"I don't think I get recognized much," said actress Ann Guilbert, best known as flaky Millie Helper on the classic Dick Van Dyke Show.
"Sometimes I am recognized because of my voice. But my hair is gray now and 30 years does a lot to your face."
After shying away from series television for nearly 20 years, Guilbert is back on the small screen in the NBC comedy "The Fanelli Boys." She plays widowed matriarch Theresa Fanelli, who orders her four grown sons back home to straighten out their lives. "It's been so fun to play someone who is so different than Millie," Guilbert said.
Devotees of "The Dick Van Dyke" show can still catch Millie in action on KDOC.
"I have never watched the reruns much," she said. "When I do see them, it seems like it never happened. I just can't remember it at all. I think sometimes I will tape them all and then I will look at them and know what everybody else is talking about."
The Stanford University graduate caught the eye of "Van Dyke" creator Carl Reiner while she was appearing in L.A. and New York in "The Billy Barnes Revue."
"Carl Reiner was very supportive of us," she said. "Jerry Paris (who played Millie's dentist husband Jerry) had been a friend of mine for years, so he sort of dragged me down to read for it. I think they thought that I was not going to be pretty enough and too broad because I had done revues for so long. Luckily, I got the job."
The actress never signed a contract for the series, which ran on CBS from 1961 to 1966. "I was on a couple of years and he (Reiner) asked me if I wanted a contract," she said. "I thought about it and said, 'Let's just let it be the way it is.' "
Guilbert became pregnant during the first season. "I got pregnant, I think, after four or five episodes," she said. "So I told Carl Reiner about it and he thought about it and said, 'Let's just go with it and see what happens.' I don't think it was ever mentioned in the script. I worked up until my eighth month."
That baby grew up to be actress Hallie Todd, who has her own new series this season--she's a regular on the ABC comedy "Going Places." "We are having a lot of fun," Guilbert said. "She had done a series on Showtime for five years, 'Brothers,' so she is more a veteran (of series TV) than I am."
After "The Dick Van Dyke Show" ended, Guilbert said she was typecast as Millie. The actress co-starred in the short-lived 1970 comedy "The New Andy Griffith Show," but for the last decade she and actor/husband Guy Raymond have worked in regional theater. "I hadn't gone out for any pilots for 15 years or more," she said.
She and Raymond were appearing on stage in Denver when Guilbert got a call about "The Fanelli Boys." When she returned to Los Angeles, she auditioned for the part and got it.
"I am really enjoying it," said Guilbert. "The actors are terrific. I was getting nervous that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the pace. I am used to taking my time. But it's been fun."
"The Fanelli Boys" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC. Reruns of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" air Monday-Fridays at 1 p.m. and Monday-Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on KDOC. "Going Places" airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.
Also Worth Watching
Samantha introduces Darrin to her warlock father, Maurice (played by Maurice Evans), who doesn't know Darrin is mortal on Bewitched (Thursday at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon).
While on a trip to Hollywood, the Stones (Donna, Alex, Mary and Jeff), are invited to watch Lassie shoot her TV series on The Donna Reed Show (Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon).
A young Marlo Thomas, Joey Bishop, Joe Flynn and Richard Deacon show up on Make Room for Daddy (Saturday at 1 a.m. on Nickelodeon) in an episode in which Danny tries to put on a TV spectacular from Hollywood.
The sexual sparks between Dave and Maddie really heat up on a three-part Moonlighting, when Maddie's handsome astronaut ex-boyfriend, Sam (Mark Harmon), turns up at her doorstep to reclaim her. In this episode (Saturday at 2 p.m. on Lifetime), Sam and Dave strike up an uneasy friendship over dinner with Maddie.
The Mafia hires the Samurai (John Belushi) to murder Don Cornelius and Don Kirshner on "The Best of Saturday Night Live" (Saturday at 10 p.m. on Nickelodeon).