James at 15/ 16


If you would have told anyone 35 years ago that by 2013 Lance Kerwin (born today in 1960) would have pretty much vanished off the face of the earth, they might have believed you but they would have had a hard time picturing it. In the mid 1970s, Kerwin was a ubiquitous presence on television. First he was a face you would see in single episodes of shows like Emergency!Little House on the Prairie and Wonder Woman, but then he began to get cast in series.

Laying a wet one on Melissa Sue Anderson of “Little House”

His first was The Family Holvak, a sort of Waltons rip-off from 1975 that starred Glenn Ford and Julie Harris (Kerwin played one of their kids). This only lasted 10 episodes. But then there was James at 15. The show launched in 1977, and turned into James at 16 in 1978. It featured Kerwin as an imaginative teenager who moves with his family from Oregon to Boston, and has some trouble fitting in, so he fantasizes. The show was highly praised for its realism and its raciness.  The big episode (which I remember well) was about him losing his virginity. Big ratings on that one! Kerwin was like a rock star for kids of my age. The series was a major audience and critical hit, but it ended after one season over artistic differences between the producers and the network.

Kerwin remained high profile for a little while (he was in the 1979 film of Salem’s Lot, for example), and he manged to keep it going for a little over a decade, acting mostly in tv movies during that time (bad agent! bad, bad agent!!). He retired in the early 1990s and reportedly became some sort of reverend or guru in Hawaii, as so many of them do. (Addendum: sadly, Kerwin, passed away in early 2023 at the age of 62).

Here is the credit sequence. (“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, James” indeed) You can also find many full episodes, including the original pilot on Youtube:

To find out more about show business consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc



  1. Omigaw, you just brought back a FLOOD of memories! My favorite moment in the God-awful “15 to 16” episode was when James’ uncle tells him he’s buying him a birthday present, and James thinks it’s a car. His uncle directs James to a hotel room, whereupon he meets a beautiful hooker. His first line to said hooker? “Uh, I’m sorry, I thought you were a car.”


  2. This show inspired one of Veronica Geng’s most memorable pieces, “James at an Awkward Age” in which the main character of the series was Henry James imagined as high school student.:

    SARGY: Say, my man, what’s going down?

    JAMES: Anything, you mean, different from what is usually up? But one’s just where one is—isn’t one? I don’t mean so much in the being by one’s locker—for it does, doesn’t it? lock and unlock and yet all unalterably, stainlessly, steelily glitter—as in one’s head and what vibes one picks up and the sort of deal one perceives as big.


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