Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Conrad Bain, 89

He was a much better TV sit-com doctor on Maude than Bill Cosby was on his show. He showed occasional medical knowledge. He helped Walter with his alcoholism and Maude with her her manic-depression. Years before the Heimlich Maneuver, he saved Walter from choking.

Conrad Bain has died at age 89.

When Bain went on to Diff'rent Strokes, it took me years to shake the idea that he was a doctor.

On The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby would just come home and complain how tired he was from being a doctor.

Before his sitcom, Cosby started making fun of his children in his stand-up act. Other comedians who talk about their families and children are self-deprecating about it. Cosby never was.

So when Cosby developed a sit-com, it was based on his act and, therefore, his family. And since he's rich, his TV family had to be rich, but he didn't want to do a show about a successful comedian father. So his character was a doctor and his wife was a corporate lawyer. But it was a stand-up comedian's idea of a doctor and lawyer. Each works an eight hour day, shows zero knowledge of medicine or law, and comes home at the same time every day to discipline the children.

As Gary Coleman got older, he found it increasingly degrading to have to sit on Bain's lap on Diff'rent Strokes. I'm sure it was a little weird for Bain, too, having to cuddle a high school kid.

Look for Bain in Woody Allen's Bananas and Elaine May's A New Leaf.

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