'TIL DEATH – 10 Facts About Brad Garrett, Joely Fisher, And The Stark Family
High school history teacher Eddie Stark (Brad Garrett) and his wife Joy (Joely Fisher) have been married – happily or otherwise – for nearly 25 years. Then newlyweds Jeff and Steph Woodcock (Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kat Foster) move in next door.
The Woodcocks are young and health-conscious. Eddie and Joy are middle-aged, love a drink (or three), and are in the “Til Death” phase of their relationship. “Marriage isn’t about fun,” Eddie tells Jeff. “It’s about having someone to drive you to the hospital.”
'Til Death was created by the husband-and-wife team of Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith (The King Of Queens, 13 Going On 30) and, like any good marriage, it evolved over time. Jeff and Steph left after two seasons and Eddie’s “little brother” Kenny (J.B. Smoove) moved in. Then Kenny left (sort of) and the Stark’s daughter Ally (see #7 in our list below) and her stoner boyfriend Doug (Timm Sharp) parked their R.V. in the back yard. Then things got weird.
Through it all, the writing remained sharp and the stories relatable (particularly for couples of a certain vintage). So, grab a seat in your bio-diesel-powered motorhome and enjoy these fun facts about the 2006-2010 sitcom and its cast!
1. Brad Garrett won the ‘80s equivalent of American Idol.
Unlike contemporary “reality show” talent competitions, Star Search judged contestants on multiple aspects of performance, including singing, dancing, comedy, and “spokesmodel.” (It was the ‘80s. Don’t judge.) Los Angeles-born Garrett, who began his career in stand-up, was the show’s first comedy winner in 1984. He took home a cash prize of $100,000 and immediately became a household name, opening for stars like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. The win also led to an appearance on The Tonight Show at age 23, making Garrett one of the youngest comics to appear on the venerable Carson show.
2. Everybody loved Garrett on Everybody Loves Raymond.
From 1996 until 2005, Garrett played Robert Barone on the top-rated sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. He scored five Emmy nominations as the brother of Ray Romano’s title character, winning three times. He was also Emmy-nominated for his portrayal of The Honeymooners star Jackie Gleason in the 2002 film Gleason. Between Raymond and 'Til Death, Garrett made his Broadway debut as Murray the Cop in the revival of The Odd Couple with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Garrett and Lane first worked together on Stuart Little, one of dozens of voice-acting roles Garrett has performed over the last three decades.
3. Joely Fisher is Carrie Fisher’s sister.
Joely Fisher was born into a family of Hollywood royalty. Her father was actor and singer Eddie Fisher, one of the most successful recording artists of the early 1950s. Eddie was also a familiar face in the gossip magazines, thanks to his marriages to – and divorces from - Debbie Reynolds (1955-1959), Elizabeth Taylor (1959-1964), and Connie Stevens (1967-1969), who is Joely’s mother. Joely’s half-sister was Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, a product of the union between Eddie and Debbie. Years after their respective divorces, Debbie and Connie bought houses next door to each other in Malibu and Joely and Carrie became soulmates. “You all lost Princess Leia,” Joely wrote after Carrie’s death. “I lost my hero.”
4. Joely was a Broadway star.
Joely began her career as a child in her mom’s stage and cabaret shows, made her film debut (opposite younger sister Tricia Leigh Fisher) in the comedy Pretty Smart in 1987, and sang on Connie Francis’ 1993 holiday album Tradition: A Family At Christmas. Her big break came in 1994 when she was cast as Ellen DeGeneres’s friend in her ABC sitcom (which garnered national headlines when Ellen came out). Joely also performed on Broadway in the revival of Grease (as Rizzo) in 1995 and took on the lead role in the revival of Cabaret in 1998, first on Broadway and then in national tours. She sings often (and delightfully) on 'Til Death.
5. The Starks live in a famous house.
'Til Death was filmed before a live studio audience on a Hollywood soundstage. But the exterior of Eddie and Joy’s house – seen in every episode – was located on the Warner Bros. Ranch backlot (formerly the Columbia Ranch) in Burbank. The Stark house was first seen on Father Knows Best and was the home of the busybody neighbor Mrs. Kravitz on Bewitched in the ‘60s. But it’s most famous as The Partridge Family house in the early 1970s musical sitcom. And the I Dream of Jeannie house is right next door!
6. J.B. Smoove joined the show in season two. And art imitated life.
Comedian J.B. Smoove (real name: Jerry Brooks) was a writer and occasional featured player on Saturday Night Live from 2003-2005. In 2007 he started playing Leon, a character who inexplicably moves in with Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Just months later, he was cast as Kenny, a character who inexplicably moves in with the Starks. Eddie meets Kenny in season two when he volunteers to be a Big Brother. In real life, Smoove is an alumni of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and was inducted into the mentoring organization’s hall of fame in 2016.
7. The Starks have one daughter – played by four actresses.
When Eddie and Joy’s college-age daughter Ally is introduced early in the series, she’s played by future Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter. In season three, blonde-haired Laura Clery takes on the role. And in season four, Ally goes back to being a brunette - played first by Lindsey Broad and then by Kate Micucci. To make matters even more confusing, 15 episodes produced for season three did not air until season four, resulting in three different actresses with two different hair colors playing Ally in a single season.
8. The AV Club called the fourth season “strange genius.”
Because his girlfriend’s face kept changing, Doug begins to suspect he’s living in a sitcom. He – and the audience – start seeing cameras and boom mics, and Doug is occasionally prompted by a stage manager when he forgets a line. Doug visits a shrink (Mayim Bialik) who is soon revealed to be the former Blossom star (and future Big Bang Theory cast member) filming a reality show with former Blossom cast members Jenna von Oy and Michael Stoyanov. Bialik (who is actually a Ph.D. in real life) blames Doug’s changing girlfriend on the “Darrin Syndrome” and diagnoses him with “Sitcomosis.”
9. Season 4 has a parade of famous faces.
New characters were added for the final season, including Kathleen Rose Perkins as Eddie’s new boss (and former student) and Martin Mull as a curmudgeonly fellow teacher. Saturday Night Live veteran Kevin Nealon plays a college dean, Gilbert Gottfried is an annoying neighbor, Barry Bostwick is Doug’s rich dad, Lainie Kazan plays Joy’s mom, and Richard Lewis is Eddie’s book publisher. Doug calls out these frequent guest stars as further proof they’re on a TV show.
10. 'Til Death ends happily.
Despite the inspired craziness of season four, 'Til Death did not return for a fifth season. But there was a happy ending: Doug and Ally have a baby. “You’re gonna have a lot less fun,” Eddie tells Doug as his son is being born. “But a lot more joy.”
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