Joe Namath of the blue-collar country Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, played professional quarterback for the team New York Jets from 1965 to 1976 and for the Los Angeles Rams in 1977. In 1978, Joe made his TV series acting debut in the Lorimar Production of 'Waverly Wonders'.

"Through football, I learned that it's not all me," Joe told the 'Times-Post News Service'. "I didn't accomplish much on my own. If the quarterback's line doesn't block for him, if his receivers don't do the right thing, he's dead. Out here, if the people you're working with aren't on time with their lines and things, we gotta start over."

Centered around Waverly High School, Joe played history teacher and basketball coach, Harry Casey until, "They decided that I'm a Joe, not a Harry. We've got to reshoot a couple of scenes that were in the pilot." In one scene one student defined history as something that was very exciting when it happened, but became boring when they put it in books. Lee Rich remarked, "Our kids are more middle class from Ohio. They're not Sweathogs ('Welcome Back, Kotter')."

Of 'Waverly Wonders', Joe told Barbara Holsopple of the 'Pittsburgh Press', "We want to entertain, but we also want to deal with some real problems, problems that kids and teachers and parents have today (in 1978). Regardless of what the comedic situation is in the script, I'm real and I've had a lot of experiences I can use. I like to feel constructive and I want to keep on growing. Over the last 10 years or so (since 1968), I’ve tried to do the right thing … I haven't had a drink in 2 months (since May 1978). I just decided to stop drinking, just like when I stopped smoking 10 years ago (in 1968)."

Up against 'Wonder Woman' and 'Donny & Marie' on Friday nights, 'Waverly Wonders' lasted 4 episodes including the pilot. Future 'Dallas' star Audrey Landers played Ginger, Waverly High School's head pom pom girl (or cheerleader). Audrey told Tom Jory of the Associated Press, "This year (1978) I did 3 pilots that didn't sell. It's one of those things. You get your hopes up and then the network doesn’t buy it. Getting a series is like a dream come true."

Before 'Waverly Wonders', Audrey had appeared on 'Somerset', 'The Secret Storm', 'Where the Heart Is', 'Love of Life' and 'Search for Tomorrow', "Doing soaps made me aware that people take seriously what I am saying. I think it's important for television to get the right message across, and that doesn't mean censoring; it means choosing parts that promote ideas you believe in."

Taped before a live audience at a Sunset Boulevard studio, 'Waverly Wonders' used 3 cameras instead of the one camera film because the tape format allowed for close-ups to be shot at the same time as full-scene master shots. 'Keston News Service' made the point, "Television is the common-man medium best suited to glorify the ordinary. The 'Waverly Wonders' is formula television. It has conventionally drawn characters played broadly for farce yet there are moments when Namath’s personable comedy, rooted in an ironic posture that lets him make fun of his own predicament without sacrificing an ounce of self-respect cut through and brings the screen alive."

Lee Rich was matter-of-fact, "A good actor he's not, but he's improving." Lee made known Joe was hired because he had name recognition and “tremendous magic on that screen. He's going to be a major star some day, maybe not in this series, but eventually." Joe conceded at the time, "I did 3 movies (before 'Waverly Wonders') without taking any acting lessons – you might say I was out of my element. Since then I've taken lessons in New York. And I think I will improve through experience. Being an open-minded person willing to grow, I will improve."

Joe spent 3 months on location in Germany in 1978 to film the Lorimar financed project, 'Avalanche Express'. Dave Anderson of the 'New York Times' pointed out, "Over in Europe, hardly anybody had recognized him. Football players are not known there." 'TV Data features' reported, "'Waverly Wonders' went into production less than a month after he returned from Europe."

On reflection, "It's not like I'm new in front of the cameras." Joe had appeared in some 40 commercials and as a guest on TV variety shows. Audrey remembered, "He's a very down-to-earth person. He takes his job seriously, and works as hard as everyone else. And he takes criticism gracefully." Joe decided he did not want to play a football coach on 'Waverly Wonders' because, "No, I would never do that. I wouldn't feel comfortable. But I'm a terrific basketball player. I didn’t play in college because Alabama always went to a bowl game and it ran into basketball season."

Joe also told Barbara Holsopple, "I realized long ago that football was temporary. That first day in the Jets locker room, Don Maynard told me it was a cold-blooded business and when the day comes that you can't play, maybe they won't even bother to say goodby. The doctor who did my first knee operation gave me 4 years. So I prepared myself for that. After 13 years (1965-1977), it has ended.

"The past year (1977) was one of the most trying times of my life. Not so much because I was playing from behind, but because I put pressure on myself, not to make mistakes. I used to be the fastest kid on the block, and now I can't run at all. I have to wear a horseshoe felt pad and Ace bandage every time I'm on my feet, or my knee swells. We were practicing one day this season, and I got bored. It was the first time I had ever been bored on a football field and I knew then it was time to quit."

Joe told Dan Lewis, "…I don't see myself as a broadcaster. For the most part, former athletes are terrific sportscasters, like John Brody and Frank Gifford. But that's not my style. I don't want to go in and out of a stadium every Sunday afternoon, spending 5 or 6 hours there."

In November 1978, 'Diff'rent Strokes' replaced 'Waverly Wonders' on the Friday nights line-up. The NBC spokesperson told Rick DuBow of the 'Los Angeles Times', "The program people said they felt Namath was excellent, did an outstanding job and proved he is an actor. It’s just unfortunate that the format and stories did not draw a large enough segment of the audience. This is no reflection on his talents."

Joe told Neil Shister of 'Knight-Ridder Newspapers', "You're with creative people who make you grow as a person. Each day is a new trip – if you’re not on your toes they get you on your toes. Besides, it's not as physically taxing as working the steel mills or the paper mills."

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