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Main cast

Role Actor
Professor Stephen Pynchon Malcolm McDowell
Pearl Caraldo Rhea Perlman
Annie Caraldo Carol Kane
Franklin 'Frankie' Spivak Kevin Corrigan
Amy Li Lucy Alexis Liu
Joey Caraldo Dash Mihok

Supporting Cast

Role Actor
Narvi Miranda Kent
William 'Billy' Pynchon Billy Connolly
Margaret Woodrow Nikki Cox
Stu Weintraub Aaron Kuhr
Beverly Steinberg Candice Azzara
Carlo Morra Jonathan Del Arco
Amber Swindon Sarah Lee Jones
Saul Steinberg Steve Landesberg

Directors: Robby Benson, Peter Bonerz, James Burrows, Peter Chakos, Pamela Fryman, Terry Hughes, Gil Junger, Ken Levine, John Ratzenberger, Jay Sandrich, Don Scardino, John Whitesell
Writers: Josh Goldsmith, Michael Platt, Cathy Yuspa
Producers: Paul Junger Witt, Rhea Perlman, Don Reo, Tony Thomas

Classic Lines

"An intellectual is a person who can listen to "The William Tell Overture" and not think of The Lone Ranger." (I still can't believe they didn't have him say Clockwork as that's what everyone was thinking.)

Episode Guide

All episodes aired at 8:30 PM

# Title Airdate
1 The Pilot 9/16/96 Mon
2 Teacher's Pet 9/18/96 Wed
3 Your Cheatin' Heart 9/23/96 Mon
4 Billy 9/30/96 Mon
5 The Naked Truth 10/7/96 Mon
6 Pynchon's Pynchon 10/14/96 Mon
7 Ticket to Ride 10/30/96 Wed
8 Home Coming Part 1 11/6/96 Wed
9 Home Coming Part 2 11/13/96 Wed 
10 Lessons in Love 11/20/96 Wed
11 The Tutor 12/11/96 Wed
12 Christmas Daze 12/18/96 Wed
13 Power Play 1/8/97 Wed
14 Pearls before Swine 1/15/97 Wed
15 Mission Impearlsable 1/22/97 Wed
16 Dean Cuisine 1/29/97 Wed
17 The Write Stuff Part 1 2/19/97 Wed
18 The Write Stuff Part 2 2/6/97 Wed
19 The Two Mrs. Rizzos 6/4/97 Wed
20 Mommy Dearest 6/11/97 Wed
21 My So Called Life 6/18/97 Wed
22 Billy Returns 6/25/97 Wed

I call the last four "The Lost Episodes" since many believed the series had been cancelled when these aired unannounced 3 1/2 months after all the others as Summer filler just as I was starting the site. This was Pearl's last chance at life...it failed, thankfully!

Episode Synopses

1. The Pilot - An older widow finally decides to go college and gets stuck with a strict teacher.
2. Teacher's Pet - For brownie points Pearl becomes Pynchon's assistant and he works her like crazy.
3. Your Cheatin' Heart - Pearl cheats on a test and has to do an oral makeup exam.
4. Billy - Pynchon's long lost brother returns to reconcile as per their father's last wish.
5. The Naked Truth - Pearl's longtime friendship with Annie is on the rocks.
6. Pynchon's Pynchon - When Pynchon's mentor shows up with a new book, he fins out he plagiarized it from him.
7. Ticket to Ride - Pynchon uses Pearl for a ride into New York City to see a Broadway, but she thinks it's a date.
8. Home Coming Part 1 - When new student asks Pearl out she turns him down since he is so much younger, by lying that she is dating Pynchon.
9. Home Coming Part 2 - Pearl has to get Pynchon to take her to the school dance somehow.
10. Lessons in Love - Pynchon chains himself to the library doors to stop them from banning books and is arrested, so Pearl takes his place.
11. The Tutor - Pynchon sticks Pearl with a 9 year old girl genius to advise her on school.
12. Christmas Daze - Everyone gets trapped in the blizzard - Pynchon and Pearl at school, Annie and Joey in their car and Frankie and Amy at the airport.
13. Power Play - To illustrate the abuse of power, Pynchon has the students grade each other's papers which makes the friends turn on each other.
14. Pearls before Swine - Pearl's husband owed $5,000 to a relative for the pearls he gave her on an anniversary. She must decide whether to drop out of school to pay the loan or sell the pearls.
15. Mission Impearlsable - Pearl breaks into Pynchon's house to retrieve her project in a bad Mission Impossible (the movie) parody.
16. Dean Cuisine - Annie sets Pynchon and Pearl up on a blind date to the Dean's house. When the Dean likes her, Pynchon thinks it'll help him get the promotion he wants, until the Dean goes too far.
17. The Write Stuff Part 1 - Pearl has to write fiction, but has trouble so she incorporates all her friends and family and it's all shown through dream sequences.
18. The Write Stuff Part 2 - The dreams continue with Pearl imagining herself stuck raising Joey's kids.
19. The Two Mrs. Rizzos - Annie's boyfriend is released from jail, but likes Pearl better since she is smarter and he REALLY likes Pynchon.
20. Mommy Dearest - Frankie's mother leaves her husband and dates Pynchon. Meanwhile Joey moves out.
21. My So Called Life - Frankie decides to make a documentary about his friends as a class project. He tells them all they are the main character to get their reactions.
22. Billy Returns - Pynchon's brother Billy returns and goes out with Pearl. Do they both agree just to make Pynchon jealous?

Classic Lines

"Sophisticated is being able to listen to the 1812 Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger."
(What about ACO?? - A.)

Foreign Titles

Italy - Perla


5/6/96 Toronto Sun
7/29/96 - Edmonton Sun

1997 - AP

My Review

Review of the whole thing, not an individual episode.

     How do you know when something is really bad? Easy, it has no websites for it and no interest at all. Such was the case with the CBS TV show called Pearl. It started in the fall of 1996 on Monday nights after Bill Cosby's new show. Eventually it was moved to Wednesday nights at 8:30 following The Nanny. This is where it remained and then only showing up every so often. The show was badly written and it would only last for one season with 22 episodes. 
     The show's main character is Pearl Caraldo played by the shows' creator Rhea Perlman. She doesn't play the character much different than she played Carla Tortelli on "Cheers". The only difference is Carla was funny to watch and Pearl is painful. So why did I watch such a lousy show you wonder? It's simple. The antagonist is played by Malcolm McDowell in his first US TV series role. He plays Professor Stephen Pynchon (the name is a takeoff of Tomas Pynchon). He is one of Pearl's teachers and the only one we actually see even though jokes are made about the others. 
     The plot can be summed up quickly. Pearl, the street smart woman writes an essay about her husband's death, wins a college scholarship and goes head to head with the book smart Prof. Pynchon. Of course both can learn a thing or two from each other along the way. Yawn. The show is completely predictable and unrealistic. Since she is the only older person in the class Pynchon relates to/tortures her because of it. Pynchon's Humanities class is said to be the toughest not only in the school, but in the country, and Pearl wants a challenge.
      The show has only four sets. Pearl's house, Pynchon's Class, Pearl's job and the Pizza House. At Pearl's house we get inane commentary about her home life or her son Joey's life. Usually Pearl's sister-in-law, Annie, shows up with her annoying voice. It's convenient that the three also work together at a loading dock somewhere, although the sister-in-law has a sideline job at a beauty shop. In Pynchon's class, which is the best part of the show, we mostly see interaction between Pearl and Pynchon. This is also sprinkled with two dimensional Generation X characters like Frankie Spivack the whatever metal head who is really smart, but acts dumb and laid back. Then there's Amy the genius Asian who's all work and no play and is in love with Pynchon. When not in class they are constantly hanging out at the Pizza House (great name for a pizza house, eh?). That's about it. 
     Yes, there's the inevitable sexual tension between Pearl and Prof. Pynchon which is not a turn on since they are both over fifty. Amy and Joey have their fling and Joey even reunites with his ex and Pearl goes out with Pynchon's brother Billy. To sum it all up, when Malcolm's in the scene then it's great. When he's not, I found myself chanting "Malcolm, Malcolm." It's a real struggle to make it until he appears. If he wasn't in the show I NEVER would've watched it. 
     So why did "Pearl" fail? Probably because Rhea Perlman was the producer and thought she was doing a great job (and her yes men would back her up). It's like when the coaches' son gets to be pitcher only because he is the coaches' son. If she had stood back and looked at the whole picture she would have realized that nobody cared about her character at all, it was a comedy and her character, unlike Carla, did not supply the laughs. Malcolm was the funny one and was carrying the whole show. This wasn't fair to him or us fans who waded through the series waiting for him. And why would a character who was so intelligent and arrogant back down every time Pearl challenges him? It's obvious he could chew her up and spit her out faster than you could say "Night Train to Venice". 
     They should've scrapped her role and started the show over with Pynchon as the main character. Focus on his life as Professor and man, show him getting into it with the average people as he does his day to day routine. Couldn't you just picture him throwing out classic insults to the employees of a supermarket as he shops? Well, the best thing about "Pearl" was we knew that we were going to spend every Wednesday with Malcolm and that we did, at least for a while. I'll miss you Professor, alas one more time when Malcolm's talent wasn't given a chance to let loose.

Review: 2/10



Pynchon promo
The Fall Preview Cartoon

Pynchon purple background

Pearl and Pynchon head to head

Press Release

Why do you want to attend this university and what contributions would you hope to make as a student here?

"My name is Pearl Caraldo and I'm probably the furthest thing from a prospective college student that you will ever meet. I am what most would consider an average person, with an average job (I manage an electronics store) and with an average house in an average town, but ever since my husband, Sal, died I can't stop thinking that there has to be more to life than microwaves and stereo equipment. So far, I lived my life for other people. My son, Joey, is 20 years old now with a daughter of his own. His marriage didn't exactly work out so he and the baby live with me. I love being a mother and a grandmother -- and babysitter, cook and housekeeper -- but I also love poetry, psychology and literature. Actually, it would be fairer to say that I think I would love those things, but you get the picture..."

Pearl : "Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you God."
Joey: "What is it, Ma?"
Pearl : "Oh, Joey. I've got great news. You know how I've always dreamed about going back to school?...I did it, Joe. I got a loan, wrote an essay, went for an interview and I got it."
Joey: "Got what?"
Pearl : "I got accepted. I'm going to college, Joey."

    The news doesn't go over quite as well with Joey and Pearl's best friend and co-worker Annie Carmen, who are surprised at her desire to hang out with students "20 years younger who spend more money on their Calvin Klein underwear than Pearl does on an entire wardrobe". Joey sees his mother as more of a live-in housekeeper, cook and babysitter for his infant daughter. Annie fears that Pearl will get a whole new set of friends to go alone with her newfound intellect.
    Undaunted, Pearl goes to register for her first semester of classes where she meets Frankie Spivak, a rag-a-muffin white kid in dreds and Amy Li, a naive, but dedicated scholar. They all enroll in a Humanities course titled "The Meaning of Life," the toughest class at the school, which just so happens to be taught by the most feared teacher - egomaniacal Professor Stephen Pynchon. In his class you can become "that most dangerous of all things - an intellectual. An intellectual, as defined by Pynchon, is someone who can "listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger." Will Pearl outlast Professor Pynchon's pompous posturing? Will she prove to her family and friends that she is tough enough to see this through? Take your seat, class is about to begin."


"Having gotten through that whole process, having gotten through one whole season with a sitcom called Pearl, which I thought was extremely good, considering what it was... I learned an awful lot about comedy from that. It was a great learning process. I loved every second of it, except I found it very difficult to learn all those lines when they keep changing all the time. Other than that, I loved it. I think 22 was enough, frankly. If they had taken the option up and I'd been there for five years, I would have been mortified." Malcolm on Reel.com 9/99


    I was lucky enough to play one of the students on "Pearl" in all but three of the episodes. Most of the time you can see me, the black girl in the front row. I got the part by calling up Cenex casting who handles extras, I mean "background artists", for many shows and movies. Actually, I had called in for a different show, (Townies) but the casting director didn't think I was right for that show. What a lucky break it turned out to be.
    Intellectually you know that actors are not their characters, but sometimes you have a gut reaction like, "Oh, my gosh there's Kesslee!", when you see an actor for the first time. So it was interesting to find out what a really sweet guy Malcolm McDowell is. And it was fascinating to watch him transform into the snotty, overbearing Prof. Pynchon and back again. Malcolm was very entertaining. Unfortunately, I had not seen "A Clockwork Orange" at the time, so I didn't get a lot of the references he would joke about until after the shows run was over when I rented the movie. Once he danced around singing, "Singing in the Rain" and he told us that Kubrick made him memorize the words to Beethoven's 9th in German.
    Usually the background players only worked on Friday, the night the show filmed in front of the live studio audience. We'd get there around 9AM, and work until around 10PM. Usually the main actors where there when we got there and still had work to do after we left.
The first thing we did was pick up our scripts and wait for the days instructions. Then we'd go to wardrobe and have several outfits picked out, so that we would have different clothes to wear for the different days in the episode. Then it was time for everyone to get onto the set and start rehearsing for the taping. During breaks, Malcolm would chat with everyone or read and re read his lines. He'd always say, "Hi" to me and smile, and it made my week.
    The whole cast would go through the whole show as many times as we could. Working out the details of when we would stand, where we would walk and who would pretend to be talking on the phone in the pizza parlor. The cast would also change lines and jokes that didn't work.
    Filming in front of the studio audience usually began around 7PM. Most of the time the place was packed and that made it very exciting. You could tell that Malcolm loved to perform in front of a crowd. He'd really make a big production out of blowing a line!
    After the show the main cast would come out and bow for the audience. Often after the public taping, the director would find something that didn't go quite right, and we would stay and do it again. And then we extras, I mean "background artists" were dismissed for the week, and I'd always look forward to the next time.

TV Guide Fall Preview

From the TV Guide's Fall Preview 1996 issue Sept 14-20.
The concept: "Educating Rhea."

The premise: In her first TV role since "Cheers'" tart-tongued barmaid Carla, Perlman plays Pearl Caraldo, a longshoreman's widow who enrolls in a prestigious university, where she'll teach her prickly professor (McDowell) a thing or two about life.

They say: "I don't think that anyone who liked Carla will be disappointed in Pearl," says series creator Don Reo, who has mixed emotions about "Pearl's" time slot - opposite "The John Larroquette Show", which he also created. Reo thinks "Pearl" will attract women with its female empowerment themes, and upscale viewers with McDowell's wit - "I've learned more writing his lectures than I ever did in school."

We say: Sitcoms are about wisecracks, not racking up college credits. Still, McDowell's Professor Pynchon does get off some good lines. If viewers can adjust to Perlman's softer, gentler character, they may enjoy the chemistry between her and McDowell.
Alex says: What were they thinking? Who wants to see an ugly old housefrau telling off a professor every week. She's there to learn, not him, he is obviously the successful teacher. The stories were so bad that they would never attract any viewers. The Pynchon show would have been a hit. The sight of Rhea in a mini skirt sends everyone running.

This page 1996-10 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net