I think Beaver has gotten a bad rap in some ways.
I remember watching this show as a very young lad but not seeing it again until the mid-1980s when it turned up on cable. I was struck at just how funny the show is, it's from the same guys who brought us Amos 'n' Andy, The Munsters, and Mayberry RFD. Beaver seems to get lumped in with Father Know Best and Ozzie & Harriet; all were family friendly 1950's representations of the ideal American home. These shows served as a template for what American families should strive for in their lives - stable, hard-working parents with obedient, well-manicured children.
While Father Knows Best and the others may have been sterling cookie cutters, one thing they weren't was funny. Leave it to Beaver, on the other hand, can raise some laughs out of me.
It works because of the inherent truth in the situations - Wally gets a job selling ice cream but his friends expect it for free; Beaver falls for a marketing scheme and is sued for breach of contract; Wally babysits the Beaver and chaos ensues - the storylines are solid, almost perfunctory, but the scripts crackle with a level of reality other shows couldn't approach. The kids here behave as kids do, or did, with the messy unintended consequences of the youngsters generating the laughs.
Of course, none of this would have worked and the show wouldn't have run as long as it did (6 years) if it weren't for the fine actors that populated the cast.
The supporting players all have clearly delineated characters, the kids in Beaver's class and Wally's friends were believable because of their flaws, not because they were paper dolls come to life.
It's rare indeed for a TV show from the 1950s to be entertaining today but Leave it to Beaver makes the grade. If you can get your kids to watch black & white TV (I have friend who's kid only likes to watch B&W, if you can believe it) this is one of those shows that may actually speak to them because of the universal truth behind the situations.
This DVD collection features all 39 episodes of the third season along with a booklet with episode info and a fascinating Shokus Radio interview with Jerry Mathers and Frank Bank (Lumpy Rutherford).
Monday, May 24, 2010 - 8:13am
I GUESS WHEN YOU HAVE A BLOG YOU CAN TALK ABOUT THINGS NO ONE CARES ABOUT
I even sent away for the Marvelmania kit - which consisted of a magazine, a membership card and heaven knows what else - and decorated my bedroom with the Marvelmania posters. Those 24" x 32" posters were awesome - Fantastic Four, Thor, Silver Surfer, & Dr. Doom by Jack Kirby, Captain America by Steranko, The Hulk by Herb Trimpe (one of the best pieces he ever did) and Spiderman by John Romita. Some years ago I thought it might be cool to track down copies of those posters. Boy, was I in for a shock - I found one of the original prints for sale on Ebay and I think the price was around $1,700.
Well, I tried again recently and found a guy on Ebay who has the original plates for at least some of the posters, he's run off new copies and they're amazing! I got the Dr. Doom poster, my favorite, and it's hanging in my office now (reproduced from Kirby's pencils I see). He's changed the coloring very slightly to distinguish them from the originals - and if he hadn't you wouldn't be able to tell. What a blast from the past and I paid less than $25.00 including postage.
Of course, now that I shot off my big mouth, the price will go up and I still don't have the Steranko Cap poster. (Oops - I just searched Ebay and no sign of the posters. Maybe he's taking a break? Ha ha, I got mine!)
Monday, May 24, 2010 - 7:43am
MORE UNSOLD PILOTS
Since the new fall season is percolating let's look at more shows that never made it to our TVs. A bunch of years ago Lee Goldberg wrote one of the best books ever about television called Unsold Television Pilots. Johnny Carson featured the book on the Tonight show back in 1990 and recounted some of the crazy TV shows that never made it on the air - then used it as a jumping off point for some corny sight gags.
Game Show Fail: Here's a unsold 1971 pilot for a game show starring Bob Barker called Simon Says where members of the studio audience fill out questionnaire ahead of time and a 'computer' selects them to tell their unusual stories. They are then given the opportunity to win prizes if they can answer some trivia questions.
This weird format allowed the host to use one of his best skills, the ability to connect with ordinary people and elicit laughs, an ability he honed during his decades long run on Truth or Consequences.
Notice the announcer was Johnny Olson who joined Bob Barker just a year later on The New Price Is Right and almost 40 years later the show is still going strong. Here's a portion of the third episode of TNPIR from August 23, 1972 where Johnny Olson calls the contestant's names and yells "C'mon down!" for the very first time.
What Might Have Been: David Letterman was on track to be one of the great game show hosts of all time, no doubt, if The Riddlers had been picked up in 1977. The Riddlers was a lot like Match Game, the hottest daytime TV show in 1977, in that it had a celebrity panel answering questions.
But it's Letterman that shines here, he's hilarious in the role of game show host. This was just a couple of years after he left Indiana local television and he had not yet begun his brilliant but short-lived 1980 daytime run on NBC, that's where Carson took notice of him and bumped the comic up to late night.
Friday, May 21, 2010 - 10:46am
That explains this version of Hawaii-Five-O from Stephen J. Cannell that never made it past the pilot stage in 1998. And look who the star was going to be - Gary Busey! Notice how remarkably close to the original this opening is.
Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 8:16am
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