NEW YORK – If Gopher could serve four terms in Congress, why not Guppy Sherman?
I posed the question to Gopher himself, who is otherwise known as former U.S. Rep. Fred Grandy (R-Iowa). He was elected to Congress in 1986, a victory due in part to his fame from playing Yeoman-Purser Burl "Gopher" Smith on The Love Boat for nine seasons.
Why ask him? Because now there's a TV show in the works starring Nathan Lane about a fictional actor from a beloved TV show who is also elected to Congress. The fictional actor is named Charlie Lawrence, which is also the title of the show. And Guppy Sherman was the beloved character for which Lawrence is best known, which is kind of like Grandy and Gopher.
"The political celebrity and the show business celebrity have kind of blurred, haven't they?" observed the good-natured Grandy on the phone Friday from Melbourne, Fla., where he's been appearing in the play "The Water Coolers" with his daughter, Marya.
(A pilot of Charlie Lawrence has been made for CBS and circulated to TV critics, although there's no airdate for it yet.)
Charlie's fame stems from a fictitious series called Do Unto Others, a feel-good drama combining elements of Fantasy Island, Touched By an Angel and Highway to Heaven. His character, Guppy Sherman, wore a white suit in the manner of Mr. Roarke from Fantasy Island and granted wishes to people in trouble.
I watched Charlie Lawrence the other day and found it hilarious. In fact, it could turn into the hit that has eluded Lane for years, if only CBS would get it on the schedule (a spokeswoman didn't know when that might happen).
To my surprise, Congresman Gopher — I mean, Grandy — had also seen the pilot. It turns out he offered input based on his own experiences to the show's creators.
"I felt the pilot did work pretty well," Grandy told me. "I'm a Nathan Lane fan and if they can build this into a successful venue for him, it should do well."
Grandy, 54, was quick to point out the differences between he and Charlie Lawrence. For one thing, Charlie is gay, which Grandy is not. In addition, Lawrence is from New Mexico and a Democrat.
Grandy also noted that "Guppy" is being portrayed as a fish-out-of-water freshman congressman — which differs from Grandy's own experience.
He said his fame helped him establish relationships quickly with his congressional colleagues, who saw him as a potent draw at fund-raising events.
"I was able to make a lot of friends and do a lot of favors early on, which I was able to cash in," Grandy said.
He thinks there's no reason why Charlie Lawrence shouldn't have a long run in Congress for the same reasons he did.
The ex-congressman and I are both rooting for Charlie Lawrence to get up and running.
In the meantime, Grandy is watching Mr. Sterling on NBC. "It's very good," he said.