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Empty Nest

Empty Nest
Genre Sitcom
Created by Susan Harris[1]
Directed by Andy Cadiff
Hal Cooper
Dinah Manoff
Doug Smart
Steve Zuckerman
Starring Richard Mulligan
Kristy McNichol (1988–1992)
Dinah Manoff
David Leisure
Park Overall
Paul Provenza (1992–1993)
Lisa Rieffel (1992–1993)
Marsha Warfield (1993–1995)
Estelle Getty (1993–1995)
Theme music composer John Bettis
George Tipton
Opening theme "Life Goes On" performed by Billy Vera
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 170 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Hal Cooper
Nina Feinberg
Susan Harris
Gary Jacobs
Paul Junger Witt
Rod Parker
Tony Thomas
Bob Tischler
Producer(s) Gil Junger
Dennis Snee
Steven Sullivan
Ursula Ziegler
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) Touchstone Television
Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions
Distributor Buena Vista Television
Original channel NBC
Original release October 8, 1988 (1988-10-08) – April 29, 1995 (1995-04-29)[2]
Related shows The Golden Girls

Empty Nest is an American sitcom that originally aired on NBC from 1988 to 1995. The series was created as a spin-off of The Golden Girls by creator and producer Susan Harris. For its first three seasons, Empty Nest was one of the year's top 10 most-watched programs. It was produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions in association with Touchstone Television.[3][4]

The show concept borrowed some elements from the British comedy series Father, Dear Father, also featuring a father living with his two daughters and large dog. However, unlike that series (in which the daughters are still teenagers and the ex-wife and her new husband are both conspicuously present), the two daughters in Empty Nest are self-supporting adults, and the lead character is a widower.

Empty Nest was part of NBC's Saturday night block of programming, and during its first four seasons it aired at 9:30pm ET, directly following The Golden Girls.

Two of the cast were alumni from one of Susan Harris' earlier shows, Soap; Mulligan was (briefly) Manoff's father-in-law in Soap.


  • History 1
  • Plot 2
  • Cast 3
    • Notable guest stars 3.1
  • Nielsen ratings 4
  • Production notes 5
    • Theme song 5.1
  • Crossovers 6
  • Syndication 7
  • Awards 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


An incarnation of the series was initially featured in the 1987 Golden Girls episode "Empty Nests." In the episode, George and Renee Corliss (played by Geoffrey Lewis) who suffered from multiple personality disorder also appeared. The set of the Corliss house was exactly the same as the one that later became the Weston residence, and they also had an annoying neighbor played by David Leisure (although named Oliver). The episode was screened as the Season Two finale of The Golden Girls and was intended to act as a backdoor pilot for the spin-off to begin in the fall 1987 TV season. However, the series did not go ahead as planned and the premise was later extensively revamped before it eventually appeared on screens in 1988.


The show revolves around pediatrician Dr. Harry Weston (Richard Mulligan), whose life is turned upside down when his wife, Libby, dies, and two of his adult daughters move back into the family home in Miami. Early episodes established that The Golden Girls were neighbors of the Westons (Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Betty White all guest-starred as their Golden Girls characters, and vice versa), while Estelle Getty eventually became a regular on the series. Weston always wanted a boy and occasionally expressed regret at never having had one.[5]

Eldest daughter Carol (Dinah Manoff) was a neurotic and high-strung recent divorcée, while middle daughter Barbara (Kristy McNichol) was a tough undercover police officer. The two sisters frequently bickered and vied for the attention of their father, whom they called "Daddy." The Westons' large dog Dreyfuss was also prominently featured.

In 1992, Kristy McNichol left the show and the youngest Weston daughter, Emily (Lisa Rieffel), joined the cast. Her character had not been seen before, but had been previously mentioned as being away at college. Rieffel left after one season, and for the show's final two seasons only Carol remained of the Weston children. McNichol returned for the series finale in 1995.

Another main character was the Westons' neighbor, Charley Dietz (David Leisure), a womanizing cruise ship employee who frequently barged into the house unannounced to borrow food or make sexist comments. Charley had a father-son relationship with Harry and a love-hate relationship with Carol.

Harry's job was another major focus for the show. For the first five seasons Harry worked at a hospital where he was aided by his wise-cracking Southern nurse Laverne (Park Overall). In season six, Harry retired, eventually going to work for a struggling inner-city medical clinic run by the tough-talking Dr. Maxine Douglas (Marsha Warfield). Laverne, having been fired by Dr. Weston's replacement, came to work there as well.

Other characters who later joined the cast were Carol's boyfriend, Patrick (Paul Provenza), an artist who was almost as eccentric as she. Patrick convinced the Westons to let him use their empty garage as his new painting studio and, when his relationship with Carol became serious, he eventually moved in altogether. Their romantic bliss was short-lived, as they broke up at the beginning of season six. However, this was not before Carol became pregnant with Patrick's child; their son, Scotty, was born in November 1993, and Carol chose to raise the baby on her own. Estelle Getty reprised her Golden Girls character Sophia Petrillo during Empty Nest's final two seasons (after the cancellation of The Golden Palace). It was explained that Sophia had moved back into the nearby Shady Pines retirement home.


Notable guest stars

Nielsen ratings

  1. 1988–89: #9 (19.2) [6]
  2. 1989–90: #9 (18.9)[6]
  3. 1990–91: #7 (16.7)[6]
  4. 1991–92: #23 (14.3)[6]
  5. 1992–93: #48 (10.8)
  6. 1993–94: #62
  7. 1994–95: #118[7]

Production notes

In 1991, Empty Nest spawned its own spinoff, Nurses, a sitcom about a group of nurses working in the same hospital as Dr. Weston. The three series (Empty Nest, Golden Girls and Nurses) represented one of the few times in American television history that three shows from the same producer, all taking place in the same city and explicitly set up with the characters knowing each other from the very beginning, aired on the same network in one night. On at least two occasions, Harris wrote storylines which carried through all three series as fictional crossovers.

Theme song

The show's theme song was "Life Goes On", written by Billy Vera. For the first three seasons, the song was done in a slower, more melancholy yet comical arrangement. The original opening titles sequence showed Harry Weston taking Dreyfuss for a walk around town, with still images of the other regular cast members shown as they were credited.

When the third season began, a new opening sequence debuted. This was made up of footage from series episodes showing each of the regular cast members. For the final four seasons the theme song was done in a higher, more upbeat arrangement with female backup singers and the titles sequence style introduced in the third season remained.


The following is a list of Empty Nest episodes featuring characters from The Golden Girls and Nurses.

Season One
Season Two
  • Episode 6: "Rambo of Neiman Marcus" - Rose Nylund from The Golden Girls
Season Four
  • Episode 8: "Windy" - Sophia Petrillo from The Golden Girls
  • Episode 20: "Dr. Weston and Mr. Hyde" - Rose Nylund from The Golden Girls
Season Five
  • Episode 20: "Love and Marriage" - Jack Trenton from Nurses
Season Six
  • Episode 2: "Bye-Bye, Baby... Hello: Part 1" - Casey MacAfee from Nurses
  • Episode 7: "Mother Dearest" - Casey MacAfee from Nurses


The series ran in syndication from September 1993 to September 2000, shortly before the death of star Richard Mulligan. During this time, Empty Nest aired on TBS from September 16 to December 6, 1996 and on WGN from September 16, 1996 to March 26, 1999, with both stations airing the series as part of the regular syndication run (both TBS and WGN were superstations).[8][9][10] In the subsequent decade, the series did not air on American television. Hallmark Channel, which also owns the rights to The Golden Girls, picked up the rights to the show in early 2011 and aired it from February 26 to June 26 of that year, but eventually removed it altogether.

Upon its launch on April 15, 2015, the new digital sub channel Laff began airing the series.

In Canada, the series was rerun by CBC during the 1990s.


In 1989, Richard Mulligan won both the Emmy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. The series received a number of other Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations over the years, especially for Mulligan and for Park Overall who was nominated three times for a Golden Globe Award.

Year Association Category Nominee(s) Result
1989 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Richard Mulligan Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Won
Viewers for Quality Television Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Park Overall Won
1990 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Richard Mulligan Nominated
Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy Empty Nest Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Richard Mulligan Nominated
Viewers for Quality Television Best Actor in a Quality Comedy Series Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Park Overall Won
1991 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Richard Mulligan Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Park Overall Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Danny Thomas Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Richard Mulligan Nominated
Viewers for Quality Television Best Actor in a Quality Comedy Series Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Park Overall Won
1992 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Park Overall Nominated
1993 Nominated


  1. ^ Golden Girls' Creator Adds Shows"". LA Times. September 10, 1991. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (October 8, 1988). Empty Nest' Looks Like Good Place to Nestle Down"'". LA Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  4. ^ Haithman, Diane (November 24, 1990). Empty Nest': TV's Unknown Hit"'". LA Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  5. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (1988-10-08). Looks Like Good Place to Nestle Down"Empty Nest".  
  6. ^ a b c d Brooks, T and Marsh, E. (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946 - Present, p. 1692-1693. Ballantine ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  7. ^ "List of Season's TV Ratings". 1995-04-19. Associated Press.
  8. ^ TBS Log - Sitcoms Online Message Boards
  9. ^ TV Guide - September 14–20, 1996
  10. ^ TV Guide - March 20–26, 1999

External links

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