Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Room 222 Revisited



Lloyd Haynes (left) and Michael Constantine


Pete Dixon was the ideal history teacher.  He was patient, good-humoured, understanding and unflinchingly fair.  Since I am a history buff, I would have loved to have been a student in Mr. Dixon's American history class.  That would have been impossible, though, because Pete Dixon was the central character in the popular 1970s comedy-drama Room 222.  Room 222 aired from September 17, 1969 until January 11, 1974 on the ABC network.  112 episodes of the series were produced. The title of the show was derived from Pete's home room number at the fictional Walt Whitman High School in Los Angeles, California.

There was, however, a sense of realism to the series because it was partially filmed at the 3,000-student Los Angeles High School.  L.A. High School was damaged by an earthquake during the run of the show and later scenes were filmed at Los Angeles University High School.  To watch a video of Room 222's opening theme, click on the link below.  Note: The Room 222 theme was composed by Jerry Goldsmith who also composed the themes for The Twilight Zone and The Waltons.  Goldsmith, who died of cancer in 2004, also scored many movies such as The Sand Pebbles (1966), The Planet of the Apes (1968) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).




WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MAIN CAST OF ROOM 222?

Lloyd Haynes portrayed Pete Dixon, the dedicated African-American high school teacher who taught his students lessons in tolerance.  Born Samuel Lloyd Haynes in South Bend, Indiana, Haynes had a military career and fought in the Korean War prior to becoming an actor.  After serving in the U.S. Marines from 1952 until 1964, he studied acting at the Film Industries Workshop and Actors West in L.A.

Before his success on Room 222, Lloyd made guest appearances in several television series including The F.B.I. and the second Star Trek pilot episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," both in 1966. He played "First Special Agent" in an episode of The F.B.I. entitled "The Spy-Master" (Season 1, Episode 21, air date February 6, 1966).  In the Star Trek pilot, he portrayed Lieutenant Alden.  In 1967, Lloyd appeared on back-to-back episodes of Batman as Lord Chancellor ("Batman's Waterloo" and "King Tut's Coup"). In 1968 and 1969, he appeared in two episodes of the Dihann Carroll sitcom Julia as Dick Privet.

After the cancellation of Room 222 in 1974, Lloyd appeared on such TV series as Marcus Welby in 1975 (as Paul Kirkland  in "The Strange Behavior of Paul Kirkland") and Dynasty in 1981.  On Dynasty, he portrayed Judge Horatio Quinlan for four episodes.  His  final role (1984-1986) was that of Mayor Ken Morgan on the daytime soap opera General Hospital.  Sadly, Lloyd Haynes died from lung cancer on January 1, 1987 in Coronado, California.  He was 52 years old at the time of his death. Haynes was married three times and divorced twice.  His third marriage to Carolyn Inglis, whom he married on March 20, 1983, produced one child.

Michael Constantine played Seymour Kaufman, the beleaguered principal of Walt Whitman High School. He won an Emmy Award in 1970 as Best Supporting actor for his portrayal of Kaufman.  Born on May 22, 1927 in Reading Pennsylvania, Constantine celebrates his 85th birthday today.  His original name was Constantine Ionnides and he is the son of Greek immigrants..  He played Kostas "Gus" Portokalos, the father of the bride, in the Nia Vardalos 2002 hit film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

On October 5, 1953, Constantine married Julianna McCarthy, an actress best known for her role as Liz Foster on the CBS soap The Young and the Restless.  They met in New York while in the cast of the stage version of Inherit the Wind (Michael was Paul Muni's understudy).  The marriage ended in divorce in 1969, the same year as Constantine rose to prominence on Rome 222.  They had two children.

Happy Birthday, Michael Constantine!



Karen Valentine with Lloyd  Haynes in 1970



Karen Valentine won an Emmy in 1970 for her role as Alice Johnson, the chirpy, idealistic young English teacher.  A student teacher when the show began,  Alice was promoted to a full-fledged faculty member during the second season.  Born in Sebastopol, California on May 25, 1947, Karen  turns 65 years old on Friday.

Karen made her professional debut on the Ed Sullivan Show when she was only 16 years old.  Sullivan phoned her after her appearance on a live broadcast on the Miss Teenage America Pageant and invited her to perform on his Sunday night variety show.  Although her role on Room 222 was her big breakthrough, Karen has appeared in numerous stage and television productions through the years.  She has made guest appearances on Starsky and Hutch, Love American Style (including a 1970 segment with the late Davy Jones called "Love and the Elopement"), Baretta, McMillan & Wife and Murder, She Wrote.  The actress was also a regular on Hollywood Squares where she matched wits with Paul Lynde.

In 1969, the same year she began her role as Alice Johnson on Room 222, Karen played the title role of Francine "Gidget" Lawrence in the television movie Gidget Grows Up opposite Paul Petersen of The Donna Reed Show fame.  Petersen portrayed Gidget's beloved Jeff "Moondoggie" Griffen.  The plotline had Gidget trying to make a difference as youth worker at the United Nations in New York.

In 1975, Karen Valentine starred in her own television series, Karen, on ABC.  In the short-lived situation comedy, she played an intelligent, civic-minded single woman who worked for a Washington, D.C. citizens' action organization called Open America.

The twice-married Valentine does not have any children.  She wed her first husband, Carl MacLaughlin in 1969 and they divorced in 1973.  She has been married to musician and songwriter Gary Verna since 1977.

Denise Nicholas, who began her television career in 1968 with a role on It Takes a Thief, portrayed school guidance counsellor Liz McIntyre.  Liz was also Pete Dixon's love interest on the show.  Now 67 years old, Denise was born in Detroit, Michigan on July 12, 1944.  Married and divorced three times, Denise does not have any children.  Her first husband was Gilbert Moses, a director of stage, screen and television.  The marriage was brief (from 1964-1965) and Moses passed away in New York City on April 15, 1995 at the age of 52.

In 1973, while starring on Room 222, Denise wed her second husband, sing-songwriter Bill Withers of "Lean on Me" fame.  That marriage was also short-lived and the couple divorced in 1974.  Denise then married former football player turned sports anchor Jim Hill in 1981.  They divorced in 1984.

Denise Nicholas resides in Southern California and has written a critically acclaimed novel, Freshwater Road, published in August of 2005 by Agate Publishing.


THE LEGACY OF ROOM 222

* Room 222 won acclaim for dealing with social problems and racial issues and it received awards from educational and civil rights groups. Although the series tackled the topics of its days such as the Vietnam War and Watergate, it also explored themes that are still very current and relevant.  For example, a 1971 episode entitled "What is a Man?," centres on a student named Howard who becomes the target of anti-gay sentiment.

* Many actors who went on to become big stars appeared on the show.  The list includes Rob Reiner, Cindy Williams, Jamie Farr, Chuck Norris, Anthony Geary. Mark Hamill, Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss.


- Joanne

10 comments:

  1. There has never been a television series that captured high school life in such a frank, thought provoking, pertinent and mature manner.

    Although fictional in characters and stories, Room 222's cast and story lines were exceptional. Blending comedy with drama infused with intelligent scripts the show was a delight to watch with the entire family.

    A lot of the credit goes to James L. Brooks for his creation and direction of Room 222. James is responsible for some of TV's greatest series' ever (Mary Tyler Moore Show), etc.

    The talent on Room 222 was perfectly chosen. What a delightful cast they were. You really could feel a true sense of school life with Room 222.

    Sadly the brilliance in television writing and direction is completely absent nowadays. Just compare Room 222 to such childish train wrecks like NBC's Saved By The Bell from the '80s. Oh, dear how the tides have turned since the downfall of American TV since the 1980's.

    Room 222 will remain as the best written, produced, cast, directed and set comedy/drama revolving around high school life.

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    1. I agree 100%. Reruns are on Aspire channel. The quality is poor which is a shame.

      There is nothing like this show on TV now. This show taught moral and ethical lessons.

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  2. I was only 6 years old when Room 222 ended its network run. I sometimes got to stay up past 10:00 PM on weekend nights as a young child, so I mainly remember the opening of Room 222 and laughing when Karen Valentine dropped her books in the school hallway. That's pretty much all I remember seeing of Room 222 in its ABC run.

    When Room 222 was in syndication I enjoyed it very much. Now I was old enough to appreciate the beauty of the show. The post before mine says it all about the real beauty of Room 222; creator James Brooks created many masterpieces in the day.

    Room 222's cast was perfect. Beautifully written, frank, pertinent and sensitive the series was cutting edge without being at all offensive. And the unforgettable theme song with the vibraslap in all three versions of the theme.

    Sadly there will never be TV shows like Room 222 produced ever again. With today's lack of sincerity, talent, decency and direction in television it makes us savor the robust talents in yesterday's media.

    I wish that Room 222 would go back into syndication. It's been many years since the show has been rerun. I would love to see digitally remastered episodes, uncut and unedited presented from the original 35MM prints. How sweet it would be!

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  3. why did they not include denises days on in the heat ...in bio?

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  4. I should have mentioned that Denise Nicholas played the role of Councilwoman Harriet DeLong on the NBC/CBS drama series In the Heat of the Night from 1989 to 1995.

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  5. i wondered what happened to Heshimu, David Joliffe, Judy Dtrangis?

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  6. They are now showing Room 222 on Aspire during weekday mornings.

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  7. Thank you Aspire. My only problem is that they kept running seasons 1 and 2 over and over. I notice now they are running season 3 but they are skipping a handful of episodes. ....In my opinion this is the best tv show of all time. It makes Beverly Hills 90210 and Saved By the Bell look pathetic. There were 2 other great high school dramas that I believe were influenced by Room 222. The White Shadow and the great Canadian comedy-drama Degrassi.

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  8. Aspire is now showing Season 4 eps (but not all) and will soon begin season 5 (when it was cancelled mid-season) but according to my program guide its run will end (at least for now) at the end of May

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