Who Was Your Favorite TV Maid or Butler?
Ann B. Davis as Alice Nelson in the BRADY BUNCH. Source: (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
A surprising number of TV sitcom families are able to afford live-in maids or butlers to help with housework and raising the kids. Of course, these characters are more than just behind-the-scenes house cleaners—they added another character to the show. They could be motherly or unorthodox, or stuffy or sassy. Do you remember these TV butlers and maids? Which one was your favorite?
Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The super wealthy Banks family of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had a British, Oxford-educated, aristocratic butler named Geoffrey. Played by Joseph Marcell, Geoffrey was always ready for a dry one-liner and was often the butt of Will Smith’s good-natured jokes and pranks. Geoffrey is often aloof and haughty. He is also frustrated with the spoiled and lazy Banks children, Carlton, Hilary, and Ashley.
Mrs. Garrett from Diff’rent Strokes
Charlotte Rae portrayed the quintessential housekeeper, Mrs. Garrett, in the sit-com, Diff’rent Strokes, and then continued this character in the show’s spin-off hit, The Facts of Life. As Mrs. Garrett, Rae was kindly and gentle, but funny and optimistic. She could be tough but was always ready with helpful life advice.
Mr. French from Family Affair
Technically, Mr. French from Family Affair was not a butler but a gentleman’s gentleman. Played by Sebastian Cabot, Mr. French was hired by a wealthy engineer, portrayed by Brian Keith, to care for his bachelor pad and help him entertain his lady friends. But when he has to take in his orphaned nieces and nephew after his brother’s death, Mr. French’s role changes from that of valet to housekeeper and nanny. Mr. French was British and proper, but the children eventually warm his stoic heart.
Stephanie from Newhart
Julia Duffy played the ditzy, snotty, self-absorbed maid, Stephanie Vanderkellen, on TV’s Newhart, but no one knows how she managed to keep her job for so long. She was a lousy maid with no customer service skills. It was her failure as a housekeeper that endeared her to TV fans. Duffy’s character was originally a one-time appearance on Newhart, but fans loved her so much that the writers included her as a permanent character.
Nell from Gimme a Break
Nell Carter was an award-winning singer and stage actress before she made the transition to television to play the role of Nell Harper, a live-in housekeeper to a widowed police chief and his three teenaged daughters. What made Nell a memorable comic housekeeper was that she was not a professional maid…she accepted the job as a favor to her friend, the police chief’s wife, upon her death bed. She was sassy and inept, but what fans loved was her fabulous singing voice. She frequently sang duets with a litany of guest stars.
Mr. Belvedere from Mr. Belvedere
Did you know that the character of Mr. Belvedere was based off a literary character of the same name? Gwen Davenport created the character for her book, Belvedere, which was published in 1947. For the sit-com adaptation, the stately butler was played by Christopher Hewett and worked for a busy family. While maintaining his stuffy façade, Mr. Belvedere becomes a friend and father-figure to the children, but in a departure from other sit-com butlers, much of the plot lines of Mr. Belvedere involved his contentious relationship with the family patriarch, played by legendary sportscaster Bob Uecker.
Benson from Benson
Robert Guillaume’s Benson was the voice of reason on the television sit-com of the same name. He worked to run the household of a widowed state governor. Benson is intelligent, a hard worker, and a great problem solver…all skills that help him manage the staff of wacky characters employed by the governor. It becomes clear that everyone relies on the unflappable Benson, even the scatterbrained governor.
Alice from The Brady Bunch
According to the back story, Alice was hired to help Mike Brady raise his three boys after becoming widowed and stayed on to help his new wife, Carol, and the three daughters that joined the Brady Bunch. Alice did it all…cooked, cleaned, helped with homework, gave helpful advice, played sports with the kids…and did it all with a cheery smile. She was a second mom to the kids, a friend to Carol, and a confidant to Mike. She even cared for the family dog.
Like it? Share with your friends!