What's a dad of three to do when his wife suddenly dies? On "Gimme a Break," Carl Kanisky brought in his late wife's best friend, Nell Harper -- played by the sassy Nell Carter -- to help keep house and raise his three girls while he worked to pay the bills. Take our quiz to see how much you know about this classic '80s favorite!
Carl Kanisky is proud papa to three daughters. The oldest, Katie, is a typical teens who's focused on boys and fashion. Middle daughter Julie is a stellar student, and youngest daughter Sam starts as a tomboy before branching out as she grows up.
Margaret Kanisky died of cancer. Her dying wish was that her friend Nell would help take care of her girls. Nell keeps her promise after Margaret's death -- moving in to keep house and care for the kids.
Carl Kanisky, better known as the Chief, was Chief of the local police force. He was played by Dolph Sweet, who was written out of the show starting in season five after he died in 1985.
The show starts with a bang when Katie is arrested for shoplifting in the very first episode of season one. Later that same season, youngest daughter Sam ends up in the slammer after stealing her father's police cruiser.
TV news reporter Hamilton Strong appears in several episodes of the series. Nell calls him for publicity when she has a beef with the phone company, and he later does a negative expose on Chief Kanisky.
Ed Kanisky brings plenty of trouble for the Chief, but the brothers are still close. At one point Ed dates and marries a prostitute named Maxine, but that doesn't stop the Chief from donating a kidney to his brother when he needs one.
Nell is on a never-ending quest to lose weight throughout the series. She is a proud member of PORKO, a weight-loss group, and the Chief sometimes joins the group with Nell when he needs to slim down.
The girls can't figure out why their father is so against smoking -- and why he gets so angry when Julie picks up the habit. Things start making sense when they learn that it was lung cancer, caused by smoking, that killed their mom.
Andy Gibb makes a special appearance on "Gimme a Break," performing his song, "Show Me." The Chief is mad when Julie sneaks out to meet the singer, and he's ready to arrest Gibb and his band.
Joey Lawrence appears on the show as Joey, a young boy fostered by Nell and the Kaniskys. His father, Tim, is a sailor who is often away at sea and unable to care for his son.
Nell's friend, Dr. Addy Wilson, spends plenty of time with Nell and the family. She also inspires Nell to finally go to night school and get her diploma in season three.
Nell hails from the great state of Alabama. As a teen, she dropped out of school to join a Doo Wop group and had big dreams of making it as a singer. She also participated in civil rights protests when she was young.
The women appear on a special episode of "Wheel of Fortune" during Best Friends Week, but Nell makes a big mistake when answering a puzzle that keeps them from scoring a big prize.
Nell and Addy win a trip to New York. While there, they are worried about being robbed, and eventually end up with a suitcase full of drugs in their possession. They finally sort things out and make it home, only to get mugged when they are safe at home in Glenlawn.
The family is frustrated when Katie decides not to go to college in the season three episode, "Katie's College." Instead, she opens a boutique called Katie's Korner. When the boutique fails, she eventually moves to San Francisco.
Nell takes Joey on a trip to New Orleans in the season four premiere. While they're there, Nell runs into an old friend named Charlie, who proposes to her. Joey also runs into his dad Tim, who's spending some time on land for a change.
It's middle daughter Julie who decides to tie the knot the moment she turns 18. She weds archaeology student and pizza delivery driver Jonathan Maxwell.
Nell's ex-hubby Tony has a bad habit of reappearing in her life to cause trouble. He initially left her to marry wife number two -- an 18-year-old. He later ditched his second wife to marry yet another 18-year old.
Nell agrees to sing on a cruise ship at Tony's urging in season five. While onboard, she learns that Tony has married his third wife, causing her to lose her voice. She regains it, but loses it once again when she falls overboard.
While handling a gun, Joey accidentally shoots Nell in the foot in season five. Unfortunately for Nell, her mother -- Mama Maybelle -- is ready to move in and help her recover from her injury.
Julie and Jonathan name their first baby after Nell. They then move to San Jose to run a chalk factory at the start of season six, and are largely written off the show.
Samantha gets accepted to Littlefield College in New Jersey, and eventually decides to attend. While getting Sam settled at school, Nell visits Abby in NYC and soon decides to move to Manhattan with Joey.
While in New York, Joey meets his little brother Matthew -- played by real-life brother Matthew Lawrence. Tim comes back from his sea travels once more and decides he wants his boys to come and live with him. Nell is willing to give it a try, but soon Tim realizes that he can't stay away from the sea, so Joey and Matthew go to live with Nell in New York.
Nell takes a job at publishing house MacDillon and Loud in New York. Things are going so well for Nell that she is able to give Abby a job when Abby is briefly unemployed. The arrangement doesn't go well, though, and Nell ends up firing her friend.
Nell, Joey and Matthew live in a building managed by Marty. Marty also owns the nearby restaurant called La Gaspacho. While he's working at La Gaspacho, Marty goes by the name Esteban to make the place look more authentic.
Nell's dad has never forgiven her for running away from home to pursue singing when she was a teen. When she returns for his funeral, she reads a eulogy written by her father, where she learns that he still loves her.
Joey is a huge fan of superhero Captain Jerk. When the Captain ends up in the hospital and needs a blood transfusion, he is horrified to be given blood from a black woman -- Nell. Joey is forced to grow up fast when he learns that his hero is a racist.
In the penultimate episode of the series, Nell goes on a date with an African prince -- one who allegedly invented chocolate chip cookies in his native land.
Nell falls hard for the prince, but she decides not to marry him after learning that what he really wants is a virgin bride.
"Gimme a Break" ran for 137 episodes over six seasons, from 1981 to 1987. By the final season the three daughters had grown up and moved on, so the show switched its focus to Nell and Joey -- and later Matthew.