Premiere Week, But Make It Sing

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week launches the fall season for the “broadcast networks,” so I thought we’d pay tribute to this once-important annual event with a single-season rarity that premiered long ago on a Tuesday in September 1968: That’s Life, ABC’s hour-long musical comedy series starring Robert Morse and E.J. Peaker as a young couple who go from a meet-cute to parenthood all in the course of 26 song-and-dance-filled episodes.

Produced by Marvin Marx (of The Jackie Gleason Show and The Honeymooners), That’s Life doesn’t have the best scripting; as a vehicle for musical numbers (some original, some not), the characterizations are largely sidelined in favor of idea-driven centerpieces and gimmicks, and it’s best remembered today for its impressive roster of guests, including Betty White, Ethel Merman, Liza Minnelli, and dozens of others. But if the characters lack definition — even the two leads are generic — the 15 entries I’ve seen/heard are sufficiently cute and jokey, and the musical spots are indeed excellent. In past posts, I’ve shared audios and videos of a few installments, but this time, I’ve got — in support for my analysis regarding the importance of character in sustaining a comedy series, even one so heavily dependent on music — a full color copy of the opener, “How We Met,” which first aired on September 24, 1968. Marx wrote the teleplay with Walter Stone, Rod Parker, and Bob Ellison, while producer Stan Harris directed. The original songs are by Walter Marks, and guests include George Burns (who sings “The Glory Of Love”), Tony Randall, and The Turtles (who offer “Elenore”).  It’s a charming time capsule — hailing from an era where premiere week (or weeks, as NBC launched its shows earlier to get a leg up on the competition) actually meant something. The password is Pierrepont.


And, ah, just for kicks, here’s the video of an audio shared earlier, Ethel Merman singing “Think Pink” from her October 1968 guest appearance on this series. Enjoy!



Come back next week for a new Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for the second half of my Garry Marshall essay!