The Many Loves of
One of the greatest sitcoms of all time has arrived on DVD, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963), starring Dwayne Hickman and Bob Denver. This is one of the rare comedies of the early-1960s that holds up today, a solid production in a first class DVD package.
This was a radical departure for sitcoms, teens on TV had always been portrayed with a distinct 1940s worldview, a ubiquitous anachronism. While the culture was undergoing an evolution, a revolution, TV teens were represented by guys dressed in sport coats, sweater-vests and ties, and gals in flouncy dresses sporting bobby socks and patent leather heels.
It could be argued that Dobie broke the mold in a radical way, more animals than teens had a meaningful role on a television series in 1960. There hadn't been many shows (I can't think of any off-hand) that had been about someone other than an adult unless it was a little kid, think Leave it to Beaver - or Dennis the Menace which debuted the same year as Dobie.
More than any other series of the period Dobie reflected the youth culture as it existed - the casual dress, beatnik scene, the emerging me-first generation in full flower - all punctuated with a jazzy score.
Look for an oddity early in the first season, Maynard disappears replaced by his dippy cousin, the severely miscast Michael J. Pollard. Bob Denver had been drafted but was soon declared 4F and returned to the production after 2 missed episodes. Pollard was no more to be found.
A young handsome Warren Beatty was a semi-regular early on as the alpha male who, with good looks and charm, thwarts Dobie's every desire. Beatty's character was replaced by the uber-wealthy Chatsworth Osborn, Jr. who served the same purpose on an even more shallow level. Tuesday Weld was one of Dobie's first attractions, but Beatty's and Weld's stars soon eclipsed episodic TV and were gone.
Frank Faylen as father Herbert Gillis is hilarious, often the funniest moments in the series are centered around his frustrations with the changing culture in general and his slacker son in particular.
I asked Dwayne Hickman about his experience as Dobie: "The best part was learning how to play comedy from the masters, Benny, Burns and Cummings. The worst - I never had time at school to make any close friends and I was a teen star to them."
Season two The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis really shines, toward the end of the year the gang enrolls in the Army. If the idea was to make this a military sitcom, ala The Phil Silvers Show, the notion was abandoned after less than a dozen episodes, before the season ended. Possibly because the Vietnam War was not as universally supported as the conflict Sgt. Bilko found himself in?
That diversion makes the second season my favorite, the Army episodes are loaded with laughs as are the plotlines dealing with show business, it's like creator Max Schulman and the other writers were reinvigorated.
Dobie and his classmates started out in high school then graduated to Junior College for season three, a transitory period where the nation's focus was shifting from the wisdom of the elders to the peregrinations of the teen generation. There is a simple directness to the storylines; the Gillis parents' constant confoundment, Maynard's naive but sunny outlook, Dobie's light-hearted attempts at unrequited romance.
One of the signature elements throughout the seasons are Dobie's monologues in front of the statue of The Thinker. For season 4 the background, while retaining the sculpture, goes to pitch black giving off a Twilight Zone effect. The music got zippier too while the plots revolved more around Maynard in some crazy situation - like, becoming a teen idol, getting involved with a torch singer, ensnared in a net of spies. Very Gilligan's Island-like, but even with a more typical sitcom-y approach the series remained entertaining.
A plethora of familiar faces pop up over the four seasons including Yvonne Craig, John Banner, Jo Anne Worley, Michele Lee, Susan Watson, Marlo Thomas, Sally Kellerman, Ellen Burstyn... a who's-who of 1960s TV.
The fan base for this show is huge, folks who watched when it originally aired, people like myself that caught Dobie Gillis in syndication in the '70s and reruns were very popular for years on Nickelodeon, earning the series another generation of fans.
The quality of the masters, the restoration on these episodes is absolutely superb, series' fans will be very pleased. Extras include episodes of Love That Bob and The Stu Erwin Show that featured Dwayne Hickman playing a similar character to Dobie.
If you were to buy only one
The Many Loves
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