NBC (ended 1979)



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Show Summary

Welcome to the Turnabout guide at TV Tome.

The updated plot follows the classic 1930's novel by Thorne Smith (also author of Topper, etc.) fairly well. A 1940 movie was made as well, though it had the voices switching bodies along with their personalities. The characters in the series are similar, although they have been renamed and modernized for a society 50 years in the future of the original novel and movie. Their neighbors, coworkers and jobs are new creations for the TV series, but remain in the general style of the prior source material.

Penny wishes her life were more like hubby Sam's. And he wishes much the same about his wife. Each thinks the other has the easier life and both wish one night that they could be each other, to have an easier life. Of course dreams don't come true, especially idle ones! Or do they???

Unfortunately, Penny bought a small statuette from a gypsy, unaware that it had the power to grant wishs. As fast as you can say "presto-chango," their personalities swap bodies.

Actually, it happened overnight, while they slept, as shown in the opening animated credits and the pilot episode. Their astral dream selves are liberated by the statue during the night, and for a lark, they both agree to finish sleeping in the other's bodies, thinking it all a strange dream!)

But it was no dream! More like a nightmare!

When they wake up, Sam is inside Penny's body and she is inside of his! Once the shock wears off, and they realize the dream-like situation isn't going to wear off, they both must pretend to the outside world that they are the spouse they appear to be. Each must adapt to the gender they now possess, all the while experiencing the "joys" and occasional "pains" of living out each other lives as the opposite sex!

Their nosy if friendly neighbors are Jack and Judy.

Al is Sam's publisher, and Geoffrey is Penny's boss in the competitive cosmetics advertising industry.

Geoffrey treats Penny like a lady, except when he is unconsciously sexually harrassing her, and now that Sam is Penny to the rest of the world he finds Geoffrey's behavior highly unwanted. No man ever patted his knee in sympathy before the body swap! And how is he expected to know the differences between a dozen different shades of red lipstick! He has enough trouble just getting Penny's makeup properly on her face each morning.

Meanwhile Penny, the feminist woman stuck inside the burly body of her husband, has to deal with the chauvinistic attitude of her new boss Al and the macho sports stars she has to interview in Sam's place.

Just living an ordinary life is quite different when you are suddenly someone else, not to mention the wrong gender!

Every week, they begged, pleaded, and even prayed to the mystical statue to give them back their original bodies but they never get their second wish granted. They still occupy the other's body to this day!


What made this series stand out in the minds of those who were able to find it was the outstanding acting talents of the two leads.

John Schuck was a favorite co-starring actor on McMillan and Wife, winning a supporting actor Emmy for the role of the Police Sergeant assistant to the lead character! He also played a robot among other challenging character roles in a long successful career.

Sharon Gless of course went on to win multiple Emmy awards as best actress for Cagney & Lacey!

This show got good reviews when it premiered, but buried right after the show 'Hello Larry' - often referred to (rather unjustly) as the worst show ever broadcast, and Dallas on another network to compete with it, -- it had NO chance to succeed.

Seven episodes were announced in TV Guide. At least 6 were aired. Since mid-season replacement shows are usually ordered in either 6 or 12 episode orders, there MAY be up to 6 more episodes. If anyone has any info on other episodes please let me know so I can add them to the list!moreless
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  • why it was good, why it failed

    First, why it was good! It was based on a very funny sarcastic novel from the 1930's, the same author also created Topper! Google Topper or Thorne Smith for more details! Second, it's 2 leads were both Emmy award winning actors, (Sharon's Emmy's came later in Cagney and Lacey).

    Third, it was a body-swapping comedy that was before it's time. In the late 80's half a dozen movies came out with similar themes, creating a subgenre of films that still interests people decades later. Why it failed.

    It was simple. It was placed at 930 friday evening - the Death slot for shows - and it followed Hello Larry, which was the standard for worse show ever for many years after. (despite the fact that it was actually a decent comedy). And it was thrown up opposite the #1 show Dallas at its peak in ratings. It didn't stand a chance!moreless

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