Gimme a Break!

This article is about the television series. For other uses, see Give Me a Break (disambiguation).
Gimme a Break!
Genre Sitcom
Created by Mort Lachman
Sy Rosen
Directed by John Bowab
Hal Cooper
Jim Drake
Linda Day
Dick Harwood
Jules Lichtman
Will Mackenzie
Patrick Maloney
Phil Ramuno
Tony Singletary
Oz Scott
Howard Storm
Starring Nell Carter
Dolph Sweet
Lara Jill Miller
Lauri Hendler
Kari Michaelsen
Howard Morton
John Hoyt
Joey Lawrence
Telma Hopkins
Jonathan Silverman
Rosetta LeNoire
Matthew Lawrence
Paul Sand
Rosie O'Donnell
Theme music composer Jay Graydon
Opening theme "Gimme a Break" performed by Nell Carter
Composer(s) Bob Christianson
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 137 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Hal Cooper
Mort Lachman
Rod Parker
Producer(s) Arthur Julian
Coleman Mitchell
Geoffrey Neigher
Running time 2425 minutes
Production company(s) Alan Landsburg Productions (19811985)
Reeves Entertainment Group (1985–1987)
Distributor MCA TV (19861996)
Universal Television Enterprises (19971998)
Universal Worldwide Television (19982000)
Studios USA (19982002)
Universal Domestic Television (20022004)
NBCUniversal Television Distribution (2004present)
The Program Exchange (2006present)
Original network NBC
Original release October 29, 1981 (1981-10-29) – May 12, 1987 (1987-05-12)

Gimme a Break! is an American sitcom which aired on NBC for six seasons from October 29, 1981 until May 12, 1987. The series stars Nell Carter as the housekeeper for a widowed police chief (Dolph Sweet) and his three daughters.


The sitcom takes place in Glenlawn, a fictional California suburb. Nellie Ruth "Nell" Harper (Nell Carter) agrees to be a housekeeper for the Kanisky household as a special favor to her late friend, Margaret Huffman Kanisky (played in flashback by Sharon Spelman), who was the wife of police chief Carl Kanisky (Dolph Sweet). Nell also served as a parent to the Chief's three daughters, Katie (Kari Michaelsen), Julie (Lauri Hendler), and Samantha (Lara Jill Miller). A foster son, Joey (Joey Lawrence), was added in Season 3.

Over the six-year run, a number of celebrities appeared on the show, including singers Whitney Houston, Andy Gibb, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ray Parker Jr., and The Pointer Sisters. In some of these episodes, the guest would eventually perform a song with Nell. During the third season, Pat Sajak guest-starred as himself when Nell and her friend Addy (Telma Hopkins) were contestants on Wheel of Fortune. Other notable guest stars included Milton Berle, Danny Glover, Rue McClanahan, Tony Randall, Helen Hunt, Don Rickles, Gwen Verdon, Dennis Haysbert, Ernie Hudson, Gary Collins, and Elizabeth Berkley.

The episode "Cat Story" was performed and broadcast live on March 2, 1985, as a promotional gimmick, which the cast performed without major incident. An earlier episode (from the 1984–85 season), "Baby of the Family," ranked No. 38 on TV Land's list of "The 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments"; it depicted Joey dressing and performing in blackface at Nell's church benefit, a plan hatched by Samantha for revenge after Nell forbade her to go on an unchaperoned camping trip.[1]

The location of Glenlawn is never fully clarified, but Season 3 episode "Flashback" placed the town an hour away from Fresno, in the direction of Bakersfield. In yet another episode, Chief Kanisky boasts to the town mayor that his new police car will make it to Sacramento in just 23 minutes, putting the city of Glenlawn somewhere closer to the capital city than Fresno.


Main characters

Recurring characters

Broadcast history

Season Time
1 Thursday at 9:30-10:00
2 Saturday at 9:00-9:30 (October 2 - December 18, 1982)
Thursday at 9:00-9:30 (January 6 - May 5, 1983)
3 Thursday at 8:00-8:30
4 Saturday at 8:30-9:00 (September 29 - November 24, 1984)
Saturday at 9:00-9:30 (December 1, 1984 - May 11, 1985)
5 Saturday at 8:00-8:30
6 Wednesday at 9:00-9:30 (September 24, 1986 - March 4, 1987)
Tuesday at 9:00-9:30 (April 28 - May 12, 1987)


Production information

The show was produced by Alan Landsburg Productions (Later renamed as Reeves Entertainment Group in 1985). The American syndication rights are held by NBCUniversal Television Distribution, the successor company to original syndication MCA TV. FremantleMedia owns the international rights, as they own Thames Television, which acquired Reeves Entertainment Group in 1990. The creators of the show were Mort Lachman and Sy Rosen.

Over its run, the series used two different theme songs. The first, composed by Bob Christianson with lyrics by Bob Garrett and Marley Sims, was used for the first two seasons. A completely new theme, with music by Jay Graydon and lyrics by Richard Page, was introduced in the third season and used for the remainder of the show's run. Carter performed both themes.


The show has been in off-network syndication since 1985. Reruns have also aired nationally on WWOR EMI Service and the USA Network.[2][3][4][5] Distribution rights are jointly owned by The Program Exchange and NBCUniversal Television Distribution, successor in interest to previous syndicator MCA Television. Reruns of the series are a mainstay of many of Sinclair Broadcast Group's The CW and MyNetworkTV stations, especially in low-traffic time periods due to the low-cost barter setup of The Program Exchange.

After not being aired on cable in nearly 15 years, the show aired on TV One (which previously aired a day-long marathon on February 11, 2006, just three days before the first season was released on DVD in the United States), usually twice a week on Fridays and Saturdays (with 2 to 4 episodes airing each day). The reruns began on May 3, 2013 and continued until September 20, at which they had reran all 137 episodes.

The show returned to TV One on April 17, 2015, once again airing Friday nights (with 4 episodes each).

DVD releases

United States

Universal Studios Home Entertainment released a three-disc DVD of the complete first season of Gimme a Break! on February 14, 2006, available in the United States only. The Complete Series is now available in the US.


Visual Entertainment (under license from FremantleMedia) released the first two seasons of Gimme a Break! on DVD in Canada between 2006-07. In 2009, VEI announced that they plan on releasing the entire series in a complete series box set in 2010.[6] VEI released Gimme a Break! The Complete Series on DVD in Canada on July 20, 2010.[7] As of 2013, these releases have been discontinued and are out of print.


Simply Media TV Ltd released the first and second series in the UK, although the series has never been broadcast on British television.

Awards & Nominations

Nell Carter received two Emmy nominations as Best Actress in a Comedy Series (1982, 1983)[8] and two Golden Globe nominations as Best Actress in a Television Series-Comedy or Musical (1983, 1985).[9]


  1. PRNewswire, "TV Guide and TV Land Join Forces To Count Down The 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments", December 1, 2005. Accessed March 23, 2009.
  2. The Intelligencer—September 30, 1991
  3. The Intelligencer—December 31, 1993
  4. TV Guide—September 20–27, 1997
  5. TV Guide—September 5–11, 1998
  6. Lambert, David (2009-10-02). "Gimme a Break! - A Fan Inquiry to Us on Facebook Leads to Some VERY Interesting New Information!". Retrieved 5 December 2009.
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