Blast From The Past : What A Country!

Mind Your Language was a super hit British tv series that premiered in 1977. It had a worldly appeal due to the simple yet hilarious situations and jokes that almost seem innocent by today’s standards. There were several attempts to recreate the dynamics and base a new show around the same concept. India did it twice and several other countries had a show or two copying the Mind Your Language formula. However the only one that I had watched and liked was an American show called What A Country!

Now while MYL was about an adult education college in London and focuses on the class in English as a Foreign Language taught by Mr Jeremy Brown, who teaches a group of enrolled foreigners, there as a change in the scenario for What a Country! in that being an American sitcom, starring¬†Garrett M. Brown¬†and¬†Yakov Smirnoff¬†that aired in¬†first-run syndication from September 27, 1986, to May 23, 1987, it focuses on ¬†a class of recent immigrants to the¬†United States¬†who are trying to pass the¬†citizenship test.¬†The series was intended as a showcase for Ukrainian-American comedian Yakov Smirnoff, whose catchphrase provided the show’s title.

Their teacher, Taylor Brown (played by Garrett M. Brown), is a part-time substitute teacher looking for a high school soccer coaching job but is convinced by principal Joan Courtney (Gail Strickland) but mostly Russian immigrant Nikolai Rostopovich, to become the permanent teacher. Rounding out the cast were George Murdock as Laszlo Gabo from Hungary, Vijay Amritraj as Pakistani immigrrant Ali Nadim, Harry Waters, Jr. as a former African prince in exile Robert Muboto, Ada Maris as Maria Conchita Lopez, Julian Reyes as Victor Ortega & Leila Hee Olsen as Yung Hi from China. Strickland would be replace by Don Knotts as Principal F.J. “Bud” McPherson.

It didn’t reach the highs of MYL, and the show was cancelled after the first season of 26 episodes. But it does have some memorable laughs. I watched it when I was 12 or 13 and it was a lot of fun. Even though some of the dialogues in the first episodes are taken straight from MYL.

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