Benson Trek

I have some fond memories of watching Benson as a child. I never really watched Soap, which it was a spinoff of, and only have a vague recollection of some of the episodes I saw in syndication. But I liked Robert Guillaume's wisecracking lieutenant governor. He was the real brains behind James Noble's governor, whom I used to confuse with Conrad Bain's Mr. Drummond for some reason. And years later, Spin City's Barry Bostwick would play a simple governor reminiscent, in my opinion, of Noble's.

Benson was smart, and a definite match when sparring verbally with the stern Miss Krause or snide Clayton. I think Drew Carey carried on this tradition in his own exchanges with Mimi. For all his cool, biting wit, Benson could be kind and compassionate as well, especially where the governor's daughter, played by Missy Gold(sister of Growing Pains' Tracey Gold. My memory of my single-digit years is a little fuzzy, but I think Missy may be among the ranks of my childhood crushes, along with Dana Plato and Inspector Gadget's niece Penny(not to be confused with Michelle Trachtenberg).

Of Benson's sparring partners, Inga Swenson's career seems to end when the eighties did. Rene Auberjonois would later show up on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the shapeshifting Odo, and frequently turns up as an answer in television crossword puzzles(“12 Down; DS9 character, 3 letters”). He had no nose and simplified features, contrary to his villainous mustache and eyebrows on Benson, but his voice was unmistakable, even when he showed up voicing a scientist in the premiere episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Auberjonois was not the only Benson alumnus to show up on a Star Trek franchise however. Ethan Phillips, who played Pete, later starred as Neelix in Star Trek Voyager. His voice, distinctive in a more nasal & benevolent/less gruff & evil way than Auberjonois', helped make him recognizable, beneath the even more massive amounts of makeup his character required.

This trek through Benson history was prompted by a friend pointing out Phillips in a guest role on Cold Case last night. And, given the current wave of Seinfeld nostalgia that's spawned a DVD release, an upcoming NBC special, and an appearance by the cast on today's Oprah(I was off today), it's interesting that I found out from the trivia section of IMDB that Jerry Seinfeld made his acting debut in the 1980-1981 season playing Frankie. It's annoying that I don't remember him and Benson isn't on DVD yet, so I'll have to check it out whenever it's finally released.


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