Monday, November 7, 2016

Top TV Moments: Gordon Jump

November is the ideal time to celebrate the career of Gordon Jump. And if you don’t know why, you may have landed on the wrong blog by mistake. 

Before anyone knew him he spent more than a decade playing one-scene guest spots in great shows and forgotten ones. Jump was a staple near the bottom of the credits, often billed as characters not important enough to receive a name – “Bartender” (Bewitched), “Salesman” (Green Acres), “Bum” (McCloud), “Mechanic” (The Brady Bunch) and, in one of the more amusing IMDB credits, “Sailor making fun of Jeremy stuttering” (from an episode of Here Come the Brides). 

Gradually, he developed a niche – oblivious authority figures. That probably didn’t seem important at first, but then someone may have remembered how well this affable, round-faced actor fit those parts. That led to the Golden Ticket in television that remains so elusive to thousands of equally talented actors – the chance to play a role that fit in a show that clicked. 

Thanks to Arthur “Big Guy” Carlson and WKRP in Cincinnati, all those anonymous early parts are noticed by classic TV fans. Forty years later, we now smile when we spot him as a ticket agent on The Doris Day Show or an engineer on Love, American Style and say, “Cool, there’s Gordon Jump.” 

Here are a few other places you've probably spotted him. 

Get Smart (1966)
“The Only Way to Die” and “Casablanca” feature Jump as CONTROL Agent Hobson, the kind of button-down clueless bureaucrat the series enjoyed mocking, and a template for the type of role he’d inhabit again and again. 

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1973)
In “Hi There, Sports Fans” Mary is given the job of hiring WJM’s new sportscaster – and firing the current one, after he seduces the station owner’s wife. In a funny moment from an otherwise average episode, Jump plays one of the applicants, who attributes his lack of employment to television’s preference for hiring “jocks” to do the sports. He’s not wrong. 

The Partridge Family (1973)
Jump appears in seven episodes, always as a different character. He was around so often you’d think someone would have given him a guitar and invited him to sit in with the band. He has more airtime in “The Partridge Papers,” but I liked him most in “The Strike Out King” as an over-zealous Little League baseball fan.

That’s My Mama (1974)
Jump’s first shot at a recurring role fizzled out after three appearances as the friendly but somewhat cowardly Officer O’Reilly. Perhaps they just didn’t know what to do with the character – as evidenced by the fact that O’Reilly suddenly acquires an Irish accent the second time we see him in “The Last Haircut.” His one scene in “Cousin Albert” gets the biggest laughs of anything in the show.

Harry O (1974)
At last, Gordon Jump gets his chance to play against type. In “Anatomy of a Frame” he radiates quiet menace as a heroin-dealing dentist.

Soap (1977)
In his most memorable cop role among many, Jump played Chief Tinkler (yes, they went there) in 12 episodes across the first two seasons of this once controversial sitcom. In his mannerisms and verbal tics, you’ll see clear signs of the character he would create just one year later that brought name recognition and series stardom.  

WKRP in Cincinnati (1978)
Gordon Jump was one of eight actors, none of whom had then progressed any further than he in the business, who became one of the best situation comedy ensembles of the 1970s. WKRP lasted four seasons and produced one indisputably classic episode that will be part of Thanksgiving celebrations for as long as people still care about television. In his most famous TV moment Jump delivers the show’s perfect final line.

Diff’rent Strokes (1983)
I’m honestly not sure if the two-part episode “The Bicycle Man” is better remembered as a bold attempt at public service announcement, or more like Reefer Madness, in which a serious topic is so mishandled the result is unintentionally campy and hilarious. Gordon Jump plays bike shop owner Henry Morton, a child molester who targets Arnold and his friend Dudley. Obviously that’s a tough sitcom subject, even with the “very special episode” qualifier – but it cannot be left off any ranking of Jump’s memorable career moments. 

Who’s the Boss (1988)
“A Spirited Christmas” is a holiday episode so I’m predisposed to liking it, but it’s also a treat to see Jump reunited with Katherine Helmond, with whom he shared many fun scenes on Soap. The story focuses on Helmond’s character of Mona, who must reconcile with her estranged brother Archie (Jump) before his wife can ascend to heaven.

Maytag Commercials (1989)
In 1989, Jump inherited the role of the lonely Maytag repairman from comedian Jesse White. He would appear in commercials promoting the company’s appliances for more than ten years. They’re quiet, gentle spots, the antithesis of today’s screaming monstrosities. And because of that and Jump’s friendly, familiar presence, they are as pleasant a reminder of another TV era as any of the shows on this list. 

1 comment:

  1. I first remember seeing Gordon Jump with his name credited on the "Dr. Shrinker" segment of KROFFT SUPERSHOW. Soon after this time, I probably saw him on SOAP. It was only years later that I noticed him on THE BRADY BUNCH & THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY. He played his parts very well, especially Art Carlson.