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Archive for April 18, 2018

April 18, 2018 — Harry Anderson, 1952-2018

For many folks of a certain age, Harry Anderson was the lead actor in a small comedy show wedged in between “Cheers” and “Hill Street Blues” on the lucrative Thursday night broadcast schedule for NBC.

But that situation comedy, “Night Court,” was a precursor to today’s more ribald and quirky comedies. The show tackled such topics as infidelity, discrimination against those of differing abilities, sexual harassment, and bullying. One memorable episode, back in 1985, deftly took on the question of how to deal with someone who has come out as transgendered, and the lessons from that show have remained with me to this day.

Producer and writer Reinhold Weege was able to harness Anderson’s talent and quirkiness to calm down the cast of weird characters who kept on waltzing in and out of the courtroom. Anderson, playing Judge Harold T. Stone, would wear vintage ties and fedoras on set, and would play the music of Mel Torme on a record player in his office. Torme would have several cameo appearances during the nine-year run.

But if you ever got to see some of Anderson’s appearances on television as a comedian or as a magician, you would have seen some true artisanship. He did a routine where he would take a round piece of felt with a hole cut in the middle, and, through folding the fabric or shaping it in different ways, would, through facial expressions, create characters based upon the hat that appeared to be on his head even though it was just a circle of felt.

It was pure genius.

Anderson played Harold T. Stone like some of my favorite quirky fictional characters such as Spenser and Chief Inspector Morse, complicated men who liked the finer things in life even though later generations had trouble understanding what the fuss was all about.

He was an underappreciated genius, and he is very much missed.