In a made-for-TV moment, a Philadelphia TV celebrity pair surprised viewers — and each other — with a touching tribute to retiring 6abc news anchor Jim Gardner at this year’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
In honor of Gardner, who broadcast the 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm news for over four decades, fans showed up with placards and even wore fake mustaches to look like him.
Gardner’s following only increased when he gained recognition in a comedy set in Philadelphia. Abbot is elementary.
Gardner made a cameo appearance in the show’s first season, but did not meet creator and star Quinta Brunson until Thursday, when she surprised him during the broadcast of the 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade by thanking him for being on the show.
“Now everyone knows the beauty of Jim Gardner,” said Brunson. “I’ve been watching you since I was a little girl.
“My whole family loves you, all of Philadelphia loves you, but now the whole world has a chance to love you,” she added.
A group of fans, including a toddler with a homemade microphone emblazoned with the 6abc logo, attended the parade wearing a fake gray mustache similar to that of a news anchor.
Gardner shared a photo of his mustachioed fans on Twitter, wishing them a happy Thanksgiving.
“People ask what I will miss,” he wrote. “Many things, but nothing more than 6abc Action News’ unique relationship with our viewers. You guys are crazy, but all kinds of fun!”
Gardner began issuing newscasts at 6 and 11 p.m. on May 11, 1977. His devout following spans generations, and they were only growing when he was featured on Abbot is elementary.
“Now I am a proud married Christian and love my husband,” the heroine Sheryl Lee Ralph says dreamily to the camera. “But there’s something about this Jim Gardner, in this out-of-regional manner.”
“You’re reshaping the TV landscape,” Gardner told an enthusiastic Brunson on Thursday. “You!”
Gardner received an open invitation from 6abc to return to the parade the following year. However, fans like Mary Beth Ivey chose to cherish their memories of him on Thursday. A former Kensington resident who came to the parade from Rochester, New York, Ivy recalled how “kind and handsome” Gardner was when she saw him on TV.
“He was charismatic and it was like he was sitting in your living room and telling you the news,” said Ivey, who attended the parade for the first time in 35 years. “Not fake and not trying to come up with acting.”
Ivy, who also retired in her 70s, couldn’t believe she was leaving local TV news.
“Sooner or later, you just have to unplug and leave,” she said.