Welcome to another Situation Comedy Tuesday! After weeks of highlighting the best episodes of I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, and The Honeymooners, today we begin our three-week stint on the best episodes from the TV version of Our Miss Brooks. A few episodes have been featured on cheap public domain sets, but the series has never been given an official release. However, 126 of the 130 episodes have been recently uploaded to YouTube (I also have those 126 episodes on DVD-Rs), and now can be enjoyed by all. I’m thrilled to present these posts — the first EVER guide to the best episodes of Our Miss Brooks!
Miss Connie Brooks, an English teacher at Madison High, often clashes with her pompous principle, Osgood Conklin, Jr., while trying to educate the rambunctious Walter, her student and close confidant, and attempting to snag, Mr. Boynton, the clueless biology teacher across the hall. Miss Brooks’ other friends include Mrs. Davis, the eccentric widow who rents her a room, and Conklin’s preppy daughter Harriet.
Our Miss Brooks stars EVE ARDEN as Connie Brooks, GALE GORDON as Osgood Conklin, Jr., ROBERT ROCKWELL as Philip Boynton, RICHARD CRENNA as Walter Denton, JANE MORGAN as Mrs. Davis, and GLORIA MCMILLAN as Harriet Conklin.
Our Miss Brooks is, without a doubt, one of the funniest shows of the ’50s. Eve Arden is as brilliant a performer as Ball and Gleason. She elevates every sharp and sardonic script with her unique performance. She is assisted ably by her co-stars, but this is unquestionably Arden’s show. Our Miss Brooks began as a successful radio series in 1948, featuring Arden, Gordon, Crenna, Morgan, McMillan, and Jeff Chandler as Boynton. The show moved to the small screen in 1952, utilizing many of the same scripts from the radio, but with a new Boynton in Robert Rockwell. For the next three years, Our Miss Brooks aired simultaneously on radio and television to much success. However, during the 1955-1956 television season, the decision was made to transfer Miss Brooks and Mr. Conklin to Mrs. Nestor’s private elementary school. Morgan stayed on as Mrs. Davis, but all the other characters were axed. The change in format (and creative team) proved toxic, and near the end of the season, Mr. Boynton was welcomed back to the series. But it was too late; the TV series was canceled after four seasons. The radio series ceased producing original episodes around the same time, but still continued to air repeats well into 1957. However, Our Miss Brooks soon found itself on the big screen with Warner Brother’s 1956 film of the same name, which ignored the events of Season Four and finally united Miss Brooks with Mr. Boynton.
Season One, which uses many radio scripts, is the TV series’ strongest and most consistent. It has the highest volume of excellent installments, and for readers uninterested in beginning with the radio series (almost 200 episodes of which can be found online), this is the absolute best place to start. Simply go on YouTube and search for the episode of your choice. Every episode from Season One is available to watch. If, by chance, they are taken down, contact me and I can assist you in obtaining episodes.
Here are my picks for the thirteen best episodes of Season One. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
1) Episode 3: “The Embezzled Dress” (Aired: 10/17/52)
Mrs. Davis mistakenly uses school funds to buy Miss Brooks a new dress. Now Miss Brooks must sell the dress to balance the books.
There are two standout moments in this episode: the first is Miss Brooks’ attempts to sell her dress to the proportionally spacious Miss Atterberry. The other involves Miss Brooks and the kids forcing Mr. Boynton to model her dress for them. The episode ends winningly in the ever-popular sitcom money exchange. This is a solid offering with smart, if predictable, writing.
2) Episode 5: “The Wrong Mrs. Boynton” [a.k.a. “Mrs. Boynton” or “Miss Brooks Play-Acts”] (Aired: 10/31/52)
Mr. Boynton, searching for a job, asks Connie to pose as Mrs. Boynton. She’s thrilled… until she realizes that he actually means his mother, not his wife.
What works about this episode is that, given how early we still are in the TV series, the show already has us rooting for Miss Brooks to snare Mr. Boynton. I was cheering inside when she kissed him at the end, and that’s uncommon for me. This is a funny episode, particularly if you “ship” this couple.
3) Episode 11: “The Stolen Aerial” (Aired: 12/12/52)
After getting a discount on her broken TV aerial, Miss Brooks soon receives aerials from others, hoping for the same discount. But a misunderstanding leads Mr. Conklin to believe that Miss Brooks is an aerial thief.
This series is excellent at constructing stories that build and build and build. Here Conklin suspects Brooks of stealing his TV aerial, after the lecherous repairman has loaned it to her by mistake. It’s fascinating to see the old gadgets — especially for young fans like myself who have only contended with cable and satellite. Another sharp and solid episode.
4) Episode 14: “Aunt Mattie Boynton” (Aired: 01/02/53)
Miss Brooks sets out to prove that she’s just as capable as Mr. Boynton’s Aunt Mattie, hoping to snare not only her man, but a promotion from Mr. Conklin as well.
This episode introduces TV audiences to Mary Jane Croft (a future Lucy regular) as Miss Brooks’ rival, Miss Enright. Though used sparingly on the television series, she appeared more frequently on radio. Her appearances are always delicious as Arden and Croft are superb cats. The big physical bit has oil shooting out of the air vents onto Brooks, Enright, and Conklin, after one of Connie’s schemes goes awry. This is a very funny episode.
5) Episode 16: “The Hurricane” (Aired: 01/16/53)
Miss Brooks gets the school ready for a hurricane when Walter hears storm warnings on his homemade radio.
I’ve heard from fans of both the TV and radio series that this episode was a highlight for them. Here is another episode that builds to a climax, while letting the audience in on, via radio, the secret that none of the other characters know: the hurricane the announcer is speaking about is actually occurring in Bombay. “Tether your elephants!”
6) Episode 17: “Monsieur LaBlanche” (Aired: 01/30/53)
Connie receives a note in French from Monsieur LaBlanche. She assumes that he’s asking her for a date, but he really just needs a loan.
Our Miss Brooks excels at misunderstandings — the radio roots making it ideal for gags that build through dialogue only. Here Connie gets a note from the French teacher that she thinks is romantic, but as the audience learns (before she does) — is actually a request for a loan.
7) Episode 18: “Old Marblehead” (Aired: 02/06/53)
Conklin, “Old Marblehead” to the students, sets out to have a bust of himself erected in Madison High. To raise funds, he fines students and faculty for infractions in his made-up “Carelessness Code.”
When watching this episode for the first time, the only thing I wrote down was: “great dialogue.” This episode is incredibly well-written and very funny. There’s a nice gag with Conklin and his bust at the end, but I was more drawn to the high quality of the lunchroom scenes — excellent writing.
8) Episode 22: “Mr. Casey” [a.k.a “Mr. Casey’s Will”] (Aired: 03/06/53)
Mrs. Davis’s looney sister has drawn up a will for her cat, the late Mr. Casey, and has left things to Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton, Mr. Conklin, and Walter. Mrs. Davis bets Miss Brooks that the three men will feel entitled to their gifts, even though they have no idea who Mr. Casey was.
This episode might be the funniest of Season One. Mrs. Davis gets some screamingly riotous lines in the opening scene (“You’re bucking for a butterfly net!”) as she addresses her eccentric sister. The episode has Connie telling the three guys that they’re beneficiaries in Mr. Casey’s will. Clearly they have NO idea who Mr. Casey is, but unwilling to risk loosing their newly bestowed riches, each make up stories about the mysterious Mr. Casey. Of course they go to the reading and learn that Connie has been tricking them — Mr. Casey was a cat!
9) Episode 26: “Lulu, The Pin-Up Boat” (Aired: 04/03/53)
Mr. Conklin orders the school to dress more conservatively upon the arrival of his boss, Mr. Michaels. But a misunderstanding develops involving Mr. Michaels, Miss Brooks and the racy pin-up photos that Conklin confiscated from Walter.
This episode builds to a hysterical scene in which the prudish Michaels finds a picture of Betty Grable in Conklin’s desk, and Miss Brooks, thinking that he’s looking at a picture of Conklin’s prized boat, Lulu, carries on an entire conversation about “the old girl.” That scene alone makes the otherwise solid episode very worthwhile.
10) Episode 27: “The Yodar Kritch Award” (Aired: 04/10/53)
Connie finally gets a date with Mr. Boynton—to a party that will take place only if Bones wins “The Yodar Kritch Award” for outstanding achievement in English.
Any time we see Miss Brooks actually teaching is exciting. (We never see her in front of an actual class, except in one Season Four episode.) The Snodgrass brothers are the epitome of stupidity, and though that type of humor is not normally my cup of tea, it’s shamelessly funny on Our Miss Brooks. The scene where she tries to give Bones a crash course in English is a highlight.
11) Episode 28: “Madame Brooks DuBarry” (Aired: 04/17/53)
Mr. Conklin is plagued by suspicions about the after-hour doings of the unwed Miss Brooks, just as she has enlisted Monsieur LaBlanche to barge in on her evening with Mr. Boynton and make him jealous.
The idea of Connie Brooks as a hussy is enough to bring a smile to my face. This episode has Conklin expecting Miss Brooks of sluttish behavior and deciding to spy on her date with Boynton. Of course, Miss Brooks has arranged to make Boynton jealous with the help of a few friends. This is a very funny episode.
12) Episode 31: “Suzy Prentiss” (Aired: 05/08/53)
Bones is in love with Suzy Prentiss, the only student in school stupider than he is. After arranging for the students to go on a date, Miss Brooks must somehow find formals for them.
This is another laugh riot as Bones finds love in the only student dumber than he is, Suzy Prentiss (who is so dumb she spells her name Suzy Prentisss.) She’s excellent as another dullard and the episode features many laugh-out-loud moments. A series highlight.
13) Episode 36: “Cure That Habit” (Aired: 06/12/53)
Walter plays a gag on Mr. Conklin and sends him literature from Alcoholics’ Anonymous. Of course, complications arise when another boss visits and assumes the worst.
Similar pattern — episode rises to a hilarious crescendo with the stuffy Mr. Chambers expecting Conklin of having a drinking problem. The build to the big scene, which is obviously inevitable, remains humorous and elevates the entire episode. Smart writing, great performances, excellent sitcom episode.
*** UPDATE — 07/30/14: It seems like the Youtube account which had uploaded 126 of the 130 episodes has been taken down by CBS. Is that DVD finally in the works?
***UPDATE — 08/29/16: Our Miss Brooks is finally coming back to television. It will be shown regularly at 5:00 am on Me-TV. 127 of the 130 episodes are included in the syndication package (including the still elusive “The Dream”), but they will be of better visual quality than the copies that currently circulate!
Come back next Tuesday for the thirteen best Our Miss Brooks episodes from Seasons Two and Three. And tune in tomorrow for another Wildcard Wednesday post!