Donny And Evie

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m sharing — with subscribers who comment below to alert me of their interest — access to an unsold 1975 comedy pilot called Harry And Maggie. It stars Don Knotts and Eve Arden as the eponymous twosome — he, a small-town widower, and she, his big-city sister-in-law who tries to help him raise his teenage daughter. Others in the cast include Kathy Davis, Lucille Benson, and Tom Poston as the employee whom Harry hopes to fix up with Maggie, in an attempt to get her off his back. (Eddie Quillan also guests in the pilot as a cabbie.) Sounds good, right?

I was so excited to track down this rarity — produced by MGM for CBS (directed by Jay Sandrich) — having been curious about it for years, not only because of the strong cast (Arden and Knotts… and Poston!), but also because it was created by Jim Parker & Arnold Margolin, a duo who had recently served as executive producers on Love, American Style, after writing for My Mother, The Car; Hey, Landlord!; The Andy Griffith Show; That Girl; and He & She — a wide variety of credits that indicates some Garry Marshall and even MTM influences (this pair also cowrote “His Two Right Arms,” the failed backdoor pilot from the end of Mary Tyler Moore‘s second season), making the potential for Harry And Maggie relatively great.

Unfortunately, that potential went unrealized… and since viewing the pilot, I’m afraid I now think that’s with good reason, for despite boasting a dynamite central cast and a basic premise — the clash of opposites — that’s ripe with the chance for character-based comedy, this script is surprisingly unsatisfying, avoiding the direct exploration of its conflict by tending to distractions, like tacky yuk-yuks about Harry’s daughter’s homely appearance and Poston’s amusing-but-incidental drunk scene, muting and sidelining the main characterizations in the process so that they lack the boldness necessary to earn the big laughs we expect from performers of their caliber. Yes, Poston is a bright spot and Knotts and Arden really give it their all, but they were clearly let down, and it’s a shame, because this trio could have made magic — and, in this case, the premise wasn’t against them either… just the execution.

Nevertheless, for fans of these great talents, this is indeed a fascinating curio, first airing on April 25, 1975 (and then again on July 17, 1975 — 46 years ago this week). Here’s a clip — Harry And Maggie’s funniest: Poston’s aforementioned drunk scene. Enjoy!

 

 

Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more sitcom fun!

49 thoughts on “Donny And Evie

  1. Would like to see this. Lots of talent involved. Arnold Margolin said he regretted not giving the show a little more heart.

    • Hi, Scott! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I don’t think heart alone could have alleviated this pilot’s deficiencies. However, tamping down the “your daughter is fat” jokes would have certainly been advisable, especially if those tacky laughs could have been supplanted by more direct character-based comedy for the two leads in opposition. And anything that strengthened the central relationship would have been additive!

      Also, I have emailed you at the saturdaymfg address with which you’ve subscribed, but my messages have bounced back twice. Please remedy this error or subscribe with a new email address so I can send the link your way!

            • I’ve done all those things and word press says I’m subscribed and I am getting all the email updates. Guess I’m out of options.

            • Let’s troubleshoot. I cancelled your subscription at the old saturdaymfg account. You should be able to resubscribe using your preferred new address. Please do this from the homepage (jacksonupperco.com) to ensure that you are specifically inputting your desired email. (Also, don’t forget to confirm at the link you’re sent.) If it says you’re already subscribed using that new address, please cancel it and resubscribe (again, from the home page). Once you do this, the new account should be added to the database. For some reason, it currently isn’t.

          • I’ve updated everything. Hope it works this time. Thank you for the time you’ve spent trying to correct this!

            • Hi, chesterthecat123 (Scott). I’m still not seeing an email address like the one you described.

              I have another idea. Send me a message on the “Q&A” page and tell me your preferred address *WITHIN* the message itself. I am able to invite people to subscribe, so I will send an invite to the address you send there. Once you confirm it, that should hopefully put you in the system.

              https://jacksonupperco.com/ask-jackson/

  2. Hi, there. Thank you for this post. I never knew of this unsold pilot. I love Eve Arden and saw her when she came to Australia in 1975 to star in the musical Applause. I would love a copy of the unsold pilot, if that be possible. Thanks, once again, for all your great work.

  3. Thank you for being able to supply subscribers with the Harry & Maggie pilot. I am very interested in viewing the pilot because of its three stars. I may have seen it when it first aired (I know, that ages me), but I have no memory.
    BTW, thank you also for your insights on the Barney Miller series. Very informative on one of my favorite series. I know that the Jack Soo – A Retrospective episode was a departure for the series and so not included in your all-time best for that season.
    But I am interested in what you thought of it and, if you can, include those thoughts sometime in a future writeup.

    • Hi, Jeff! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I appreciate your kind words — and I’ll answer your question here: I think “Jack Soo, A Retrospective” is a classy tribute to one of BARNEY MILLER’s most memorable players, and I respect that Arnold wanted to honor Soo by acknowledging his passing without killing off his character. However, as a clip show where the actors appear as themselves for the wraparound segments, it’s simply not an example of a situation comedy and therefore not recommendable alongside other episodes.

      I have emailed you at your AT&T address.

  4. I’d love to see this! Thanks for all your continued good work and efforts. So appreciate your site and perspective!

    • Hi, Derek! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I know you’ve commented here before, but I’m not seeing any recognizable email address associated with you on my subscribers list. If this is an error, please check and let me know the date you subscribed.

      If not, be sure to subscribe using your preferred email address so I can send a copy of this program your way!

  5. I remember this one! I saw it when it was first aired in 1975. I remember not liking it very much, and wasn’t surprised when the pilot didn’t sell. I didn’t think Don and Eve made that great a team, and her character was too mean, especially to the maid (Lucille Benson). Maggie was an enabler to spherical Clovis (Kathy Archer–why do I remember this?) and a thorn in Harry’s side. But hey, it’s Eve Arden, and I’d definitely like to get the link to see it again. Thanks, Jackson!

    • Hi, Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I half agree; I too find Arden’s character unpleasantly harsh, but less so to the housekeeper than to Harry’s daughter Clovis, whom I think Maggie antagonizes (while Harry passively enables). In fact, I wish her biting energy was focused more squarely on Knotts’ Harry and that their contrasting characterizations were able to carry the bulk of the pilot’s comedic weight — instead of those easy, tacky jokes about a player who is essentially a plot device on which the script can hang its premise. Of course, that’s entirely a problem *with* the script, not the performances.

      I have emailed you at your gmail address.

  6. Wow this pilot looks interesting, three of some of my favorite actors together is something I’ve got to see. I would be very happy if you would send it to me, should be a fun watch. Thank you.

  7. Wow, I recall watching it when it aired,(and cannot believe it was well over 40 years ago!) Would love to ‘re-visit’ it. Thank you!!

  8. I would love to see this even if it is disappointing. IN 1975 all I did was watch tv and never heard of this. Thanks so much.

  9. With the talent involved both in front of and behind the camera, that show looks like it had potential. It’s also intriguing to see Knotts and Arden in more of a character-based comedy.

    • Yes, but if this pilot is any indication of a potential series, Connie Brooks and Barney Fife (and, for that matter, Ralph Furley) would easily be the much richer, more defined characters, even at first blush. (Eve Hubbard? Welllll, that might be a different story…)

  10. Hi Jackson
    I always liked Eve Arden, ever since her Our Miss Brooks series. Have you heard her radio series which you can hear on old time radio?

    So it will be interesting to hear and see to hear her in another role.

    By the way thanks for reviewing all those old series, Taxi, Mary Tyler Moore, Barney Miller, The Jefferson, etc. The comedies were always fun and good for laughs, and sometimes they were serious too. Keep up your analysis.

    • Hi, Donna! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes! Visit the archives for samples of OUR MISS BROOKS radio episodes, in addition to commentary on the TV adaptation — one of the first shows I covered on Sitcom Tuesdays.

      And thanks for the kind words — I enjoy all the shows you mentioned, especially when they’re fun and good for laughs, because that’s when I believe the genre, and its conventions, are at their most self-actualized!

      I have emailed you at your cs address.

  11. Hi Jackson,
    I requested a link to see the above pilot TV show, but nothing has come through.
    Using WordPress under user, Baylys66, to be sent to my Gmail a/c.
    Thanks, John.

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