A love of classic television is what fires my passion for writing and I love walking down memory land and am always happy to have company!
Five (Not So) Classic Comedy Sitcoms of the 1960s
The decade of the 60s produced some of the most beloved shows ever. Series like The Addams Family, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Dark Shadows, Gilligan's Island, and The Andy Griffith Show are still popular today. But the decade also had its share of misses as well. I am going to highlight five series that didn't quite hit the mark.
1. The Baileys of Balboa
Award-winning character actor Paul Ford starred as Sam Bailey, who operated a run down charter boat service at Bailey Marina in the exclusive community of Balboa, California. Helping him run his business was his son, James (Les Brown, Jr.), and his first mate, the inept Buck Singleton (Sterling Holloway).
His wealthy neighbors took exception to his habit of of mooring his dilapidated boat, The Island Princess, beside their high priced yachts. The comedy stemmed around the efforts of Commodore Cecil Wyntoon (John Dehner) as he tried to get Bailey ousted from the area. Further complicating things was the fact that Wyntoon's daughter, Barbara (Judy Crane), had fallen in love with Sam's son, which forced the two men to have some degree of civility between them.
The show debuted September 24, 1964, at 9:30 P.M. on CBS. The last episode aired April 1, 1965. It was produced and directed by Bob Sweeney and written by Richard Powell. It never managed to find its audience as it was pitted against the top rated Peyton Place, which debuted just a week earlier and quickly became very popular.
Paul Ford actually suffered from sea sickness when he had to film aboard the boat. Though Judy Carne's character seemed to be important to the storyline (being in love with Sam's son), she appeared on only four of the 26 episodes. Judy, of course, would go on the appear in another 60s sitcom, Love on a Rooftop, but maybe you best remember her appearances on Laugh-In as the "Sock-it-to-Me" girl.
The one thing about early television shows is that we can sometimes spot actors and actresses who are just starting out and will become famous in their own right later on. If you watch close enough, you will see Raquel Welch in episode 19, "Sam and the Invisible Man," which aired on February 11, 1965.
Mickey Grady, a Navy recruiter in Omaha, Nebraska, always dreamed of living an exciting life at sea. When he inherited a beach front hotel in Newport Harbor, California, he decided to move his family there and run the place. He figured this was as close to living a life at sea as he would ever get. Thinking that the hotel was making money, he was surprised to discover it was deeply in debt and had one employee, Sammy Ling (Sammee Tong), who had a lifetime contract and could never be fired. Grady also discovered that Ling's family had a hand in every aspect of the place, which counted for its money problems.
Rooney was self-conscious about calling the show Mickey, but he finally accepted the name. He said he deserved a little stoking after being in show business for 42 years. The motel on the show was known under various names: The Marine Palms Motel, Newport Arms, and the Newport Palms.
The show debuted on September 16, 1964, airing at 9:00 P.M. on ABC TV. The last episode aired on January 13, 1965. It debuted two weeks prior to its competition, The Dick Van Dyke Show on CBS, in hopes of attracting viewers, but it didn't work. In mid November of 1964, the network cancelled the show, but they agreed to air the 17 episodes that had been filmed.
3. My Living Doll
Robert Cummings starred as Air Force psychiatrist Dr. Robert MacDonald, who found himself thrown a bit of a curve ball when he was entrusted with the care of Air Force Project 709, a female android named Rhonda (Julie Newmar). Puzzled at first as to how to proceed, MacDonald decided to mold her into the perfect woman, so he moved her into the house he shared with his sister Irene (Doris Dowling). He used the excuse that Rhonda was a patient who needed constant care. Rhonda, being very attractive, soon caught the attention of the next door neighbor Peter Robinson (Jack Mullaney), who was a bit of a womanizer. The viewers knew that this meant trouble.
Newmar was cast first and the show was built around her. Actors Richard Long and Jerry Van Dyke were first considered for the role of MacDonald and Newmar actually preferred Van Dyke. The idea was tossed around to have two psychiatrists, but Van Dyke turned the role down because of wanting to star in a show of his own. Eventually, Robert Cummings was hired. He and Newmar seemed to be at odds from day one as he was a seasoned pro while she was a method actor; the two clashed about how to play scenes. Cummings eventually left the series (much to Newmar's happiness) with only five more episodes to be filmed. The character of Pete Robinson was thrust into the leading man position, but the show was canceled once the five episodes had finally aired.
Roboticist and author Isaac Asimov wrote an article that was featured in the January 16, 1965, issue of TV Guide titled "Why I Wouldn't Have Done it This Way," a critique of the series.
4. O.K. Crackerby
This series aired on ABC from September 16, 1965, to January 6, 1966. It was a Cottage Industries, Inc production in association with Beresford Productions, Wayfarer Productions, and United Artists Television.
It starred Burl Ives as O.K. Crackerby, a widowed father of three children who was also the richest man in the world thanks to a few gushing oil wells. O.K wasn't happy with his wealth. What he really wanted most was to be accepted into the world of high society. But it seems that he was lacking in many of the socially accepted qualities deemed necessary to be included in the Social Register. Enter St. John Quincy (Hal Buckley), an unemployed Harvard graduate who Crackerby hired to tutor him and his three children in the ways of the social elite. The two men spent most of their time together arguing or battling social snobbery wherever it reared its ugly head.
Brooke Adams starred as O.K.'s daughter Cynthia. The two sons were played by Brian Concoran (O.K., Jr) and Joel Davison (Hobart). Laraine Stephens starred as Susan Wentworth, St. John's girlfriend, and Dick Foran starred as Slim, a wealthy friend of O.K.'s.
5. The Pruitts of Southampton
The Pruitts of Southampton began its life on ABC September 6, 1966. It ended on September 1, 1967.
Based on the book House Party by Patrick Dennis, this comedy sitcom starred Phyllis Diller as Phyllis Pruitt, the matriarch of the wealthy Pruitt family, who lived in a 60-room mansion in Long Island. The family lived life to the hilt in spite of the fact they were millions of dollars in debt to the IRS. Not wanting to risk a stock market crash, should it be known that the Pruitts were flat out broke, the IRS allowed them to remain in their mansion to help keep up the appearance of being wealthy.
The comedy of the show was based on Phyllis' attempts to get the family out of debt. By the time the mid-season rolled around, it was decided that the mansion would be opened to boarders, which meant, in true sitcom-style, that they attracted an odd ball assortment of people. Three new faces were brought into the cast with John Astin as Phyllis's brother- in-law, Rudy, Marty Ingells as handyman Norman Krump, and Paul Lynde as Phyllis brother, John.
The January 3, 1967, episode "Little Miss Fix-it" brought a name change to the series; it was now known as The Phyllis Diller Show. The change did nothing to improve the ratings.
There were 30 episodes filmed (17 as Pruitts of Southampton and 13 as The Phyllis Diller Show. It has never been released on DVD.
Well, that's it, a short article that I hope you enjoyed.
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