Retro Review: ‘The Girl With Something Extra’

by Doug Snauffer

Like many other independent channels, Get TV kicked off the New Year by revising its programming lineup. One change in particular was the addition of an obscure sitcom from the early 1970s entitled The Girl With Something Extra (NBC, 1973-74).

Most people will have no memory of this short-lived domestic sitcom. It ran for just a single season of 22 episodes before being cancelled unceremoniously by NBC and relegated to deep storage.

Those who do recall the program most likely remember it as a starring vehicle for acclaimed actress Sally Field. She was just 26-years-old when she began work on The Girl With Something Extra, yet she was already a seasoned veteran, having starred in two previous comedies, Gidget and The Flying Nun.

Her third effort cast her opposite the multi-talented John Davidson, an accomplished singer and actor who’d also hosted his own talk show in 1969, as newlyweds Sally and John Burton, who face an unusual dilemma—she has ESP and can read the minds of those around her, including his.

Sally Field and John Davidson in their 1973-74 sitcom The Girl With Something Extra.

Early on, John argues that the situation isn’t fair because it puts him at a disadvantage—she can lie but he can’t. Not about anything diabolical of course, just the little white lies that can save another persons feelings. In an early episode, John—while kissing Sally—has a vision of his celebrity-teen-crush Annette Funicello in a bikini. Sally picks up on it and is furious.

Sally later explains that when she was a young girl her best friend went off to camp for the summer, and when she returned Sally immediately sensed that she was no longer as important to the girl as she’d once been. That all her life she’d been able to read people’s true feelings about her, personal thoughts that most people really wouldn’t want to know. John was then able to realize that both he and Sally were at a disadvantage, but if they both really truly loved each other it was something they’d be able to overcome.

Field was very good in the role. She has that strong screen presence that kept the networks interested in working with her, and eventually launched her into feature films. Davidson is good too, and together he and Field made an attractive couple. They have chemistry together, particularly in their dramatic scenes. Those are the moments in which both leads really shine and when the series is at it’s best.

The real problem with The Girl With Something Extra was in the writing. It’s the type of program that in the 1980s would be branded a “dramedy,” a genre and term that quickly became extinct. The writers didn’t seem to know which direction they wanted the show to go in—was it a comedy or drama, an old-fashioned comedy or an attempt to explore the trials and tribulations of a modern marriage in the liberal ’70s.

Sally Field’s character had ESP and could read minds. I’m thinking John Davidson was one lucky guy.

The series did have the benefit of a strong supporting cast. Jack Sheldon played John’s brother Jerry, and Zohar Lampert was Sally’s best friend, Anne. Henry Jones and William Windom, two of television’s best and most recognized character-actors, had recurring roles as Owen Metcalf and Stuart Kline, the senior partners at Jack’s law firm.

It all sounded like a recipe for success—or might have a decade earlier.

MeTV has scheduled The Girl With Something Extra weekday mornings at 7:20 a.m. following Nanny and the Professor (ABC, 1970-71) and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (ABC/NBC, 1968-70). Appropriate company; Both of its lead-ins were shows about couples in which one partner had supernatural abilities.*

Other programs that The Girl With Something Extra can be favorably compared with include Bewitched (ABC, 1964-72), I Dream of Jeannie (NBC, 1965-70), My Living Doll (CBS, 1964-65), and My Brother the Angel (CBS, 1965-66). These shows all debuted in the 1960s when such fantasy concepts were in vogue with TV viewers.

By the early 1970s, though, the television landscape had begun to change. CBS ditched their rural sitcoms in favor of more sophisticated comedies like All In the Family (CBS, 1971-79) and Maude (CBS, 1972-78). NBC placed The Girl With Something Extra on Friday evenings at 8:30 following its established hit Sanford and Son (NBC, 1972-77).

Sanford and Son co-stars Redd Foxx (left) and Demond Wilson (right) were a hit, but their lead-in couldn’t save The Girl With Something Extra.

The scheduling choice seems to indicate that NBC had very high expectations for The Girl With Something Extra.  At the time in 1973, Sanford and Son was the #2 rated program on TV, making the time-slot following it choice prime-time real estate.

Unfortunately, the two shows simply weren’t compatible.  Sanford and Son was a gritty sitcom with an all-black cast that was fueled by race-inspired humor.  The Girl With Something Extra was an old-fashioned, fantasy-tinged sitcom about a young, upwardly-mobile, upper-middle class white couple who lived in a loft they couldn’t possibly afford. (Say that three-times fast.) NBC obviously gave it the post-Sanford and Son birth in the hope it would retain the large audience enjoyed by its lead-in. But that simply wasn’t the case. Viewers of Sanford and Son tuned out in droves at the bottom of the hour.

By midseason, the network realized its error and in January, in an effort to salvage the program, moved it from 8:30 to 9:00 (in the process cancelling the freshman sitcom Needles & Pins, which had been occupying the time slot). The move, however, failed to improve the shows performance, and The Girl With Something Extra was cancelled in March of 1974.

Sally Field of course moved on to success in both television and feature films, earning accolades for her roles in the TV miniseries Sybil (1976) and feature films like Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Norma Rae (1979), while John Davidson continued to pursue both his singing and acting careers. He again hosted his own talk show (NBC, 1976; syndicated, 1980-82) and in 1986 became emcee of The New Hollywood Squares (syndicated, 1986-89).

Only angels have wings, but that didn’t stop Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) from taking flight in The Flying Nun.

Fields’ earlier efforts, Gidget and The Flying Nun have both played in syndication, but The Girl With Something Extra has been buried since it went off the air in 1974. Now, thanks to retro-TV networks like Get TV, viewers have an opportunity to see it again, along with many other obscure and mostly forgotten programs like it.

________________________________

* The nature of Nanny’s incredible intuition was never explained, and she and Professor Everett maintained a platonic relationship, yet had the series continued I suspect romance might have blossomed. And Carolyn Muir and the late Captain Daniel Gregg also maintained a chaste association, but there was an undeniable attraction between the two. It always confused me that the Captain could be seen and heard when he wanted to be, and could interact with the living. So why didn’t he simply do so and claim to be one of his own descendants, and marry Carolyn? Perhaps he would have, but like Nanny and the Professor, the run of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was cut far too short.


TVWriter™ Contributing Editor Douglas Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Learn more about him HERE

TVWriter™ Online Workshopper Scores in Terror Film Festival!

by TVWriter™ Press Service

We got some good news last week and would like to pass it on. Dawn McElligott, an occasional contributor to TVWriter™ and frequent TVWriter™ Online Workshopper, has placed 2nd in the Feature Length Screenplay category in the 2016 Terror Film Festival.

Here’s what Dawn had to say about it:

“Movin’ On Up” Again!

I started with “Honorable Mention” at the 2010 Terror Film Festival for “The Fool of Muncaster”, then went up to 3rd Place for “Lady of the Lake” in 2014.

Now a revision of said screenplay has earned me 2nd Place in the Craft of Screenwriting for the 2016 running of the Terror Film Festival!

Both screenplays and revisions were workshopped in your class!  Thank you so much!

The Terror Film Festival is, in its own words, “a blood-chilling, alien-probing, online international film festival designed for filmmakers and screenwriters, that runs every October on the worldwide web.

According to the organizers, the fact that the Festival is online “removes the shackles of venue limitations …and increasing the potential for you to gain more fans.” Its Claw Awards screenwriting competition “is a great feather in the cap for any screenwriter.”

Congratulations, Dawn. And we thank you too, for keeping us in the loop! (Which reminds us – when are you going to write us another fine article?)

More about the TVWriter™ Online TV and Film Writing Workshop HERE

More about the Terror Film Festival HERE

2016 PEOPLE’S PILOT Semi-Finalists!

25th PEOPLE’S PILOT SEMI-FINALISTS
For contest ending November 1, 2016

1/2 HOUR (or Less) SERIES SEMI-FINALISTS
(alphabetically)

ANTONIA ALLWAYS: Antonia Joins the Union by Gordon Charles Phipps

ANTONIA ALLWAYS: Who is Merlin by Gordon Charles Phipps

BAD PRESS by Adam Santa Maria

FERAL: by Bryan Kett

iNEFFABLE by Laura Richardson Reilly

KICKING & SCREAMING by David Young

OPEN by Erica Lies

QUEENS by Raul Martin Romero

TONY ST. SQUATCH, PRIVATE EYE by Andres Jose Smith

STAR ACADEMY 3013: CROTCH BUSTERS by Eugene Ramos

STAR ACADEMY 3013: WHAT ARE SEX ROBOTS MADE OF? by Christopher Valin

1 HOUR SERIES SEMI-FINALISTS
(alphabetically)

CRUISE by Wayne Johnson

DARK FOREST by Kenyon Geiger

DARKWICK DOWN by James Hancock

DREAMS OF HAVANA by Jorge c Perez & William Garcia

HOMEFRONT by Alexander John Stathis

INCOMPATIBLE by J. Faye Yuan & Robert Raffety

MATRYOSHKA by Angela Berliner

MEPHISTO’S PROTEGE by Diana Black

NEVADA BLUE by Vin Morreale, Jr.

NIGHTMARE by Lance Wayne

OUT OF BODY by Gabriel Meyer

KYLA’S WAR by Hank Isaac

SERPENT’S ROW by Chance Muehleck

SNAPBACK by Ned Vankevich

SOUTHERN GOTHIC by Jared Ronin

SUGAR LAND by R. B. Ripley

SWING, YOU SINNERS by Caroline Klimczuk

THE RECOVERY by Angela Berliner.pdf

TONGS OF CHINATOWN by Nadia Madden

OVER 1 HOUR SERIES SEMI-FINALISTS
(alphabetically)

DREAMERS by Allie Theiss

EMILIA by Marlena Brown

HOSTAGES byJohn Gorski

KODAK MOMENT by John Alarid

OF KINGS AND KINSMEN by Mark William Meredith

VENOM by Ned Vankevich

TVWriter™ congratulates all the Semi-Finalists. Your work is awesome.

As in years past, the overall quality of the entries was superb. Once again, the judges had some very difficult choices to make. Literally every Semi-Finalist this time around could have been a Top 5 placer in previous runnings of the PEOPLE’S PILOT.

The competition was closest in the One Hour Series Pilot category where 5 different scripts scored 9.00 points or more out of a possible 10.00 and the cut-off point for Semi-Finalists was an incredibly high 8.55. Very Professional Indeed.

In fact, the professionalism in all the categories amazed everyone who read the submissions. The judges had an even finer time than usual reading them. And, of course, the judges’ work still isn’t done as they fight tooth and nail regarding Finalist and Winner placings. We wouldn’t be surprised if you could hear the arguing from the relative safety of your own home or office.

Be joyful, Semi-Finalists. You have done yourselves proud!

NEXT WEEK: The 2016 PEOPLE’S PILOT Finalists

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – January 16, 2016

Here we go, TVWriter™’s  latest look at our 5 most popular blog posts of the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:

Herbie J Pilato: The Glory of Wonder Woman

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Web Series: ‘Brains’

Peggy Bechko’s World of Backstory

8 Tips for Writing for Children’s TV Shows

And our 5 most visited permanent resource pages were, also in order:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

The Logline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Outline/Story

Online TV and Film Writing Workshop

Major thanks to everyone for making this another great week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

Reality Tea Wants Writers

Could this one be for you?

Join Our Writing Team – Recap Writers, Reality News Writers Wanted

The Reality tea website is looking for writers who are “passionate” about reality TV. If that’s you, then what are you doing here, at TVWriter™, which is all about scripted TV? then we think that first, you should keep coming to TVWriter™ and reading and writing and learning anyway and, second, you should check out the following:

Reality Tea is looking to add several freelance bloggers/writers to our team of reality TV snark experts.  

Recappers

A partial list of shows we need coverage for: Million Dollar Listing, Love & Hip Hop, Dance Moms, Big Brother, Braxton Family Values, Basketball Wives, and others not listed.

News Writers

We need reliable news article writers with plenty of daytime availability and quick turn around time.

Send your resume, links to any published work online, and a sample reality TV news article or recap to editor@realitytea.com. Also include your availability.

Reality Tea

This TVWriter™ minion has an admission to make: She loves that “snark experts” bit and all that’s keeping her from sending in an application herself is the loyalty and love she feels for you, the TVWriter™ audience. (But if you get a gig and there’s room for more, could you maybe drop me the info sometime?)

Can Writers Change the World?

We Won’t Know Unless We Try

Peggy Bechko’s Writer’s Resume Do’s and Don’t’s

by Peggy Bechko

So, have you ever thought of a resume to go with your screenwriting endeavors?

Probably not. Many writers think their scripts or manuscripts ARE their resumes. It would seem logical. The emphasis being put on the actual work at hand.

Yeah, well, every field needs a resume. Everybody else in the writing industry whether at publishing houses or studio needs a resume. You know that treatment or other ‘leave-behind’? You might well need to leave a resume as well.

After all, whomever you’re submitting to has a ton of scripts and applications always overflowing the inbox and doesn’t’ have the time or the inclination to simply pick up your script and read upwards of 120 pages to see if you have what they’re looking for.

What to do?

First, as with all things writing, remember to keep it short and concise. If you’re using email (and most folks are these days) then what you’d put in a resume is what would be in the body of the email – not as an attachment.

Now, here are some hints as to what to include, and don’t think as a writer that every suggestion here needs to be included. Pick out what speaks to you and what would speak to someone reading it. Format can be debated to hell and back, but basically keep it clean and easy to read.

1. If there are some credits you can quote then by all means do so. But it doesn’t’ have to be ALL your credits. If you have film credits list the most known and only 2 or three. (yay for you!)

Only one produced? Then get a youtube link and include that. Nothing produced yet? But you have optioned or sold scripts? List them.

2 If you have a Degree, mention it – if it’s applicable to the writing.

If it’s from a known film school, list it. A known mentor? Mention him or her. New Writer? List known conferences, workshops, online classes and the like.

3. Have a web presence? Mention your LinkedIn Profile, your Twitter handle A presence on IMDb if you have it, maybe a Facebook ‘fan’ page. Let Then know you exist and could well have a platform for publicity should a project get made.

4. Placed well or (hallelujah!) won a screenwriting contest or any writing competition? Some don’t care. Some think it’s big. Make it clear.

List the competition title, the genre, and the year & month along with the title of the script.

5. Anybody in the entertainment world endorse you? If they’re at least Somewhat ‘known’ in the entertainment industry quote their complimentary endorsement of you – but be sure to check with that person before you do!

6. In this techie era mention screenwriting software you know how to use. Also mention any screenwriting software you own.

And while it’s not A good idea to overwhelm, you might also mention you can use such tools as skype, google docs, excel or any other software that could be pertinent. It may seem basic, but small things can throw up roadblocks.

7. If you’ve done any successful commissioned work, tell them! Give your job title and how long the project took and of course who it was that commissioned you.

There are other things you could mention like your expertise with the subject matter. Don’t exaggerate, but if you have specific experience, mention it.

Written in other fields Novels, articles, etc.? Mention it; but don’t be too long about it. This would be mostly to add more diversity to your writing career and diversity to your abilities but don’t go nuts on the details. Think ‘elevator pitch’.

Those are just a few examples about what you might relay to a potential contact for your scripts. Pick and choose what you might use in accordance with who you intend to give it to.

And a few cautions of what NOT to do…and a couple more dos.

Don’t brag about a whole lot of scripts on your shelves that haven’t sold. It’s hard to sell a scripts, of course, but you don’t want the producer thinking, “if he/she has so many scripts, why aren’t any of them sold?” – right?

Do tell the producer how you found them, what made you want to approach them with your project.

Don’t bother revealing your geographical location unless you have to. Lots of stuff is being done remotely though there are some sticklers who want you nearby.

Finally, remember appearance. You already know the look of the script can make or break a sale. Nobody likes slipshod and sloppy. Same applies to the first email that hits their eyeballs. If the writing in it is disorganized, scattered and (horrors!) lengthy beyond boredom, then that’s the way the person reading your email will project your ability to write.

Be concise, be direct, be brief, be informative. Just as, I hope, this post has been.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.