Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week we’re honoring Betty White’s 98th birthday — coming up on Friday — with a rarity offered exclusively to subscribers who comment below to alert me of their interest. Sticking with the new year’s ’50s theme here, I thought we’d go back to Betty White’s first national series, Life With Elizabeth, a cute husband/wife comedy that premiered on local live Los Angeles television in 1952 before a deal was made to film 65 half-hours for the first-run syndication market. These debuted nationally from 1953 to 1955.
You’ve likely seen episodes of the filmed series on cheap public domain releases — unlike the local live shows, they’re shot single-camera and without an audience — and you’ll notice that while the series can be classified as a situation comedy, given the sustaining characters, each installment includes three separate vignettes, making it something closer to sketch comedy than the sitcom genre’s typical efforts. (Incidentally, White’s first traditional half-hour sitcom — with one situation per week — was Date With The Angels, which premiered in 1957 and was indeed filmed using multiple cameras in front of a live audience. More here.)
Now, for subscribers, I’m offering access to a rare, original Life With Elizabeth script. It comes from Betty White’s personal collection and is dated June 18, 1953 — one of the live episodes broadcast in Los Angeles on KLAC. I would imagine that these individual vignettes were separated and reused when the show moved to film, but here’s the rare chance to not only read a piece of TV history, but also a piece of TV history that no longer exists. (Only one live show is known to survive.) So, let me know if interested — and happy 98th, Betty White!
Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned Monday for a musical theatre rarity!