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60th Anniversary of the
Abbott & Costello TV Show!

By Kevin S. Butler

Abbott & Costello TV ShowIn 1952 "The Abbott & Costello Show" made it's debut in national syndication after a successful turn as semi-regular hosts/performers on NBC TV's "Colgate Comedy Hour" beginning on Sunday Night January 7, 1951. The boys decided to star in their own TV sitcom; the scenes for the show's first season were filmed during the spring and fall of 1951 and the winter of 1952 at The Hal Roach Studios.

Producer and director Alex Gottlieb and Jean Yarbrough were recruited to supervise the show and the boys hired some of their favorite performers from the film series: Hilary Brooke, Sid Fields, Joe Besser and Gordon Jones to serve as members of their stock company. Yet, it took a long time for the program to get on the air.

The reason for the delay was that Lou had trouble obtaining a distribution deal that he felt was appropriate. The show debuted on Friday Night December 5, 1952 with the humor aimed at a family audience. Bud & Lou became a hit with the viewers - especially kids - who enjoyed the surreal atmosphere of the rooming house and the city that Bud and Lou lived in. The boys (depicted as two struggling entertainers) mostly tried to find work to earn enough funds to make their overdue rent bill and attempt to survive.Along the way the duo also performed their classic routines from the movies and stage in these episodes.

 

The critics panned the program but the viewers loved the show - and the filming of Abbott & Costello's skits would preserve them for future generations.

One cast member, who did not work with the boys before, was a female chimp dressed in a costume similar to Lou. The chimp was bestowed with the name "Bingo" and usually created havoc on the set as she tossed plates at Fields and Jones and skated around the neighborhood. "Bingo"got along well with Hillary Brooke but she hated Lou Costello - and Lou was frightened of the chimp's mean disposition.

 

"Bingo" bit Sid Fields yet she was wasn't dismissed for hurting poor Sid. But when she bit Lou, "Bingo's"tenure with "The Abbott & Costello Show" came to an end. Eventually Alex Gottlieb left the series and Lou's brother Pat Costello became the series executive producer and Lou's brother-in-law Joe Kirk appeared on the series as the struggling vendor "Mr. Bacciagalupe" whose business enterprises were always ruined by Lou's bumbling.

By the time the series began filming for its second season the production had moved to the Motion Pictures Center Studios and the format was changed to accommodate more slapstick and episodic stories. Two of the cast members, Hillary Brooke and Joe Besser, left for other venues. Gordon Jones appeared on a few episodes but he would also leave the series, only Sid Fields remained as the tough landlord.

 

The new plots were received with mild response from the viewers, in 1954 "The Abbott & Costello Show" went off the air and the duo continued their guest hosting stint with "The Colgate Comedy Hour" in 1955.

"The Abbott & Costello Show" was soon seen in reruns in certain markets, sponsored first by the Ward Baking Co. and it's popular candy "Chunky" and, when the program was seen on Saturday mornings on the CBS network as a part of their kids' lineup, the Campbell Soup Company endorsed the show. Bud And Lou did commercials for Campbells and they became just as popular as their comedy skits.

Following the Saturday morning reruns on CBS the series was seen on many markets in the late 1950s and into the early 1960s. NYC based TV station WPIX 11 reran the show weekday afternoons and it became Ch. 11's most popular kids program, being seen by young viewers 220 times. In the 1980's the series was seen again, first on WWOR TV 9 in the Seacacus, N.J./ NYC viewing area and later on "TV Land". The show was re-released on VHS and on DVD.


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