In his two-decade-long, 10-series-strong career, Robert Urich has become the first choice for network TV execs looking for a Regular Guy. ”I’ve been lucky enough to conduct a 20-year apprentice program in front of about 40 million people every week,” he says, only slightly exaggerating his average ratings. Now Urich, 46, thinks he has found his perfect vehicle, opposite Faye Dunaway in the CBS sitcom It Had to Be You (Fridays, 8-8:30 p.m.). ”I’m sure I’m more suited to doing light, romantic comedy than I ever was drawing down on somebody with a .357 Magnum,” says Urich, who has packed heat in more than one series. Here Urich looks back on his ample body of TV work.
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1973) Urich played a filmmaker opposite Anne Archer and Jodie Foster in this sitcom based on the swinging 1969 movie. ”If that show had been a hit, nobody would be questioning right now whether I could do comedy. The first thing you have any success with — that’s what they think you do. I should remind Jodie of the show the next time she needs a leading man. Or a father, I guess, would be more accurate.”
S.W.A.T. (1975-76) A member of an urban police strike force. ”It was extremely violent. Everything blew up, and there were stunt fights, and I was very eager to do all that stuff myself. And now as I approach my 47th birthday, I have shoulders and knees maybe not as bad as Jim Garner’s, but I have all those war wounds to remind me how foolish I was.”
Tabitha (1977-78) A Ted Baxter-ish newsman in a Bewitched sequel starring Lisa Hartman. ”I was ready to quit acting. And a friend said, ‘You need to go into the next meeting smoking a cigar. It makes me feel cocky.’ So I read for Tabitha with this little cigar in my mouth, and it worked. It made me swagger. They said, ‘Gee that’s great. Can you do it without the cigar?”’
Soap (1977) A doomed tennis pro. ”They told me that the life span of the character was 13 episodes, and in the 13th episode I would be stabbed, shot, drowned, and bludgeoned to death. Talk about violence on television.”
Vega$ (1978-81) Casino-dwelling private eye Dan Tanna. ”It was 110 degrees in Vegas one day when [executive producer] Aaron Spelling came to visit. A convoy of limos drove across the desert and arrived as we were shooting outside the Desert Inn. There were 3,000 fans watching and armed guards trying to get me to my dressing room. And Spelling went, ‘Holy smokes!’ He had no idea the show was so big there. At that point he gave me an air-conditioned dressing room. A lot of people say a lot of things about Aaron Spelling, but he was like a father.”
Gavilan (1982-83) An ex-spy/marine biologist. ”It was far better than Vega$ ever was. The writing was better, the stories were more interesting. We went to the Virgin Islands and spent a lot of money with underwater submarines. And it just got buried in some time slot. In all my TV career, I don’t think I ever had a really great time slot.”