became the network's official emblem in 1979.

Nell Carter actress, singer

Nell Carter was an American singer and actress.

Dolph Sweet American actor

Adolphus Jean Sweet was an American actor, credited with nearly 60 television and film roles as well as several roles in stage productions before his death from stomach cancer in 1985.



The sitcom takes place in Glenlawn, a fictional suburb, located in either central or northern California. Nellie Ruth "Nell" Harper (Nell Carter) agrees to look after the Kanisky household as a special favor to her dying friend Margaret Huffman Kanisky (played in flashback by Sharon Spelman), who was the wife of police chief Carl Kanisky (Dolph Sweet), serving as a parental figure to the Chief's three teenage daughters, Katie (Kari Michaelsen), Julie (Lauri Hendler), and Samantha (Lara Jill Miller). A foster son, Joey (Joey Lawrence), was added to the Kanisky household in Season 3.

Suburb Human settlement that is part of or near to a larger city

A suburb is a mixed-use or residential area, existing either as part of a city or urban area or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city. In most English-speaking countries, suburban areas are defined in contrast to central or inner-city areas, but in Australian English and South African English, suburb has become largely synonymous with what is called a "neighborhood" in other countries and the term extends to inner-city areas. In some areas, such as Australia, India, China, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and a few U.S. states, new suburbs are routinely annexed by adjacent cities. In others, such as Saudi Arabia, Canada, France, and much of the United States, many suburbs remain separate municipalities or are governed as part of a larger local government area such as a county.

Kari Michaelsen is an American actress and motivational speaker. As an actress, she is best known for her role as Katie Kanisky on sitcom Gimme a Break! (1981–1987).

Lauri Hendler is an American actress, best known for her role as middle child Julie Kanisky on Gimme a Break!

Five episodes into the sixth and final season, the show changed locales from Glenlawn to New York City, when Nell, concerned for Joey's welfare after he moved there with his absentee father, traveled there to check on him. She subsequently assumed guardianship of Joey and his younger brother Matthew (played by Joey Lawrence's real-life brother Matthew Lawrence) at their father's request and was forced to permanently relocate there after Chief Kanisky's father Stanley (John Hoyt) sold the family's Glenlawn home.

Matthew Lawrence American actor

Matthew William Lawrence is an American actor and singer best known for his roles in Mrs. Doubtfire and Boy Meets World. Lawrence also starred in the series Brotherly Love with his real-life brothers Joey and Andrew.

John Hoyt American film, stage, and television actor

John Hoyt was an American film, stage, and television actor.

Over the six-year run, a number of celebrities appeared on the show, including singers Whitney Houston, Andy Gibb, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ray Parker Jr., and The Pointer Sisters. More often than not, the guest singers would perform a song with Nell on the episodes. During the third season, Pat Sajak guest-starred as himself when Nell and her friend Addy (Telma Hopkins) were contestants on Wheel of Fortune . Other notable guest stars included Milton Berle, Danny Glover, Rue McClanahan, Tony Randall, Helen Hunt, Don Rickles, Gwen Verdon, Dennis Haysbert, Ernie Hudson, Gary Collins, and Elizabeth Berkley.

Whitney Houston American singer, actress, model, and record producer

Whitney Elizabeth Houston was an American singer and actress. She was cited as the most awarded female artist of all time by Guinness World Records and remains one of the best-selling music artists of all time with 200 million records sold worldwide. She released seven studio albums and two soundtrack albums, all of which have been certified diamond, multi-platinum, platinum, or gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Houston's crossover appeal on the popular music charts—as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for "How Will I Know"—influenced several African-American women artists who followed in her footsteps.

Andy Gibb British–Australian singer

Andrew Roy Gibb was an English singer, songwriter, performer, and teen idol. He was the younger brother of the Bee Gees: Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb.

Ray Parker Jr. American guitarist, songwriter, producer and recording artist

Ray Erskine Parker Jr. is an American guitarist, singer-songwriter, record producer, and actor, best known for writing and performing the theme song to the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, for his solo music, and for performing with his band, Raydio, and with Barry White.

The episode "Cat Story" was performed and broadcast live on March 2, 1985, as a promotional gimmick, which the cast performed without major incident. An earlier episode (from the 1984–85 season), "Baby of the Family," ranked No. 38 on TV Land's list of "The 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments;" it depicted Joey dressing and performing in blackface at Nell's church benefit, a plan hatched by Samantha to retaliate for Nell forbidding her to go on an unchaperoned camping trip. [1]

TV Land Pay TV channel in the USA

TV Land is an American pay television channel that is owned by Viacom through its Viacom Global Entertainment Group. Originally consisting exclusively of classic television shows, the channel now airs a combination of recent and classic television series, original scripted series, and limited theatrically released movies. The network is headquartered at One Astor Plaza in New York City.

Blackface form of theatrical makeup

Blackface is a form of theatrical make-up used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a caricature of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the spread of racial stereotypes such as the "happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation" or the "dandified coon". By the middle of the century, blackface minstrel shows had become a distinctive American artform, translating formal works such as opera into popular terms for a general audience. Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right. In the United States, blackface had largely fallen out of favor by the turn of the 21st century, and is now generally considered offensive and disrespectful, though the practice continues in other countries.

The location of Glenlawn is never fully clarified, and various contradictory location information is presented during the series. Seaons 3 episode "James Returns" states that Glenlawn is "over 300 miles" from Santa Barbara, and "The Mayor", an episode from the same season, shows the chief boasting that a new police car could make it to Sacramento in 23 minutes. These would place Glenlawn somewhere near Stockton. However, another episode from Season 3, "Flashback", placed the town an hour away from Fresno, in the direction of Bakersfield. In another episode where exterior shooting took place, GlenLawn is on the ocean with palm trees. The proximity to the Bay Area is supported by later season episodes where Katie moves to San Francisco and Julie moves to nearby San Jose.

Stockton, California City in California, United States

Stockton is the county seat of San Joaquin County in the Central Valley of the U.S. state of California. Stockton was founded by Captain Charles Maria Weber in 1849 after he acquired Rancho Campo de los Franceses. The city is named after Robert F. Stockton, and it was the first community in California to have a name not of Spanish or Native American origin. The city is located on the San Joaquin River in the northern San Joaquin Valley and had an estimated population of 320,554 by the California Department of Finance for 2017. Stockton is the 13th largest city in California and the 63rd largest city in the United States. It was named an All-America City in 1999, 2004, 2015 and again in 2017.

Fresno, California City in California, United States

Fresno is a city in California, United States, and the county seat of Fresno County. It covers about 112 square miles (290 km2) in the center of the San Joaquin Valley, the southern portion of California's Central Valley.

Bakersfield, California City in California, United States of America

Bakersfield is a city in and the county seat of Kern County, California, United States. It covers about 151 sq mi (390 km2) near the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Valley region. Bakersfield's population is around 380,000, making it the 9th-most populous city in California and the 52nd-most populous city in the nation. The Bakersfield–Delano Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Kern County, had a 2010 census population of 839,631, making it the 62nd-largest metropolitan area in the United States. The more built-up urban area that includes Bakersfield and areas immediately around the city, such as East Bakersfield, Oildale, and Rosedale, has a population of over 520,000. Bakersfield is a charter city.


Main characters

Recurring characters

Broadcast history

1981–82 Thursday at 9:30–10:00
1982–83 Saturday at 9:00–9:30 (1982)
Thursday at 9:00–9:30 (1983)
1983–84 Thursday at 8:00–8:30
1984–85 Saturday at 8:30–9:00 (Episodes 1–9)
Saturday at 9:00–9:30 (Episodes 10–25)
1985–86 Saturday at 8:00–8:30
1986–87 Wednesday at 9:00–9:30 (Episodes 1, 3–15, 17–21)
Wednesday at 9:30–10:00 (Episodes 2, 16, 22)
Tuesday at 9:00–9:30 (Episodes 23–25)



The show was produced by Alan Landsburg Productions (renamed as Reeves Entertainment Group in 1985). The American syndication rights are held by NBCUniversal Television Distribution, the successor company to original syndicator MCA TV. FremantleMedia owns the international rights, as they own Thames Television, which acquired Reeves Entertainment Group in 1990. The creators of the show were Mort Lachman and Sy Rosen.

Over its run, the series used two different theme songs. The first was composed by Bob Christianson with lyrics by Bob Garrett and Marley Sims; two versions of this song were used, one for the first season and a new recording for the second. A new theme, with music by Jay Graydon and lyrics by Richard Page, was introduced in the third season and used for the remainder of the show's run. The new theme has similarities to the first but with a more positive attitude. Carter performed both themes.


The show has been in syndication since 1985. Reruns have also aired nationally on WWOR EMI Service and USA. [2] [3] [4] [5] Distribution rights are jointly owned by The Program Exchange and NBCUniversal Television Distribution, successor in interest to previous syndicator MCA Television. Reruns of the series are a mainstay of many of Sinclair Broadcast Group's The CW and MyNetworkTV stations, especially in low-traffic time periods, due to the low-cost barter setup of The Program Exchange.

Antenna TV has aired the show since January 2, 2018.

Home media

United States

Universal Studios Home Entertainment released a three-disc DVD of the complete first season of Gimme a Break! on February 14, 2006, available in the United States only. The Complete Series is now available in the US.


Visual Entertainment (under license from FremantleMedia) released the first two seasons of Gimme a Break! on DVD in Canada between 2006–07. In 2009, VEI announced that they plan on releasing the entire series in a complete series box set in 2010. [6] VEI released Gimme a Break! The Complete Series on DVD in Canada on July 20, 2010. [7] As of 2013, these releases have been discontinued and are out of print.


Simply Media TV Ltd released the first and second series in the UK, although the series has never been broadcast on British television.

Awards and nominations

Nell Carter received two Emmy nominations as Best Actress in a Comedy Series (1982, 1983) [8] and two Golden Globe nominations as Best Actress in a Television Series-Comedy or Musical (1983, 1985). [9]

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  1. PRNewswire, "TV Guide and TV Land Join Forces To Count Down The 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments", December 1, 2005. Accessed March 23, 2009.
  2. The Intelligencer—September 30, 1991
  3. The Intelligencer—December 31, 1993
  4. TV Guide—September 20–27, 1997
  5. TV Guide—September 5–11, 1998
  6. Lambert, David (2009-10-02). "Gimme a Break! – A Fan Inquiry to Us on Facebook Leads to Some VERY Interesting New Information!". Archived from the original on 24 November 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  7. "Gimme a Break! DVD news: Announcement for Gimme a Break! - The Complete Series -". Archived from the original on 2010-05-21.
  8. "Nell Carter – Television Academy".
  9. "Nell Carter".