Two Gems: A Forgotten Paramount Tune & A Forgotten ’70s Sitcom

Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! During my second week as a blogger, my Wednesday post highlighted both a forgotten sitcom — He And She — and a forgotten Gershwin tune — “Nashville Nightingale.” Today’s post follows the same format, this time featuring The New Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 1971-1974) and a song by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel, “You Hit The Spot.”

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The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971-1974, CBS)

This three-season sitcom attempted to recapture its star’s prior success in his series of the previous decade. In fact, CBS was so eager to have Van Dyke back on the network, they signed him to an unheard of three season deal. Once again Carl Reiner served as the creative backbone, and the series, per Van Dyke’s request, was filmed in his home state of Arizona. Van Dyke played Dick Preston, a talk show host in Phoenix, Arizona. He had a wife, Jenny (Hope Lange), a daughter, Annie (Angela Powell), and a son who was away at school. At work, Dick played opposite his sister Mike (Fannie Flag), his manager, Bernie (Marty Brill), and his boss, Ted (David Doyle). Nancy Dussault was Carol, Bernie’s wife and the Prestons’ next door neighbor.

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Given a prime time-slot on Saturday evenings during its first season, the show failed to become a ratings hit and would have been canceled if not for Van Dyke’s lucrative deal. The series was then moved to the dreaded Sunday evenings for its second season, where it performed as well as it had the year prior. The third and final season saw major changes in the cast, crew, and premise. Van Dyke, Lange, and Powell remained, as Dick Preston moved to Hollywood and got a starring role in a soap opera. New cast members included: Richard Dawson, Chita Rivera, Barry Gordon, Dick Van Patten, Barbara Rush and Henry Darrow. Now seen on Monday evenings, the show maintained a solid audience, and CBS was eager to renew, but Van Dyke was displeased with the show and called it quits.

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I recently acquired a handful of episodes from this series, and its structural dependence on Van Dyke’s ’60s series is too evident. The scripts are occasionally topical, providing moments of worthy fodder for Van Dyke and his company. By and large, however, most of the episodes are just dull, and the supporting cast never is afforded anything resembling the stuff given to his previous ensemble. Comparatively, it’s a much weaker show than it should be. That being said, it’s not a bad show.

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One of the episodes that I thought was stronger than others was the third episode, which aired on 10/02/71 and was called “Mid-term Dinner.” The premise of the episode involves the shock that occurs when the Prestons’ son brings home his girlfriend — who is black. Mabel Albertson (Darrin’s mother on Bewitched) makes her first appearance as Dick’s mom here. Take a look:

 

You Hit The Spot” (from Paramount’s Collegiate [1936])

This Mack Gordon and Harry Revel song was introduced by Frances Langford in Paramount’s 1936 film, Collegiate, which in addition to Langford, stars Joe Penner, Jack Oakie, Ned Sparks, and Betty Grable. The plot concerns Oakie’s attempts to save a bankrupt school by putting on a show.

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This number, a snappy tune with lyrics that capitalize on a popular and perhaps euphemistic idiom, “You Hit The Spot” is fun and simple — good for dancing. It has since been recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, and Sarah Vaughan. But I first heard it on the Kay Thompson compilation CD, “Kay Thompson: The Queen Of Swing Vocal & Her Rhythm Singers.” Here’s Kay’s version:

 

 

Come back next Wednesday for an all new Wildcard post! And remember to tune in tomorrow as we finally reach the best Xena episode of the entire series!

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