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The TV That Time Forgot: My Living Doll (1964-65)

For a show that lasted only a single season, a surprising number of Baby Boomers remember the situation comedy My Living Doll. Perhaps that’s because once seen, Julie Newmar cannot easily be forgotten.

The situation was simple. Newmar was a sophisticated robot (who would still be sophisticated by today’s standards). Originally label "AF 760," she was supposed to be a secret Air Force Project. But her creator decided he was not going to turn her over to themilitary. Instead, she was placed in the care of his friend, a psychiatrist (Bob Cummings) when her creator was transferred overseas. The doctor then tried to teach the robot, who he named Rhoda, how to emulate a human female while also keeping her true nature a secret. Along for the ride were the psychiatrist’s sister (Doris Dowling), who lived with the pair so the neighbors wouldn’t gossip (those were the days) and a horny neighbor and co-worker named Peter Robinson (Jack Mullaney) who had the hots for the robot without knowing she was just a machine.

Each week, Newmar’s robot was placed in situations like a blind date, a wedding proposal, a beauty pageant, etc. that threatened to expose her decidedly unhuman nature.

Julie's training as a dancer (and her 6-foot, leggy figure) helped audience believe she was the mechanical marvel she was portraying. Her acting ability turned a character who was supposed to be devoid of emotion into someone the audience rooted for.

(What was really unbelievable about the show was the fact that her caretaker was so much of a wolf in public, yet never even allowed the robot to strip naked in private.)

But with My Living Doll, the real drama was taking place off camera.

Read more: The TV That Time Forgot: My Living Doll (1964-65)

Before They Were Stars

Even the biggest of American pop stars were nerdy teenagers at one time and had to pose for yearbook photos.

And so this is what Madonna looked like in her pre-Material Girl days.

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!


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.

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