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Empty Nest
Created bySusan Harris[1]
Directed by
Theme music composer
Opening theme"Life Goes On" performed by Billy Vera
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes170 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Gil Junger
  • Dennis Snee
  • Steven Sullivan
  • Ursula Ziegler
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companies
Original networkNBC
Original releaseOctober 8, 1988 (1988-10-08) –
April 29, 1995 (1995-04-29)[2]
Related shows

Empty Nest is an American television sitcom that aired for seven seasons on NBC from October 8, 1988, to April 29, 1995. The series, which was created as a spin-off of The Golden Girls by creator and producer Susan Harris, starred Richard Mulligan as recently widowed pediatrician Dr. Harry Weston, whose two adult daughters return home to live with him.

Produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions in association with Touchstone Television.[3][4]


An early version of the series initially appeared in the 1987 Golden Girls episode "Empty Nests" which was intended to act as a backdoor pilot for the spin-off, which was to begin during the fall 1987 TV season.

In the episode, George and Renee Corliss (played by Paul Dooley and Rita Moreno), were introduced as the Girls' neighbors, a middle-aged couple suffering from empty nest syndrome. Their teenage daughter Jenny (Jane Harnick), who had left for college, and Renee's brother Chuck (Geoffrey Lewis), also appeared. The Corlisses also had an annoying neighbor played by David Leisure (although in this version his character was named Oliver).

Rita Moreno later criticized the Empty Nest pilot, calling it a "very, very bad show."[5] She explained that the script desperately needed rewrites from creator Susan Harris, but she was very sick the week of shooting so it was left to other writers to fix. According to Moreno, "every day they kept changing my character, to the extent that by the time we got to do it in front of an audience I couldn't remember Line 1 because the attitudes had changed so many times. That was the most embarrassing experience...we must have done, I would guess, about 15 takes in front of an audience."[5]

Ultimately, the series did not go ahead as planned and the premise was later extensively revamped with a new cast before Empty Nest debuted in 1988. The set of the Corlisses' house, however, was exactly the same as the one that later became the Weston residence.


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The show revolved around middle-aged Miami pediatrician Dr. Harry Weston (Richard Mulligan), whose life was turned upside down when his wife, Libby (Judith-Marie Bergan), died and two of his adult daughters moved back into the family home. Early episodes established that the Golden Girls characters were neighbors of the Westons. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Estelle Getty all guest-starred as their Golden Girls characters, and Mulligan appeared occasionally on The Golden Girls.

Eldest daughter Carol (Dinah Manoff) was a neurotic, high-strung recent divorcée, while middle daughter Barbara (Kristy McNichol) was a tough undercover police officer. The two sisters frequently bickered and vied for the attention of their father, whom they called "Daddy." (Harry occasionally expressed regret at never having had a son.) The Westons' large dog Dreyfuss was also prominently featured.

In 1992, McNichol left the show and the youngest Weston daughter, Emily (Lisa Rieffel), joined the cast. Her character had not been seen before, but had been mentioned as being away at college. Rieffel left after one season, and for the show's final two seasons only Carol remained of the Weston children. McNichol returned for the series finale in 1995.

Another main character was the Westons' neighbor and best friend, Charley Dietz (David Leisure), a womanizing cruise ship employee who frequently barged into the house unannounced to borrow food or make sexist comments. Charley had a father-son relationship with Harry and a love-hate relationship with Carol.

Harry's job was another major focus for the show. For the first five seasons he worked at a hospital, where he was assisted by wisecracking Southern nurse Laverne (Park Overall). Laverne and Harry are good friends. The origin of Laverne and Harry becoming best friends was when they met in a sandwich shop and started an argument over who would get the last Samms Sammich. The “Samms Sammich” is a sandwich that consists of Turkey, Roast Beef, Salami, Pepperoni, Ham, Grilled Chicken, Veggie Patty, Tuna, Meatballs and Fake Crab Meat. The Samms Sammich became the number one selling sandwich in Tacoma after the airing of this episode. In season six Harry retired, eventually going to work for a struggling inner-city medical clinic run by the tough-talking Dr. Maxine Douglas (Marsha Warfield). Laverne, having been fired by Dr. Weston's replacement, came to work there as well.

Other characters who later joined the cast were Carol's boyfriend, Patrick (Paul Provenza), an artist who was almost as eccentric as she is. Patrick convinced the Westons to let him use their empty garage as his new painting studio and, when his relationship with Carol became serious, he eventually moved in altogether. Their romantic bliss was short-lived, as they broke up at the beginning of season six. However, this was not before Carol became pregnant with Patrick's child; their son, Scotty, was born in November 1993, and Carol chose to raise the baby on her own. Estelle Getty reprised her Golden Girls character Sophia Petrillo during Empty Nest's final two seasons (after the cancellation of The Golden Palace). It was explained that Sophia had moved back into the nearby Shady Pines retirement home.


Notable guest stars


Main article: List of Empty Nest episodes

Seasons of Empty Nest
SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
122October 8, 1988 (1988-10-08)April 1, 1989 (1989-04-01)919.2
224September 30, 1989 (1989-09-30)April 28, 1990 (1990-04-28)918.9
324September 22, 1990 (1990-09-22)May 11, 1991 (1991-05-11)716.7
(Tied with America's Funniest Home Videos)
424September 21, 1991 (1991-09-21)May 2, 1992 (1992-05-02)2314.3
526September 19, 1992 (1992-09-19)May 22, 1993 (1993-05-22)4810.8
626September 25, 1993 (1993-09-25)April 23, 1994 (1994-04-23)66[6]9.8
(Tied with Sisters, Byrds of Paradise, Angel Falls)
724September 24, 1994 (1994-09-24)April 29, 1995 (1995-04-29)1186.9

Production notes

In 1991, Empty Nest spawned its own spinoff, Nurses, a sitcom about a group of nurses working in the same hospital as Dr. Weston. The three series (Empty Nest, The Golden Girls and Nurses) represented one of the few times in American television history that three shows from the same producer, all taking place in the same city and explicitly set up with the characters knowing each other from the very beginning, aired on the same network in one night. On at least two occasions, Harris wrote storylines which carried through all three series as fictional crossovers.

Mulligan and Manoff had previously appeared as father-in-law and daughter-in-law respectively, in the show Soap, created by the same production team as Empty Nest. Jay Johnson, who had appeared on Soap as Mulligan's son, also made a guest appearance.

Theme song

The show's theme song was "Life Goes On", written by John Bettis and George Tipton and performed by Billy Vera. For the first three seasons, the song was presented in a slower, more melancholy yet comical arrangement. The original opening titles sequence showed Harry Weston taking Dreyfuss for a walk around town, with still images of the other regular cast members shown as they were credited.

When the third season began, a new opening sequence debuted, made up of footage from the series' episodes showing each of the regular cast members. For the final four seasons the theme song was presented in a higher, more upbeat arrangement with female backup singers and the title sequence introduced in the third season.


The following is a list of Empty Nest episodes featuring characters from The Golden Girls or Nurses.

Season One
Season Two
Season Four
Season Five
Season Six


The series was unsuccessful when it was first syndicated, running in local syndication from September 1993 to September 2000, shortly before the death of star Richard Mulligan. During this time, Empty Nest aired on TBS from September 16 to December 6, 1996, and on WGN from September 16, 1996 to March 26, 1999, with both stations airing the series as part of the regular syndication run (both TBS and WGN were superstations).[7][8][9] In the subsequent decade, the series did not air on American television. Hallmark Channel, which also owns the rights to The Golden Girls, picked up the rights to the show in early 2011 and aired it from February 26 to June 26 of that year, but eventually removed it altogether.

Upon its launch on April 15, 2015, the new digital sub channel Laff began airing the series, and continued until March 30, 2018.

In Canada, the series was rerun on CBC Television during the 1990s.

In Italy, the series aired on Rai Uno (or Rai 1) under the name il Cane di Papà (Daddy's Dog) during the 1990s.


In 1989, Richard Mulligan won both the Emmy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. The series received a number of other Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations over the years, especially for Mulligan and for Park Overall, who was nominated three times for a Golden Globe Award.

Year Association Category Nominee(s) Result
1989 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Richard Mulligan Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Won
Viewers for Quality Television Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Park Overall Won
1990 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Richard Mulligan Nominated
Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy Empty Nest Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Richard Mulligan Nominated
Viewers for Quality Television Best Actor in a Quality Comedy Series Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Park Overall Won
1991 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Richard Mulligan Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Park Overall Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Danny Thomas Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Richard Mulligan Nominated
Viewers for Quality Television Best Actor in a Quality Comedy Series Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Park Overall Won
1992 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Park Overall Nominated
1993 Nominated

See also


  1. ^ "Golden Girls' Creator Adds Shows". LA Times. September 10, 1991. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  2. ^ "BBC – Comedy Guide – Empty Nest". Archived from the original on December 5, 2004. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
  3. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (October 8, 1988). "'Empty Nest' Looks Like Good Place to Nestle Down". LA Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  4. ^ Haithman, Diane (November 24, 1990). "'Empty Nest': TV's Unknown Hit". LA Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  5. ^ a b Foundation Interviews (2012-09-13). Rita Moreno on "The Golden Girls"-EMMYTVLEGENDS.ORG. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  6. ^ "Full Nielsen Ratings from the 1993-94 TV Season - Sitcoms Online Message Boards - Forums".
  7. ^ TBS Log – Sitcoms Online Message Boards.
  8. ^ TV Guide – September 14–20, 1996.
  9. ^ TV Guide – March 20–26, 1999.