Pat Harrington, Jr., star of long-ago Norman Lear hit, "One Day at a Time," has died. He was 86.
New York native Harrington — who won a Golden Globe and Emmy for "One Day," which also starred an equally formidable Bonnie Franklin — was a TV classic and journeyman par excellence who appeared in dozens of shows going back to "Make Room For Daddy." He was Dr. Milton Foster on "The Love Boat" and Peter Sweet in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." He played a handful of different characters on "Murder She Wrote" — a neat trick indeed — and even picked up recent cameos in shows as profoundly rooted on opposite sides of the TV spectrum as "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Hot in Cleveland."
He was even a regular on Jack Paar's "Tonight." (Who among us remember Panzini? Anyone?) Have I yet mentioned his ubiquity on that durable pillar of '70s TV — the celebrity game show? ("Stump the Stars," "Password," the "New" AND old "Hollywood Squares" ....)
But it was his Schneider that made TV history. Of the wisecracking handyman who popped in unannounced whenever he darned well wanted to, creator Norman Lear called him the "comic strength" of the show.
In fact, he was also the comic relief. With its long beats and way-we-live-now preoccupations, "One Day at a Time" wasn't designed to be a laugh-a-minute sitcom, but more akin to "Soap." Schneider instantly gave viewers permission to laugh. He was a Kramer with a tool belt, and quip, which invariably was a sexist or at the very least obnoxious one. If he didn't quite steal the show, the memory of his character is more durable than that of the other characters. He was indispensable to its decade-long success ('75 to '84 ...).
Of note, you might even reasonably argue that he helped launch Mark Hamill's career. Hamill, who played his nephew, Harvey, was beneficiary of Schneider's countless scene-stealing moments. He quickly went on to star in one of the most important movies in film and cultural history. So take a short bow for that too, Pat.