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The TV That Time Forgot: Occasional Wife (1966-67)

Maybe it was just slightly ahead of its time, but Occasional Wife deserved more than the single season on NBC that it got.

Michael Callen starred as skirt-chasing junior executive Peter Christopher. He loved his job at a baby food company, but the big boss Max Brahms (Jack Collins) believed in only married executives, preferably married execs that planned on having plenty of babies. Unwilling to give up the bachelor life or his career goals, Christopher hired cocktail waitress Gretta Patterson (Patricia Harty) to pretend to be his wife… occasionally. (You see where the title comes from).

occasional wife logoWhat Gretta got out of it was a free apartment (two floors directly above Peter’s) and a generous allowance that allowed her to leave cocktail waitressing behind.

Much of the physical comedy involved the couple having to perpetually scramble up and down the fire escape between their apartments to either appear to be married (if the boss was around) or unmarried (if one of Peter’s many girlfriends happened to drop by). The series had a running gag involving the neighbor (Bryan O’Byrne) who lived between their two floors observing their comings and goings without ever uttering a line.

Michael Callen Patricia HartyThe show also gave early work to Stuart Margolin (who gained fame as Angel on The Rockford Files) and Jack Riley (who became Mr. Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show).

There was real chemistry between Callan and Harty. So much so that the two eventually became a real husband and wife two years after the show left the air.

The show debuted to solid ratings, but as the season wore on and ABC’s The Invaders gained viewers, Occasional Wife slowly sank in the ratings and was cancelled after its first season.

As there were only 30 episodes, it never really went into syndication and has not had an official release on home video. It’s a shame because it was a comedy that was funny – more than occasionally!

occasionalwife

8 Things You Didn’t Know About "That Girl"

  1. It was the first network sitcom centered around a single working girl who was not a maid. Previously, woman who were sitcom stars tended to be a.) wacky housewives (see I Love Lucy), b.) family matriarchs (see The Donna Reed Show) or 3.) domestics (see Hazel). TV historians say her show paved the way for The Mary Tyler Moore Show just a few years later.
  2. Donald Hollinger was originally supposed to be Ann Marie’s agent as well as her boyfriend. After they filmed the series’ pilot, producers must have decided that agents can sometimes be a little sleazy. So Donald changed jobs and became a magazine writer. (He was played by Ted Bessell in that never-broadcast pilot and the subsequent series.)
  3. There was a connection between That Girl and The Dick Van Dyke Show. The Van Dyke show was produced by Marlo’s father, Danny Thomas and two of the show’s main writers, Bill Persky and Sam Denoff, became the creators of That Girl.
  4. Marlo Thomas came up with the show’s concept. She was the one who insisted that her character be a small-town girl who comes to the big city to try and find work as an actress. (Although her real life was that of the daughter of a rich, famous comedian, which made her entrance into show business much easier.)
  5. Her first next door neighbor was also a Broadway leading lady. Bonnie Scott who played her original next door neighbor, Judy Bessemer, starred on Broadway opposite Robert Morse in the hit musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Bonnie left the series because the shooting schedule took too much time away from her young kids.
  6. Ruth Buzzi and George Carlin made appearances on the show. Ruth played a neighbor of Ann’s in several episodes while Carlin played her agent (replacing Ronnie Schell) in just one episode.
  7. Marlo wanted to call the show Miss Independence. That was the nickname her father had given her as a young girl.
  8. The network wanted the series finale to be the wedding of Ann Marie and Donald. But Marlo Thomas thought that might send the wrong message to the single girls she felt were the series’ core audience. You know, she gets married and “they live happily ever after.” So, she and Donald did get engaged during the show’s fifth season, but the series ended with Ann Marie still single.

Finally, is there any human being who watched the show and thought Ann could really be a virgin living in New York City in the mid 1960’s, especially if she was working in show business?
Didn’t think so.

The TV That Time Forgot: The Donna Reed Show

For 8 seasons, The Donna Reed Show provided Baby Boomers with a sort of Mother Knows Best amid a ton of family sitcoms focused on the father.

Cast as Donna Stone, Donna presided over a family with the proverbial sweet and lovely oldest daughter, Mary (Shelly Fabres) and mischievous, mildly rebellious son, Jeff (Paul Peterson).

Her TV husband Alex, played by Carl Betz, was a pediatrician who worked out of their home! Can you imagine any pediatrician doing that today? Also, can you imagine any pediatrician living in such modest accommodations?

The location for the show was the town of Hilldale. But in what state Hilldale was located was never mentioned.

At its peak, the show attempted to duplicate the success Ricky Nelson was having on the pop charts. Both Fabres and Peterson did find chart success with “Johnny Angel,” “She Can’t Find Her Keys” and “My Dad.” But neither really built credible singing careers.

The show also provided a launch pad for Bob Crane. He was a popular L.A. deejay who wanted an acting career. He was cast as Alex’s doctor buddy, Dave Kelsey. From there, Crane was able to land the title role in Hogan’s Heroes.

In The Donna Reed Show’s 6th season (1963), the Stones adopted an orphan named Trisha. For an orphan, she bore a strange resemblance to the Stone’s son. That’s because in real life, she was his sister Patty Peterson. Maybe Dr. Stone wasn’t so wholesome after all.

As the 60s wore on, we started wanting our sitcoms with more gimmicks, like witches, genies and flying nuns; so, Donna Reed called it a day in 1966.

A few things you may not have known about Donna Reed:

  • She was a pin-up during WWII and saved over 300 letters she received from GIs in a shoebox.
  • She once milked a cow on the set of It’s a Wonderful Life to win a bet with Lionel Barrymore.
  • She replaced Barbara Bel Geddes on Dallas & successfully sued the show when Bel Geddes returned and she was fired.
  • When Nickelodeon acquired the reruns rights to The Donna Reed Show, that’s what inspired them to create Nick at Nite!
  • You can still find her recipe for bundt cake online

6 Things You Didn’t Know About To Tell the Truth

We all remember To Tell the Truth. It ran once a week on CBS’s prime-time schedule from 1956 to 1967. A 5-day-a-week daytime version was added in 1962 and ran until 1968.

Each episode started with the camera panning across three figures who were shrouded in darkness. The announcer would ask each “What is your name, please.” The lights would come up on each one in turn as they all gave the exact same name.

Then host Bud Collyer would read “a signed affidavit” that explained the unusual story of that round’s central character.

Following that, a celebrity panel of four (usually Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle) would ask questions, trying to figure out who really gave their true name and which two were imposters.

Finally, Bud would intone, “Would the real [person’s name], please stand up!”
There was some faking out with the contestants until finally, the real person in question would rise to their feet.

But “to tell the truth,” there are some things most of us have forgotten or simply never knew about this beloved game show classic.

Read more: 6 Things You Didn’t Know About To Tell the Truth

Who was the mayor of Doodyville?

Phineas T. Bluster
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