This is such an embarrassment of (mostly) riches–from the small house halfway up in the next block to elsewhere and often–that there’s no point to any opening essay . . .
Vic & Sade: Vic’s Christmas List (NBC, 1941)—Vic (Art Van Harvey) enjoys a quiet game of solitaire until Sade (Bernadine Flynn) finds what she thinks is a rather extravagant Christmas gift list he almost threw in the trash, a list including names she’s never heard of. A classic of this show’s impeccably calm absurdism. Rush: Bill Idelson. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Writer/Director: Paul Rhymer.
The Life of Riley: Piano Lessons for Junior (NBC, 1945)—All it takes for Riley (William Bendix) to hatch that hare-brained idea is Gillis (Conrad Binyon) bragging about his piano-playing kid at lunch. Typical series entry; if you’re a fan, you’ll love it. Junior: Scotty Beckett. Peg: Paula Winslowe. Babs: Sharon Douglas. Announcer: Ken Niles. Director: Leonard Bercovici. Writers: Leonard Bercovici, Alan Lipscott, Ruben Ship, Robert Sloane.
The Mel Blanc Show: Mel Breaks the New Radio (CBS, 1946)—The day after throwing Mel (Blanc) out for inadvertently breaking his new radio (“It was so beautiful it got me all confused . . . I threw out the radio and plugged in the crate”), Colby (Joseph Kearns) accepts a conciliatory gesture and lets Mel return—on condition he not even think about trying to repair the radio. One of the better entries in this not-too-brilliantly-conceived exercise, but you’ll still find yourself unable to resist thinking Blanc wasn’t really that well-suited to carry a regular series compared to his brilliance as a supporting actor. Betty: Mary Jane Croft. Cushing: Hans Conreid. Zookie: Mel Blanc. Announcer: Bud Easton. Director: Joe Rines. Writer: Mac Benoff.
The Henry Morgan Show: The Discovery of Weather (ABC, 1947)—You’ll never hear it examined and discussed quite the way it is here, with Morgan’s customary, cantankerously cheerful cheekiness. Gerard:Arnold Stang. Additional cast: Art Carney, Florence Halop, Madeline Lee. Announcer: Jay Stewart. Music: Bernie Green Orchestra. Director: Charles Powers. Writers: Henry Morgan, Aaron Ruben, Carroll Moore, Jr., Joe Stein.
The Big Show: Series Premiere (NBC, 1950)—You are about to be entertained by some of the biggest names in show business, hostess/stage legend Tallulah Bankhead warbles, following the individual self-introductions by the evening’s guests: Fred Allen, Mindy Carson, Jimmy Durante, Jose Ferrer, Portland Hoffa, Frankie Laine, Paul Lukas, Ethel Merman, Russell Nype, Danny Thomas, and Meredith Willson. Thus launches NBC’s extravagant last-gasp bid to keep old-time radio variety alive against television’s rise, a bid that lasts only two seasons but gives it one whale of a try. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Music: Meredith Willson, the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Director: Dee Engelbach. Writers: Goodman Ace, George Foster, Frank Wilson.
Our Miss Brooks: Indian Burial Grounds (CBS, 1950)—Conklin (Gale Gordon) is in for a rude surprise when he thinks a piece of property he owns may sit on a sacred Indian burial site. Connie: Eve Arden. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Stretch: Leonard Smith. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.
Bold Venture: The Mutineers of the Marino Victory (ZIV Syndication, 1951)—Slate and Sailor (Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall) are hijacked by two men they thought were stranded fishermen, but when they’re taken to a remote island they learn the hard way the men mutinied a missing ship and killed its captain and first mate on behalf of a valuable dope shipment they tried to protect. Inspector La Salle: Nestor Paiva. King: Jester Hairston. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Dan Seymour. Music: David Rose. Director: Henry Hayward. Writers: Morton Fine, David Friedkin.