One of the significant qualities that make classic sitcoms such a great escape is the way that every character seems to get along so well. They may fight, but they always make up by the end of the episode.
These plotlines often hide behind-the-scenes feuds and tension between the cast. They may argue over money, have conflicting personalities, or be difficult to work with due to outbursts and antics.
Like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more juicy details of the relationships between the actors portraying some of TV’s most beloved characters. Keep watching to learn about classic sitcom stars who didn’t get along with the rest of their cast.
Norman Lear was overjoyed when he finally found the right actor to play lead character Archie Bunker in his classic sitcom All in the Family. Caroll O’Connor’s attitude made him perfect for the character, having just the right amount of crotchety, stubborn energy. The only problem was the fact that it also made him difficult to work with.
The actor insisted on complete control of what Archie did and said. Within 2 days of being hired, he rewrote the entire pilot episode. He wrote it all in pencil and recorded himself reading all the parts.
He spoke frankly about the decision in a 1999 interview with the Television Academy Foundation. He thought the original script was terrible and that if they didn’t like his changes, they could get someone else to play the lead. They gave in to his demands in order to keep him, and it wasn’t the last time he became angry or demanding.
Norman admits that he had plenty of difficult moments with the actor but had nothing but respect for him. He visited Caroll’s widow Nancy after his untimely death in 2001. A birthday letter he’d written expressing his gratitude and respect. It was as still on the actor’s desk where he left it, and it brought the sentimental show creator to tears.
Gilligan’s Island premiered in 1964. It only lasted for 3 seasons but became a major hit during its run and in syndication. It had a talented ensemble cast that included Bob Denver, Jim Backus, Dawn Wells, Alan Hale Jr, Natalie Schafer, and Russel Johnson.
Tina Louise played the glamorous Ginger Grant, but there were rumors of ugly tension behind the scenes. The actress disliked the slapstick nature of the show and wanted to be the star.
Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann, says Tina even tried to change the famous theme song to have her character mentioned first. It begins with “the skipper, his first mate, the millionaire, his wife, and the movie star.” Everyone else was included in “and the rest.” It was eventually changed, and show creator Sherwood Schwartz, actor Bob Denver, and director Hon Rich all took credit for it.
Tina also wasn’t known for being social on set. She reportedly sat by herself and refused to mingle with the cast during rehearsals.
Not all of these reports have been confirmed. Dawn said of her that “we’re not enemies, but we’re not close” and that she still has “pleasant memories” with her costar.
Tina did refuse to attend any of the Gilligan’s Island reunions, but she also refused to bash the show in the press. She called it a “great escape” for viewers and said she was glad to be a part of it in an October 2019 interview with Closer Weekly.
Frances Bavier was only one example of an actress whose attitude didn’t match her character behind the scenes. Aunt Bee Taylor of The Andy Griffith Show was warm and caring, but her castmates said she could be cold and temperamental when the cameras stopped rolling.
Ron Howard played Opie Taylor. He said that Frances often kept to herself.
One of the show’s directors, Ernest T. Bass, compared her to a landmine. He said she’d often get angry when given direction and would sometimes refuse to follow it.
Andy Griffith himself hasn’t commented often on how well he and Frances got along. He did say in a 1998 interview with Larry King that she’d apologized to him a few months before her death.
Money is a common factor that causes feuds between sitcom casts. That was the case for John Ritters, Suzanne Somers, and Joyce DeWitt of Three’s COmpany.
Suzanne’s contract expired by the end of the 5th season. She wanted to make the same amount as Joyce, who was considered the star of the show and made $100,000 more than her per episode. She made her complaints public and was taken off the show.
The ratings plummeted after that. Three’s Company was canceled in 1984, and a spinoff called The Ropers also failed.
John was hurt by Suzanne’s comments. It took nearly 20 years for them to become friends again. They patched it up before his death from an aortic dissection at the age of 54 on September 11, 2003.
Maureen McCormick and Eve Plumb
Maureen McCormick and Eve Plumb played Jan and Marcia Brady on the classic sitcom The Brady Bunch. Their frequent sibling fights on the show hinted at a behind-the-scenes feud.
Maureen and Eve allegedly never liked each other. They’d both refuse to work on projects if they knew the other one would be involved.
The feud came to a head when Maureen hinted at a romantic relationship between the two actresses in her book Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice. The blame kept shifting between both women.
Eve denied that there was feud, though this may have been nothing more than an attempt to save face. Susan Olsen, who played Cindy, confirmed it in a 2015 interview. She called it petty and hated being in the middle of it. She said the two didn’t get along but had recently reconciled.
The cast later came together for a 2019 HTV special A Very Brady Renovation. It saw everyone work to renovate the home used for the exterior of the classic Brady house to its original glory. It didn’t suddenly make Eve best friends with her costar, but she did say they’d grown up and could “get along like real people.”
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Vivian Vance and William Frawley
Ethel and Fred Mertz of I Love Lucy may seem like one of the most stable and loving couples in the world of classic sitcoms. They were able to maintain that front for the cameras, but the relationship between the actors who played them was different behind the scenes.
A single remark that William overheard started a feud. Showrunner Jess Oppenheimer’s son Gregg talked about it in his book. Vivian said she was upset that viewers expected her as the loving wife of “that old man.” William was so hurt by her comments that he asked for future episodes to include lines where Fred would insult Ethel.
William Frawley already had a reputation for being difficult to work with. He was a known drinker. Dezi and Lucy let him know that he would be fired if he didn’t show up for work for a legitimate reason too many times; 3 strikes and you’re out.
He managed to follow the rule but still became difficult to work with, especially for Vivian. The behind-the-scenes tension also didn’t keep I Love Lucy from being one of the most beloved classic sitcoms of all time.
Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman
I Dream of Jeannie was a long-running classic sitcom that lasted from 1965-1970. One of the key factors that kept viewers coming back was the romantic tension between Barbara Eden’s Jeannie and Larry Hagman’s Major Tony Nelson. What they didn’t know was that there was a completely different type of tension behind the scenes.
Larry was the son of Broadway star Mary Martin and always had dreams of stardom. He was an ambitious actor, but it often lead to erratic behavior. Barbara said he was determined to control everything about the show.
He also had an unpredictable temper and was drinking and taking drugs. He engaged in antics that included showing up to work in a gorilla suit and swearing while swinging an axe when visitors from the Flying Nun set came over.
There was at least one thing that Barbara and Larry agreed on. Neither of them wanted their characters to get married in the 5th season. They knew it would eventually cause the show to get canceled, and they were right. It only lasted for 15 more episodes.
Larry was so upset that he spent the last season hiding in his trailer and refusing to talk to anyone. Barbara felt like she’d lost a family when it ended, even a “wild, delinquent terror of a brother.” She said she’d work with Larry again any time because of his talent and warm nature.
Will Smith and Janet Hubert
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a 6-season hit and introduced Will Smith to the world. One of the most notable changes during its run was the replacement of Janet Hubert, the original Aunt Viv, during seasons 3 and 4.
Will was a major part in convincing the showrunners to make this decision. The choice becomes understandable when you learn that he never got along with Janet.
He hasn’t commented on the feud often but says she always thought he was a “snotty-nosed punk.” She’s been more vocal on the matter and has called him an “ego-maniac.”
Betty White and Bea Arthur
The late, great Betty White was one of the most beloved actresses in the world, but that doesn’t mean everyone loved her. Her Golden Girls co-star Bea Arthur reportedly never got along with her.
She saw Betty as a pain in the neck. Their dispositions matched their characters, and their pessimistic and optimistic attitudes didn’t mesh as well as they did in the sitcom.
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