Big John, Little John
Big John (Herb Edelman), from the opening credits
Created bySherwood Schwartz
StarringHerb Edelman
Robbie Rist
Joyce Bulifant
Theme music composerRichard LaSalle
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13
Executive producersRaymond S. "Ray" "R. S." Allen
William P. D'Angelo
Harvey Bullock
Sherwood Schwartz
ProducerLloyd J. Schwartz
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companiesD'Angelo-Bullock-Allen Productions
Redwood Productions
Original networkNBC
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 11 (1976-09-11) –
December 4, 1976 (1976-12-04)

Big John, Little John is an American Saturday-morning situation comedy, produced by Sherwood Schwartz, which starred Herbert Edelman as "Big John" and Robert "Robbie" Rist as "Little John." The show first aired on September 11, 1976, on NBC, and ran for one season of 13 episodes.[1] The series was produced by Redwood Productions in association with D'Angelo-Bullock-Allen Productions. In the United Kingdom, it was shown on BBC1.

Plot summary

Little John (Robbie Rist), as seen in the opening credits.
Little John (Robbie Rist), as seen in the opening credits.

The show's main character was a forty-year-old middle school science teacher named John Martin (played by Edelman). While vacationing in Florida, he drinks from a spring which turns out to be the legendary Fountain of Youth sought by Juan Ponce de León. The water changes him into a twelve-year-old boy (played by Rist), and back again.

The changes occur spontaneously and without warning. Because Martin only sipped the water, the changes are recurring and not permanent; according to legend, had he taken a full drink, he would be age twelve permanently. Only his wife, Marjorie (Joyce Bulifant), and son, Ricky (Mike Darnell), know his secret, though Martin's students (who befriend him as "Little John") and his boss, principal Bertha Bottomly (Olive Dunbar), do become suspicious that something unusual is going on. The Martin family explain the younger John as their nephew, staying with them. Throughout the series, "Big John" unsuccessfully tries to find a cure for his predicament, but his experiences as "Little John" often give him insight into what his students are facing.

To make the two actors resemble each other more closely, Rist's blond hair was dyed brown, while Edelman wore a hairpiece that partially covered his baldness, though was absent during the credits sequences. Edelman and Rist appeared together in 1977, on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.


Rist had previously worked on Schwartz's The Brady Bunch during its final season (1973–1974), as the Bradys' cousin, Oliver.


Title Directed by Written by Original air date
1"A Sizeable Problem"Gordon WilesLloyd J. Schwartz,
Sherwood Schwartz
September 11, 1976 (1976-09-11)
While on a trip to Florida, John Martin stumbles upon the legendary fountain of youth. Willing to test the waters, John sips a handful of the liquid. The consequences are unforeseeable, for he begins to revert to his childhood on certain times that are neither predictable nor controllable, causing many problematic situations for John and his family.
2"Peter Panic"Gordon WilesPhilip TaylorSeptember 18, 1976 (1976-09-18)
Big John is cast as Captain Hook in his school's production of Peter Pan, while Little John ends up having to play Peter Pan at the same time.
3"Very Little John"Wes KenneyBruce Kalish,
Ron Sellz
September 25, 1976 (1976-09-25)
John tries a new formula in the laboratory that he hopes will cure him from his conversions.
4"The Great Escape"Gordon WilesWilliam Freedman,
Albert A. Schwartz
October 2, 1976 (1976-10-02)
John Martin is detained when a sheriff demands his ID and he cannot produce it. He gets his freedom when his personality changes in prison.
5"Big Scare, Little Scare"Gordon WilesRon FriedmanOctober 9, 1976 (1976-10-09)
John has summoned Mr. Boswell, Stanley’s dad, to account for his son’s continuous tardiness to class for five days. Boswell explains that the boy is afraid of crossing in front of the Crabtree mansion, an abandoned house that neighbors believe it to be haunted. John decides to find out who’s behind the Crabtree ghost.
Guest stars: Don "Red" Barry (Mr. Crabtree), James Deuter (Mr. Boswell)
6"Big Shot / Little Shot"Ross BowmanAlan Dinehart,
Herbert Finn
October 16, 1976 (1976-10-16)
It is vaccination day at the school and John turns into a man and he gets vaccinated. Meanwhile, as the kid, he's invited to join the school basketball team. Then at the end of the episode, he becomes the kid again and the other teachers take him to get vaccinated again, much to his chagrin.
7"Time for Change"Gordon WilesLloyd J. SchwartzOctober 23, 1976 (1976-10-23)
John believes he has discovered the secret of the Fountain of Youth, so he calls a press conference to announce his discovery — but his "discovery" shows no signs of panning out as he had believed.
8"The Principal Who Came to Dinner"Wes KenneyMark FinkOctober 30, 1976 (1976-10-30)
Big John's voice in Little John's body and vice versa puts not only Martin in a squeeze but his family as well.
9"Bully for You"Gordon WilesSam Locke,
Paul Roberts
November 6, 1976 (1976-11-06)
Stanley is again late for the class. The teacher is speaking to his students about the importance of facing up bullies. This leads to trouble for Little John when he's threatened by the class bully, Gasey.
10"Off the Wall"Gordon WilesBen Gershman,
Harry Winkler
November 13, 1976 (1976-11-13)
John is assigned to find who is behind the vandalism inflicted on the school walls.
11"The Missing John"Gordon WilesBruce HowardNovember 20, 1976 (1976-11-20)
Little John receives a severe reprimand for having played unwillingly a joke on the school principal.
12"Speak for Yourself, John"Gordon WilesDavid P. HarmonNovember 27, 1976 (1976-11-27)
Because of the arrangements for the annual Thanksgiving dance that is held at the school, Ms. Bottomly proposes to Professor Martin that he be one of the chaperones. At the same time, Little John is chosen by his female classmate as companion for that day.
13"Abracadabra"Norm GrayJerome Zucker,
Davis Samuel Zucker,
James S. Abrahams
December 4, 1976 (1976-12-04)
In order to arrange a show for the school annual party, one of Martin's students prepares a set of different magic tricks.

Home media

The complete series was released on DVD (for Regions 1 and 2) in 2009 by Fabulous Films.


  1. ^ Woolery, George W. (1985). Children's Television: The First Thirty-Five Years, 1946-1981, Part II: Live, Film, and Tape Series. The Scarecrow Press. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0-8108-1651-2.