'Grandpa Goes To Washington' originally went on air between September 1978 and January 1979. Jack Albertson played Professor Joe Kelley, who had a Ph.D. in American history. He taught political science at the college. When Joe was forced into retirement because he had turned 65, Joe found himself thrusted into a campaign to run for the U.S. Senate after a scandal forced the other candidate to pull out of the race.
Eventually Professor Joe Kelley was elected Senator Joe Kelley by a narrow majority of the minority voters. He was shown going to Washington driving his Volkswagen convertible. Shot at Paramount Studios, Larry Linville of 'M*A*S*H' played Joe's son, Kevin, an Air Force General working at the Pentagon. Larry told Joan Geoghegan, "We made the pilot last April (in 1978). NBC didn't run it, instead they held the picture and ran it as a 2-hour Movie of the Week on September 7 (1978)."
The regular series was shown opposite 'Laverne & Shirley' and 'Happy Days' on Tuesday nights. 'Grandpa Goes To Washington' lasted 11 one-hour episodes. Jack Albertson made known, "I never thought of politics myself. My wife and I discuss politics – I ask the questions and she has the answers. But there is in my book a great similarity between politics and the entertainment field.
"A politician, like an actor, is always selling himself. Like an actor, he is rated on his performance by all thinking voters. My object is to create a character that everyone would like to say is representative of the man who represents me. A political figure who is not basically a politician, but whose interest is doing things for the common man."
Larry Linville made the observation, "They don't really say which state Grandpa is elected from although I suspect it's California. He's from any state. The series isn't localized. We did fly into Washington to shoot film at the Russell Building (the Senate offices), the Capitol steps and the White House. Our set in Burbank includes a Washington office, the Oval Room. My (on-screen) family lives in a Washington suburb, but we don't say which one. The pilot concerns the first exodus, how and why Grandpa decided to run, his struggle, his triumph. He’s an 11th-hour candidate – nominated after the incumbent is caught with a stripper – and the people go for it."
Jack Albertson believed, "It has a Frank Capra quality to it. It has humor, it has dignity." Some 40 years earlier back in 1939, Frank Capra produced the last of his social drama, 'Mr. Smith Goes To Washington' starring James Stewart. Producer Robert Stambler remarked, "It has a Capra-esque quality. It’s a man who goes against the system, a man who flies by the seat of his pants. It takes people a long time to realize he's an honest man."
Kevin Kelley, Larry Linville described as "more of a pilot than a politician … There's one instance where the son gets indirectly pressured in the Pentagon for his father's actions in the Senate. Grandpa says, 'I can't stop to consult the family calendar.'" Of the 11 one-hour episodes, "We'll use anything and everything we can get our hands on. We're doing one now (in early September 1978) on foolish government spending. We try to show that Washington is a circus unto itself. The characters are dynamic, they keep moving and changing. The show is comedy-drama. It's humorous, topical – no pompous rubbish. There is very real suspence. "