Comic mastermind Jonathan Winters died Thursday at the age of 87, and while rooting around for his work online we happened upon this: “Davis Rules,” a sitcom he was on from 1991 to 1992. (We vaguely remember this show, because we’re old.) It was one of Winters’ rare steady TV gigs; he mostly stuck to guest appearances, of which he raked up hundreds. And it’s pretty surreal: the main cast included Randy Quaid and Patricia Clarkson, as mismatched a duo as one can imagine. (Clarkson had a very different career before her late ’90s renaissance made her PATRICIA CLARKSON. As a twentysomething she was Clint Eastwood’s romantic interest in the final Dirty Harry, “The Dead Pool.”)
The show only lasted two seasons, and was in fact bumped from ABC to CBS, who retooled it, chucked Clarkson and replaced her with Bonnie Hunt. Giovanni Ribisi was thrown in there, too, natch, as “Skinner Buckley.” Nevertheless, Winters won an Emmy for his role as Gunny Davis, father to Quaid’s widowed elementary school principal who takes care of his three button-cute grandsons and generally adds an unusual element to a show that already sounds pretty unusual. You can watch an episode here.
And while we’re on Winters, check out him bulldozing his way into the best part of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” Stanley Kramer’s miscalculated super sized comedy. Many comic greats flail desperately to make this three-hour (!!) all-star comedy hilarious rather than theoretically amusing (at best), but Winters briefly brings it to full life through sheer force of…I’m not sure there’s a word for it. Just watch.