Monday, July 13, 2020

Ten More Forgotten Shows I’d Like to Watch


Three years ago in this space I listed ten shows long out of circulation that I’d like to watch. In the time since that blog only one of those shows – The Smith Family – has become available.

Not one to be deterred by that dismal track record, I’m going to try again. Here are ten more series that, from the small sample size I’ve experienced, looked intriguing enough to merit further investigation.

The Nurses (1962)
With 98 episodes and a handful of Emmy nominations, this is the most successful series on the list. It was what they used to call a prestige drama, with high caliber talent on both sides of the camera. The couple of episodes that can be found online put you convincingly into the lives of nurses at a big city hospital, the way Naked City incases you in the crime-ridden streets of New York. But the two stars that went the distance with The Nurses, Shirl Conway and Zina Bethune, never became household names, which is just one of many reasons it will likely remain out of circulation. 



Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1962)
After he played Davy Crockett for Disney, and before he starred in Daniel Boone, Fess Parker starred in this adaptation of the classic Frank Capra film with Jimmy Stewart as a young, idealistic Senator. As the theme song tells us, “He’s just a country boy, but he gets a lot of joy, finding ways of fixin’ things that need a helping hand.” The result is perhaps a bit too light and sitcom-my, but Parker fits the part well and they had writers of the caliber of Earl Hamner on some of the scripts. I’m not even sure all 25 episodes still exist, but I’d be curious to take a look.



Mickey (1964)
For more than 50 years, Mickey Rooney may have been the hardest-working man in show business. IMDB lists 340 credits for him, and this sitcom may be among the least heralded. He played a Coast Guard recruiter based in Nebraska (yes, that’s the first joke) who moves his family to California to run a struggling beachfront hotel. The show earned Rooney the Golden Globe as Best TV Star – Male in 1964, but given the dubious history of the Hollywood Foreign Press, that just means the check cleared. I’d like it because I always think he’s interesting to watch, and because his wife was played by Emmaline Henry, best known as Amanda Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie.

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1965)
From Mr. Novak to The Man From UNCLE to The Love Boat, Pat Crowley is someone I’m always happy to see turn up in a guest spot on a favorite show. She was a TV star in search of the right series to affirm that status, and this one is as close as she got. 



Based on a film starring Doris Day, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was a family sitcom in the tradition of The Brady Bunch, but with a subversive streak in that wife and mother Joan Nash (Crowley) was a bit of a nonconformist. That freshened up the mix a bit, and despite some bad time slots the show survived for more than 50 episodes over two seasons. It didn’t disappear completely after that – I’ve caught a few episodes over the years in various afternoon timeslots, and I enjoyed them as much as the shows that have played nonstop all over TV for 50 years. 



The Little People (1972)
The two top-billed starts of this short-lived sitcom, created by Garry Marshall, were Brian Keith and Shelley Fabares. And that’s really all I need to know. I’ve never seen a full episode but a few scenes have turned up online, so I know Keith plays a pediatrician in Hawaii, and Fabares plays his daughter, who works with him in his office. As he did in Family Affair, Keith comes across as a guy who is really good with kids, though he didn’t always look like he wanted to be around them. And I really don’t care what Shelley does cause I’d watch her in anything – except Highcliffe Manor (1979). I tried, though. I really did.  



Animals, Animals, Animals (1976)
This was a pleasant show in which Hal Linden taught kids about different kinds of animals. It had no higher aspirations than that.

Its executive producer was Lester Cooper, who previously served as head writer for the brilliant Make a Wish. I assume that’s the main reason why the show was smarter than it had to be. If you can’t remember much about it, that may change if you hear the theme song again. 



All That Glitters (1977)
“One morning the Lord, She woke up to say, "I feel like I want to be creative today"

Given Norman Lear’s TV titan status, as well as the ongoing focus on equality and inclusion that dominates our national conversation, it’s surprising that someone hasn’t put out this soap opera parody, which featured the same quirky tone as the more successful Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The gimmick was in its reversal of traditional roles, as on this show all the women worked in executive positions, and all their husbands stayed home to take care of the cleaning and the kids. The cast included Eileen Brennan, Lois Nettleton, Anita Gillette, Linda Gray, Gary Sandy, Tim Thomerson and Jessica Walter.

The Fitzpatricks (1977)
Here’s how I pictured the pitch meeting at CBS: “Hey, ABC is doing really well with that Family series – let’s get one of those over here. And since Kristy McNichol is the most popular character on that show, we’ll get her brother Jimmy to star in ours.” I could be completely wrong about all of that, but either way the result was The Fitzpatricks, about a working-class family in Michigan. Might have worked – probably should have worked, but they scheduled it opposite Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, and ABC quickly wiped out this homage to one of its crown jewels. 



Marlo and the Magic Movie Machine (1977)
Someone called this “the original YouTube” on IMDB.  The set-up is that computer genius Marlo Higgins works for the L. Dullo Corporation by day, but when his shift is over he ducks into a secret room in the basement where he has created a colorful talking super-computer. That machine shows videos that are fun and educational, and can also transport Marlo to places all around the world. I confess that as a kid, the credit identifying Marlo as being played by Laurie Faso confused the heck out of me. Was that really a woman with an unusually deep voice in a wig and mustache? No – it was just a guy named Laurie.

The 1960s and ‘70s were a time when computers were becoming more prevalent, and everyone assumed that the more powerful they got, the bigger they would have to be. Even Marlo could not have imagined that everything his machine could do would now fit on a hand-held device in someone’s pocket.

Anyone else still remember the theme song? 



Jack and Mike (1986)
Shelley Hack did not get great notices for her acting on Charlie’s Angels, but she had picked up her game toward the end of her one season, and carried those talents into better (though sadly not more successful) projects. Jack and Mike was ABC’s hope that the audience who loved Moonlighting would stick around for another hour with another smart and attractive couple. The show had a more serious edge than its predecessor – Hack played Jackie, a newspaper columnist whose stories sometimes got dangerous, and Tom Mason played her husband, a successful restaurateur with an equally demanding career. 



I have the vaguest of vague memories of watching it first-run – and thinking that it had a good cast in search of better stories. And I liked that it was filmed in Chicago, which is always a plus for this Chicago area native.

Let’s see if we can get at least two of these shows out on DVD in the next three years.

1 comment:

  1. Wow--this blog sure can trigger some long buried memories! Our family was die-hard ABC on Tuesday nights (Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, Family) but I distinctly remember watching episodes of "The Fitzpatricks" (maybe summer repeats?) and liking it a lot--as did my dad, who didn't watch a lot of tv. Anyway, would love to see it again--and Brian Keith in "Little People"!

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