Situation comedies have been a mainstay on television since its inception. Many sitcoms appeal to the television audience by basing the show on working class people. As a consequence, it is not unusual for a sitcom to include a maintenance man or handyman in its cast of characters. “The Honeymooners” started the trend in the 1950s, and it has continued ever since.
Art Carney as Ed Norton
Art Carney is television’s iconic maintenance man. Carney’s character Ed Norton was the lovable pal and foil to Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden on the 1950s sitcom “The Honeymooners.” On the show, Ed Norton worked in the New York City sewers. He jokingly referred to his job as the guy who keeps things rolling along. Carney won five Emmy Awards during the show's run. He had a long successful career in television, theater and film. Carney also won the 1974 Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the movie “Harry and Tonto.”
Pat Harrington Jr. as Duane Schneider
Pat Harrington Jr. played Duane Schneider on the CBS TV show “One Day At A Time.” The show ran from 1975 to 1985. The show centered around a mother, Ann Romano, played by Bonnie Franklin with Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips performing as her two daughters. Duane Schneider was the maintenance man and building superintendent for their apartment building. He could be lewd and chauvinistic, and was often the butt of many of the jokes on the show. In real life, Harrington was a well-educated actor with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in political philosophy from Fordham University.
Johnny Brown Jr. as Nathan Bookman
“Good Times” broke ground by featuring an African American family living in the housing projects in Chicago. Johnny Brown Jr. played the building superintendent and maintenance man Nathan Bookman. Nathan provided comic relief for the show and other actors on it. He was a portly, but jovial character with an eye for the ladies. Brown was an actor, singer and comedian and also appeared in “Chico and the Man,” “The Wayans Brothers” and “Everybody Hates Chris.” His film credits include “The Wiz,” “Body and Soul,” Hanky Panky” and “Life.”
Tom Poston as Bumbling George Utley
Tom Poston played “George Utley” on the CBS series "Newhart.” "Newhart" was on the air from October 25, 1982 to May 21, 1990. The show centered on a married couple played by Bob Newhart and Mary Frann who move from the city to buy the Stratford Inn in rural Vermont. As bumbling maintenance man at the Inn, George often made things worse when he attempted repairs. Poston was nominated for three Emmys as “Outstanding Support Actor in A Comedy Series” for his role. An interesting footnote about Poston is that he married Suzanne Pleshette in 2001. Pleshette play Bob Newhart’s wife on Newhart’s first television series “The Bob Newhart Show” that was on the air from 1972 to 1978.
Mary Grace Canfield Playing 'Ralph' Monroe
“Green Acres” was a one-of-a-kind sitcom in the 1960s that featured an assortment of colorful characters. The show centered around New York City lawyer Eddie Albert and his ditsy urban wife Eva Gabor and their move from the city to the country. 'Ralph,' played by Mary Grace Canfield, was one half of the local Monroe brothers. She went by the name “Ralph” on the show because she knew no one wanted to hire a female handyman. The Monroe brothers were the local carpenters and handymen for the town. Ralph and Alf -- Sid Melton -- usually went from one disaster to another. A recurring theme on the show was that the bedroom closet in the Douglas home always fell down. Canfield also appeared on “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Bewitched,” “Hazel” and “General Hospital.”
Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.