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an Episode Guide
by Russell Wodell

Last updated:
Thu, 25 Oct 2018 21:00

Cast Photo
aired from: Sep 1996 to: Jun 1997 22 eps CBS 30 min stereo closed captioned


  • Rhea Perlman as Pearl Caraldo
  • Malcolm McDowell as Professor Stephen Pynchon
  • Carol Kane as Annie Carmen
  • Kevin Corrigan as Frankie Spivak
  • Lucy Alexis Liu as Amy Lee
  • Dash Mihok as Joey
  • Miranda Kent as Narvi

    "Why do you want to attend this university and what contributions would you hope to make as a student here?

    "My name is Pearl Caraldo and I'm probably the furthest thing from a prospective college student that you will ever meet. I am what most would consider an average person, with an average job (I manage an electronics store) and with an average house in an average town, but ever since my husband, Sal, died I can't stop thinking that there has to be more to life than microwaves and stereo equipment. So far, I lived my life for other people. My son, Joey, is 20 years old now with a daughter of his own. His marriage didn't exactly work out so he and the baby live with me. I love being a mother and a grandmother -- and babysitter, cook and housekeeper -- but I also love poetry, psychology and literature. Actually, it would be fairer to say that I think I would love those things, but you get the picture..."

    PEARL: "Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you God."
    JOEY: "What is it, Ma?"
    PEARL: "Oh, Joey. I've got great news. You know how I've always dreamed about going back to school?...I did it, Joe. I got a loan, wrote an essay, went for an interview and I got it."
    JOEY: "Got what?"
    PEARL: "I got accepted. I'm going to college, Joe."

    The news doesn't go over quite as well with Joey and Pearl's best friend and co-worker Annie Carmen, who are surprised at her desire to hang out with students "20 years younger who spend more money on their Calvin Klein underwear than Pearl does on an entire wardrobe". Joey sees his mother as more of a live-in housekeeper, cook and babysitter for his infant daughter. Annie fears that Pearl will get a whole new set of friends to go alone with her newfound intellect.

    Undaunted, Pearl goes to register for her first semester of classes where she meets Frankie Spivak, a rag-a-muffin white kid in dreds and Amy Li, a naive, but dedicated scholar. They all enroll in a Humanites course titled "The Meaning of Life," the toughest class at the school, which just so happens to be taught by the most feared teacher - egomaniacal Professor Stephen Pynchon. In his class you can become "that most dangerous of all things - an intellectual. An intellectual, as defined by Pynchon, is someone who can "listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger."

    Will Pearl outlast Professor Pynchon's pompous posturing? Will she prove to her family and friends that she is tough enough to see this through? Take your seat, class is about to begin." (CBS press materials)

    A failed attempt to blend Perlman's tough-talking working class broad Cheers persona with the basic plot situation of Willy Russell's stage and screen success "Educating Rita". Despite the always wonderful Carol Kane (who, like Perlman, had been a recurring guest on Taxi) and the perfectly cast McDowell, the comedy failed to gel.

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      1st Season 1996

      Production credits:
      Impact Zone Productions/Witt/Thomas Productions
      Created by Don Reo
      Executive producers: Don Reo, Rhea Perlman, Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Gary S. Levine
      Associate producer: Joe Catania

    1. "Pilot"
      gs: Nikki Cox [ Margaret Woodrow ]

      Pearl, a longshoreman's widow turned college freshman, enrolls in a tough class taught by an arrogant professor.

      b: 16 Sep 96 pc: 001 w: Don Reo d: James Burrows
    2. "Teacher's Pet"

      To get in with Prof. Pynchon, zealous Pearl becomes his teaching assistant. Bad idea. Running his errands turns her into a "pack mule with a pager"--and she forgets her son's birthday.

      b: 18 Sep 96 pc: 002 w: ______________ d: Robby Benson
    3. "Your Cheatin' Heart"

      To compensate for cheating on a philosophy test, Pearl persuades Prof. Pynchon to give her an oral makeup exam, which evolves into a freewheeling battle of wits.

      b: 23 Sep 96 pc: 004 w: ______________ d: Jay Sandrich

    4. "Billy"
      gs: Billy Connolly [ Billy Pynchon ]

      Scottish comedian Billy Connolly guest stars as Billy Pynchon, Stephen's long lost, scotch-swilling, blue collar brother, who is attempting to fulfill their father's last request - for his sons to reconcile and accept each other. Meanwhile, Pearl's study group forces her to drop out of the bowling league, much to the dismay of Joey and Annie.

      b: 30 Sep 96 pc: 003 w: ______________ d: James Burrows
    5. "The Naked Truth"

      Pearl's longtime friendship with Annie is tested.

      b: 7 Oct 96 pc: 005 w: ______________ d: James Burrows
    6. "Pynchon's Pynchon"
      gs: Aubrey Morris [ Professor Lockwood ]

      When Pynchon's former university professor, who intimidated him when he was a student, shows up during class, Pynchon is reminded of what it's like to be speechless. After Professor Lockwood explains that he is in town for his book tour, Pynchon decides to read the new novel and is shocked when he discovers it's his own Oxford graduate thesis. Meanwhile, at open mike night, Annie performs her new country tune, "Pearl" - a song that is more an embarrassment than a tribute.

      b: 14 Oct 96 pc: 007 w: ______________ d: John Whitesell

      NOTE: Guest Morris appeared with McDowell in the film "A Clockwork Orange".
    7. "Ticket to Ride"
      gs: Sara Rue [ Bertha Sugs ]

      Unable to drive, Pynchon asks Pearl for a ride into New York City to see a play and she mistakenly thinks he's asked her out on a date. Once they arrive in Manhattan, it dawns on Pearl that Pynchon is planning to go to the theater with a friend and she is only providing the transportation. Fuming, Pearl leaves Pynchon stranded and unable to get back home.

      b: 30 Oct 96 pc: 006 w: Teresa O'Neill d: Gil Junger
    8. "Homecoming (1)"
      gs: Steve Landesberg [ Saul Steinberg ], Candice Azzara [ Beverly Steinberg ], Jonathan Del Arco [ Carlo Morra ], Sarah Lee Jones [ Amber Swindon ]

      When Carlo, Pearl's new classmate, falls hard for her and asks her to a dance, Pearl lies, saying she is already going - with Professor Pynchon, in part one of a special two-part episode. After Carlo admits that he'll be at the dance anyway, Pearl realizes she has to convince Pynchon to take her as his date - not an easy task. Meanwhile, the Caraldo household has the entire family over for dinner, and Amy Li invites her parents - Saul and Beverly Steinberg.

      b: 6 Nov 96 pc: 008 w: Don Reo & Judith D. Allison d: Terry Hughes
    9. "Homecoming (2)"
      gs: Steve Landesberg [ Saul ], Jonathan Del Arco [ Carlo ], Candice Azzara [ Beverly ]

      Dates for the grand homecoming ball hinge on a lost wager, an attempted bribe, second thoughts and, yes, fate.

      b: 13 Nov 96 pc: 009 w: ______________ d: Terry Hughes
    10. "Lessons in Love"
      gs: Max Alexander [ Professor Millhouse ], Aaron Kuhr [ Stu Weintraub ]

      When the University threatens to remove controversial books from its library, Pynchon is arrested for chaining himself to the library doors in protest, and his class is cancelled. Pearl then decides that she must join Pynchon in the fight against censorship in order to save the class, so she takes his place and chains herself to the library doors, taking the heat off the professor and freeing him to get back to the classroom. Meanwhile, Joey teaches Amy how to dance.

      b: 20 Nov 96 pc: 011 w: Don Reo & Judith D. Allison d: Peter Chakos
    11. "The Tutor"
      gs: Mara Wilson [ Samantha Stein ]

      When Pearl, confused about what courses to enroll in next semester, asks Pynchon for advice on the subject, he recommends the services of a "senior advisor" - a 9-year-old genius. The tables are turned on Pynchon when, instead of Samantha advising Pearl on education, Pearl (with Joey's help) advises Samantha on how to be a kid. Meanwhile, Frankie is perplexed by the university's telephone enrollment system.

      b: 11 Dec 96 pc: 012 w: ______________ d: John Ratzenberger

      NOTE: Guest Wilson co-starred with Perlman in the film "Matilda", directed by Perlman's husband Danny DeVito .
    12. "Christmas Daze"

      An attack dog that Pynchon's brother sent him for Christmas proves to be a bit overzealous and prevents Pynchon and Pearl from leaving the classroom on Christmas Eve. Pynchon and Pearl try to make the best of a situation neither wants to be in by decorating the classroom skeleton with ornaments and gathering snow from outside the window for a snowball fight. Meanwhile, Annie and Joey are stranded in their car during a snowstorm, trying to abstain from all the holiday food in the back seat, and Frankie and Amy Li are marooned together at the airport.

      b: 18 Dec 96 pc: 014 w: ______________ d: Don Scardino
    13. "Power Play"
      gs: Nikki Cox [ Margaret Woodrow ], Bridget Flannery [ Unknown ]

      Prof. Pynchon's students have written papers on the abuse of power - and that's just what happens when he gleefully assigns them to grade one another's work. Pynchon tries an experiment on the students that turns the classroom into a war zone. The hostilities erupt when the professor decides it would be interesting to have the students grade each other's papers. Pearl and Amy end up not speaking to each other and Frankie tries to bargain an A for a date with Margaret. Meanwhile, Pearl tries to trick Joey into doing housework, but she's the one who ends up being duped.

      b: 8 Jan 97 pc: 010 w: ______________ d: Gilbert Junger
    14. "Pearls Before Swine"
      gs: Karla Tamburrelli [ Tina ]

      When Uncle Bobo's widow Tina arrives to collect a $5,000 debt incurred by Pearl's deceased husband, Pearl fears she will have to drop out of school to pay it back. While Pearl tries to balance her finances and figure out how to stay in school, she discovers that the loan her husband took from Uncle Bobo was for the string of pearls he gave her as a 15th wedding anniversary gift. Pearl must then decide whether to sell the pearls to stay in school or keep the cherished necklace.

      b: 15 Jan 97 pc: 013 w: ______________ d: Peter Bonerz
    15. "Mission ImPearlsible"

      When Pearl, Amy and Frankie get stuck with a freak student nicknamed "Weird Guy Bob" who sabotages their group project, they end up using espionage tactics to save their grade. It isn't until after the project is turned in to Pynchon on paper that Pearl, Amy and Frankie realize that "Weird Guy Bob" has doctored their work to include his radical viewpoints such as "kill the stupid" and "eat the infirm." Joey comes up with a way to break into Pynchon's house and replace the paper - a plan that requires Pearl to be lowered through Pynchon's skylight with a rope a la Mission Impossible.

      b: 29 Jan 97 pc: 016 w: ______________ d: Peter Chakos
    16. "Dean Cuisine"
      gs: Danny DeVito [ Dean Martin ]

      Unbeknownst to either Pynchon or Pearl, Annie fixes them up on a blind date for an important dinner at Dean Aston Martin's house and things really start cooking when Pearl turns out to be a dead ringer for the late Mrs. Martin. Pynchon, who is in the running for Chairman of the Humanities Department, is initially horrified to discover that Pearl is his date for the evening. He quickly discovers, however, that Dean Martin is charmed to pieces by Pearl and that this may actually sway the dean's decision. When Pearl and the dean get carried away, however, Pynchon attempts to defend her honor and the situation gets messy.

      b: 5 Feb 97 pc: 017 w: ______________ d: Don Scardino

      NOTE: Guest DeVito is Perlman's real-life husband, who starred in Taxi on which Perlman was a recurring guest.

    17. "The Write Stuff (1)"
      gs: Alice Cooper [ Himself ]

      Outlandish dream sequences depict Pearl's attempts to write fiction, including a scenario in which she works on the loading dock at a hospital named for ER's George Clooney. When Pearl runs into a creative roadblock trying to write fiction, she decides to do some embellishing by incorporating her real life in the story, in part one of a special two-part episode. Alice Cooper guest stars as himself, playing Frankie's guardian angel. While Pearl is writing her roman clef, Joey's ex-wife arrives in town, Annie is placed in charge of the loading dock, which now also functions as an emergency room; Amy tries to seduce Pynchon, and Frankie, after receiving guidance counseling from Alice Cooper, decides to major in heavy metal.

      b: 12 Feb 97 pc: 015 w: Don Reo & Judith D. Allison d: Don Scardino
    18. "The Write Stuff (2)"
      gs: Ted Danson [ Sol ]

      Pearl's work of "fiction" continues with Joey having a litter of kids, Annie becoming a star in the world of country music and Pearl romanticizing the image of her late husband, Sal. When Joey's ex-wife announces that she's pregnant - again, Pearl envisions a future with tons of grandchildren to raise. Then, trying to focus on her writing assignment, she continues to incorporate her own life into the roman clef, casting a fantasy Sal as her late husband. The story also has Annie becoming the next Reba and Frankie considering the talk show arena.

      b: 19 Feb 97 pc: 018 w: ______________ d: Don Scardino

      NOTE: Guest Danson of course co-starred with Perlman on Cheers.
    19. "The Two Mrs. Rizzos"
      gs: Sam McMurray [ Freddy Rizzo ]

      Annie's ex-boyfriend and current pen pal, Freddy Rizzo, is released from prison, but her hopes to rekindle the flame are dashed when he discovers that he has more in common with Pearl. Annie is furious when Freddy, having arrived in town with a master's degree in the humanities, finds Pearl the more mentally stimulating conversationalist, but neither of the women is prepared when Freddy tells them who it is he really wants - Professor Pynchon.

      b: 4 Jun 97 pc: 019 w: Teresa O'Neill d: Pamela Fryman
    20. "Mommy Dearest"
      gs: Carlene Watkins [ Miriam Spivak ]

      Frankie's mother, Miriam Spivak, arrives in town and announces that she's left Frankie's father, but matters become worse when Pearl discovers that Miriam is having a fling with Professor Pynchon. After Pearl breaks the news, Frankie can't believe his horrible luck. Meanwhile, Joey decides to move out of the house and prove to Pearl that he can take care of himself - with a little help from Annie.

      b: 11 Jun 97 pc: 020 w: Michael Platt d: Ken Levine
    21. "My So-Called Real Life"
      gs: Bryan Cranston [ Isaac Perlow ], Aaron Kuhr [ Stu Weintraub ]

      When Frankie decides he wants to be a documentary filmmaker, Pynchon allows him to turn in a film in lieu of a written term paper and Frankie's subjects turn out to be Pearl, Amy, Joey, Annie and Pynchon. Attempting to document "jealousy, rage conflict - the real maelstrom of emotions" by swaying each of his participants, Frankie tells Pearl, Amy and Annie individually that the film will be primarily about her. Unfortunately, when everyone gets together at Pearl's for a weekend filmmaking session, all the action is off camera.

      b: 18 Jun 97 pc: 021 w: Gary Janetti d: Don Scardino
    22. "Billy Returns"
      gs: Billy Connolly [ Billy Pynchon / Vera Pynchon ], Patty Maloney [ Maggie ]

      When Pynchon's brother returns to town and asks Pearl on a date, Pearl questions his intentions. Although Pearl is attracted to Billy she isn't sure if he really likes her or if he is just trying to annoy his brother. Meanwhile, Pynchon starts acting strange after learning that his brother has asked Pearl out. Could he be jealous?

      b: 25 Jun 97 pc: 022 w: Don Reo & Judith D. Allison d: Don Scardino

      NOTE: Billy Connolly reprises his role as Billy and also portrays Pynchon family maiden aunt Vera.

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    Production and guest star credits are obviously incomplete; some guests are probably not correctly identified as recurring characters. The series was not re-run after its cancellation, and to my knowledge is not being syndicated.

    Disclaimer: We have no connection with the show. We are just providing information, which we hope other fans will find useful. Any corrections, updates or other comments about this guide may be sent to: Russell Wodell rustle49@hotmail.com.
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