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TelevisionWeek Executive Editor Tom Gilbert joins our roster of bloggers with this forum all about classic television, where anything from "Leave It to Beaver" to "Malcolm in the Middle" is fair game for discussion. Reunion specials, DVD releases of classic shows, vintage commercials -- anything that's ever been telecast is the hot topic here.

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Timeless TV



A Visit With ‘Pete and Gladys’

May 20, 2008 3:38 PM

Before Harry Morgan became Col. Potter on “MASH” and Det. Joe Friday’s sidekick Bill Gannon on the 1960s incarnation of “Dragnet,” he played next-door neighbor Pete Porter on the popular sitcom “December Bride,” original episodes of which ran on CBS from 1954-59.
Pete
On the show, Pete forever complained about his scatterbrained wife, Gladys, but she was never seen.

After CBS schedule staple Lucille Ball left the network in 1960 for a shot at Broadway, CBS bought a “December Bride” spinoff starring Morgan called “Pete and Gladys,” on which the mythical Gladys—played by a very Lucy-like red-headed comedian named Cara Williams—would finally be seen. Hoping to fill the Lucy void, “Pete and Gladys” was slotted into a Monday night berth similar to “I Love Lucy’s”; it was even directed by “Lucy” veteran James V. Kern.

It didn’t work. Despite an Emmy nomination for Williams, the show was canceled after two seasons—just in time for Ball’s return to CBS’ Monday night schedule in “The Lucy Show.” But, weirdly, the network stripped “Pete and Gladys” repeats for two more years during daytime.

Here’s the first five minutes of a 1962 episode (complete with opening credits and a quaint Kellogg’s cereal commercial):

In this clip, even with an able assist from longtime "Lucy" nemesis Gale Gordon, it's painfully obvious that the show wasn't working as planned.


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Comments (3)

Snooky Handsome:

Uggghhhhhh, I have a sick feeling after watching those awful excerpts from Pete & Gladys. Was any character EVER better heard-about than seen? Such a grating, embarrassing imitation of Lucille Ball, and what a contrived situation that episode appears to be: the American male's fantasy-vision of his wife as a child. Harry Morgan was a good character actor & ensemble member (as in MASH) but he could not carry a show, so this spinoff had 2 strikes right off: the costars! But did you notice the writing credits?: Bob Schiller & Bob Weiskopf, two of the greatest of all sitcom writers, whose work ranged from "Lucy" to the groundbreaking "All in the Family." Proof that anybody can hatch a rotten egg. This clearly a case of -- they needed the money but their hearts (and minds) weren't in the show. I wonder if "December Bride" reruns hold up any better? I remember liking the show as a child - that is, as a toddler -- that is, a baby -- come to think of it, I saw it from the womb as a fetus. Anyway, more kudos to the keen-eyed Mr Gilbert....

Allison:

Oh, dear. This is dreadful. Schiller and Weiskopf must have been wondering why their scripts worked so well with Desi and Lucy and were murdered by these two. Cara was pretty, but she was painfully inept at comedy as that second clip shows. And that laugh track -- could they pump it up any more than they did?

Interesting artifact, Tom. Where'd you find it? (You're a regular Indiana Jones!)

Jim M.:

I disagree. This show is no worse than "I Love Lucy," "December Bride," "The Danny Thomas Show" or any of its contemporary sitcoms of the era.

I remember, as a kid, watching this show's off-prime time run, in fact just after "I Love Lucy" on CBS' weekday morning roster. I liked it then and I have bought several episodes on DVD (public domain--it's not yet officially released, nor shall it ever likely be), plan to buy some more.

"Pete & Gladys" may not be as memorably "classic" as "Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," but watching an episode would still be an amusing passage of time---certainly better than watching those horrid judge and reality shows that have cluttered the broadcast TV landscape of today!

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