Welcome to another Situation Comedy Tuesday! Today we’re continuing our three-week series on the best episodes from the TV version of Our Miss Brooks. Though a few episodes have been featured on cheap public domain sets, the series has never been given an official release. However, I have a DVD-r set containing 126 of the 130 episodes, all of which have been recently uploaded to YouTube. Now we can all watch Our Miss Brooks! So 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.
I told you last week that Season One is the strongest from the TV series, but though each proceeding season declines in quality, Season Two still stands as a strong collection of episodes, containing some of the series’ best. However, Season Three marks a major step down, with many forgettable episodes. But I must alert you: I have only seen 30 of the 31 Season Two episodes — I’m missing “The Bakery.” And I have only seen 28 of the 30 Season Three episodes — I’m missing “Blood, Sweat, And Laughs,” and “The Dream.” (If anyone has these episodes, please let me know!) For readers uninterested in beginning with the radio series (almost 200 episodes of which can be found online), I’d recommend starting with Season One. But all of the following episodes can be found online as well. Simply go on YouTube and search for the episode of your choice. All but the three mentioned above are available to watch from Seasons Two and Three. If, by chance, these episodes are taken down, contact me and I can assist you in obtaining them.
Here are my picks for the thirteen best episodes of Seasons Two and Three. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
Season Two (1953 – 1954)
1) Episode 40: “Bones, Son Of Cyrano” (Aired: 10/09/53)
Bones Snodgrass’s romantic poems to Harriet Conklin set off a chain of love letter mix-ups!
This is a hilarious episode and one of the series’ best. I actually prefer Bones, who was used in late Season One and early Season Two, to his more regularly featured brother, Stretch, even though they both serve the same function. A classic misunderstanding involving love letters (we’ve seen it on other sitcoms) is handled superbly by an A+ script and cast.
2) Episode 46: “Thanksgiving Show” (Aired: 11/20/53)
While seeking an invitation out to Thanksgiving Dinner, Miss Brooks finds herself saddled with a gaggle of guests and a tiny turkey.
The entire cast ends up at Connie’s for Thanksgiving. Like in Friends, any time the ensemble of a series ends up together in the same room, it’s normally a superior effort. A funny show, this was one of the most memorable from the season.
3) Episode 50: “The Magic Tree” (Aired: 12/25/53)
Miss Brooks buys a “magic” Christmas tree that seems to enchant all who touch it — they became enamored with her!
This was adapted from a radio script that was performed almost every year at Christmastime. It’s one of the series’ sweetest, with the ever-popular “Was it a dream?” bit. With many laughs, and a cheer-worthy kiss between Miss Brooks and the suddenly hunky Mr. Boynton, this is an incredibly enjoyable episode.
4) Episode 59: “Hello, Mister Chips” (Aired: 03/19/54)
As Miss Brooks escorts a handsome education expert around the school, she schemes to snare Mr. Boynton by making him feel ancient.
This episode really had me laughing. The largest stuff involves Connie’s attempts to make Boynton feel old after the biology teacher says he’ll settle down when he’s too feeble for anything else. That’s great. But I REALLY enjoyed Miss Brooks and Harriet’s fawning over the British education expert, which is truly hilarious. An excellent script and another one of the series’ best.
5) Episode 62: “The English Test” (Aired: 04/16/54)
After a disastrous test, Mr. Conklin orders Miss Brooks to tutor students after school.
I like seeing Miss Brooks actually teach, and though the only kids we ever see (besides Harriet) are ungifted in English, the joke is always funny and never gets old. So once again, stupid kids make for hilarity.
6) Episode 63: “Second Hand-First Aid” (Aired: 04/23/54)
Miss Brooks tries to prove that she’s unqualified to take over Miss Enright’s first aid course.
This episode has two major things going for it — the cattiness that naturally comes with interactions between Miss Brooks and Miss Enright and an excellent physical bit where Miss Brooks purposely louses up her first aid demonstration. Another great appearance by Mary Jane Croft, and another excellent performance by Eve Arden!
7) Episode 69: “Just Remember The Red River Valley” (Aired: 06/18/54)
Miss Brooks and company’s audition for Deacon Jones’ Hillbilly Troupe coincides with a visit from a member of the board of education — Mr. Jones.
This is one of the series’ silliest episodes, and it’s almost too broad for a typical Our Miss Brooks episode. However, the story is a lot of fun and the actors are evidently enjoying themselves, which makes this episode worthwhile. Gale Gordon as a hillbilly is choice, and Frank Nelson gives one of his best TV performances.
Season Three (1954 – 1955)
8) Episode 73: “Two-Way Stretch Snodgrass” (Aired: 10/29/54)
Miss Brooks and Mr. Conklin pose as Stretch Snodgrass’s parents to prevent a rival principle from poaching their star footballer.
One of the series’ more farcical efforts has Brooks and Conklin donning crazy outfits as they pretend to be Stretch Snodgrass’ folks. It’s not only screamingly funny, but the comings and goings of other characters during the shenanigans makes for excellent comedy.
9) Episode 76: “The Jewel Robbery” (Aired: 11/26/54)
Miss Brooks takes the fall for a robbery that she thinks was committed by Mr. Boynton.
This is a funny, if ordinary, script with a funny, if ordinary, misunderstanding. The reason it makes my list is the sight — just the sight — of Mrs. Davis with a “gun.” That moment made the entire episode worth it for me.
10) Episode 86: “Public Speaker’s Nightmare” (Aired: 02/18/55)
Walter and Miss Brooks convince Mr. Conklin to pre-record his speech to the Board of Education, but things do not go as planned.
This is probably the best episode from Season Three. Conklin is nervous before a speech and is talked into pre-recording and then lip-syncing to the track. Of course, the tape is altered and Conklin ends up looking like a fool. Like in I Love Lucy’s “Home Movies,” this gag always seems to work exceedingly well. With many laughs, “Public Speaker’s Nightmare” is a breath of fresh air after a stretch of less-than-adequate episodes.
11) Episode 87: “The Auction” (Aired: 02/25/55)
Miss Brooks accidentally auctions off all of Mr. Conklin’s new furniture thanks to a mix-up by Stretch Snodgrass.
This isn’t an outstanding episode, but the situation, a typical Our Miss Brooks mix-up, allows for plenty of comedy. In a relatively laugh dry third season, this episode does rather nicely.
12) Episode 88: “The Mambo” (Aired: 03/04/55)
A mambo craze sweeps through Madison High and after a dancing joint is declared off-limits, Miss Brooks ventures there and runs into Mr. Conklin.
This episode relies on a couple of funny dance numbers and sight gags involving our favorite teacher and principle at a mambo club. It’s an amusing episode, not brilliantly written, but very funny and a definite cut above the rest of the season.
13) Episode 90: “The Return Of Red Smith” (Aired: 03/25/55)
Mrs. Davis pretends to be wealthy when an ex-boyfriend comes by for a visit. But the charade is difficult to maintain when the bill collectors come knocking!
Mrs. Davis didn’t get many episodes centered around her during the Madison years, and while some of them don’t work, this one does. In fact, it’s probably one of the only Davis-centered episodes with a script that allows her to be as funny as she is in other episodes. (Often when the story was about Mrs. Davis, the character lost most of its humor.)
*** UPDATE – 03/17/14: Though not in my possession, I have viewed “The Dream,” one of the three missing episodes listed above. Not a great installment, but definitely an amusing excursion. If anyone has this in their personal collection, I’d still like to add it — along with the other two: “The Bakery” and “Blood, Sweat And Laughs” — to mine as well.
*** 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 best Our Miss Brooks episodes from Season Four. And tune in tomorrow for another Wildcard Wednesday post!