Friends, what would you think if I told you that back in 1977, a short-lived sitcom aired on CBS that featured Norman Lear (All in the Family, The Jeffersons) as Executive Producer – that focuses on two musicians tempted to sell their souls to the Son of the Devil? It would be understandable if you thought I was pulling your leg but it is all 100% the truth – in addition it starred the iconic Paul Shaffer as well as future B.J. and the Bear and My Two Dads‘ Greg Evigan as said musicians – named Paul and Greg.
Now I’m beginning to wonder if there was something being added to the water in ’77 because that was also the year that Quark debuted – in fact you probably saw that great article that Earl Green wrote the other day. In that science fiction comedy, one of the co-stars of the show was the legendary Tim Thomerson (Trancers, Near Deark), well, turns out he appeared in at least one of the episodes of A Year at the Top too. Also appearing for a single episode – the pilot in fact – was none other than Mickey Rooney as Uncle Mickey Durbin – who I assume is one the character’s actual Uncle.
That assumption though ties into what is disappointing about sharing A Year at the Top with you – it is NOT available to watch – not on DVD or even on YouTube, so hardly any information is out there about the series. I do know that it was Gabriel Dell who played the part of Frederick J. Hanover – the promoter who happens to the Son of the Devil and is also making sure that Greg and Paul are finding success… until it’s time to reap their souls. And while there might not be a lot to share from the short-lived TV series – thanks to Don Scardino (Godspell) who appears in this clip along with Josh Mostel (Jesus Christ Superstar) you can watch the fictional band in the series known as The Hereafter perform “Like a Rising Star“. Fun fact – Paul Shaffer was conductor and played the keyboards for the Broadway production of Godspell the previous year, and even co-wrote “Like a Rising Star” with Scardino.
UPDATE: Thanks to Patrick J. Doody, a friend and fellow former writer for the Retroist – on Twitter, none other than Don Scardino chimed in on the above video. This was not part of the CBS A Year at the Top show but a pilot for another series – from that Twitter message:
“The premise was a cross between Damn Yankees and The Monkees: three old vaudevillians sell their souls to the son of the devil (Mostel) to be groovy young rock stars (Me, Shaffer, Evigan).”
“It never aired, as the the network we made it for (NBC?) didn’t pick it up. Produced by Norman Lear and Don Kirshner and they didn’t go for it! Then it was reurrected at CBS as a live audience sitcom called Year At the Top with Paul and Greg as duo. (Josh and I said no thanks.”
I would pay very good money to have this series made available – I’ve read online that there were six episodes filmed but CBS yanked it after five had aired, that is okay, perhaps it wasn’t that funny but I am willing to bet the music was pretty amazing. Earl Green discovered that an album was produced – at least a promotional copy – entitled “Greg & Paul – A Year at the Top” featuring the theme to the show and nine other songs including “She’s A Rebel“, a gender-swap version of the hit 1962 tune “He’s A Rebel“.