|Created by||Susan Harris|
René Auberjonois (1980-1986)
Ethan Phillips (1980-1985)
Caroline McWilliams (1979-1981)
Didi Conn (1981-1985)
Lewis J. Stadlen (1979-1980)
Billie Bird (1984-1986)
|Theme music composer||George Tipton|
|Composer(s)||George Aliceson Tipton|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||158|
|Executive||Paul Junger Witt|
|Running time||24-25 minutes|
|Distributor||Columbia Pictures Television (1984-1987)|
Columbia TriStar Television (1995-2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002-present)
|Original release||September 13, 1979 -|
April 19, 1986
Benson is an American sitcom that originally aired on ABC from September 13, 1979, to April 19, 1986. The series was a spin-off of Soap in which the character Benson, portrayed by Robert Guillaume, first appeared as the wise-cracking yet level-headed African-American butler for the highly dysfunctional Tate family. However, Benson avoided the soap opera format of its parent series for a more conventional sitcom structure, and the lead character eventually moved from his service position to a role as lieutenant governor. The series was created by Susan Harris, and produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions. In 1985, Guillaume won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in the series.
Benson DuBois (Robert Guillaume), is hired to be the head of household affairs for widowed Governor Eugene X. Gatling (James Noble) and his daughter Katie (Missy Gold). Governor Gatling was a cousin of Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) from Soap.
The series revolved around Benson's housekeeping dilemmas and his interactions with German cook Gretchen Wilomena Kraus (Inga Swenson) and John Taylor (David Hedison in the pilot episode, then Lewis J. Stadlen), who assisted Governor Gatling as chief of staff. After the first season, Taylor's job was filled by Clayton Endicott III (René Auberjonois).
Denise and Pete Downey (Ethan Phillips), the governor's press secretary, introduced in Season 2, met and later married, having a child in the show's fifth season. However, both were written out, with the reason given that Denise secured a job with NASA.
Benson worked his way up the ladder during the series, going from head of household affairs to state budget director, and eventually was elevated to the position of lieutenant governor. During the final episodes of the 1985-86 season, Benson ran for governor against Gatling.
The term-limited Governor Gatling ran for reelection as an independent candidate, with Benson securing the party nomination, setting the stage for the two to go head-to-head in the general election.
At the end of the series' final episode, Benson and Gatling, who had strained relations due to the race, made peace with each other and watched the tight election returns together on television. As the broadcaster began to announce that a winner was at last being projected, the episode ended on a freeze frame of Benson and Gatling, leaving the series with an unresolved cliffhanger. Coincidentally, Guillaume's previous series, and the one from which Benson spun off, Soap, was also canceled with unresolved cliffhangers, though Guillaume had moved on to Benson by that point.
In 2007, Benson showrunner Bob Fraser said that the season ended on a cliffhanger at the request of the network. The show was canceled after the cliffhanger had aired. Fraser indicated that, had the show continued, Gatling would have won the election and Benson would have become a United States senator.
According to Gary Brown, who directed the finale and 20 other episodes of Benson, three outcomes were filmed, with Benson winning, Gatling winning, and a tie. The intent was to decide over summer break which outcome to use. Brown also stated that, regardless of the outcome, the long-term intent for the next season was for Benson to become the governor.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||24||September 13, 1979||May 8, 1980||23||20.6|
|2||22||October 31, 1980||May 22, 1981||N/A||N/A|
|3||22||November 6, 1981||May 14, 1982||63||N/A|
|4||22||October 22, 1982||March 31, 1983||43||N/A|
|5||22||September 16, 1983||May 4, 1984||39||16.3|
|6||24||September 21, 1984||April 5, 1985||33||15.5|
|7||22||October 4, 1985||April 19, 1986||74||10.0|
|1 (1979-1980)||Thursdays at 8:30-9:00 pm ET on ABC|
|2 (1980-1981)||Fridays at 8:00-8:30 pm ET on ABC|
|3 (1981-1982)||Fridays at 8:00-8:30 pm ET on ABC|
|4 (1982-1983)||Fridays at 8:00-8:30 pm ET on ABC (October 22, 1982 - March 18, 1983)|
Thursday at 8:00-8:30 pm ET on ABC (March 31, 1983)
|5 (1983-1984)||Fridays at 8:00-8:30 pm ET on ABC|
|6 (1984-1985)||Fridays at 8:00-8:30 pm ET on ABC (September 21, 1984 - February 22, 1985)|
Fridays at 9:00-9:30 pm ET on ABC (March 15 - April 5, 1985)
|7 (1985-1986)||Fridays at 9:30-10:00 pm ET on ABC (October 4, 1985 - January 3, 1986)|
Saturdays at 8:30-9:30 pm ET on ABC (January 18 - April 19, 1986)
On July 24, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Season 1 of Benson on DVD in Region 1.
On April 3, 2012, Sony released season 2 on DVD.
On August 27, 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to various television series from the Sony Pictures library including Benson. They re-released the first and second seasons on DVD on September 2, 2014.
|DVD name||Ep #||Release date|
|The Complete First Season||24||July 24, 2007|
|The Complete Second Season||22||April 3, 2012|
The exterior shots of the "governor's mansion" are actually of a private home located at 1365 South Oakland Avenue in Pasadena, California. The same house was seen in the movie The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), in a 2006 U.S. television commercial for the RE/MAX real estate company, and the Columbo episode "Etude in Black".