The July 24 premiere of the limited-run series Morton & Hayes was interesting for two reasons: (1) As a spoof of old two-reel comedies, it had an unusual premise, and (2) it marked the television return of Meathead — Rob Reiner, who got his start playing the beleaguered son-in-law on All in the Family. The creator of Morton & Hayes, Reiner is also the Alistair Cooke-esque host of the show, which follows a fictitious ’30s-era movie comedy team (played by Kevin Pollak and Bob Amaral) who bumble their way through a series of slapstick misadventures.
Reiner, of course, is known today as the director of such top-rank films as This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, and Misery. So why is he returning to the small screen when more money, prestige, and, presumably, creative control are in films? ”I’m not sure I really have an answer for that,” says Reiner, 46. ”Basically, this show has been an idea of mine for 13 years. But no one ever wanted to do it. I pitched it to everybody. Many times.”
Reiner allows that the idea — a lowbrow, intentionally cheesy-looking black-and-white show with an anthology premise — didn’t exactly loom large on network programmers’ lists of high-concept shows. But he never gave up on it. ”I guess now either they figure the time is right,” he says, ”or they’re more comfortable with me since I’ve attained a certain amount of success.”
Still, CBS has ordered only six episodes, which does not suggest a long life for Morton & Hayes. ”It’s going to be hard to get a foothold,” Reiner admits. ”All in the Family took 26 weeks to catch on. And when my dad (Carl Reiner) did The Dick Van Dyke Show, that took, like, 32 episodes to make a mark. The networks usually don’t have the nerve or the stomach to stick with a unique show and let it build.” And we know, at least in the movies, if you build it, they will come.