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Interviewers aren't supposed to be the bearers of bad news, but that was my lot in the spring of 1967 when Michael Callan phoned, as promised, to talk about his sitcom, "Occasional Wife," which seemed certain to be renewed by NBC for a second season. Unfortunately, between the day the interview was scheduled and the day it took place, NBC unexpectedly dropped the ax on the series.

Which is why I was surprised Callan kept our date. And I was even more surprised when it became obvious Callan was unaware his show had been canceled. So it was up to me to break the news. Callan had been around long enough to know how networks operate; he was surprised at the news, but not THAT surprised, if you know what I mean.

We wound up having a nice, albeit brief conversation about the program (which had been one of my favorites), the way networks treat actors, and about his career in general.

Online references to "Occasional Wife" blame low ratings for the program's demise, though it had done fairly well during most of the season. I think the reason NBC pulled the plug, rather than simply change its timeslot, was to pacify several ministers (and their flocks) who objected to the program's premise – a single man finds a woman who'll pose as his wife to help him get ahead at work for a baby food company run by a man who believes his executives should be married. Callan's character, Peter Christopher, agrees to set up his occasional wife, Greta Patterson (Patricia Harty) in an upstairs apartment. She frequently had to make emergency visits to Christopher's apartment, and usually entered through a window off the fire escape. The program was more silly than scandalous, though a segment of the Midwest audience didn't agree.

A co-worker, Bernie, played by the always entertaining Stuart Margolin (Angel Martin on "The Rockford Files"), suspected Christopher's marriage was phony, which set the stage for some of the comic complications. Also appearing in a recurring role was Jack Riley, who played the hilariously caustic Elliot Carlin on "The Bob Newhart Show."

However, what made "Occasional Wife" work was Patricia Harty, who seemed headed for big things. But when the show was canceled she made a dreadful mistake – she agreed to play the title role in "Blondie," a sitcom version of the old comic strip. Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins played Dagwood. The show was canceled after 13 episodes, which was 12 episodes too many. (In the fall of 1966 I interviewed Harty in Cleveland. I'm still trying to figure out how she missed superstardom. Everything I predicted for her came true for Mary Tyler Moore.)

Callan and Harty got married in real life after "Occasional Wife" left the air. The marriage eventually ended in divorce. Harty dropped out of the business for awhile, then returned as a brunet called Trisha Hart. She became the blonde Patricia Harty a few years after that, but her TV appearances have been few and far between.

Callan's career is the bigger mystery. He started in movies and before he turned to television he had had starring roles in such popular big screen productions as "Gidget Goes Hawaiian," "Because They're Young," "The Interns," "The Victors," "The New Interns" and the classic Western comedy, "Cat Ballou," which earned an Oscar for Lee Marvin.

Marvin and Jane Fonda went on to many more movies and bigger and bigger stardom. Callan went into "Occasional Wife" a year after "Cat Ballou" was released. He has made several TV guest appearances since then, including four episodes of "Murder, She Wrote." He also spent some time on the daytime soap opera, "One Life to Live" in the 1980s.

 
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