Paul Sand, “Friends and Lovers”

Happy birthday, Paul Sand (Paul Sanchez, b. 1932). I became intrigued by this massive 1974 TV Guide spread. I recognized the face, but not the name, and certainly not the show they were hyping, which was called Friends and Lovers. It turns out there’s a “there” there, and it’s a heck of a there.

Sand is nearly as “inner circle Second City” as it is possible to be. As a kid in Santa Monica he studied and performed with Viola Spolin, inventor of theatre games and mother of Second City founder Paul Sills. Paul Sand and Paul Sills must have gotten confused with each other many times over the years! When Sills founded Second City in Chicago circa 1960, Sand was one of the founding members. When Second City brought a revue to Broadway in 1961, Sand was in the cast, along with Alan Arkin and Barbara Harris.

In 1966 Sand starred in the off-Broadway revue The Mad Show with Joanne Worley and Linda Lavin, went in as a sub in the original Broadway production of Neil Simon’s The Star Spangled Girl, and had a role on Bewitched. He won a Tony for his work in the Broadway production of Paul Sills’ Story Theatre (1970-71). This led to a memorable guest shot on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970) and several appearances on The Carol Burnett Show (1972-74). Those last two were likely among the many places you’ve seen him, that is, if you do indeed recognize him. He was also in the movies The Hot Rock (1972) and The Second Coming of Suzanne (1974).

In 1974, MTM Enterprises devised a new sitcom for him to star in, headed up by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns. Friends and Lovers featured Sand as a shy, self-deprecating double bass player with a Boston symphony orchestra. Also in the cast were Michael Pataki, Penny Marshall, Steve Landesberg, and Jack Gilford. The plots (much like on The Mary Tyler Moore Show) show were about Sand’s dating travails, as he gets harrassed and advised by his brother (Pataki) and sister-in-law (Marshall.)

The show only last 15 episodes. Even more surprising, it flopped despite getting the very best slot in the weekly schedule, following All in the Family. And MTM was a hit factory which until then could do no wrong. The consensus was that the show, while not bad, was simply lackluster, disappointing. I had a look at the credit sequence on Youtube; even the credit sequence is not compelling. I saw an interview with Burns in which he plausibly gives as the reason, the fact that the MTM staff was spread too thin at the time. In 1974 they were already juggling The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Rhoda and The Texas Wheelers. Phyllis, Doc, The Bob Crane Show, and The Tony Randall Show would soon follow. Seems like Friends and Lovers was churned out in a somewhat perfunctory manner in the midst of all that, though the cast was probably great. (At this writing it’s not accessible)

When the show tanked, Sand hardly disappeared. He merely became ubiquitous. He was on Wonder Woman, The Love Boat, Supertrain, Taxi, Laverne and Shirley, Alice, Trapper John MD, St Elsewhere, Magnum PI etc etc. and the occasional movie like The Main Event (1979), Wholly Moses! (1980), and that Village People/ Nancy Walker masterwork Can’t Stop the Music (1980). His most recent credit is from 2015.