Oh…Miss Jones!



Steam Heat: pilot episode
An American version of Rising Damp, initially named Joy Street but later renamed Steam Heat, was put together in 1977. A pilot was scripted by Peter Stone and it was produced by Alan King and Rupert Hitzig at King-Hitzig Productions (665 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY.) for CBS. This was a time when a number of British sitcoms were being remade in the US
The pilot was based around Eric’s script for the episode ‘The Prowler. The characters remained (Rigsby, Ruth, Alan, Philip, Brenda and Spooner), and even the cat, though this time named Paul Revere instead of Vienna. The characters all lived at 27 Joy Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Whilst none of the cast from the UK series starred in the Pilot, there were early discussions about bringing Frances de la Tour over the US to reprise her role as Ruth.
In this Pilot episode, we also see the character ‘Inspector Baker’ return, who was played by George Sewell in the UK episode.
As Eric Chappell mentioned in Richard Webber’s book after seeing the initial pilot, Philip’s character was miscast and, although Rigbsy played by Jack Weston was good, the cast failed to convey the story and themes, some of which the US had been dealing with for hundreds of years longer than the UK.
The CBC show was rehearsed for five days and then shot in front of a live audience, but the lacklustre reaction by the test audience meant that CBS didn’t commission a series.
Whilst the producers were convinced there was some mileage to be had in the transfer, it has to be said that the whole ‘bedsitland’ living situation is not as prevalent in the US. Whilst the interplay between the characters worked, ultimately the setting did not. As we would later see in US sitcoms, flat sharing would become a sitcom stable but not based centrally around a character such as Rigsby.
Recorded: Tuesday, 5 April 1977 at CBS Studio 41

Rigsby – Jack Weston

Ruth – Margaret Hall

Alan – Patrick Collins

Philip – Stanley Clay

Brenda – Ellen Parker

Spooner – Jim Fleetwood

Baker – John McMartin


Executive Producer – Alan King

Producer – Rupert Hitzig

Director – Bill Persky

Writer – Peter Stone

Associate Producer – Bob Braithwaite

Art Director – Ron Baldwin

Costume Designer – Domingo Rodriguez

Production Coordinator – Lucy Antek

Production Assistant – Lynn Finke

Other releases:
There were two other attempts at bringing Rising Damp to the USA.
1985 saw the composer/director Buddy Bregman’s (1930 – 2017) production company take out the rights on the sitcom for two years but there was no interest.
In the 1990s, the movie production house Lawson Entertainment in Dallas, who were successful with Home to Roost in the States, tried to sell the show but, again, there were no takers.
In Europe, a Portuguese version has proved successful, much to Eric’s surprise. I remember him telling commenting on how interesting it would have been to see a Portuguese Rigsby as he’d never seen the show.
The show was also due to be remade in Sweden.
As with many classic sitcoms, Rising Damp travels best when it is left alone, being released on DVD in North America and Australia, allowing the originals to be enjoyed by a whole new audience around the world.

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