Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week marks the 60th anniversary of a tragic day in American history — the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In mournful honor of this historic event, I thought it would be interesting to examine that fateful morning from the lens of this blog’s primary concern — sitcoms — by reviewing the specific sitcom episodes that viewers could have watched on November 22, 1963, prior to the news coverage that took over the network schedules around 2:00 PM Eastern. I was hoping to write this entry using the local listings from my hometown (Orlando), but my efforts to procure that week’s Central FL TV Guide have not yet been successful. So, this post focuses on New York City, and what the many viewers who got those powerful, flagship stations in the northeast would have been watching.
(2) MY LITTLE MARGIE – “Miss Whoozis” (Originally Aired: 01/05/55)
Margie secretly becomes a model and tries to make the photographer jealous.
This is a forgettable episode from the final season of a mostly logic-less show, which too often eschews the central relationship informing its situation in favor of silly stories that have little to do with the regular characters. Gale Storm is a cute clown, but good sitcommery this is not.
(2) OUR MISS BROOKS – “Angela’s Wedding” (Originally Aired: 11/05/54)
Angela mistakes the school’s new coach for her mail-order groom.
A decent entry from one of this solid show’s middling seasons, this episode shines a spotlight on the amusing Jesslyn Fax as Angela and involves Miss Brooks’ ongoing romantic pursuit of Mr. Boynton, thereby utilizing the regular situation. It’s a whole lot better than Margie!
(3) LEAVE IT TO BEAVER (episode not specified)
It’s hard to know which episode this would have been, but since Beaver is a better, more memorable sitcom than many on this list, there’s a decent chance I’d be recommending it.
(5) TOPPER – “Topper Tells All” (Originally Aired: 10/08/54)
Topper gets arrested and confesses about the ghosts who live in his house.
Originally the second season premiere of this medium’s first supernatural sitcom (based on the 1937 film of the same name), this episode is a clip show, reestablishing Topper’s high-concept premise. The series is mediocre (no one’s well-defined), but there’s worse on this list.
(2) I LOVE LUCY – “Mertz And Kurtz” (Originally Aired: 10/11/54)
Fred and Ethel put on airs when they’re visited by his old vaudeville partner.
Okay, it’s not a classic by I Love Lucy’s own high standards, but the character-driven nature of this brilliant series ensures that even one of its lesser samples can still be the best of this list, with a rare Fred-focused story that reveals a lot. This is a sitcom. Nationally scheduled.
(2) THE REAL MCCOYS – “McCoys Ahoy” (Originally Aired: 11/19/60)
Grandpa tries to save a ship named after a West Virginia hero.
As usual for McCoys, crotchety Grandpa Amos (Walter Brennan) enlivens an otherwise sentimental, uninspired story — disconnected from the series’ actually interesting and atypical (for the late 1950s) situation: a rural, non-traditional nuclear family. Nationally scheduled.
(2) PETE AND GLADYS – “The Six Musketeers” (Originally Aired: 02/20/61)
Pete and Gladys share a mountain cabin with two other couples.
Pete And Gladys is a wannabe I Love Lucy without her guiding character motivation and Arnaz’s applied autobiography. It’s a limp December Bride spin-off, only slightly less ridiculous than the similar I Married Joan. This outing is affable, but pure mediocrity. Nationally scheduled.
(7) (8) FATHER KNOWS BEST – “Man About Town” (Originally Aired: 10/03/56)
Bud tries to impress an older woman.
Father Knows Best is among the worst sitcoms of the ’50s because star Robert Young viewed most TV comedy as crass, instead favoring light drama. This entry isn’t serious, but its mildly amusing story never earns real hahas, for there’s nothing here that couldn’t be done with any other generic teen — a fault of the show’s refusal to define its leads for comedy. Nationally scheduled.
(2) THE GEORGE BURNS AND GRACIE ALLEN SHOW – “The Night Out” (Originally Aired: 06/04/56)
George accidentally gets locked in the Friars Club overnight.
Despite coming from a good season from one of the decade’s best sitcoms, this particular outing isn’t among Burns And Allen’s finest, with a simple misunderstanding that’s not as clever or as Gracie-specific as it should be. However, it’s a better series than a lot of the stinkers here!
(4) BACHELOR FATHER – “Bentley And The Beach Bum” (Originally Aired: 05/26/60)
Uncle Bentley steps in when Kelly falls for a beach bum.
Bachelor Father boasts a Bob Cummings-like premise about a playboy forced into the role of proxy dad, but its writing is never as funny, for its characterizations are too benign. I suppose this entry seeks mild social satire, but it’s not connected well to the situation. Interrupted by news.
(7) THE ANN SOTHERN SHOW – “It’s A Dog’s Life” (Originally Aired: 12/15/58)
Katy helps Donald hide a puppy in his room.
This is the only episode on this list that I’ve not yet seen. It comes from the early hotel-focused portion of the series, which is mediocre, and this logline isn’t promising. Interrupted by news.
(8) THE GALE STORM SHOW – “Pat On The Back” (Originally Aired: 09/14/57)
Susanna tries to encourage Pat Boone to perform.
Gale Storm’s cruise ship-set sitcom too often devolves into guest-of-the-week fare, as evidenced by this offering, which features Pat Boone. If you like him, you may appreciate this musical half hour, but otherwise, it’s another subpar sample of sitcommery. Interrupted by news.
Well, as you can see, it wasn’t a great morning for sitcoms — mostly light, forgettable stuff from the prior ten years, soon to be swept away by the memory of an unforgettable tragedy…
Come back next week for a new Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more Scrubs!