7.8/101 Votes Alchetron
Directed by Rod Daniel Wes Kenney
Final episode date 15 June 1983
Number of seasons 2
First episode date 9 August 1982
Number of episodes 15
|Created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason|
Written by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason E. Jack Kaplan
Starring Dixie Carter Michael Lombard Jerry Hardin Delta Burke Nedra Volz Charles Frank Ann Wedgeworth
Composer(s) Bucky Jones Ronnie McDowell
Cast Delta Burke, Dixie Carter, Charles Frank, Ann Wedgeworth, Jerry Hardin
Similar Designing Women, Women of the House, Mama Malone, Flo, Alice
Filthy Rich was an American sitcom that aired on CBS from August 1982 to July 1983. Starring Dixie Carter and Delta Burke, the series satirized prime-time soap operas such as Dallas and Dynasty.
The series was set in Memphis at a fictional mansion called Toad Hall, which was owned by one Big Guy Beck (Slim Pickens; Forrest Tucker), a very wealthy land baron. He had recently died of an undisclosed illness, and before he was cryogenically frozen, he had made out a videotaped will, a piece of which was played every week, by his lawyer, George Wilhoit (David Healy; Vernon Weddle).
The will's terms were harshest on Big Guy's oldest son, the snobbish Marshall Beck (Michael Lombard) and his equally snobbish wife Carlotta (Dixie Carter). Also aghast at the will's terms was Big Guy's wily younger wife, Kathleen (Delta Burke). The terms stated that the family wouldn't be able to collect a dime of their inheritance until they accepted Big Guy's illegitimate son, Wild Bill Westchester (Jerry Hardin) and his good-natured but ditzy wife Bootsie (Ann Wedgeworth) into their family.
Many of the situations stemmed from the conniving Kathleen, Marshall and Carlotta's schemes to declare the terms and constraints of the will invalid and also to rid themselves of Wild Bill and Bootsie, not to mention the rest of the family, out of their lives, so the snobs could live it up on the money they would receive. Their wildly outlandish schemes usually and inevitably ended up failing.
Also appearing were Nedra Volz, who played Big Guy's senile first wife, Winona Beck, called Mother B., who had escaped from her nursing home; and Charles Frank, who played Big Guy's younger son Stanley.
Stanley, independently wealthy because he invested his money wisely, and thus not concerned about his inheritance from his father, was the nicest of the whole lot. Usually, it was Stanley who was able to protect Wild Bill and Bootsie (whom he and Mother B. accepted outright) from the devious scheming of his stepmother, who lusted after him; and his conniving brother and sister in-law.
Big Guy Beck (Slim Pickens; Forrest Tucker) A very wealthy land baron; the patriarch of Toad Hall, and the decedent whose will stipulated that his family accept his illegitimate son, Wild Bill Westchester and wife Bootsie into the family. Father of Marshall and Stanley (by first wife Mother B. whom he divorced) and was married to Kathleen when he died. Had a tendency to end his videotapes with singing a very off-key version of "Happy Trails".
Carlotta Beck (Dixie Carter) Big Guy's daughter-in-law, Marshall's snobby and shrewish wife. She considers herself the only reigning queen of Toad Hall. She, Marshall and Kathleen were always trying to get rid of the Westchesters as well as Mother B. and Stanley, so they would be the only ones who would get the vast fortune of Big Guy, and they would live it up on the money. Despite this, the three would often argue among one another as much as they fought the Westchesters. Their schemes were often thwarted by Stanley, who saw them for the connivers that they were, or by their own ineptitude. Although they shared the same goal, Carlotta couldn't stand Kathleen and vice versa. Carlotta would always snidely remind Kathleen that she was only Big Guy's second wife and thus, was only her stepmother-in-law. She was also an enemy of Mother B, given that she and Marshall had put her in the nursing home, and she would often rat out her and Marshall and their wrongdoings, in retaliation.
Marshall Beck (Michael Lombard) Big Guy's oldest, bi-sexual (and in therapy for it) son, and as snobby as his wife. Despite his snobbishness, however, he was also slightly milquetoast and weak willed compared to his strong-willed and snotty wife. Tended to wheeze a lot because of his asthma. Although he does love Carlotta, the two argue as well; and the three snobs often quarrel among one another as well. Marshall is appalled that his late father would force him, Kathleen and Carlotta to invite his half-brother and his wife to live in their home, and is equally appalled that his younger brother and mother would welcome them with open arms. Usually put in his place by Mother B, who tended to know more about his dishonesty and often delighted in ratting him out.
Kathleen Beck (Delta Burke) Big Guy's much younger second wife (She was constantly reminded by Carlotta that she was merely Big Guy's second wife and would equally remind her that she was only her stepmother-in-law). She was a very wily woman who was always lusting after her younger stepson, Stanley, who often deflected her unwelcome advances. She was always needing a tranquilizer. Despite siding with Marshall and Carlotta against the Westchesters, she was also scorned by the latter who called her a tramp and slut. The three often squabbled amongst themselves as much as they fought the Westchesters. Kathleen retaliated by calling Carlotta a shrew. Thoroughly disliked by Big Guy's previous wife, Mother B. who derisively called her "Big Girl".
Stanley Beck (Charles Frank) Independently wealthy (due to his wise investment of his money) younger brother of Marshall; ally and half brother of Wild Bill. Ironically, he wasn't involved with the will of Big Guy or in need of the inheritance therein, due to his own wealth. Target of lust by Kathleen whose unwelcome advances he often deflected. Nicest member of the Becks, and welcomed Wild Bill and Bootsie immediately. In fact, it was he who had brought the Westchesters to Toad Hall in the first place. An avid Dr. Pepper drinker, Stanley is kind and concerned about others, but will not tolerate the more dishonest shenanigans of Marshall, Kathleen and Carlotta. Has a close bond with his mother, Mother B. (who calls him Skippy) and is usually there to help his half-brother and half-sister in-law with getting used to being wealthy after years of not having much, or in helping them in dealing with the other Becks and thwarting their schemes.
Winona "Mother B" Beck (Nedra Volz) Marshall and Stanley's senile mother. Big Guy's first wife, whom he divorced prior to marrying Kathleen. She belied her age by constantly escaping her nursing home where she claimed they (meaning Marshall and Carlotta, who had presumably put her there) were holding her hostage. Mother B had no liking for Kathleen, whom she derisively called "Big Girl". Eventually, she escaped the nursing home for good, and ended up living in Toad Hall. She, like her favored younger son, Stanley, whom she calls Skippy, accepted the Westchesters outright and likes them. She would also often take delight in ratting out Marshall and Carlotta for their constant wrongdoing, possibly in retaliation for them putting her in the nursing home.
Wild Bill Westchester (Jerry Hardin) A used RV salesman who is discovered to be Big Guy's illegitimate son. (which was proven by DNA test) Accepted by Stanley and Mother B. outright, while being plotted against by Marshall, Carlotta and Kathleen. He and Bootsie were almost scared out of the house by Marshall, Carlotta and Kathleen, by means of a phony seance, but was convinced by Stanley and Mother B., who truly cared about them, that they would always have a home at Toad Hall, whether the other Becks liked it or not.
Bootsie Westchester (Ann Wedgeworth) Wild Bill's gentle natured but ditzy wife. She, like Wild Bill, is thrilled to be part of the family. Her marriage was almost ruined by Kathleen, Marshall and Carlotta but she, along with Stanley's help, thwarted it. She unwaveringly loves Wild Bill, and makes the most of being on a budget.
George Wilhoit (David Healy; Vernon Weddle) Big Guy's lawyer who played a section of his late client's video will every week, and was there to make sure the conditions, however outlandish, were carried out. Some conditions were reasonable (like the family getting a job or living within a strict budget, after Marshall, Carlotta and Kathleen were caught trying to throw out the Westchesters) while others (where Big Guy had Stanley kidnapped on his birthday to find out who his true friends were) were more than a mite bit bizarre.
Series creator Linda Bloodworth began her television career by co-writing a script for an episode of M*A*S*H with Mary Kay Place, and when that script was nominated for an Emmy Award, she found herself in high demand. Bloodworth was offered staff positions on several television series, but she turned them down. "I just wanted to get my own shows on the air", she said. "I didn't want to die working those long hours for someone else's show. I didn't want to bleed unless it was for my own show." She formed her own production company, produced numerous pilot episodes and then, in 1980, she got the idea for Filthy Rich. "I just set out to write a comedy about Southerners — eccentric Southerners."
The hour-long pilot for Filthy Rich was filmed on February 27, 1981 as a candidate for inclusion on CBS's 1981-82 fall schedule. When the fall schedule was announced in May, Filthy Rich wasn't included, but the network optioned it as a potential midseason replacement. "Apparently, the network wasn't sure of its feelings", commented Dixie Carter. "Some executives liked the concept, others despised it." Meanwhile, Delta Burke was offered the role of Katherine Wentworth on Dallas, as well as a recurring role on the TV spin-off of Private Benjamin, but she was forced to turn both parts down because she was under contract for Filthy Rich. Similarly, Carter was asked to replace Tammy Grimes in the Broadway production of 42nd Street, but CBS prevented her from accepting. Instead, cast members were forced to take small roles in films and guest-star on various TV shows while awaiting word on the fate of Filthy Rich.
In March 1982, CBS ordered a second pilot episode, this time as a half-hour show. The network stipulated that they wanted the new pilot to be "less bizarre" than the original pilot had been, and though the material was toned down a bit, they still passed on including the show on the fall schedule.
In that era, it wasn't unusual for unsold pilots to be broadcast as filler during the summer - replacing low-rated reruns - as a means of recouping the money that was spent to produce them. The original hour-long pilot was split in two and re-edited, then packaged with the second pilot (titled "Town and Garden"), and the now-trio of episodes were billed as a "limited run" series which was broadcast on Monday nights following reruns of M*A*S*H in August 1982. Much to CBS's surprise, the show topped the weekly Nielsen ratings for three consecutive weeks. CBS Entertainment President Donald "Bud" Grant later commented, "I think we conned ourselves into thinking Filthy Rich was a hot show." The network scrambled to find a place on the fall schedule for the show, ultimately opting to bump the new series Mama Malone off the schedule altogether (Mama Malone eventually aired in 1984).
Although viewers initially tuned in, the series fared poorly with critics. "This is the most misunderstood show I've ever been associated with", said Bloodworth. Associated Press writer Fred Rothenberg commented in his widely circulated review, "It's called Filthy Rich and the slant is more toward the former than the latter." Bloodworth retaliated, "I think because the Southern accents are thick and the first shows were very theatrical and broad, the critics tuned out." She went on to defend the show against the Southern critics who'd bashed the series as well. "There are a lot of liberal-minded critics who consider themselves the keepers of the Southern flame. We're not maligning the South, we're celebrating it."
While working on the show, Burke felt particularly pressured to maintain a slender figure. "That's when I discovered crystal meth, a powerful amphetamine that cut my hunger but made my heart race", she revealed in her autobiography. It had the side effect of paranoia and making her lapse into unconsciousness.
Adding further woes to the troubled series, actor Slim Pickens, who played Big Guy Beck in the original hour-long pilot episode, was rushed to San Francisco Medical Center several days before the series premiered, and he underwent five hours of surgery to remove a brain tumor the day after the show's TV debut. Pickens was released from the hospital before production resumed on the series, but he was unfit to appear. Most subsequent episodes played without Big Guy, though Pickens was quickly replaced by Forrest Tucker, who didn't play the role with the same broad, comic zeal.
Production soldiered on a little behind schedule. In the early weeks of September, scripts hadn't been completed for any episodes of the fall season, which began on September 26. "Every night I go home with notes on all the network suggestions and work on the scripts", Bloodworth said. "A messenger comes to pick up my rewrites at 1 a.m. I write in longhand and the scripts are typed and returned at 7 a.m. I'm sure my neighbors think I'm in some illegal business." Bloodworth quickly churned out some scripts, but she hired former Jimmy Carter speech writer E. Jack Kaplan to help pick up the slack.
Filthy Rich returned to the air on Wednesday, October 5. Nestled between Alice and Tucker's Witch and opposite the new series Family Ties, ratings quickly plummeted - by the end of October, Filthy Rich ranked #60 in the weekly TV ratings. In November, six weeks into the show's second season, all three series were yanked off the schedule and replaced with The CBS Wednesday Movie. Filthy Rich returned to the schedule - and Monday nights - in January 1983, sandwiched between Square Pegs and M*A*S*H. Ratings didn't improve. It aired for a month before being pulled from the schedule again. The remaining two episodes aired in June, after the series had officially been canceled.
Filthy Rich paved the way for one of CBS's most successful TV series of the late '80s: Designing Women. "I'd worked with Dixie and Delta on Filthy Rich", Bloodworth revealed in a 1986 interview. "We've had a secret plot since then to work together again." Bloodworth created the roles of Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker for Carter and Burke (Burke referred to her Filthy Rich character as "Suzanne in the Beginning;" and Carter's Julia, with her self-righteous, long-winded monologues had more than a bit in common with Carlotta) and numerous one-liners were recycled along with a "hog hat" prop which was prominently featured in episodes of both series. Filthy Rich stars Nedra Volz and Charles Frank each guest-starred on Designing Women, as did guest-stars Tracey Walter, William Utay, Davis Roberts and John Petlock, and E. Jack Kaplan penned an early episode. Additionally, Charles Frank reunited with Burke for an episode of the short-lived Designing Women spin-off Women of the House.