1 August 2006 | theowinthrop
From the people who gave you St. Elsewhere
TATTINGERS is an example of the hit and miss aspect of production success in television. The writers and staff who created the excellent medical show ST. ELSEWHERE decided to branch out and make this similar comedy/drama about a famous New York City restaurant called TATTINGERS. It was supposed to be on par with Le Cirq or "21", and it was owned by Nick Tattinger (Stephen Collins), who is divorced from his wife Hillary (Blythe Danner). They have two daughters. Part of the plot, by the way, is not described in the description that was given on the thread. Nick was shot and seriously wounded when he found some local drug dealer trying to sell drugs to his older daughter. He knocked the guy down, and started taking the girl home, when the drug dealer recovers, pulls out a gun, and shoots Nick. At the time the show began, Nick has recovered, but the dealer has gotten out of prison, and he is constantly harassing Nick and his staff, causing food deliveries to be sidetracked or delayed or stolen, and also occasionally invading the precincts of the restaurant.
Now that point alone shows you a problem with the show's scripts. On ST. ELSEWHERE, the writers frequently showed their disillusion with the American justice system by having criminals get early release, or not get caught or convicted, or by having people we sympathize with who commit crimes and go to prison as a result. They obviously took this feeling into TATTINGERS, but went too far. In the real world, if this drug dealer was harassing his shooting Victim and his restaurant (as he is) it would likely lead to the dealer returning to prison. In the super real world, Nick would probably have the drug dealer dealt with in a final method that would not bear looking into by the police. Instead they had this harassment involved with the shows for too long. It made no sense at all.
But what was far worse was the engine that geared up for every episode's plot. Instead of trying to build stories around the workings of the staff, their hopes and dreams, and their private lives, the writers quickly tried to use a rather hackneyed plot idea again and again and again. Nick claims (in the first episode) that he has many friends, and frequently finds himself doing favors for people. Well, that happens - but not with the idiotic frequency that it happens to Nick. It is reminiscent of two episodes (at least) on M.A.S.H., where Hawkeye has some simple problem to cure and has to arrange (or try to arrange) half-a-dozen or so exchanges of favors before he can get that new boot he needs, or get that furlough set up or whatever. The episodes on M.A.S.H. that used this became so predictable that they are among the least funny of that series. Here it was done weekly as the plot. And it was less than successful here to. In real life, somebody who found his friends so frequently demanding so much help with "favors" would wonder if it would make sense to find a new set of friends.
There were some interesting moments on the show. The aged George Abbott and Garson Kanin appeared in one episode as themselves, proclaiming they were TATTINGERS regulars. In another episode there was a cute joke, about a demanding customer who was coming named Mr. Wilkes. When he showed up, the maitre'd said, "Where is Mr. Wilkes' booth?" There was even a reference to the more successful ST. ELSEWHERE. An actor who played a doctor on ST. ELSEWHERE (who had died of a heart attack on that show) appeared as a lawyer in an episode of TATTINGERS. He is complaining about his recent problems, mostly about his cases, and then adds, "And my favorite cousin Eliott just dropped dead at the hospital he worked at in Boston!". That was the name of the character on ST. ELSEWHERE.
The actors did their best. Besides Collins and Danner, noteworthy work was done by Jerry Stiller, Rob Morrow, and Simon Jones. But the show was doomed. An attempt to change it in mid season - Danner gets involved in running it, and they change it's image into a mod, "Studio 54" type of place - did not help at all. It lasted one season, then closed it's doors, and became part of television past and forgotten. I doubt many viewers even recall it ever existed.