This television sitcom is based on Max Shulman’s 1945 short story collection, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and I Was a Teenage Dwarf.” He also wrote the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1953 movie adaption, “The Affairs of Dobie Gillis,” which stars Bobby Van in the title role.
In 1959, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” was the first TV sitcom to come from the teenage point of view. Previous family sitcoms such as “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” “The Donna Reed Show,” or “Father Knows Best” placed teenagers in supporting roles. They aren’t seen in the leading role; and the storyline plots revolved around the adult characters.
“Dobie represented the end of innocence of the 1950s before the oncoming 1960s revolution,” said series star Dwayne Hickman. He was 24 years old when he filmed the CBS pilot portraying the American Midwestern teenager.
This 1969-1972 family sitcom was based on the 1963 MGM film directed by Vincente Minnelli. Both the film and ABC television series were adapted from the best-selling novel “The Courtship of Eddie's Father” by Mark Toby.
Elements of the Beat Generation breaks ground with the introduction of Dobie’s beatnik buddy, Maynard G. Krebs. Future Gilligan’s Island star, 23-year-old Bob Denver, won the role, but had no previous acting experience. His earlier jobs are grade school teacher and postal worker.
Breakout star Dwayne Hickman, of “The Bob Cummings Show (Love that Bob)” as the nephew Chuck MacDonald won the Gillis role over future Bonanza star Michael Landon. Hickman’s dark hair is bleached for the role in the first season.
The sitcom centers on Central High school boy Dobie Gillis, who’s the son of a grocer. His dad, Herbert T. Gillis (Frank Faylen), a proud hard-working child of the Great Depression and Second World War veteran, is happy when his second-born son is working in the store.
Back in 1978, Glen A. Larson had a deal with Universal Studio to make a pilot episode of “Buck Roger in the 25th Century” for the NBC network.
However, Dobie’s mother, Winifred (Florida Friebus) is a usually calm and serene woman. She protects Dobie from his father’s unrealistic expectations and tends to baby him. Hickman’s own brother, Darryl, played Davey Gillis, who appears in a few episodes during college breaks and later written out of the show.
Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James) chases after Dobie. However, he only has eyes for blond Thalia Meenniger (Tuesday Weld). We often find Dobie sitting on the Central Park bench in front of a reproduction of Auguste Rodin’s statue The Thinker. Breaking the silence, he would explain to the viewing audience his problem either with money or girls.
William Schallert played Dobie’s high school English and science teacher Leander Pomfritt. In the pilot episode, Herbert Anderson has the role. Warren Beatty played antagonist wealthy kid Milton Armitage for five episodes. Then, he’s replaced by Steve Franken, who joins the cast as Milton’s cousin Chatsworth Osborn, Jr. His overbearing snobbish mother, Clarissa Osborne, is played by Doris Packer.
In 1966, Sherwood Schwartz was the successful creator of the CBS sitcom “Gilligan's Island.” He read in the Los Angeles Times a four-line filler that about two-third marriages have children from a previous union in the home.
After the first season, Tuesday Weld is written out. She does, however, make two appearances in seasons 3 and 4, slightly wiser. Halfway through the second season, Dobie and Maynard, along with Chatsworth, did a brief stint in the U.S. Army. An abstract set of Central Park with the statue of The Thinker reproduction serves when Dobie narrates his schemes for the episodes.
At the beginning of the third season, Dobie, Maynard, and Chatsworth receive their Army discharge. Together with Zelda, the three young men enroll at S. Peter Pryor Junior College, where they are reunited with their former high school teacher Mr. Pomfritt, who’s now a professor on the school faculty.
In the fourth season, Dobie’s teenage cousin, Duncan “Dunky” Gillis (Bobby Diamond), moves in with the Gillises. He becomes a tag-along for Dobie and Maynard. These last episodes are narrated by Maynard with surreal plots, leaving out Dobie.
This program spawned two 20th Century Fox- produced sequels — the unsuccessful 1977 pilot of “Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis?” series and the 1988 television movie “Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis.”
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On May 10, 1977, the failed pilot served as one-hour CBS special. In the pilot episode, Dobie is upset about turning 40 and returns to the Central Park bench in front of The Thinker statue. He’s now married to Zelda and has a young son Georgie (Steven Paul), who’s a lot like Dobie was as a teenager. Dwayne Hickman, Sheila James, and Bob Denver reunited in their original roles. Tuesday Weld declined to reprise her role as Thalia Meenniger for the CBS Sunday movie “Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis” on February 22,1988. Connie Stevens took on the role of Dobie’s former love interest.
Last year, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Carl G. White lives in Napa and enjoys classic TV shows and movies.
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