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‘Webster’ TV Show — 10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About the 80s Sitcom

See which famous comedian was hired as a writer on the show and learn 9 more facts

Little orphaned Webster Long stood just 3 feet 4 inches, but he packed a wallop when it came to cuteness, mischievous antics and an outsized personality. Webster, the TV show, starred Emmanuel Lewis and was conceived as ABC’s counter programming to NBC’s Diff’rent Strokes, which starred another actor of small stature, Gary Coleman. Set in Chicago, Webster aired from 1983 to 1987 on the network, and then from 1987 to 1989 in first-run syndication.

The show begins with retired football player George Papadopolis and socialite wife Katherine Calder-Young (played by Alex Karras and Susan Clark, husband and wife off screen, too) returning from a cruise to find Webster waiting at their doorstep.

Emmanuel Lewis as a child
Emmanuel Lewis as a childAfro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

The little one is orphaned when his parents are killed in a car crash, leaving George to take in Webster since he had promised his former football teammate he would care for his son in the event of a tragedy.

While the couple had to adjust their lives to accommodate their new roles as parents, Webster himself became the main focus of the show, providing tons of laughs and life lessons. Here are some Webster fun facts you might not know about the TV show.

Webster TV show facts

1. Jerry Seinfeld’s early gig

Jerry Seinfeld, 1990
Jerry Seinfeld, 1990Ann Summa/Getty Images

Jerry Seinfeld was hired as a staff writer, but only lasted one week and none of his material made it to air — it would seem that people weren’t ready to hear about nothing. Yet.

Related: Cast of ‘Seinfeld’ Then and Now: See What the Hilarious Crew Has Been Up To

2. Lewis was 7 years older than his character!

Emmanuel Lewis, 1984
Emmanuel Lewis, 1984Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Webster’s age span throughout the series was 5 to 8 years old. In reality, Emmanuel Lewis was 12 to 17 throughout the series run. The finale aired just one day after his 18th birthday. Today he’s 52-years-old.

3. Lewis did 50 commercials

Emmanuel Lewis holding a People's Choice Award, 1985
Emmanuel Lewis holding a People’s Choice Award, 1985Bettmann/Getty Images

Lewis’ acting career began when he was jogging with an actor-friend who asked him if he wanted to be in show biz. Sure! What kid wouldn’t? His mom contacted an agency that handled gifted children for TV commercials and Emmanuel was hired on the spot.

Lewis did around 50 commercials, including one each for Campbell’s Soup and Life Cereal, as well as four Burger King ads. His Colgate commercial can be seen in the movie Splash.

4. A hasty call

Emmanuel Lewis, 1986
Emmanuel Lewis, 1986Santi Visalli/Getty Images

After seeing Lewis in one of his Burger King commercials, ABC’s programming chief moved quickly to give Lewis his own series. The reason? The network felt the need to cast him quickly before he grew another inch.

5. A different vision for the show

Alex Karras and Susan Clark, 1980
Alex Karras and Susan Clark, 1980Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

The TV show was originally conceived to feature only George and Katherine playing a newly-married celebrity couple trying to settle into normal domesticity. At that time it was titled Another Ballgame, but when Emmanuel Lewis was signed on to star in another series for ABC, the network decided he’d be a good fit for Webster instead.

6. Webster TV show started out rocky

Webster TV Show: Susan Clark, Emmanuel Lewis and Alex Karras
Susan Clark, Emmanuel Lewis and Alex Karras©ABC/courtesy

Alex Karras and Susan Clark were not happy with the change of the show’s title to Webster, and while the show was to be an ensemble cast, it now focused on Lewis’ character.

The first season was a tense one, but by Season 3, the stormy relations disappeared on set and Karras became a surrogate father figure to Lewis.

7. A recognizable role

Webster TV Show: Alex Karras in Blazing Saddles
Alex Karras as Mongo in 1974’s Blazing Saddles©Paramount Pictures/courtesy

Alex Karras, who passed away from kidney failure in October 2012, was always recognized for his role in Blazing Saddles, where his character, Mongo, punched out a horse.

8. The Webster TV show had an international fan base

Webster TV Show: Drew Barrymore and Emmanuel Lewis, 1987
Drew Barrymore and Emmanuel Lewis, 1987Ralph Dominguez/MediaPunch via Getty Images

Emmanuel became one of the biggest stars in Japan and made three personal appearance tours in that country. He also recorded an album that shot to the top of the Japanese charts, and starred in a TV movie for Japanese television called Samurai in New York.

9. Emmanuel’s protective mother

Ron Reagan Jr. and Emmanuel Lewis while filming Webster TV show, 1986
Ron Reagan Jr. and Emmanuel Lewis while filming Webster, 1986Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

Being so young on set, Emmanuel’s mom had to be there to supervise and she became aggravated with the cast and crew who would pick up her son and carry him around. Eventually, she told Paramount TV that she wanted that stopped immediately and so it was.

10. Famous faces graced the Webster TV show

Webster TV Show Guest Stars, Mayim Bialik, 1990
Mayim Bialik, 1990Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Notable guest stars throughout the years included: Mac Davis, The Four Tops, Alison Sweeney, Mayim Bialik, Frank Gifford, Diahann Carroll, Normal Fell and many others.

RELATED: ‘Blossom’ Cast: See the Hilarious Russo Family Then and Now

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