Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Forgotten TV: THE DONNA REED SHOW



I was watching an episode of THE GILMORE GIRLS the other day (I never saw it when it aired) and much  of the episode dealt with the life style portrayed on THE DONNA REED SHOW. Rory and her mother had fun making up dialog mocking the show, but Rory's boyfriend couldn't see what was wrong with a mother devoting herself (voluntarily) to caring for her family. They managed to reach a  rapprochement by the end of the episode when Rory did some research and found out that Reed was actually actively involved in producing the show. Not sure why this let her off the hook but it did.

I certainly watched Donna Reed for all the years it was on-late fifties through mid-sixties. Donna, Alex, Mary and Jeff were a touchstone just as the family on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and FATHER KNOWS BEST was. Even at the time, the women seemed too well-dressed for housewives but I think the producers believed that women didn't want to see TV women dressed in less glamorous clothing.  The plots were simple, gentle, and unrealistic but TV didn't really know how to do anything else. No one was poor, plain or troubled. Reality was better served by movies. Now it has almost reversed itself. But perhaps spending a half hour watching small problems get swiftly solved wasn't the worse thing in the world. Some complained that it made their own lives seem unfulfilling but I just took it as the same sort of fantasy offered in most kids' books of the time. A palliative.


21 comments:

Anonymous said...

And don't forget, she was married to a doctor!

Jackie was a big fan of this as a kid and - I believe - had a crush on Paul Petersen. I don't remember watching it, though I did watch the other shows you mentioned.


Jeff M.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Must admit I never watched this one. But I certainly knew of it. Amazing how shows like that created this illusion of the 'perfect life.'

George said...

I watched THE DONNA REED SHOW as a kid, but unlike Jackie I had a crush on Shelley Fabares (JOHNNY ANGEL was one of my favorite songs at that time).

Anonymous said...

Fun trivia about "Johnny Angel" - the background singers were Darlene Love & the Blossoms!


Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I had a crush on Carl Betz that extended into JUDD FOR THE DEFENSE.

pattinase (abbott) said...

No wonder it sounded as good as it did.

Gerard said...

Nick at Night used to run this and other '50s shows in the later '80s.

My parents once had one of my father's grad students stay with us when my parents were out of town. We were watching this show and the grad student had a hilarious commentary running.

Shelly Fabares wore short-shorts during one episode. I was surprised the producers allowed the wardrobe. I was quite happy the producers allowed the wardrobe.

pattinase (abbott) said...

She was playing COACH's wife on COACH around that time. Still the same type of character.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I have heard a lot about this show though I have never seen it.

Gerard said...

I always thought Fabares looked a lot different from her time on REED to her time on COACH. Maybe it was the drastic difference in hairstyles.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am sure you can see it on you tube but probably there is no good reason to unless you want to see how American wanted to view itself circa 1960.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Loved her in IT'S WONDERFUL LIFE but never seen the show so far (not sure how many of these domestic sitcomes of the 50s and 60s were successfully exported actually)

Deb said...

Don't forget her fantastic performance as the "good-time gal" in From Here to Eternity.

Charles Gramlich said...

I know what this show is but I never watched an episode.

Anonymous said...

She won the Oscar for that performance in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, Deb.

But of course you knew that.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

She was undervalued as an actress.

Cap'n Bob said...

I watched it and enjoyed it and certainly haven't forgotten it. I heard somewhere that it took 111 takes to record Johnny Angel because Fabres was such a bad singer, and they had to splice bits and pieces of takes together to make a whole song. Maybe not true, but you never know.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I believe it based on all the back singers and music there is. Sounds like it was recorded in an airplane hangar.

Yvette said...

A great choice, Patti. We watched The Donna Reed Show from beginning to end.

Since I come from a family which was basically dysfunctional, I dreamed about having the sort of family I saw on television. They almost seemed like creatures from another world.

Rick said...

I liked Shelly Fabares very much in the two or three season TV show long "The Brian Keith Show", also known as "The Little People".
She and Keith played father and daughter pediatricians at a clinic in Hawaii.
It was the only thing I remember seeing her other than "The Donna Reed Show" and "Coach".
(It goes without saying that as usual Brian Keith was terrific in it.)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Brian Keith was one of the most natural actors I;ve ever seen. I don't think I ever caught that one though.