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"Hi Honey, I'm Home!"

One of the best qualities of Nick at Nite during the early days of the "network" was that they were willing to attempt something new and way outside the box.  In 1991, Nick at Nite tried their hand at something new that paid homage to the sitcoms of yesteryear complete with the network's own kitschy charm.  If you read my last post, which was a Look Back at 35 Years of Changes at Nick at Nite, you know that this experiment was one my family truly enjoyed.

"Hi Honey, I'm Home!" focused on a typical 1990s teenager from New Jersey named Mike Duff who discovers that his new neighbors, The Nielsens (get it?), are the same family from the old 1950s sitcom.  Having moved to New Jersey after their show was removed from syndication, The Nielsen family faces constant culture shock integrating into 1991 American suburbia.  Mike is the only one who knows the family's secret and he helps them navigate 1990s America.  Every episode included a guest appearance by a favorite classic TV character (and storyline friend of the Nielsen family,) such as Gale Gordon as Mr. Mooney or Al Lewis as Grandpa Munster.

This show was a hit with my household.  I remember my parents really enjoyed this show because it was cute, full of nostalgia for their childhood favorites, and was family-friendly so even my brother and I could watch it.  In 1991, I would have been about 7 years old and I'm sure most of the jokes went over my head, but, I had been watching Nick at Nite with my Dad enough to get most of the references to the classic sitcoms.

"Hi Honey, I'm Home" ran for only 13 episodes between July 19, 1991, and July 12, 1992.  Each week a new episode would air on ABC as part of the popular family-friendly programming block "TGIF."  In agreement with Nickelodeon, the same episode would then air on Sunday nights on Nick at Nite, which is where my family would watch it.  Re-airing the new episode just two days later on a network was touted as the first "Instant ReRun.  This had actually been done before on other networks, but, why let a good marketing opportunity go to waste?

This arrangement was pretty unique in television history, however.  Filmed at the famed Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, all 13 episodes were guaranteed for telecast by Nickelodeon.  It's one of the first instances of a cable channel (Nick) creating content for a broadcast network (ABC).  Regardless of how ABC treated the show, the program had a safety net airing all episodes on Nick at Nite and a chance at future episodes.

While my family adored this show, television critics found the premise amusing and "cute at best," which is barely considered an endorsement for long term success.  After only 6 episodes, the "First Season" was canceled by ABC and removed from the TGIF lineup.  The remaining 7 episode Second Season aired exclusively on Nick at Nite before being canceled by Nickelodeon.

"Hi Honey, I'm Home!" was meant to spoof the classic shows of the 50s and 60s and did so fairly well.  Even the casual viewer to classic television would have caught the references.  The Nielsens were a TV family from the 50s that is more like I Love Lucy meets Leave it to Beaver.  When their show is canceled and then removed from syndication, they move to suburban New Jersey in modern day 1991.  Next door neighbor, teenaged Mike Duff (Peter Benson) discovers that the family is indeed the same family from a long-forgotten television show.  As the only one who knows their secret, Mike helps the family adjust to modern times.

The Nielsen family is the perfect All-American family.  Honey Nielsen (Charlotte Booker) is a homemaker, and along with her bumbling TV husband Lloyd (Stephen Bradbury) have two perfect children Babs (Julie Benz) and Chucky (Danny Gura.)  They prefer living in the calmness of their black and white picture-perfect world.  Using a device called the "Turner-izer," they can switch to living in color to fit in with the current world.

The picture-perfect Nielsen family is in stark contrast to their neighbors, the Duff family.  What else describes the modern family other than a frazzled single mother named Elaine (Susan Cella), older son Mike, and juvenile delinquent little brother who goes by the nickname "Skunk" (Eric Kushnick)?

Honey and Elaine become fast friends even though modern feminist soccer mom Elaine is tough and sarcastic while Honey is the typical 50's housewife complete with catchphrase "Oh, pooh!"  Elaine gets Honey to come out of her shell a bit while Honey helps Elaine realize that there are times in life where calm and simplicity still work.  Mike looks to Honey as a surrogate mother because Elaine works full time and goes to night school and isn't home as much as he'd like.  Honey is always there with warm loving advice, and a plate of freshly baked Snickerdoodle cookies.

Lloyd, the bumbling clueless television Dad, thinks of himself as the typical All-American.  A man who thinks he can lift heavy objects, fix anything, and solve any problem is often wrong and can't keep a job for any length of time in modern suburbia.  He constantly clashes with Elaine's rabid feminism.

Daughter Babs is the typical pretty, popular high school airhead.  Chucky, the chubby Boy Scout and naive son of the Nielsen family, is often used as a pawn by mischievous Skunk.

Mike is a teenaged television junkie who realizes the identities of the Nielsens when they first move in next door.  He has a crush on Babys but it's not reciprocated.  Along with his mother Elaine, he tries to teach the Nielsens about living in the 90s.  Mike's younger brother Skunk is a trouble maker who constantly wants to go live with his father, who left Elaine for another woman after Elaine worked two jobs to put him through night school. 

Future Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean as "Skunk"
The original actor for Sydney "Skunk" Duff, the future Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean, was replaced after the pilot episode.  The original actress for Elaine was replaced as well.  After recasting the two, the pilot was reshot and aired as the premiere episode of the series.  I'd say A.J. made out ok in the long run with the Backstreet Boys, though. 

The original pilot eventually aired during Nickelodeon's "Nick Knew Them When" anniversary marathon on June 27, 1999, highlighting A.J. McLean's involvement in the program.

Each episode included a guest star from television history that had aged (obviously) and adjusted to life in modern times but remained friends with the Nielsens from "the good old days."  Guests ranged from Gale Gordon reprising Theodore Mooney from "The Lucy Show," to Barabra Billingsley as the world-renowned June Cleaver from "Leave it to Beaver."  Other big names include Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph (Alice and Trixie from "The Honeymooners,") Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle from "Andy Griffith Show,") Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster from "The Munsters,") Ann B. Davis (Alice from "The Brady Bunch,") and Rose Marie (Sally Rogers from "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

Ann "Alice" B. Davis drops by for a visit

The show was created by author of "The Great TV Sitcom" book, Rick Mitz, so it's no surprise the show is full of classic sitcom references.  With the popularity of Nick at Nite in the early 90s, it was a perfect time for a show premise that used a love for television classics, provide us the opportunity to see our favorite sitcom stars again on a weekly basis, and blend in modern living and humor.  While it didn't last long, this premise of modern-day meets classic TV alone made my family invest emotionally in the show and makes it a fond memory of YesterYear.