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Glynis 1963 TV show


by Cary O'Dell

Glynis Johns TV showThe great Glynis Johns died recently at the age of 100.  And, yet, despite her full century on this planet, her passing seems especially sad considering her unique, one-of-a-kind talent.

British, big-eyed, adept at comedy and drama and even a pretty good singer, Johns made her stage debut in her native England when she was just eight years old.  And it seemed, she never stopped working.  She went on to make herself memorable in a wide assortment of roles, lead and supporting, on or over every single entertainment medium. 

Johns was such a rare talent that even one of the last century’s greatest talents—Lucille Ball—found her impressive and irresistible enough to help bring Johns’ talents to small screen via a 1963 sitcom titled, appropriately enough, “Glynis.”

First, Lucy’s old “I Love Lucy” producer Jess Oppenheimer dreamed up a unique new sitcom about a couple who solved crime together.  He fashioned a script and presented it to the head of Desilu Productions—Lucille Ball. 

Together they decided that the show—originally titled “Careful, My Love”—could only star one person:  Glynis Johns. 

The 30-minute “Glynis,” debuted on CBS on September 25, 1963.

Much like its leading lady, “Glynis” is a hard to easily categorize.  Though a half-an-hour in length and with its fair share of comedic elements, the show was also a weekly mystery series. 

Glynis Johns TV showFor it, Johns played “Glynis Granville,” the writer of mystery novels who—as fate often has it on TV—kept stumbling upon murders that just had to be solved.  In her small screen incarnation, as a mystery writer often solving real-life mysteries, “Glynis” prefigured such later amateur lady sleuths as “The Snoop Sisters” and, of course, Angela Lansbury in “Murder, She Wrote.”

Additionally, the show owed a bit of its DNA to such earlier husband/wife detective series as “Mr. and Mrs. North,” “Biff Baker, USA” and “The Thin Man.” 

Co-staring as Granville’s husband was another Lucy favorite, handsome actor/singer Keith Andes.  Ball had worked with Andes during her Broadway musical run in the show “Wildcat” that was on the boards in New York in 1960.  Ball became a great fan of her stage co-star and, besides putting him in “Glynis,” also featured him a couple of times in her own, “The Lucy Show.”

On “Glynis,” Andes’ character, Keith Granville, was a successful attorney so that at least made the couple’s frequent stumbling into crime scenes a little more plausible.  Character actor George Mathews completed the cast as a retired policeman who also happened to own the apartment house where the Granvilles lived.  Later, the show would feature guest appearances by many small screen favorites including Harvey Korman, Jack Albertson, and Strother Martin.


As the program progressed, Mrs. Granville either encountered crime via various research she was doing for one of her stories—for example, she went undercover as a taxi dancer in episode #2, “Ten Cents a Dance”--or just happened to practically trip into it, as in episode #4, “Keep It Kool,” where, on a long road trip the Granvilles, check into a motel only to encounter a murderess!

Upon the occasion of its debut, “Variety” gave “Glynis’” debut episode an upvote saying it was “peppered with laughs” and “executed in good comedy style.”  But their positivity was not widely shared.  Most other critics found the series either forgettable, tepid or, in the words of one critic, “not very inventive.”

Certainly one thing that worked against the series was its hybrid nature—was it comedy or detective show?  Though program types and lengths had yet to fully solidify themselves into strict “30 minutes = sitcom” and “one hour = drama” formats--for example, the adventure series “Honey West” was only half an hour long, as was the long-running “Dragnet” series—the “Glynis” mash-up of murder mystery/suspense and sitcom was a difficult mix to pull off, even by an able a talent as Johns.

Furthermore, eccentric talents like Glynis Johns, sadly, often don’t translate well to lead roles on TV shows (as Tammy Grimes would learn after only four episodes of her TV sitcom in 1966).
Additionally, around that same time as “Glynis,” Lucy/Desilu tried to package Broadway legend Ethel Merman into a weekly series but that show never got beyond the pilot stage.

Whatever was the case, “Glynis” was decidedly not a hit.  In fact, at a time when even the most failing of shows often got a full season’s run, Johns’ program was yanked after only 13 episodes.

The cancelation of the series, though, would do nothing to end Johns’ career nor it would dimmish her light.  Only about a year after the end of her sitcom, Johns entered immortality with her beloved performance in the Disney classic “Mary Poppins.”  Then she followed that up with roles on the original “Batman” series, in the lush 1982 TV mini-series “Little Gloria…Happy at Last,” on “Cheers” (as Shelley Long’s mother), and in the big screen films like “The Ref” and “Superstar.”  Along the way, she also conquered Broadway in the musical “A Little Night Music” where she introduced the Sondheim classic “Send in the Clowns.”

Additionally, the end of the show it did little to derail Keith Andes’ career either.  He kept plugging along in a wide variety of film and TV guest sports, most famously on the original “Star Trek.”  He passed away in 2005.

Interestingly, before “Glynis” debuted, the majority of its newspaper and trade write-ups/descriptors described the series with some variation of “a scatterbrained wife who solves crimes alongside her level-headed husband.”  Subsequently, more recent recaps of the series have also employed such simplistic descriptions, utilizing such pejoratives as “absent-minded,” etc. to convey what the series was about.  But it’s not a label that accurately reflect the she of this series.

A review of actual episodes shows Glynis Granville as a highly-skilled detective, a brave interloper, and even an action star.  She holds her own against some henchmen in the episode “Keep It Cool” and in outwits and outruns another goon in the series’ pilot episode “Hide and Seek.”  Such daring-do is intriguing and one wonders what else Glynis could have done if she was just on the air a little bit longer.


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