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Make Room For Daddy

A.K.A. The Danny Thomas Show

Virtually forgotten now, Make Room for Daddy was one of TV’s earliest and most successful sitcoms.

But it took a long and winding road to get there and along the way, it created some television firsts.

 

Danny Thomas had already flopped hosting a variety show, but ABC was willing to give him a try in a sit-com. So, Danny Thomas the entertainer played an entertainer named Danny Williams (quite the acting stretch, eh?), who juggled his career, wife (Jean Hagen) and two kids, Rusty (Rusty Hamer) and Terry (Sherry Jackson).

The show debuted 1953 and limped through 3 seasons of mediocre ratings. Hagen, not fond of her part or of Thomas, left the show. Instead of re-casting the role, Make Room for Daddy went in a new and untried direction. The show simply explained that Danny’s wife had died. He spent season 4 dating various women and finally proposing to an Irish nurse, Kathy O’Hara, played by Marjorie Lord, in the season 4 finale.

Viewers in the mid-1950's apparently did not like the concept of a single dad. Rating slumped and ABC cancelled the show. Then something unusual happened. CBS was looking for a show to replace I Love Lucy, which was ending its long run. They decided to move Danny’s sit-com, lock, stock and punch lines to CBS.

Season 5 opened with Danny and Kathy already married and added her young daughter Linda (Angela Cartwright) to the cast. Suddenly, TV’s first “blended family” was ratings gold, soaring to #2 in the ratings.

In all, Make Room for Daddy or The Danny Thomas Show as it came to be known ran for 11 seasons, remaining a top 10 show from season 5 on. It featured many recurring characters who became audience favorites including Sid Melton as Danny’s manager Charlie Harper and Pat Carroll as Charlie’s wife, Bunny. Far and away the most popular of the recurring characters was Hans Conried as Uncle Tonoose.

Perhaps its most lasting contribution to TV history was that its success allowed co-producers Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard to bankroll other TV series.

Among the other series produced by the team of Thomas and Leonard: The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Andy Griffith Show.

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