Jennifer Slept HereApril 7, 2009
So, you’re a teenaged boy, and a gorgeous leggy blonde lives in your attic. She’s invisible and can do anything she wants, because she’s a ghost. And she’s your best friend. That was Jennifer Slept Here.
Ever heard of this show? It ran for part of a season in the early 80s. I remember it now, but it has been off my radar for decades. Tonight, though, I was reading some Cheers trivia and learned that the first-ever customer shown on that show was a teenager trying to score a beer. That kid was played by John P. Navin Jr., who also turned up in National Lampoon’s Vacation as the cousin who talked about bopping baloney.
Navin, who is off the Hollywood radar these days, played Joey, a teenager who moved into a house once owned by a dead movie star, Jennifer Farrell, played by Ann Jillian. Her ghost still haunted the place, but only Joey could see her. For a few months, they had escapades and adventures taken right from early-80s teendom. One episode I remember involved the parents leaving for the weekend and Joey doing a Risky Business (with a casino, not a brothel).
Jennifer Slept Here was a funny show. Navin was pretty good, and Jillian was fantastic (I’ve always had a big ol’ crush on Ann Jillian. And also Lynda Carter. Just saying.) I don’t know if it’s on DVD, but I think I’ll check. It was ahead of its time, silly and ridiculous but wonderfully acted and always engaging.
I’m telling you about this because I think I was pretty lucky to come of age in the late 70s and early 80s, when sitcoms ruled TV. There were so, so many of them, some of them good, most bad, but all worth watching. A few laughs in a half-hour package? Brilliant. The sitcom is close to dead now; the only ones that still work are the ones that eschew the old setup-punchline-laughtrack formula (like Arrested Development). It’s nice to know these old shows are still out there. They were stupid, innocent and fun. Like me.