Herman's Head

Herman's Head

Herman's Head title card
Genre Sitcom
Created by Andy Guerdat
Steve Kreinberg
Directed by J.D. Lobue
Greg Antonacci
Starring William Ragsdale
Hank Azaria
Jane Sibbett
Yeardley Smith
Molly Hagan
Ken Hudson Campbell
Rick Lawless
Peter MacKenzie
Jason Bernard
Theme music composer Nick South
Tom Strahle
Composer(s) Rich Eames
George Englund, Jr.
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 72 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) David Babcock
Paul Junger Witt
David Landsberg
Tony Thomas
Producer(s) Stephen Kurzfeld
Roberto Benabib
Karl Fink
Bill Freiberger
Joel Madison
Michael B. Kaplan
Mark Ganzel
Nina Feinberg
Adam Markowitz
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 2224 minutes
Production company(s) Touchstone Television
Witt/Thomas Productions
Distributor Buena Vista Television
Original network Fox
Audio format Stereo
Original release September 8, 1991 (1991-09-08) – April 21, 1994 (1994-04-21)

Herman's Head is an American sitcom that aired on the Fox network from September 8, 1991 until April 21, 1994. The series was created by Andy Guerdat and Steve Kreinberg, and produced by Witt/Thomas Productions in association with Touchstone Television. William Ragsdale stars as the title character, Herman Brooks. Herman's thought processes are dramatized in a "Greek chorus"–style interpretation, with four characters representing a different aspect of his personality (played by Molly Hagan, Ken Hudson Campbell, Rick Lawless, and Peter MacKenzie).


Research assistant Herman Brooks (William Ragsdale) works in the fact-checking department of a major magazine publisher, Waterton Publishing, in Manhattan. Herman, from all outward appearances, embodies the young man on the fast track—ambitious, clever and sensible—but viewers are shown that a struggle of contrasting personality traits are constantly working, and most often arguing, inside his head. His decisions and actions are dramatized with a "Greek chorus"–style interpretation of his thought processes.

The series begins with Herman as mild-mannered, giving in to every passing sexual desire, bedding a lot of women and not being above bending the truth about his life or career status in order to impress women. He makes attempts to settle down every once in a while, which he does not find hard due to his overall willingness to turn a strictly physical connection into love. However, despite his romantic repertoire with women, he sometimes loses them over comical misunderstandings that are often never resolved. These usually occur as a result of Herman's boyish innocence getting him into trouble. During the next couple of seasons, Herman evolves into a more edgy character, more apt to developing outlandish schemes in an attempt to further his career as well as with women, and he becomes more opinionated in situations where previously, he would have conformed to rules, or have been a yes man.

The psyche

The four characters acting out Herman's emotions each represent a different aspect of his personality, or psyche. As they were intended to be one-dimensional, they often lack in other areas of their character, which leads to frequent squabbles. The characters act in unison when Herman's body is affected, such as having to sneeze, or crying out in pain after being punched in the stomach. They also team up and form factions. The concept of inner conflict within a person is a common psychological concept; it is explored in Sigmund Freud's concepts of Ego, Superego and Id, and Eric Berne's transactional analysis.

Herman's "head" characters exist in a large attic room filled with toys, a lit Christmas tree, a rose-covered bower, theater seats, neon signs, arcade games, pennants and memorabilia from Ohio State University, old furniture, and numerous file cabinets (with labels like "memories", "fantasies" and "sexual past"). They watch "films" of past events and enact possible scenarios for what might happen in Herman's various life situations, occasionally venturing into Hammer horror movie territory or (in the case of Animal) pornographic films.

Friends, co-workers, and bosses

Much of the show's action is situated at the Waterton research department, where personal situations (ranging from old friends from the past, various dates, sexual liaisons, and the like) seem to cross professional ones for Herman on a daily basis. Herman also has a studio apartment located downtown, which, in a first season episode, is indicated as being a somewhat lengthy subway ride from the Waterton offices. The only other recurring setting is MacAnally's, a restaurant and pub, which presumably is located between Herman's residence and the Waterton offices. It attracts a rather upscale clientele, and it most often sets the stage for Herman's and the other characters' romantic pursuits. The regular real-life characters are as follows:

Dave Madden provided voice-over narration of the show's concept during the first season's opening title sequence.

Broadcast history

Season Time
1991–92 Sunday at 9:30 pm
1993–94 Thursday at 9:30 pm


Development, reception and cancellation

The original working title for the series was It's All in Your Head. Creators Andy Guerdat and Steve Kreinberg had first worked for Witt/Thomas as writers on It's a Living; in the midst of this writing stint, Guerdat and Kreinberg additionally landed their first producing job, on the first-run syndication revival of 9 to 5. It was their experience in workplace comedy on 9 to 5 that led the two into situating Herman's Head largely in the same setting.

The show suffered from poor ratings and was canceled after three seasons.

In the final episode of the series, Herman is hit by a car and spends the episode lying in a hospital room near death. His co-workers speak of remembering Herman as they first met him, and we see each of the selves filling in for the emotion the friend first saw Herman displaying. Meanwhile, William Ragsdale appears as a head character, Herman's "Spirit". He announces his determination to keep the group alive, declaring "I'll be all that's left after Herman Brooks is gone." Animal immediately moans, "Oh my God, you're our student loan!"

Proposed storyline plans

When Herman's Head was still on the air, one of its writers was a regular contributor to an online BBS forum devoted to Fox shows. He had stated in the forum that if the series were to continue for a fourth season, that four new "head characters" were going to be added for Heddy, so that viewers could see the inner workings of her head. Thus, a new angle to the show would have been added, as it would have been finally understood what made Heddy tick, and had motivated her to be so haughty and manipulative. Her head activity would have run in tandem with Herman's. With Fox's cancellation of the series after season three, the exploration of "Heddy's head" was never introduced. The story line addition was viewed to have made sense, as viewers predicted that Herman and Heddy were still destined to wind up together just as Jay and Louise had.

The Simpsons impact

Both Hank Azaria and Yeardley Smith are cast members of The Simpsons, which debuted on Fox two seasons earlier. One episode had Yeardley Smith's character, Louise, after hanging up the telephone, asked her colleague across the room, "Herman, I don't sound like that Lisa Simpson, do I?" A similar reference occurs when Mr. Bracken receives a complaint about one of the workers. The complainant didn't get the worker's name, but reported that she sounded like a cartoon character. After some furtive glances from Louise, Mr. Bracken dresses down a female co-worker who sounds like Betty Boop. The Simpsons also referenced Herman's Head when Lisa (voiced by Smith) is asked what she is laughing at in the episode "Duffless"; she replies that she has just remembered "A joke I saw on Herman's Head" Marge lets out her trademark moan. In an episode years later, when Marge Simpson asks him to sign a petition, Comic Book Guy (voiced by Azaria) explains that he only signs petitions to bring back television shows, exclaiming "America needs the wisdom of Herman's Head now more than ever." Further, Lisa is revealed to have a Herman's Head-like Chorus of her own, seen when she's processing feelings of jealousy over Marge's publishing a novel. When asked about Herman's Head on a Simpsons commentary, Azaria said people were discussing shows that actors would rather forget, stating that he "always had that. I didn't love Herman's Head, really."[1]

Participation in television history

During the November 17, 1991 broadcast of Herman's Head ("Near-Death Wish"), the very first commercial advertisement for condoms aired in the United States. This landmark occurrence, along with the involvement of the series, was a question over a decade later on the Regis Philbin–hosted Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire?.

2011 parody

During the 2012 US Presidential election, former Herman's Head actors Molly Hagan, Ken Hudson Campbell and Peter Mackenzie reunited to make a video parody for the comedy site Funny or Die; titled "Herman Cain's Head",[2] it referenced then-presidential candidate Herman Cain. The video was true to the format of the original, in which it replicated the style of the original opening credits for Herman's Head, as well as the interplay between the characters of Angel, Animal and Genius. Rick Lawless' character of Wimp did not appear, nor was he referenced in this video.

International airings

The show was also shown on Channel 4 in the UK between 1993 and 1994, on channel STS in Russia between 1996 and 1997, ICTV in Ukraine, and M-Net in South Africa. In Germany 54 episodes were shown on Das Erste between 1993 and 1994, later all 72 episodes on Super RTL in 1997.[3]


  1. The Simpsons: The Complete Ninth Season, Disc 2 Title 6 Chapter 3, approx 05:00 from the beginning of the title, Audio and/or subtitle track 2
  2. "Herman Cain's Head". Funny Or Die.
  3. Vier x Herman at Serienlexikon
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