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Evening Shade

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Title: Evening Shade  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Nick McLean, Michael Jeter, Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy, Jay R. Ferguson, Elizabeth Ashley
Collection: 1990 American Television Series Debuts, 1990S American Comedy Television Series, 1990S American Television Series, 1994 American Television Series Endings, American Television Sitcoms, Cbs Network Shows, English-Language Television Programming, Pittsburgh Steelers in Popular Culture, Television Series by 20Th Century Fox Television, Television Series by Cbs Paramount Television, Television Series by Cbs Television Studios, Television Shows Set in Arkansas
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Evening Shade

Evening Shade
Promotional cast photo
Created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason[1]
Starring Burt Reynolds
Marilu Henner
Michael Jeter
Jay R. Ferguson
Hal Holbrook
Ossie Davis
Charles Durning
Elizabeth Ashley
Ann Wedgeworth
Charlie Dell
Candace Hutson
Jacob Parker
Narrated by Ossie Davis
Opening theme Instrumental theme
by Sonny Curtis (1990–1992)
Theme with lyrics
by Bobby Goldsboro (1992–1994)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 98
Executive producer(s) Linda Bloodworth-Thomason
Running time 30 minutes
(with commercials)
Production company(s) Bloodworth-Thomason
Mozark Productions
CBS Productions
Burt Reynolds Productions
MTM Productions
Distributor 20th Television (U.S.)
CBS Television Distribution (DVDs and non-us, 2008–present)
Original channel CBS
Original release September 21, 1990 – May 23, 1994

Evening Shade is an American television sitcom that aired on CBS from September 21, 1990 to May 23, 1994. The series stars Burt Reynolds as Wood Newton, an ex-professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who returns to rural Evening Shade, Arkansas, to coach a high school football team with a long losing streak. Reynolds personally requested to use the Steelers as his former team, because he is a fan.[2]

The general theme of the show is the appeal of small town life. Episodes ended with a closing narration by Ossie Davis, as his character Ponder Blue, summing up the events of the episode, always closing with "... in a place called Evening Shade." The opening segment included clips from around Arkansas, including the famous McClard's Bar-be-que, which is situated on Albert Pike Blvd. and South Patterson St. in Hot Springs National Park.


  • Summary 1
  • Characters 2
    • Main 2.1
    • Recurring 2.2
  • Nielsen ratings/Broadcast history 3
  • Production 4
  • Episode list 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


A former pro football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers who quit due to injury, Wood Newton has settled down to a quiet life as the coach of the Evening Shade high school football team - a position that is slightly controversial as the team is notorious for losing every game. He and his wife, Ava, whom he married when she was only 18 (a frequently voiced grievance by her father, Evan Evans, the owner of the local newspaper), are devoted to one another despite the age difference. Ava is an ambitious and successful practicing lawyer who in the first season is elected District Attorney while pregnant with their fourth (unintended) child, Emily. Among Wood's and Ava's closest friends are the somewhat older Harlan Eldridge, the town doctor, and his trusting wife, Merleen, who is always eager to believe the best of people.

The show's plots focus on the various difficulties that Wood faces in living a much different life than he'd ever expected, as well as the obvious family pressures of two jobs and four children. Additional tensions come from Ava's Aunt Frieda, Evan's perennially discontented sister, who especially disapproves when Evan begins dating Fontana Beausoleil, who works as a stripper and who discovers in season two that she is the long-lost daughter Merleen gave up for adoption when she was 15. Evan and Fontana get married in a three-part episode in season two, and have a child in season three. The show also gets mileage out of the incongruity of the decidedly unathletic assistant coach Herman Stiles, the most the school can afford due to budgetary pressures. Herman is well-meaning and intensely eager to learn the job. In the course of the first season he catches the eye of the somewhat prim and proper high school principal, Margaret, and they begin dating.

On July 13 and 20, 1993, CBS aired two parts of an hour-long pilot, Harlan and Merleen, as a proposed spin-off from the series. The pilot saw the Eldridges open their home to young pregnant women who needed help (one of whom was also played by Leah Remini). The pilot did not make it to series status.




Nielsen ratings/Broadcast history

Season Timeslot Rank Rating Households
1) 1990–1991 Friday night at 8:00 pm #49 12.1 N/A
2) 1991–1992 Monday night at 8:00 pm #15 15.6 14,367,600
3) 1992–1993 #19 14.5 13,499,500
4) 1993–1994 #27 13.2 12,434,400

The series enjoyed strong ratings during its entire run, hitting its peak in season two with a #15 Nielsen ranking. At the time, this was a notably higher position than The Cosby Show, which had recently fallen from a five-year streak as TV's number one program. Evening Shade was still a Top 30 performer when CBS cancelled the show in the spring of 1994. Skyrocketing production costs, mainly attributed to the large salaries of the show's top-caliber, all-star cast, were the primary reason given for the cancellation (which was confirmed by Marilu Henner in her September 1994 appearance on Charlie Rose). However, some have speculated that the show's ending was a decision made by producer/star Reynolds, rather than CBS, as his recent marriage troubles with ex-wife Loni Anderson (from whom he was divorced in 1993) were thought to have impacted his work. Yet, Reynolds was blindsided by the cancellation and said he would then focus on his feature career.


The show's production company, Mozark Productions, was a joint venture by creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason of Missouri and her husband, Arkansas native, Harry Thomason, which concurrently produced another successful show set in the South, Designing Women. Hal Holbrook's Designing Women character was killed off to free the actor to star in the newer program. The series was produced in association with CBS Productions (now CBS Television Distribution), Burt Reynolds Productions, and MTM Enterprises (now 20th Television). CBS retained full ownership of the series while MTM syndicated the series in the United States. CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment has released the entire first season on DVD, albeit with music changes and rescoring.

Episode list


  1. ^ Letofsky, Irv (October 29, 1990). "The Sitcom Behind the Sitcom : Television: The countdown to an 'Evening Shade' rehearsal can be comedic. Just ask writer and producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason.".  
  2. ^ Wallace, David (February 17, 1991). "TELEVISION : The Dawning of 'Evening Shade' : How the producing team of Harry and Linda Thomason lured Burt Reynolds and other movie heavyweights to a sitcom".  

External links

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