Nell Carter shines as Nellie Ruth "Nell" Harper, the role that twice earned her Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations, and helped redefine the meaning of "family." Available for the first time ever on DVD, Gimme a Break! is the funny, hip and sometimes poignant portrayal of the Kanisky family: widowed Police Chief Carl; his three daughters Katie, Julie and Samantha; and their unflappable housekeeper-turned-surrogate mother (Carter). This 3-disc set includes all 19 episodes from Season One, as well as a preview from Season Two, bonus episodes from the smash-hit sitcoms Kate & Allie and Charles in Charge, and a special featurette that takes a look back at other great TV shows of the eighties. Featuring renowned guest stars such as Danny Glover, Rue McClanahan and Helen Hunt, Gimme a Break! is the beloved sitcom that delivers both love and laughs.
Actress-singer Nell Carter provided the heart and soul for this much-loved NBC family series (1981-1987) about a black woman who cares for a white police chief's daughters after the death of their mother. Though some of the show's humor was derived from jibes about Ms. Carter's size and the clash of parenting styles between the no-nonsense Chief (stage veteran Dolph Sweet) and Carter's warm, sassy Nell Harper, Gimme a Break
also addressed more serious and emotional subjects with surprising warmth and drama. The debut episode, "Katie the Crook" (which is featured on this three-disc set, along with the other 18 episodes from the 1981-82 season), does a fine job of touching on the tougher issues, as the Chief's three daughters (Kari Michaelson, Lauri Hendler, and Lara Jill Miller) each react to the mother's untimely passing in realistic manners. Other episodes in the first season offer a good blend of humor and pathos, including "Mom's Birthday" (in which Nell allows the family to celebrate their mother through home movies), "The Emergency" (a rare TV storyline about teen birth control), "Your Prisoner Is Dead" (the Chief is traumatized after killing a drugstore burglar, and considers retirement), and "Nell Goes Home" (Nell is rejected by her ailing father during a trip to Alabama). Much of the credit for the show should go to the cast, especially Ms. Carter and Sweet (both who have since passed away), though veteran character actor John Hoyt deserves mention as the family's grandfather; their enthusiasm for and skill behind the roles is undoubtedly a large reason why Gimme a Break
still enjoys a following. The first-season set includes a preview of the show's second season (the episode "Nell Goes to Jail"), as well as episodes from Charles in Charge
and Kate and Allie
, two other popular family sitcoms from the '80s. A 30-minute featurette on '80s TV (the same one featured on the Charles in Charge
first-season set) rounds out this fan-pleasing set. -- Paul Gaita