SQUARE PEGS, Tracy Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Merritt Butrick, Amy Linker, John Femia, 1982-83, photo: Robert Phillips / Everett Collection

Bill Murray’s One ’80s Sitcom Guest Spot

Bill Murray is in the new Sofia Coppola movie On the Rocks. He had one of his first well-received dramatic roles in her film Lost in Translation, a movie I don’t really like, but it was sort of the start of a new era for Murray. Personally, I love Murray as an actor. He may be my favorite actor. He’s so adept at comedy, but he can also do drama when called upon. Sure, his comedy persona involved a lot of smirking at the camera without literally smirking, but it works for me. His timing and delivery is perfect. Most people first saw him in Saturday Night Live, and he’s not really known for television. The man has basically been a movie star for decades. As such, you may not believe that he had a guest role in one episode of a nearly-forgotten ‘80s sitcom that only ran one season. It’s time to talk about when Murray was on Square Pegs.

Square Pegs focused on two high school freshman who are ever-so-slightly outcasts. While there are other characters in the main cast, Patty and Laura are the true stars. The show ran for one season and 20 episodes, and we probably only really remember it because Patty was played by a young Sarah Jessica Parker. Oh, and also maybe for the fact Bill Murray was in an episode. This was 1983, mind you. The next year Murray would be in Ghostbusters. This is not to say Murray is the only big star to show up in an episode of TV, of course. However, Square Pegs wasn’t exactly Friends in its prime here.

The answer lies in the creator of Square Pegs, Anne Beatts. If you recognize her name, it’s because she was one of the original Saturday Night Live writers, and also one of the original National Lampoon writers. She’s in that movie about Doug Kenney and the National Lampoon that Netflix did. Natasha Lyonne plays her, which is a real coup for any real person. One assumes Beatts and Murray were buddies, and Murray likes to do oddball things here and there. It makes sense that he would want to do this.

Naturally, Murray plays a fun substitute teacher in the episode “No Substitutions.” The kids all love him, because he’s Bill Murray and acts like Bill Murray back in his ‘80s comedy persona. What high school freshman wouldn’t enjoy that? Murray’s appearance was in the 18th episode out of 20, so one wonders if the hope was he’d draw some eyes and get the show a second season. Alas, he did not. Instead, we are left to remember the time that one of the biggest movie stars ever had a one-off guest spot on a sitcom few people remember.

About Chris Morgan

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