A tailor-made vehicle for former Happy Days regular Scott Baio, the weekly, half-hour Charles in Charge was one of the few sitcoms to enjoy more success in first-run syndication than it did during its network run. Debuting October 3, 1984 on CBS, the series cast Baio as Charles, a 19-year-old college student living in New Brunswick. In exchange for room and board, Charles agreed to work as a male governess in the home of upscale couple Jill and Stan Pembroke (Julie Cobb, James Widdoes). Our hero's charges were three rambunctious youngsters, ranging in age from 10 to 14: carefree youngest son Jason (Michael Pearlman), wisecracking middle child Douglas (Jonathan Ward), and boy-crazy oldest kid Lila (April Lerman). Occasionally helping Charles ride herd over the children was his best friend Buddy Lembeck, played by Scott Baio's real-life best friend Willie Aames. Also seen during the series' tenure on CBS was Jennifer Runyon as Gwendolyn Pierce, the girl whom Charles wooed but seldom won. After 22 episodes, Charles in Charge was canceled by CBS, and it seemed at the time that the story was over. However, the TV-distribution arm of MCA still felt that the property had potential, and in conjunction with Tribune Entertainment, MCA revived Charles in Charge for station-by-station syndication beginning in January of 1987. Of the original cast, only Scott Baio and Willie Aames were carried over to the syndicated version. It was explained that the Pembroke family had sold their house to the Powell family, which consisted of mom Ellen Powell (Sondra Kerns), her crusty father Walter (James Callahan), and her three capricious children Adam (Alexander Polinsky), Sarah (Josie Davis), and Jamie (Nicole Eggert), their ages ranging from 12 to 14. With Ellen's Naval-officer husband stationed in the South Seas, it was only logical that Charles should again be hired as "Mr. Governess" for the Powell urchins -- and thus the original premise was revised with a virtually all-new cast. Later additions to the player roster were Ellen Travolta as Charles' widowed mother Lillian, and Erika Eleniak as his new girlfriend Stephanie Curtis. Proving to be a hit on the syndication circuit, Charles in Charge churned out an additional 104 episodes between 1987 and the fall of 1990.
by Hal Erickson synopsis