I'm Rachelle, a.k.a "TheMotleyChick," a lover of eclectic but ordinary people, situations, and topics. I love sharing helpful resources.
Too Close for Comfort: Hit '80s TV Show
Too Close for Comfort is an 1980s TV show that most members of Generation X will remember if they think back hard enough to shows that weren't exactly blockbuster hits like The Cosby Show or Family Ties. This show was a hit in its own right, and many fans remember it well.
The show is a 30-minute situation comedy about a successful work-at-home cartoonist named Henry Rush. Henry navigates his daily life with the help of his strong wife Muriel and his two daughters: Jackie, the intelligent one, and Sara, the super ditzy one.
Henry also had to contend with Iris, his meddling, disapproving mother-in-law with a loud mouth. The cast also featured a cross-dressing tenant for the first season, a head-strong niece for a short time, and a supremely annoying family friend named Monroe, who often stole the show in most of the episodes in which he appeared in.
During the last two years of the show, its name was changed to The Ted Knight Show. Most of the major cast members departed, and the lives of the fictional Rush family changed drastically.
There was a move to a more suburban location in the metro San Francisco area. Both daughters and the mother-in-law moved on to lives of their own, Muriel gave birth to twins, and Henry dropped his cartooning career in favor of a job as an editor.
The revamped sixth season caught on with viewers, and the series was slated for new seasons. Unfortunately, the series came to an abrupt and tragic ending. Let's do some research to play catch up and find out whatever happened to the cast of Too Close for Comfort.
Ted Knight (Henry Rush)
Ted Knight played Henry Rush. He is the head of the family and makes his living as a cartoonist. Henry is somewhat uptight and easily agitated, especially by Monroe, but his even-tempered wife was always able to straighten him out when he became too tightly wound.
As previously mentioned, most children of the '80s were already familiar with Knight through re-runs of The Mary Tyler Moore Show via his character Ted Baxter. Sometime during the late 1970s, around the end of filming for the iconic 70s TV show, Knight was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent treatment for the cancer, and he went into remission.
In 1985, the cancer returned and it spread. He was then advised to stop filming Too Close for Comfort until he fully recovered, but he chose to continue on. The actor's condition worsened, and he succumbed to cancer on August 26, 1986. He was only 62 years old.
Knight was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, along with hundreds of other Hollywood actors, actresses, and behind-the-scenes people in the entertainment industry.
His grave marker bears his birth name, Theodore C. Konopka, and it reads, "Bye Guy," which is a reference to his time on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, where his character's catchphrase is "Hi, guy!"
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Nancy Dussault (Muriel Rush)
Nancy Dussault played Muriel Rush. She was the level-headed, more laid-back wife to Henry Rush. Muriel is a retired member of a rock and roll band, and she worked as a photographer on the show.
Dussault was first introduced to the entertainment industry by way of the theater, where she received two Tony Award nominations for her robust performances in the musicals Do Re Mi and Bajour, both in the 1960s.
Later on, Dussault made the circuit on 70s TV sitcoms, from Barney Miller to Love, American Style, and she was a series regular on The New Dick Van Dyke Show.
After the death of Ted Knight effectively ended Too Close for Comfort, she made the rounds on other '80s TV shows, such as Matlock and Murder, She Wrote. Afterward, Dussault was still hitting the circuit in '90s and 2000s TV shows, with guest-starring roles on shows such as Full House, Mad About You, and Judging Amy.
You'll be happy to know that Dussault is alive and well today. She's living in her native Pensacola, Florida, and she even made a quiet comeback in the short film The Final Show.
The short film is about a woman who has lived a full life, and now she's on a journey to identify who she wants to take along with her to eternity. It sounds interesting. We wish Dussault all the best.
Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Jackie Rush)
Deborah Van Valkenburgh played Jackie Rush, Henry Rush's eldest daughter. Jackie is the sensible, intelligent brunette who works for a financial institution. She is responsible and always on a quest to get ahead in life.
Van Valkenburgh first came to prominence in the entertainment industry by playing Mercy in the gang-related cult film The Warriors in 1979. Before her stint on Too Close for Comfort came along in 1980, she had no television credits, so the show was a first for her when it came to television.
In 1985, once the show changed its format, Van Valkenburgh left the series and was seen mostly on hour-long '80s TV dramas like Cagney and Lacey. This trend has carried on for the actress throughout the '90s and into the 2000s, with guest spots on shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, ER, Chicago Hope, The Shield, and the 2005 Rob Zombie horror film The Devil's Rejects,
Van Valkenburgh is still active on the television circuit. She has been seen more recently in Ghost Whisperer and The Messengers. In 2016, she was cast in a tribute film for The Warriors called An Evening with Walter Hill & Lawrence Gordon. A Tribute to Andrew Laszlo.
In the film, cast members had a Q&A session about the film, and it provided an interesting look back on the impact of the film. Van Valkenburgh was there, front and center.
Deborah Van Valkenburgh Celebrated for Her Iconic Role in The Warriors (1979)
Lydia Cornell (Sara Rush)
Lydia Cornell portrayed Sara Rush, the youngest daughter of Henry and Muriel Rush. She was kind at heart, and she was a college student, but she wasn't the brightest light bulb in the pack. It almost seemed as though she was modeled after Chrissy Snow, the character portrayed by Suzanne Somers in Three's Company. Good thing Sara was a knockout, otherwise it would have been all down hill for her.
Cornell's first real acting job was a bit part with two lines on an episode on The Love Boat. She also had small roles on Knight Rider, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Fantasy Island before working on Too Close for Comfort.
Cornell left the show in 1985 along with Deborah Van Valkenburgh, and just like her other cast members, she has been busy in television ever since. Over the years, she has appeared in such shows as The A Team, Full House, and T.J. Hooker. More recently, she was in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and in 2015, she appeared in a female revenge film titled Cats Dancing on Jupiter.
Cornell is currently rumored to be in an upcoming film called The Awesome Adventures of Frankie Stargazer. The story revolves around a young boy with special powers. We'll be keeping an eye peeled for that one.
Jim J. Bullock (Munroe Ficus)
Jim J. Bullock played Munroe, the klutzy young man who was a regular source of agitation for Henry Rush. Munroe was thrust upon the Rush family by way of Sara, because she was his friend in college. It's no wonder this pair were friends, because they were just about equally dim of wit. Perhaps Munroe was a tiny bit more on the dim side than Sara. In later years, Henry grew fond of Munroe and thought of him as a son.
Before Too Close for Comfort, Bullock was only credited with one acting appearance; he was in a teen werewolf flick called Full Moon High. However, after the show ended, he went on to do the regular TV sitcom rounds on shows like Seinfeld and Roseanne.
Bullock has enjoyed a robust career with several long term roles in TV series, such as a one-year guest-starring role A.L.F., a three-year stint on Nickelodeon's Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, and a four-year run on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.
It should be mentioned that Bullock was a regular on the Hollywood Squares reboot, and he has appeared in several gay-themed projects, such as Gaydar, Kissing Jessica Stein, Queer Duck, and Rick & Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World. Bullock was also a co-host of a Fox talk show with former televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker until she became sick and had to be replaced.
Bullock is openly gay and he's comfortable with himself. Unfortunately, in the late '80s he learned he was HIV positive, but he is alive and well today as a long-term survivor of the disease.
Most recently in 2016, Bullock was performing in the national touring company of Kinky Boots. He has also been on tour with the show in Japan.
Jim J. Bullock Talks to Oprah About HIV, Meth Addiction, and Losing a Partner
Audrey Meadows (Iris Martin)
Iris Martin is portrayed by veteran actress Audrey Meadows. Iris is Muriel's mother who comes to the Rush household to help her daughter after she gives birth to baby Andrew. Iris makes no secret of her distaste for Henry, but one gets the impression her negative feelings are not 100% concrete. She only wanted "more" for her daughter.
Meadows was a Hollywood legend who gained her fame in the 1950s. She appeared as Alice Kramden on the classic TV sitcom The Honeymooners, opposite of legendary Hollywood titan Jackie Gleason.
Meadows was brought into the cast of Too Close for Comfort during season three, and she was used as another comic foil to Ted Knight's character.
After the show wrapped, Meadows did a few rounds on a couple of TV series in the 1980s, then she stepped into the '90s TV series Uncle Buck in a recurring role for an entire year.
In 1991, she reprised her role as Alice Kramden in the offbeat series Hi Honey, I'm Home!, voiced the part of Old Money on an episode of The Simpsons, and guest-starred on shows like Empty Nest, Burke's Law, and Sisters. Her last television performance was appearing in a couple of episodes of Dave's World in 1995.
Brains and Beauty
Meadows private life was far more interesting than her acting credits. The actress had a head for business and an eye on money. In 1956, she married a wealthy real estate baron, and her second husband was president of Continental Airlines.
Outside of marrying well, Meadows was an astute business woman who served as director of the First National Bank of Denver for 11 years. She was the first woman to hold this position. Additionally, she had an active hand in the design of the flight attendant and ticket agent uniforms, flight interior design, and overall design of the President's Club airport lounges for Continental Airlines.
In 1994, the actress became a published author when she penned the memoir Love, Alice: My Life As A Honeymooner.
Meadows died of lung cancer on February 3, 1996. Her body was laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles, next to her husband, and in the company of other notable people like Alfred S. Bloomingdale, John Candy, Bing Crosby, Rita Hayworth, and Conrad Hilton.
Audrey Meadows and Ted Knight in Action (Along With Dean Martin)
Deena Freeman (April)
Deena Freeman played Henry Rush's quirky niece, April, in the second season of the show. April is an aspiring songwriter from Delaware who moves in with Jackie and Sara. The character only lasted one season, but many members of Generation X still remember April.
In one episode, April falls in love with an older man. The two move in together, but the man gets cold feet and he asks Henry to deliver the blow to April because he's too much of a coward to do it himself. Eventually, April realizes what she's really seeking is the love of a father figure. In the end, she understands that she had it all along from her Uncle Henry.
Freeman was seen in episodes of Magnum P.I., The White Shadow, and a couple of made-for-TV movies before her appearance on Too Close for Comfort. She's kept herself constantly busy throughout the years following her short stint on the popular '80s sitcom. She has had numerous guest-starring roles on television and has done voiceovers in animation and video games.
Freeman has appeared in two TV movies, Khali the Killer and Adam Astra Casting, both of which were released in 2017. The actress is married to songwriter and producer David Brandes, and the couple has two daughters.
Today, Freeman is an acting coach who teaches kids and teens how to reach inside and find the actor within at the Speiser Sturges Acting Studio in Los Angeles.
Pat Carroll (Hope Stinson)
When the series was re-tooled, and Henry Rush retired from cartooning and took a job as an editor, veteran character actress Pat Carroll was added to the show's line-up.
Carroll portrayed the role of Hope Stinson, Henry's partner who often annoyed him to no end. Let's face it, Henry would not be Henry without having someone to annoy him, and Monroe's character was much more mellow in the last acts of the show.
Carroll has starred in film, television, and on stage since 1948. She has a distinctive voice that only takes a second to be recognized. She is the voice of Ursula in The Little Mermaid.
Today, Carroll is still alive and well in her mid-nineties. To date, her last acting performance was the role of Joan in the 2014 film BFFs. The film stars Carroll's daughter, actress Tara Karsian.
A Supporting Cast Full of Acting Titans
Here are the actors that played minor characters on the show.
Gary Dontzig played Brad Turner for one episode. The character is Jackie's police officer boyfriend. Jackie and Brad were a relatively strong couple before Jackie cut the relationship and left the bank for the world of fashion..
Before the show, Dontzig was seen in episodes of popular '70s TV series like The Walton's, Logan's Run (the TV series, not the movie), Chico and the Man, and One Day at a Time.
After the show, Dontzig found success as a writer and producer for such shows as Murphy Brown, State of Grace, Suddenly Susan, A Different World, and Hannah Montana.
Jordan Bennett (credited as Jordan Suffin) played the character of Brad Turner after Dontzig departed from the show. Bennett was previously seen on episodes of Emergency! and Police Story, and he enjoyed a long run as Norman on The Waltons.
After the show, he went on to acting in a couple of TV shows in the '80s, and then he popped back up in 2005 in a reenactment role on Untold Stories of the ER. However, it appears that singing is his passion. In 2015, he released a CD of original songs titled Original, and he's been singing his way across stages all over the country for years.
Veteran actor Hamilton Camp portrayed the role of Arthur Wainwright, Henry Rush's employer. Wainwright is a drama queen who forces Henry into retirement in favor of a more youthful staff.
Camp had more than 200 acting credits under his belt, spanning from 1946 to 2007. Camp performed on television sitcoms, animated series, TV movies, and even video game voiceovers.
Camp passed away on October 2, 2005, due to complications of cardiovascular disease. He left behind a large body of work, and much of it can be viewed by visiting his website.
The role of Arthur Wainright was inherited by yet another veteran thespian. Canadian actor Graham Jarvis took on the role of Henry's boss later on in the series.
Like Camp, Jarvis was quite the character actor with a long list of performances. His career spanned from a small role in the long-running soap opera The Guiding Light in 1952 to a recurring role as Annie Camden's father in the '90s TV drama 7th Heaven in 2003.
Serious classic TV junkies will remember Jarvis for his role in the soap opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman as Charlie "Baby Boy" Haggers.
Jarvis died of cancer on April 16, 2003. He was 72 years old.
Veteran actress Selma Diamond made a splash on the show when she appeared as Mildred Rafkin, the sister of Rush's tenant who turned out to be a crossdresser. Rafkin, as he was referred to all, lived in the downstairs apartment prior to Jackie and Sara; they moved in when he died.
Rafkin was somewhat famous for having a multitude of female guests, and he was perceived as a ladies' man, until it was discovered upon his death that he was a cross-dresser. It turned out that all those female guests were Rafkin in drag.
As far as I can remember, Rafkin died before the start of the show, so he was never actually seen, only referred to. However, his sister came to claim his belongings, and Selma Diamond breathed brash, comedic life into the character of Mildred.
Like Camp and Jarvis, Diamond was a veteran character actress. She had a raspy voice, she was short of stature, and her career spanned from 1956 with a role on the soap opera The Edge of Night to 1985 with a voice-over part in The Jetsons.
Most members of Generation X will remember Diamond for her role as Selma, the bailiff in another '80s TV sitcom, Night Court.
Diamond was a heavy smoker, and she died of lung cancer on May 13, 1985. Interestingly enough, her replacement on Night Court was another diminutive woman with a raspy voice, Florence Halop. She was also a chain smoker who died of lung cancer.
Classic Sitcom Memories
Too Close for Comfort is an endearing show, not just for Generation X, but for classic TV lovers overall. Although the show ran in different formats throughout its 129 episodes and six seasons, the comedic element was still the same, and we grew to love the characters.
The tragic death of classic TV legend Ted Knight brought an end to the show, but it lives on in re-runs, so be sure to catch it whenever you can.
© 2017 Rachelle Williams
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on July 18, 2017:
@ Dora Issac Weithers - yes, I guess it's true, they do become a part of our lives, I never looked at it like that, but I agree... Thank you for your enduring support
@Karin Peavy - I enjoyed creating this hub, and until I did my research here, I didn't now Ted Knight was in Psycho either. I'll be visiting your hubs as well, and thank you so much for your support.
Karin Peavy from Los Angeles, CA on July 18, 2017:
Really enjoyed the reminiscing and the trivia. Never noticed Ted Baxter in Psycho. Wow. Will be checking out more of your articles.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 17, 2017:
Great reminiscing about this period of life (because their lives become a part of ours if we watch them regularly from start to finish). Nancy Dussault looks so different; perhaps it's the hairstyle. Thanks for the trivia facts and the updates.