Saturday, July 23, 2011

The 5 Best TV Comedies ClassicBecky Didn't Like At All

I hope this is not my
fate after you read this.
Before I begin, I just want to tell my movie friends how much they mean to me, and how I would suffer in losing their friendship. I changed my mind about 35 times before deciding to count on the fairness and good humor of my friends in writing this little post  Of course, weekend blog posts don't get as much traffic, so perhaps I will retain some movie companions. Everyone has loving, nostalgic memories of comedy TV shows they watched as a child. I myself liked Gilligan's Island until the Professor made a radio out of coconuts rather than the more obvious need, A BOAT! The strange thing is, I could still sing the song word for word. So, for the fun of it, I am including the lyrics of the theme songs for each show. Without further ado, here are my picks for five comedy shows that I thought were just awful.  I pull no punches.  Some may be favorites for readers. If so, remember that the Classic Movie Blog Association does not allow foul language or disgusting pictures.

**Except for my summaries and comments, all quotes and trivia are taken from IMDB.  The theme song lyrics are from a lyric site, the name of which I can't remember, but consider this their credit.  Both of these sites have stuff  more interesting than the shows themselves**

My Mother, The Car
This inexplicable premise for a show actually made it onto the airwaves and lasted for 30 episodes in 1965. Jerry Van Dyke stars as David Crabtree, a man whose dead mother has reincarnated as a really special antique car. Ann Sothern is the voice of Mother, so fortunately she never has to actually appear. When Mother speaks to David, her voice comes from the radio, and the light blinks in sync with her voice. Avery Schreiber stars as Manzini, a stalker who wants the car, unaware that Ann Sothern is a built-in feature. Poor Jerry Van Dyke's career began and practically ended with this show. At the very same time, his brother Dick was captivating audiences with his show, one of the best comedies on TV. I wonder what Thanksgiving was like in the Van Dyke family.
*Jerry Van Dyke agreed to star on the series after turning down the lead role on Gilligan's Island and an offer to join the cast of the The Andy Griffith Show. (Bad moves, Jerry.)
*None. Even IMDB couldn't find a single funny quote.
Theme Song:
Everybody knows in a second life, we all come back sooner or later.
As anything from a pussycat to a man eating alligator.
Well you all may think my story, is more fiction than it's fact.
But believe it or not my mother dear decided she'd come back.
As a car...
She's my very own guiding star.
A 1928 Porter.
That's my mother dear.
'Cause she helps me through everything I do
And I'm so glad she's near.
(This guy has the ultimate Oedipus complex.)

Car 54, Where Are You
The wonderful Fred Gwynne plays Officer Muldoon, Joe E. Ross is Officer Toody and Al Lewis is Officer Schnauer. All very funny guys that I like like a lot. The story is about stupid policemen who do dumb things. That's about it. The show ran for 60 episodes in 1961-1963. The best thing that came from this show was that Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis ended up together in a cute show called The Munsters!  The worst thing is that this show won an EMMY for best director of a comedy -- was he the only nominee that year?!
*For the black-and-white location shots, the patrol cars were painted red so as not to confuse the local populace. (Confuse them? Didn't they see all the cameras and crew?)
*William Faulkner's favorite TV show. (The great William Faulkner! The author of "The Sound and the Fury"?  That makes me furious!)
*Officer Muldoon: "Here's your milk." (That's the only funny quote IMDB could find? What does that even  mean?!)
Theme Song:
There's a hold up in the Bronx,
Brooklyn's broken out in fights.
There's a traffic jam in Harlem
That's backed up to Jackson Heights.
There's a scout troop short a child,
Kruschev's due at Idlewild
Car 54, Where Are You?

The Flying Nun
Once upon a time (in the real world), there was a little nun who weighed about 85 pounds and wore the traditional habit of her order, which included a medieval coif that had wing-like sides. One day, when a tremendous wind was blowing, she was lifted off the ground about 1-1/2 inches for about 1-1/2 seconds. True story. From that funny little incident, a television show was born in which we watched Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) soar above trees and towns like the Mini-Me of 747s. Mother Superior Placido (Madeleine Sherwood) was always worrying. At least there was handsome Alejandro Rey as Carlos to look at. Somehow, they churned out 82 episodes, from 1967-1970. It was difficult to distinguish one episode from another, so the writers had a really plum job. Fortunately, Sally Field was not typecast as a flying nun, and went on to become a wonderful actress with a great career.
*Patty Duke was originally the first choice for the role of Sister Bertrille.
*In one episode, Sister Bertrille is looking at home movies of herself from when she was a teenager. The home movies were actually footage from Sally Field's previous series Gidget.
*Sponsors of The Flying Nun include Oscar Meyer and Colgate-Palmolive, makers of Fab Detergent, Bright Side Shampoo, and Palmolive Dish Liquid. (Well, I thought that was interesting.)
*At the time of the series' popularity, MAD MAGAZINE did a parody of Sister Bertrille, The Flying Nun in which she was "Sister Brazil, The Flying Nut." (Gotta love it.)
Sister Bertrille: Could you please help? I'll give you five percent of the profit!
Carlos: Sister Bertrille -- five per cent of nothing is still nothing!!
(Again, the only funny quote IMDB had. Ha.....ha.)
You don't need wings to flyyyyyyyy
Tiptoe through the skyyyyyyyy
As long as you got hea-ven byyyyyyyyyyy
You don't need wings to flyyyyyyyy
(Short, but pointless.)
(Don't you love the way the lyric site used all the y's to make it look melodic?  Duh.)

Green Acres
It is a shame that a fine actor like Eddie Albert (Oliver Wendell Douglas) will be remembered as an idiot who forks hay in his suit and tie. Eva Gabor (Lisa Douglas) didn't suffer from her part, as she was always considered a ditzy blonde with a sexy accent anyway. She was always trying to be a farm wife while dripping with diamond earrings, necklaces, rings...kind of reminds me of June Cleaver, who always vacuumed wearing high heels and a string of pearls. Oh no, don't worry -- I loved the Beav (Eddie Haskell was my favorite.)  Green Acres (as much of a turkey as any you'd find on a farm) ran for 170 episodes in 1965-1971). But then, the TV poll people never asked my opinion. The show did have a cute cast of characters played by decent actors: Pat Buttram (Mr. Haney), Frank Cady (Sam Drucker), Tom Lawson (Eb), Eleanor the cow, and best of all, Arnold the Pig.

*Mr. Haney had a basset hound named Cynthia who had a crush on Arnold.
*Before Eddie Albert was considered for the part of Oliver, the producers were seriously considering Don Ameche for the part.
*There has been considerable conjecture offered regarding in what state Green Acres might be set. (Seriously? Considerable conjecture?)
*Arnold the Pig was the only cast member to win an award for a performance in a sitcom. He won the coveted "Patsy" Award in 1967, given to the best performance by an animal. (Ouch! Sorry, real actors!)
*Although according to legend the pig that played Arnold was eaten by the cast and crew, Tom Lester has said that he just said it one time as a joke. (Aww! Too bad. that would have been the perfect ending for this oinker -- the show, not the pig.)
*Oliver Wendell Douglass: [after watching a "conversation" between Lisa and an oinking Arnold] How
can you carry on a conversation with him? I can't understand a thing he's saying!
Lisa Douglas: That's because you don't LISTEN
(Pure Shakespeare.)
Green acres is the place for me.
Farm livin' is the life for me.
Land spreadin' out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.
New York is where I'd rather stay.
I get allergic smelling hay.
I just adore a penthouse view.
Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue.
...The chores.
...The stores.
...Fresh air.
...Times Square
You are my wife. (Well, it was the 60's.)
Good bye, city life.
Green Acres we are there.

Petticoat Junction
Let's see -- pretty girls bathing in the altogether in a water tower, draping their underwear over the sides -- yeah, we can make a series out of that. And they did -- 222 episodes in 1963-1970. Again, nobody asked my opinion. Good thing for the network, which made a boatload of money on this one. And, once again, there was a good cast of actors (well, some were just pretty): Edgar Buchanan (Uncle Joe), Bea Benaderet (Kate), Frank Cady (cross-over from Green Acres as Sam Drucker), Linda Henning (Betty Jo), Lori Saunders (Bobbie Jo) and Meredith MacRae (Billie Joe). I liked the name of the Shady Rest Hotel, ,and the name of the train, The Cannon Ball.
*The dog on the show was simply named "Dog". While the dog's name was supposed to be Higgins, the name was never mentioned by any characters. (Then why name him at all?) His last acting role was as the title character in the movie Benji. (I really liked Benji!)
*Set in the same town as Green Acres. Characters from that series often appeared on this one. The series was also linked to The Beverly Hillbillies and the two shows occasionally crossed over. (I'm too scared to say anything about The Beverly Hillbillies.)
Quotes: Nada. Not one. (They might at least have mentioned the cool train whistle.)
Come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks to the junction.
(Petticoat Junction)
Forget about your cares, it is time to relax at the junction.
(Petticoat Junction)
Lotsa curves, you bet. Even more when you get
To the junction.
(Petticoat Junction)
There's a little hotel called the Shady Rest at the junction.
(Petticoat Junction)
It is run by Kate, come and be her guest at the junction.
(Petticoat Junction)
And that's Uncle Joe, he's a movin' kind of slow at the junction,
(Petticoat Junction)
(Did anybody say Petticoat Junction?)

If it will redeem me at all, I still remember the tunes and words to all the theme songs -- I wish I had retained algebra that well!


  1. simple explanation...everyone was stoned or on acid!!

  2. Hmmm... Becky - you seem to have an issue with transportation (trains, tractors, flying habits). I suggest more sedentary fare for you (like maybe sitting around a bar in Boston, a living room in New Rochelle or a newsroom in Minneapolis). Fun stuff!

  3. Becky, this article really made me laugh! So did FlickChick's comment because I too was going to say something about methods of transportation before I read her post! No one watched "My Mother the Car" nor "Car 54 Where are You?" in my house when we were growing up. I wasn't a fan of "The Flying Nun" either so I didn't watch it enough to even learn the theme song. I also didn't like "Petticoat Junction" though its theme song was catchy. We did, however, watch "Green Acres" and while it was repetitively silly (Lisa's hotcakes, having to climb the pole to answer the phone, someone who would be foolish enough to ever buy anything from Mr. Haney) it could be funny because of its talented cast. By the way I liked Ralph, who was a girl, of course. So, "Green Acres" aside, I agree with you and your most entertaining post! The little white dog would have nary a bruise from me, (not that he ever would any way.)

  4. Becky, this was fun idea for a post and I appreciate your sense of humor! Some of these shows weren't my favorites either--but I can't say I disliked any of them. I admit I was a big GREEN ACRES fan--it was so delightfully weird. It was still doing well in the ratings when CBS ended its run because the network wanted to shed its "rural" image (it was also the home of BEVERLY HILLBILLIES and PETTICOAT JUNCTION...all produced by Paul Henning). As for a comedy to add to your list, I would offer THE LUCY SHOW in its several versions (including HERE'S LUCY and one or two others). I LOVE LUCY may have been the best sitcom ever! But, as much I loved Lucy and Vivan Vance, too many episodes of THE LUCY SHOW were poorly-written and relied on Lucy and Viv to pull them through.

  5. GREEN ACRES has been taken up by the po-mo fans (post-modern) for its quite bizarre sense of humor (the girl plumber named Ralph, who also denied she was a girl; and the pig named Arnold, who was the smartest character on the sitcom). As I recall, THE FLYING NUN was a role Sally Field had to live down, before she won her 2 Oscars and made SYBIL to prove her acting chops. MY MOTHER THE CAR is now a legendary BAD show. At least it didn't affect Ann Sothern's reputation. Great post!

  6. What's truly bizarre is that, at the time, no one really saw anything bizarre in a concept like THE FLYING NUN as a prime time show for a major network.

    No less a worthy than Hugo-award winning author Harlan Ellison wrote an episode for the series (which subsequently ran under his "Cordwainer Bird" name).

    My only real MY MOTHER THE CAR memory (other than the theme song) was the episode where the family goes to a drive-in because there's a Sonny Tufts film playing, and the Momcar was a stone serious Tufts fan. Tufts himself made a cameo appearance.

  7. DOC, very good explanation!
    FLICKCHICK, I adored all the shows you mentioned - Cheers, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore show! You know, it never even occurred to me that 3 of the my picks were about methods of transportation...LOL!
    TOTO, you and FlickChick were on the same page about the transportation issue! (Don't tell anybody, but I did watch Green Acres sometimes, mostly to see Mr. Haney who I thought was the funniest.)
    RICK, that was interesting info about CBS and the rural reputation it wanted to shed. I totally agree about The Lucy Show and such. They just were't written well enough to give the stars anything to work with. Oh, BY THE WAY, you are a smarter man than I thought (and I already thought you were). I noticed you changed my title to say "...That ClassicBecky Didn't Like..." rather than "I" -- trying to distance yourself as far as possible from the fallout, I presume -- LOL!!
    GRANDOLDMOVIES, I can see why the po-mo have adopted Green Acres as a bizarro classic! And thank heaven Sally Field went on to do "Sybil"! Same kind of thing happened to Jessica Lange after that King Kong remake.

  8. Becky, we here at "Team Festus" are dismayed and shocked that you do not recognize the genius that was Nat Hiken and our beloved "Car 54, Where Are You?". However, we hold fast to the hope that someday you will see the light. Look for a change of heart after we perform a ritual which includes burning a 1960s TV Guide by the light of a full moon while reciting a Nipsey Russell poem.

  9. Very nice, ClassicBecky! Agree all around. Except for one tiny confession, I have been known to laugh while watching Green Acres! viable explanation!


  10. That was a great post -- I loved reading every bit of it -- your commentary had me laughing out loud. Literally. And the shows may not have been so hot, but I have to admit that I love the theme songs for Green Acres and Petticoat Junction!

  11. Really cute post! I honestly don't recall watching some of them, but Green Acres and Petticoat Junction stand out. Green Acres is the more memorable for me. Even today, I will watch an episode in a fit of nostalgia, and wonder what I ever thought was funny except Mr Haney and Arnold. I do like comparing Lisa's TV sitcom life to my own sister Lisa's life out in the country and laugh at the similarities.

  12. You picked some real clinkers, Becky! Agree heartily. "My Mother the Car" was ridiculous...but weren't they all...

  13. MICHAEL: Harlan Ellison? He must have needed money for something! I laughed when I read your comment about Mother car loving Sonny Tufts. Reminds me of a Dick Van Dyke episode where he kept hearing a flying saucer that was saying something that sounded like "Sonny Tufts"!
    CAFTANWOMAN: I hope Team Festus doesn't wait too long - the light never came for me and never will! You could burn the Works of Shakespeare and recite Dylan Thomas and it wouldn't help at all! LOL!
    AURORA: Thanks! Don't feel alone-despite my protestations, I too have been guilty of that!
    KAREN: Thanks - I love to make people laugh! And you know, you are right about the songs. Car 54's song is really funny! To bad the show was not!
    LAURA: How true about things we once loved as kids, and then see again as adults! The real country women must laugh their heads off at Green Acres!
    EVE: Clinkers is right - especially about the first two..groan! It's so strange now to think that those weird premises made it to the airwaves!

  14. I'm sorry Becky but here we must take divergent paths.

    I loved CAR 54 WHER ARE YOU? And I dream of the day I can own all the dvds. Yes, hard to believe, but true. I simply cannot help it. I remember screeching with laughter. Especially when Officer Toody's wife would open the window unto an airshaft and scream out the window whatever indignity she felt she was suffering that day. I mean, I howled. I loved that actress! And I always loved Fred Gwynne's pained expressions. No one could do 'pained' like Gwynne.

    Disliked the other shows though I do remember occasionally watching a couple. But NEVER Petticoat Junction. I mean, even the name of the show gives me the heebie jeebies.

    Intense dislike: FAMILY MAN. You call that a comedy? Ugh. That show makes me want to shower if I even catch a glimpse of it.

    Just thought I'd mention it. Since you showed the dog. :)

  15. Aw, Yvette, we can take divergent paths and still be friends, huh? I do love Fred Gwynne, always have, and I have to admit Toody's wife was funny screaming into the airshaft. And the theme song was funny. But that's as far as I can go. Forgive me!

    We do agree about Family Man - that show has some really shockingly vulgar stuff, and they are constantly mocking Jesus. I have a sense of humor, bawdy and even somewhat irreligious, but that show is crap. My grandkids always ask to watch it ... no way! But I could't pass up the dog with bruises!

  16. I think MY MOTHER, THE CAR might be universally accepted as the most disliked show of all time. My friend, who hardly watches TV, made a mention of lesser series and specifically cited that show! Some ideas for a series sound awful in retrospect, but it's interesting to see how some of these shows can still last, sometimes more than a season! MY MOTHER, THE CAR had 30 episodes, but then so did TWIN PEAKS, and that was a terrific series. And I don't understand the appeal of THE FLYING NUN, but then I also don't understand why anyone would listen to Lady Gaga, but people do, and people apparently wanted to watch a nun in flight as well. A fun list, Becky, and your insight, as always, makes everything you write pure gold.

  17. What a wonderful compliment about my stuff, Sark! You really are a peach. That's a very interesting comparison regarding number of episodes for a lesser show compared to a hit like Twin Peaks. You are right, of course, that everybody loves something that an equal number of people hate. That's why I shamelessly begged for good humor in the prologue of this post! In a similar situation, I think a movie called Angelheart with Mickey Rourke is excellent, and some people think I'm a real pervert for that!

    (So did you come by because I gave you grief on Facebook! LOL!)

  18. Becky, I'm not ashamed to admit that I loved all those shows as a kid, except for MY MOTHER THE CAR, if only because I never had the opportunity to see it! :-) I'm not seeking it out, either, because I can barely manage to find the time to watch the shows I AM interested in! And Vinnie and I must agree to disagree with you about CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?, as well as creator Nat Hiken's other comedy series. Granted, as a native New Yorker, I'm kinda biased! :-) Anyway, I loved the post, Becky; great job!

  19. I'm glad you liked the post, Dorian - that was nice to say considering the toes I stepped on! I'm very relieved that you and Vinnie didn't give me the real New York treatment! As an Indiana Hoosier, I would tremble and cower before you. I'm still kind of worried - does Vinnie have a friend named Guido or Rocko? LOL!

  20. Hey everybody! I just want to say thanks for your compliments, and especially thanks to those who TOTALLY did not agree with me. You are all such good sports! That is what makes blogging fun!

  21. What a fun post. As a small child :) I loved The Flying Nun. As an adult, I saw an episode recently and the nostalgia did NOT kick in. LOL I also loved Petticoat Junction ... I think I liked the idea of having a train take me everywhere. Did you ever think about going by the name "Becky Jo"?

  22. CFB, how did you know? I was going to call myself Becky Jo, and name my sons Billy Bob and Willy Bob. (Reminds me of the Newhart show: "This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.")

    I was going to do that, but then I woke up from the nightmare. LOL! Besides, I'm a Becky Sue!

  23. But you got to admit, they all had catchy theme songs. That's what's missing in today's shows.

    I have to confess, I liked "The Flying Nun." (Confess, RC church, get it?) She could fly! I think I was five or six and that was the height of entertainment for me. Also, one of the nun's names was Sister Jacqueline. I've always felt a little close to Marge Redmond because of it.

  24. (RC-confession-get it?) Oh yes, I get it! LOL! At 5 or 6, the Flying Nun would have seemed very sweet and fun, and a nun with your name? - cool! And you are so right, the theme songs for the shows were good, funny -- strange, isn't it? I miss those too.

  25. Whewww.. she did not mention Mr. Ed...

  26. Oh Dawn, even I wouldn't sully the memory of Mr. Ed -- too many people would hunt me down!

  27. I like FLICK CHICKS response about your issues with transportation! It does sound like a serious! Funny stuff and a great job here though I have to admit having a soft spot for "Car 54."