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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!