Little Rascals on DVD June Cleaver book

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Shows I NEED to see

Despite the plethora of various viewing options—err, platforms—that exist today and of course the seemingly still going strong DVD industry, there remains a few programs from TV’s distant and not so distant past that seem to be just out of reach….

Over the years I’ve been very fortunate to work at places that have often granted me access to many of TV’s great and obscure “back files.”  First at the Museum of Broadcast Communications is Chicago, where I first came upon one of my all-time favorite series--“Decoy” with Beverly Garland.  Then at the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland (where I was introduced to the high-energy wonders of “The Debbie Reynolds Show”) and, now, at the Library of Congress where I have had the chance to check out everything from “Grindl” to “Get Christie Love!”

But still…  Despite these wonderful collections (which unfortunately are often only available for viewing on the premises) and others (like those at the Paley in NY or the UCLA Film and TV Archives), and despite the booming world of bootlegs of Youtube.  (Shhh!  Don’t mention it; they’ll take them down!), far too much of our primetime legacy remains lost or hidden away, buried beneath complicated copyrights or behind walls of indifference.

Every TV fan, I’m sure has his or her own “want list.”

I’m sure Western fans have many horse operas from TV’s long ago, dusty past they want to see.  And I have no doubt that many of small-screen sci-fi aficionados wish that the very first “Buck Rogers” series, that aired on ABC from 1950-1951, would turn up someplace; no episodes of it, however, are believed to have survived.

The Television Ghost,And everyone it seems would LOVE to see “The Television Ghost,” a NY-produced series from 1930-1933 (yes, 1930 to ’33) that we know of only because of newspaper accounts of it.  Alas, these “Ghost” films—if they were filmed--have long be feared lost.

But even of programs that are known to be extant, there are some that are still just not viewable—at least, not easily.

And since I have long had a strong interest in women on the small screen, I have my own wish list…. Certainly I wish more and different episodes of “Meet Millie,” the charming sitcom with Elena Verdugo as a single working woman, which aired from 1952-1956, were floating around someplace; there’s seems to be just the same two episodes that keep getting uploaded. 


And I wish some other episodes of “Love That Jill,” from 1958, which starred Anne Jeffreys and Robert Sterling post-“Topper,” would come to the fore; the only installment that seems to be around is the one with special guest star Chuck Connors. 


Only the Christmas episode of “Dear Phoebe” (1954-1955) starring Peter Lawford and Marcia Henderson seems to be viewable for this one-season sitcom that featured Lawford as the newspaper’s advice to the lovelorn columnist (the “Phoebe” of the title) and Henderson as the paper’s chief SPORTS writer.


And poor Janet Dean, Registered Nurse!  Episodes of this great show from 1954-1955 show with Ella Raines as a crusading caregiver can found all over the internet…sadly, it’s always the same two episodes!  One features a young Sal Mineo (which explains much of the interest in it) and the other has actress Kim Hunter subbing for Raines which is fine, but what good is “Janet Dean” without “Janet”?

Then there are these….

Top Secret USA (1954)
This was a 15 minute show from 1954.  It starred Paul Stewart, Charles Cooper and a very young Gena Rowlands.  According to recaps, the series followed the “exploits of Brand and Powell, undercover agents with the ‘Bureau of Scientific Information.’”  Stewart and Cooper played Brand and Powell but Rowlands was another tech.  What was she like in the series?  Was this the
“X-Files” before the “X-Files”?  The interesting, tantalizing opening credits for the show are on Youtube but, alas, nothing else. 


oss Lady TV Show 1950sThe Television Ghost,Boss Lady (1952)
Lynn Bari was a beloved lady of the “B’s,” often starring in films as the lady with the gun in her purse.  She came to TV in a sitcom in the summer of 1952.  The show was titled “Boss Lady” and was a summer replacement series.  Bari starred as Gwen F. Allen, the head of a construction firm(!).  According to recaps (which may or may not be accurate), Allen was the one with the cool head on the show and she often had to keep her doddering father (from whom she inherited the business) from mucking things up.  I believe at least one episode is up at the Paley.  Will need to plan a trip.

The Jean Carroll Show:  Take It From Me (1953-1954)
Jean Carroll might very well have been the inspiration for the “Mrs.” of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”  Carroll was a stand-up comic—yes, a female stand-up comic!  She made her first appearance on TV in 1949.  Clips of some of her later TV performances can be found on Youtube.  In 1953, she had her own (very) short-lived self-starring sitcom that had the subtitle of “Take It From Me.”  She co-started with Alan Carney and Lynn Loring and they supposedly played Carroll’s “bumbling husband” and her teen daughter.  Only 11 episodes were produced.  Carroll would be the first female stand-up to bring her persona and talents to the sitcom form.  Roseanne and Ellen and many, many others would follow.  It would be fascinating to see even one episode of this one-time series.       

Hey, Jeannie! (1956-1957)
Also known as “The Jeannie Carson Show,” this show starred (guess who?) singing and acting a and comedy star Jeannie Carson.  The English-born Carson played a Scottish lass, Jeannie MacLennan who, in the series’s first episodes, is freshly arrived in the US of A and trying to understand all our strange customs.  In the show’s second incarnation for its second season, Jeanie (still MacLennan) decides to take the skies as a professional flight attendant.  Two episodes, from early in the show’s run, are at the Library of Congress.  Wish there were more!


Two Girls Named Smith (1951)
In the 1950s and early ‘60s, there were several shows about young women bypassing the then normal path of marriage and motherhood to have careers.  Along with “So This Is Hollywood” and “My Sister Eileen” was the short-lived show “Two Girls Named Smith.”  It starred two girls named “Peggy”:  Peggy French and Peggy Ann Garner.  Garner played Babs Smith who had relocated to NY to Omaha to break into modeling and show biz.  French was Fran who was trying to make it as a designer in the fashion business.  The series aired for its entire run on Saturdays at noon. 


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