Welcome to another Situation Comedy Tuesday! Today we’re finishing 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 recently been 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!
In the final season of Our Miss Brooks, Connie and Conklin both unknowingly transfer to Mrs. Nestor’s Private Elementary School. There she befriends Mr. Munsey, the goofy vice principle and brother of the straight-laced Mrs. Nestor. Connie also takes special interest in her young motherless student, Benny Romero. Meanwhile, Connie and Mrs. Davis move in with Angela so they can be in the school district. Later in the season, Connie is chased by Mr. Talbot, the lecherous new gym teacher, until Mr. Boynton returns from Arizona and takes a job back alongside his favorite English teacher.
The fourth season of Our Miss Brooks stars EVE ARDEN as Connie Brooks, GALE GORDON as Osgood Conklin, Jr., ROBERT ROCKWELL as Philip Boynton, JANE MORGAN as Mrs. Davis, BOB SWEENEY as Oliver Munsey, RICKY VERA as Benny Romero, ISABEL RANDOLPH as Mrs. Ruth Nestor, and GENE BARRY as Gene Talbot.
The final season of TV’s Our Miss Brooks is undeniably the show’s weakest. Even Eve Arden expressed her dislike for the show’s change in format, which was brought about by a change in production staff. Only Arden, Gordon, and Morgan remained from the cast. Throughout the season, many supporting characters were introduced including Munsey, Benny, TWO Mrs. Nestors, TWO lecherous gym teachers, and Nancy Kulp as Munsey’s love interest, each with varying degrees of success. Finally, out of desperation, Rockwell was brought back for the final seven episodes. But it wasn’t enough to save the series (which was initially picked up for a shortened additional season, but kiboshed by the displeased Arden). No one was really disappointed to see it go, especially because reruns on both radio and TV were ongoing, and a film adaptation had just been released.
Since its initial airing, a handful of ardent fans have popped up and proclaimed the last season “not as bad as initially remembered.” Well, I’m here to tell you, it IS as bad as initially remembered. With a weaker supporting cast, most of the episodes are just unfunny. And though some of the stories are fresher and more interesting than in Season Three, there simply aren’t enough laughs. So I am listing here the seven FUNNIEST episodes. Below that is mention of four episodes with interesting stories but few laughs. However I must alert you: I have only seen 30 of the 31 Season Four episodes — I’m missing “Twins At School.” (If anyone has this episode, 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 the seven following episodes can be found online as well. Simply go on YouTube and search for the episode of your choice. All but the aforementioned episode are available to watch from Season Four. If, by chance, these episodes are taken down, contact me and I can assist you in obtaining them.
Here are my picks for the seven best (a.k.a. funniest) episodes of Season Four. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
1) Episode 100: “The Blind Date” (Aired: 10/07/55)
After Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton fight, Walter hopes to reunite them by fixing them up with each other on blind dates. Meanwhile, Mr. Conklin’s old flame is in town.
This episode, the first of the season, was obviously carried over from the previous year. It’s the only Season Four Madison episode and the last one to feature Walter and Harriet. The break-up between Boynton and Brooks isn’t that funny, but the ensuing misunderstanding is. Conklin is added into the mix and probably provides the episode with its best comedy. In hindsight, this episode is MUCH better than a lot of the episodes that came later this season, proving the importance of well-designed characters.
2) Episode 101: “Transition Show” (Aired: 10/14/55)
When Madison High is torn down in favor of a freeway, Miss Brooks transfers to a private elementary school, where she meets the faculty — including the recently employed principal, Mr. Conklin.
Surprisingly, the episode that introduced the entire change in format, is actually quite well-done. The script is formulaic in introducing us to new characters, and it’s very easy to predict that Connie’s confrontations with both Conklin and the old lady in the hall will come back to bite her in the butt. Still, there are some laughs, and the bit where Conklin and Connie reunite in his new office is one of the series’ best moments.
3) Episode 105: “Have Bed, Will Travel” (Aired: 11/11/55)
Connie tries to get Mrs. Davis to move in with her and Angela, by having the latter feign illness. But a mix-up at the doctor’s office has Connie believing that Mrs. Davis is the one who’s really ill.
This is probably the best episode from the season. It’s certainly the most consistently funny script from the year, due in large part to the story’s reliance on Connie, Margaret, and Angela — separate from the newer (unfunny) additions. Mrs. Davis’s health mix-up is an okay complication, but the real comedy, for me, comes from Angela, whom we are led to believe is really sick, despite Connie’s belief that she’s just faking. Lots of great Davis moments too. What a character! “If I ever have a baby, you’re my man!”
4) Episode 107: “The King And Miss Brooks” (Aired: 11/25/55)
One of Miss Brooks’s students has a maharaja for a father. After he proposes to Miss Brooks, she dreams about life as a maharaja’s wife.
The first part of the episode is adequate, but the dream sequence takes things to a kooky, but humorous level. Lots of gags here and there — Mrs. Davis as a dancer and a surprise cameo by Desi Arnaz are choice. It’s a trifle sad to see the series resorting to such nonsense to get comedy, but as Our Miss Brooks rarely resorts to such gimmicks, I can accept and laugh at this episode. It’s entertaining, at least.
5) Episode 109: “Connie And Bonnie” (Aired: 12/09/55)
When Miss Brooks is caught at a gambling joint, she pretends that it was actually her shady twin sister, Bonnie. But Mr. Conklin is unconvinced…
This is a silly episode, but Eve Arden gives an energetic performance that manages to inspire a few laughs. Apparently the twin gimmick was deemed so successful that it was revived for a later episode this season. But alas, it’s the only Season Four episode that I do not have.
6) Episode 116: “Mrs. Nestor’s Boyfriend” (Aired: 02/03/56)
Mrs. Nestor forbids faculty members of the opposite sex from fraternizing. Miss Brooks hopes to change Mrs. Nestor’s mind by fixing her up with one of Mrs. Davis’s rejects!
The second Mrs. Nestor, less of a villain than the first Mrs. Nestor, is never really funny. But this episode, centered on her, is moderately successful. The story is fine, but the episode is included on my list because of a truly hilarious bit that elevates the entire script: Miss Brooks and the gang spying on Nestor and her date from across the street. One of the funniest and sharpest scenes of the season.
7) Episode 119: “White Lies” (Aired: 02/24/56)
When one an ex-boyfriend comes into town, Mrs. Davis, ashamed about her age, begs Connie to take her place.
This is a classic Our Miss Brooks set-up, and that’s probably why it works so well. With plenty of Margaret Davis, some funny misunderstandings, and a few laughs, it’s a consistent episode. Aside from some great Davis lines, the best moment occurs when Mr. Conklin shows up at Connie’s in disguise. It’s thrilling to see a sitcom character NOT fall for another character’s obvious put-on, and when she flatly addresses him as Mr. Conklin, the studio audience is just as pleased as I am.
Those are my picks for the funniest episodes of Season Four. The episodes that I found acceptable but not funny enough were Episode 122: “Library Quiz,” Episode 123: “Benny Gets A Mother” (a.k.a. “A Mother For Benny”), Episode 126: “24 Hours,” and Episode 130: “Travel Crazy.” They all four came AFTER the seven episodes mentioned above, and the last two feature Mr. Boynton, whose presence is welcomed, but not show-saving.
*** UPDATE — 12/13/13: Thanks to kind reader Ron, I have now seen every single installment from Season Four. He provided me with the one that I had listed as missing from my collection, Episode 115: “Twins At School.” Though I wouldn’t call it one of the best installments, perhaps it deserves to be included with the honorable mentions listed directly above. If interested in obtaining this episode (which is currently unavailable on YouTube), subscribe and comment below. And thanks again, Ron!
*** 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!
Next on Sitcom Tuesdays, we’re moving from the ’50s to the ’60s. We’ll be skipping over two classic single-camera series, Leave It To Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show, which are not yet in my collection and therefore unavailable for list-making (hopefully soon, though), and heading to one of my favorite sitcoms of all-time, The Dick Van Dyke Show. So join us next Monday as we list the best episodes from Season One! And tune in tomorrow for another Wildcard Wednesday post!