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:PART TWO: by Wesley Hyatt

There's no apparent rhyme nor reason for the scheduling of these nine sitcoms. Some were on just over a week before departing. And often the shows ended their run in the middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) rather than on Fridays, as most daily reruns do.

This mind-boggling approach to adding and subtracting the shows in the mix, plus the fact that the shows themselves ranged from enjoyable to unendurable, no doubted contributed to the series' demise.

Yet "Comedy Time" did run two years, an impressive amount given NBC's somewhat jittery daily programming practices in the 1950s. And until now these programs' repeat history have been barely mentioned in TV books and articles, not to mention the shows themselves. To rectify this situation, I looked at videotapes of most of them to get a better sense of what viewers had a chance to see a second time around on NBC in the 1950s.

"I Married Joan" was the leadoff in "Comedy Time," and it made a sensible choice for a debut with its appeal for children and women at the time.

Virtually everyone agrees that the sitcom, which starred Joan Davis and Jim Backus, was an "I Love Lucy" copycat. That opinion grows stronger when one knows that Marc Daniels, who directed the first season of "I Love Lucy" (1951-52), did the same task for the initial season of "I Married Joan."

The show, dealing with a judge who has a wacky wife, was an easy sell to many TV stations in 1952. Billboard magazine claimed at the time it could be seen in 64 out of 66 local station markets in America, believed to be a record at the time.

But while "I Married Joan" prospered for a few years, it never generated the ratings nor critical approval which "I Love Lucy" received. The writing was nowhere near as clever, with Joan looking to be more of an idiot than Lucy Ricardo ever was in plots which were more stupid than inventive.

Several shows consisted of two different playlets divided by a commercial, which makes one wonder if the writers were unable to construct enough storylines to last a mere half hour.

There also was no supporting cast to rival that of Fred and Ethel Mertz, and as good as Joan Davis and Jim Backus were, they alone could not make up for this absence.

What makes "I Married Joan" interesting in retrospect is its network history. In its third year (1954-55), "I Married Joan" died opposite Disneyland on ABC Wednesday nights.

But in daytime TV, when it returned for its second go-round in the fall of 1956, NBC moved "Comedy Time" to 5 p.m. daily opposite "The Mickey Mouse Club," which like "Disneyland" was a Walt Disney production.

SupermanThis time, Joan beat the Disney product in the fall and winter of 1956, leading ABC to install its own series of kiddie-based reruns of "The Adventures of Superman" and others in the fall of 1957. Called "Fun at Five," the ABC series ran opposite "Comedy Time" and trounced the latter, ultimately forcing Comedy Time's cancellation in 1958.

NBC's first series to replace "I Married Joan" on "Comedy Time" was "So This is Hollywood," a so-so offering with tall, statuesque Mitzi Green as stuntwoman Queenie Dugan and Virginia Gibson as her ingenue roommate Kim Tracy.

The two women were close, even sleeping in a double bed (?!) in their small ground-level apartment at fictional La Paloma Court on Sweetzer Avenue in Los Angeles while trying to encourage each other's dreams of making it in show business. Each had a boyfriend, with Queenie's being a dumb lug named Hubie Dodd (played by Gordon Jones) who often worked with her as a stunt double.

Many of the stories employed both women on studio sets dropping names of famous producers and directors, making it interesting for those who love Hollywood. But the show's mixture of slapstick and sentimentality looked sloppy when it ran from January through June 1955 opposite "The Jackie Gleason Show," then the #2 show on television - featuring a comedian who was expert in combining slapstick and sentimentality into his sketches.

However, "So This is Hollywood" may hold the record as being the first to show an opener of upcoming scenes from that night's show before the first commercial, as well as a preview of a scene from next week's episode.

And for those of you who wondered if art imitated life, well, while Mitzi Green never did another series, while Virginia Gibson did have a nine-year run hosting ABC's daytime children's series "Discovery" (1962-71).

PART THREE:

Think this woman is Aunt Bee? You're wrong!

PART THREE:
It's Always Jan, Topper, It's A Great Life and more obscure greats as our look at COMEDY TIME continues!

 

PART 1 / 2 / 3


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"Comedy Time"
Schedule on NBC
Daytime :

"I Married Joan": May 14, 1956-July 6, 1956

"So This is Hollywood": July 9, 1956-August 10, 1956

"It's Always Jan": August 13, 1956-September 20, 1956

"I Married Joan" (second time): September 21, 1956-December 28, 1956

"It's a Great Life": December 31, 1956-April 18, 1957

"Dear Phoebe": April 19, 1957-April 26, 1957

"Topper": April 29, 1957-June 21, 1957

"Dear Phoebe" (second time): June 24, 1957-August 9, 1957

"I Married Joan" (third time): August 12, 1957-September 25, 1957

"Private Secretary": September 26, 1957-October 25, 1957

"The Charlie Farrell Show": October 28, 1957-November 12, 1957

"Blondie": November 13, 1957-December 18, 1957

"Dear Phoebe" (third time): December 19, 1957-February 4, 1958

"I Married Joan" (fourth time): February 5, 1957-April 4, 1958

"The Charlie Farrell Show" (second time): April 7, 1958-April 15, 1958

"Blondie" (second time): April 16, 1958-May 21, 1958

"I Married Joan" (fifth time): May 22, 1958-June 18, 1958

"The Charlie Farrell Show" (third time): June 19, 1958-June 27, 1958 (end of series)

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