Karen Valentine looks back on the challenging journey that led her to the role of a student turned teacher in the popular TV show Room 222, which brought her fame and success. Even after nearly 50 years since the show’s last airing, she still cherishes the experience.
While Room 222 holds a special place in her heart, Karen Valentine recalls her appearance on The Dating Game as an “awful” experience, with no fond memories. The Dating Game, an early dating reality show, featured budding celebrities like Suzanne Somers, Tom Selleck, Leif Garret, and Farrah Fawcett before they became famous. It served as a starting point for many new actors, including Karen Valentine, who had previously appeared on Chuck Barris’ TV series Dream Girl of 1967 before being invited to participate in The Dating Game created by Barris.
Karen Valentine, who used to be a teen beauty queen, got the chance to interview three single guys on The Dating Game. At first, she thought it would be harmless fun, but it turned out to be a terrible experience.
“It was awful because the guy thought it was a real date. The Dating Game became more serious later on, where people would go on trips. I only got to go to the Ambassador Hotel to see a show, but the guy thought we were going to be romantic in the limo. I had to tell him, ‘This is just a first date,’ but he was acting sleazy. I wanted to end the date early. I thought, ‘Why spend money on a date? Let me do another show or try acting,'” said Valentine, who is now 76, in an interview with Closer Weekly.
Putting that unpleasant experience behind her, Valentine went on to star in the TV movie Gidget Grows Up (1969) and later landed a lead role in the popular TV series Room 222 (1969 to 1974). The unique show focused on a black high school teacher, played by the award-winning Lloyd Haynes, who aimed to teach students about tolerance.
The show Room 222 was created by James L. Brooks, the mastermind behind The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi, as well as famous films like As Good as it Gets and Terms of Endearment. Gene Reynolds, known for his work on MAS*H, was one of the producers.
In 1970, Room 222 did really well at the Primetime Emmy Awards. It won Outstanding New Series, and Karen Valentine and Michael Constantine, who also starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding in 2002, both won awards for their supporting roles.
Karen Valentine, who was quite young at the time, was amazed at how quickly things happened. She was thrilled to be nominated and win her first award. She even got to meet the legendary Carol Burnett, who congratulated her. Karen said, “It was like, ‘Thank you.’ But that Carol Burnett would know me? Just incredible.”
Karen also shared a starstruck moment when she encountered another legendary actor, Gregory Peck, while taking singing lessons. Gregory Peck gestured to her through the window, saying, ‘You did it!’ She couldn’t believe her luck in meeting these famous and talented people right from the start.
However, despite critical acclaim, Room 222 faced a drop in ratings during the fourth season, leading to its mid-season cancellation, according to Closer Weekly.
Karen Valentine reflected on the time when she learned that Room 222 was canceled. She mentioned that she didn’t know why things changed, but the network informed the cast about the decision. She described it as a sad moment, especially when you believe in the quality of the show. The network typically says they are “going in a different direction” when canceling a show.
After Room 222, Karen starred in her own show called Karen (1975), created by Gene Reynolds. Unfortunately, it got canceled after just four months due to low ratings. The show was meant to have controversial political stories reflecting current headlines, but the network wanted something softer and more romantic.
Despite the challenges, Karen kept her career going. She appeared on The Hollywood Squares and in episodes of TV shows like Murder She Wrote and The Love Boat. Her last film, Wedding Daze (2004), was broadcast on the Hallmark Channel.
Looking back on Room 222, which brought her success early in her career, Karen has only fond memories. She enjoyed working with the people on the show and treasures the experience. She mentioned that it set the bar high for her, making it challenging to find projects that matched that level of enjoyment.
If you’re a fan of Karen Valentine, what’s your favorite show or movie that she starred?