Saturday, February 29, 2020

Claudette Nevins Passes On

Actress Claudette Nevins, who had recurring roles on Headmaster, Melrose Place and JAG as well as guest starring on such shows as The Defenders and M*A*S*H, died on February 20 2020 at the age of 82.

Claudette Nevins was born Claudette Weintraub on April 10 1937 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Her parents were both Austrian immigrants. She graduated from the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City and graduated from New York University with a degree in English.

Claudette Nevins made her debut on Broadway in The Wall in 1960. In the Sixties she appeared on Broadway in Danton's Death, Wait Until Dark, and Plaza Suite. She made her film debut in The Mask in 1961. She made her television debut in a guest appearance on The Nurses in 1964. She guest starred on The Defenders. In 1970 she played Margaret Thompson, the wife of the title character Andy Thompson (played by Andy Griffith) on the short-lived TV  series Headmaster.

In the Seventies she had regular roles on the short-lived series Husbands, Wives & Lovers and Married: The First Year. She guest starred on the shows The F.B.I., The Bob Newhart Show, Police Story, Barnaby Jones, The Magicians, Petrocelli, Archer, Harry O, Rich Man, Poor Man - Book II. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, The Rockford Files, Lou Grant, Rafferty, The Fitzpatricks, Switch, Three's Company, Mrs. Columbo, M*A*S*H, Shirley, The Lazarus Syndrome, Knot's Landing, and Family. She was a regular voice on the animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes.

In the Eighties Miss Nevins guest starred on the TV shows Behind the Screen, Hart to Hart, CHiPs, Cassie & Co., Police Squad!, One Day at a Time, The Mississippi, Legmen, Hardcastle and McCormick, Lime Street, The Tortellis, Brothers, Hotel, Head of the Class, L.A. Law, Out of This World, Snoops, Macuso F.B.I., Free Spirit, Dallas, and Lifestories. She appeared in the movies ...All The Marbles (1981), Over Here, Mr. President (1983), Tuff Turf  (1985), and Jake's M.O. (1987).

In the Nineties Claudette Nevins had recurring roles on Melrose Place and JAG. She guest starred on the TV shows Designing Women, The Antagonists, The Young Riders, Veronica Clare, Civil Wars, Picket Fences, Beverly Hills 90120, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Thunder Alley, Coach, ER, 7th Heaven, Ally McBeal, Judging Amy and The District. She appeared in the movies Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), Final Vendetta (1996), The Doyles (1997), and Star Trek: Insurrection (1998).

In the Naughts she guest starred on the television shows Providence, The Agency, Without a Trace, and Strong Medicine. She appeared in the movie Eulogy  (2004).

Claudette Nevins was a remarkable actress. I particularly remember her from the M*A*S*H episode "Mr. and Mrs. Who?", in which she played Donna Marie Parker, whom Winchester thought he had married while drunk. Throughout her career she played a wide variety of roles, including a nun on The Young Riders, a judge on Hardcastle and McCormick, and even Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1981 TV movie Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Claudette Nevins was very versatile and always gave a good performance.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Godspeeed Ben Cooper

Ben Cooper, who had recurring roles in the TV shows The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo and The Fall Guy, as well as appeared in numerous Western TV shows and movies, died on February 24 2020 at the age of 86.

Ben Cooper was born on September 30 1933 in Hartford, Connecticut. His acting career began when he was only 9 years old when he appeared on Broadway in the play Life with Father. He made his television debut in 1950 in an episode of Inside Detective. That same year he appeared in an episode of Suspense. In the Fifties he guest starred on such shows as Fireside Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Matinee Theatre, The Millionaire, Playhouse 90, One Step Beyond, Tales of Wells Fargo, Wichita Town, Johnny Ringo, Wagon Train, Zane Grey Theatre, Stagecoach West, and The Westerner. He made his movie debut in an uncredited bit part in the movie Side Street in 1952.In the Fifties he appeared in such movies as Thunderbirds (1952), Woman They Almost Lynched (1953), A Perilous Journey (1953), Flight Nurse (1953), Johnny Guitar (1954), Hell's Outpost (1954), The Last Command (1955), The Rose Tattoo (1955), Rebel in Town (1956), Duel at Apache Wells (1957), and Outlaw's Son (1957).  Ben Cooper also had a career in Old Time Radio, appearing in over 3000 radio shows. He had a regular role on the radio show Mark Trail and also appeared on such radio shows as The Eternal Light, Horizons West, and American Gallery.

In the Sixties Ben Cooper appeared frequently on the Western TV shows of the era, making guest appearances on the shows The Rifleman, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Laramie, Rawhide, Death Valley Days, and The Virginian. He also appeared on other sorts of shows during the decade, including Perry Mason (on which he appeared four times), The Twilight Zone, Adventures in Paradise, Window on Main Street, The Littlest Hobo, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Combat!, The Time Tunnel, Premiere, The Outside, It Takes a Thief, Marcus Welby M.D., Adam-12, and Mannix. He appeared in the movies Gunfight at Comanche Creek (1963), The Raiders (1963), Arizona Raiders (1965), Waco (1966), Red Tomahawk (1967), and The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967).

In the Seventies Mr. Cooper had a regular role on the TV series The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. He guest starred on the shows Funny Face, Room 222, Kung Fu, Lucas Tanner, The Wonderful World of Disney, and B.J. and the Bear. He appeared in the movies Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971), One More Train to Rob (1971), and The Sky's the Limit (1975).

In the Eighties Ben Cooper had a recurring role on The Fall Guy. He guest starred on Who's the Boss, Dallas, 1st & Ten, Knot's Landing, and L.A. Law. In the Nineties he guest starred on the TV show Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. He appeared in the movie Lightning Jack (1994).

Ben Cooper seemed as if he was born to play a cowboy. He had ridden horses as a child and was certainly comfortable on a horse. It is little wonder that he appeared on so many Western TV shows and in so many Western movies. Of course, he could play other roles and, although he was best known for his appearances in Westerns, he appeared in a variety of TV shows. He played murderers on Perry Mason, an Army corporal on Combat!, and a police officer on Adam-12. Ben Cooper was equally adept at playing heroes and villains, and he always gave a good performance.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Diana Serra Cary Passes On

Diana Serra Cary, who rocketed to fame as silent movie star Baby Peggy in the 1920s and later carved out a niche for herself as a writer and a film historian, died on February 24 2020 at the age of 101.

Diana Serra Cary was born Peggy-Jean Montgomery on October 29 1918 in San Diego, California. Her father, Jack Montgomery,  was a former cowboy who moved the family from San Diego to Los Angeles after hearing the film industry needed stuntmen. One day her mother took her two daughters to visit the Century Film Co. lot in Hollywood. Director Fred Fishback took notice of the 19 month old Peggy-Jean and hired her to appear in a series of short films with the canine star Brownie the Wonder Dog. Their first short together, "Playmates," proved to be a hit and Baby Peggy's film career took off.

From the years 1921 to 1924 Baby Peggy appeared in 150 short subjects for Century Film Co. It was in 1923 that she began working in feature films for Universal. At Universal she appeared in such films as The Darling of New York (1923) and Captain January (1924). Baby Peggy proved to be phenomenally successful. She would be sent on extensive personal appearance tours throughout the United States. Baby Peggy also performed on stage in Los Angeles and New York City at such venues as Grauman's Million Dollar Theatre and the Hippodrome. Baby Peggy would be among the first movie stars to generate a good deal of merchandise associated with her, including dolls, cut-outs, books, sheet music, jewellery, and even milk. Baby Peggy also earned a good deal of money. Her contract with Universal was worth $1.5 million a year, while she made $300 a day on her vaudeville tours. Unfortunately, none of this money was set aside for Baby Peggy's future.

To make matters worse, Baby Peggy worked under conditions would that would be rough even on an adult. Even as a toddler she worked eight hours a day, six days a week, and was often required to perform her own stunts. During her film career she also received very little in the way of an education.

Baby Peggy's career would end rather abruptly when her father had a quarrel with producer Sol Lesser. Baby Peggy then found herself effectively blacklisted in Hollywood. Afterwards she launched a successful career on vaudeville that lasted from 1925 to 1929. Unfortunately, her family would lose their money with the stock market crash in 1929. In the Thirties Peggy-Jean Montgomery attempted to make a comeback as an actress, but she found herself in bit parts and working as an extra. Her last feature film was Having a Wonderful Time (1938), in which she had an uncredited role as a camp guest.

In 1938 she married actor Gordon Ayres and took the name "Diana Ayres" to separate herself from her past as Baby Peggy. She worked as a writer for radio shows. She divorced Gordon Ayres and would later marry Bob Cary. She took the name Diana Serra Cary, "Serra" being her Catholic confirmation name. She would work as a switchboard operator, a bookstore clerk, and a gift shop manager.

Having always been interested in history and writing, Diana Serra Cary then became a freelance writer. In addition to her autobiography, What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy: The Autobiography of Hollywood's Pioneer Child Star, she also wrote the books The Hollywood Posse: The Story of a Gallant Band of Horsemen Who Made Movie History, Hollywood's Children: An Inside Account of the Child Star Era, and Jackie Coogan: The World's Boy King: A Biography of Hollywood's Legendary Child Star. She also wrote the historical novel The Drowning of the Moon.

Over the years Diana Serra Cary would attend various silent film festivals, as well as the TCM Classic Film Festival. She also appeared in various documentaries about her film career and the Silent Era, as well as various interviews. She was not only well respected for her knowledge of film history, but for her warmth and friendliness as well.

Monday, February 24, 2020

My Man Godfrey (1936)

(This blog post is part of the Butlers and Maids Blogathon hosted by Caftan Woman and Wide Screen World

When is a butler not a butler? When he is really a rich man who is down on his luck. That is the central theme of My Man Godfrey (1936), one of the greatest screwball comedies of the Thirties. My Man Godfrey received positive notices upon its release and was a smash hit with audiences. It was also nominated for several Academy Awards. To this day it considered a classic.

My Man Godfrey centres on Godfrey Parke (played by William Powell), who is living in a shanty town at a New York City dump with other men who are down on their luck during the Great Depression. His life is disrupted when he is discovered by socialite Cornelia Bullock (played by Gail Patrick), who is looking for a "forgotten man" (one of the many who were poor and out of work during the Depression) as part of a scavenger hunt held in conjunction with a society ball. Annoyed by Conelia's haughtiness and condescension, he approaches her angrily in such a way that she flees. Fortunately, Godfrey finds her younger sister, Irene (played by Carole Lombard) much nicer and agrees to be her prize for the scavenger hunt so that Cornelia will lose. It is after the two arrive at the society ball and Godfrey castigates the crowd for their behaviour. It is afterwards that Irene offers Godfrey a job as her family's new butler.

My Man Godfrey was based on the 1935 novel 1101 Park Avenue by Eric Hatch, which Charles R. Rogers, then head of Universal, bought the screen rights to. At the time Charles R. Rogers had Constance Bennett in mind for the role of Irene. He also wanted Gregory La Cava, fresh from his success with She Married Her Boss (1935), to direct. Unfortunately for Charles R. Rogers, Mr. La Cava had earlier worked together on The Affairs of Cellini (1934) and he was not particularly eager to work with the actress again. He suggested that they get Constance's sister Joan Bennett for the role, whom he thought was both a better actress and easier to work with as well. Ronald Colman had campaigned for the role of Godfrey, but Gregory La Cava wanted William Powell for the part. It was William Powell's condition that his ex-wife, Carole Lombard, be cast in the role of Irene. Gail Patrick, who specialised in the role of the unsympathetic, "other woman" in movies at the time, was cast as older sister Cornelia. Curiously while Miss Patrick played the older sister, she was actually three years younger than Carole Lombard.

My Man Godfrey was shot from April 15 to May 27 1936. Retakes took place in early June of 1936. Being shot at Universal (one of the "Little Three" among the major studios of the Golden Age of Hollywood), its budget was a modest $656,000. As it turned out, that $656,000 would be well worth it.

My Man Godfrey received overwhelmingly positive reviews upon its release. It also did very well at the box office. Given its reception, it should come as no surprise that it was nominated for several Academy Awards. My Man Godfrey was nominated for the Oscars for Best Director (Gregory La Cava), Best Actor (William Powell), Best Actress (Carole Lombard), Best Supporting Actor (Mischa Auer), Best Supporting Actress (Alice Brady) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Eric Hatch and Morrie Ryskind). It was the first ever film to be nominated for the four acting categories (this being the year that the Supporting categories were introduced). It was also the only film in the history of the Oscars to be nominated in all four acting categories that was not nominated for Best Picture as well. Despite its sheer number of nominations, it did not win even one Academy Award.  

While My Man Godfrey received no Oscars, it remains better remembered than many of the movies that did that year. In 1999 it was selected by the Library of Congress for the preservation in the National Film Registry as being "culturally significant." The American Film Institute included it at no. 44 in its list of the 100 Funniest Comedies. To this day it remains one of the few movies to maintain a 100% rating at the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

Of course, there should be little wonder that My Man Godfrey remains so highly regarded. The film contains some of the sharpest dialogue of any movie in the Thirties or ever since. As a screwball comedy it features some of the funniest situations ever shot on film. It has a sterling cast, with every single cast member giving top-notch performances (indeed, I am convinced that Gail Patrick should have also been nominated for an Oscar). What is more, My Man Godfrey was extremely relevant to the times. The film would not have been the same without the circumstances of the Great Depression (forgotten men, Hooverviles, et. al.). And while My Man Godfrey drew upon the Great Depression for its plot, sadly, it remains relevant to this day. Indeed, the 1957 remake of the film (in which June Allyson was miscast as Irene) seems much more dated today than the original 1936 version.

Because it is so very funny and features sterling performances by the cast and solid direction by Gregory La Cava, My Man Godfrey is still regarded as a classic to this day. Because it drew upon the circumstances of the Great Depression, it remains relevant to this day as well. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

A Brief History of the Fantastic Comedies of the Sixties Part Three

In the mid-Sixties more fantastic comedies, shows that blended comedy with elements of fantasy or even science fiction, debuted on the broadcast networks than at any other point in the history of American television. What is more many of the fantastic comedies that debuted in the mid-Sixties would have lasting success. My Favourite Martian, Bewitched, The Addams Family, I Dream of Jeannie, and others are still seen to this day.

The height of the cycle towards fantastic comedies on American television was during the 1964-1965 and 1965-1966 seasons. At that point more fantastic comedies debuted than at any other point in American television history. By the fall of 1966, however, the cycle towards fantastic comedies was in decline. Only one fantastic comedy debuted in the fall of 1966, and it would only last one season.

It's About Time was the creation of Sherwood Schwartz, who had created the smash hit Gilligan's Island. It's About Time resembled Gilligan's Island to a degree in that it dealt with a small group of people in a location far from civilisation. In fact, the characters in It's About Time were initially farther away from civilisation than the castaways of Gilligan's Island ever were.

It's About Time centred on astronauts Mac McKenzie (played by Frank Aletter) and Hector Canfield (played by Jack Mullaney), who find themselves hurled back in time through prehistory. There they made friends with a family of cave people led by matriarch Shad (played by Imogene Coca) and Gronk (played by Joe E. Ross). Shad and Gronk had two children, daughter Mlor (played by Mary Grace) and son Breer (played by Pat Cardi). In the Stone Age the two astronauts faced the constant threat of tribal chief Boss (played by Cliff Norton) and his muscle Clon (played by Mike Mazurki), who were suspicious of the astronauts, as well as anachronistic dinosaurs.

Like Gilligan's Island  before it, It's About Time received overwhelmingly bad reviews from critics. Unlike Gilligan's Island, It's About Time would not be a success. In its first few weeks It's About Time did well in the ratings, but the ratings then began a gradual decline. With the ratings falling, a dramatic change was then made to the show's format. With the January 22 1967 episode, "20th Century Here We Come," the astronauts finally repaired their spacecraft and returned to the 20th Century, taking Shad, Gronk, Mlor, and Breer with them. It's About Time was then no longer about 20th Century astronauts trying to adjust to life in the Stone Age, but about Stone Age people trying to adjust to life in the 20th Century. Ratings for It's About Time did not improve and only seven episodes would be made with the new format. It's About Time was cancelled at the end of the season. Today the show's theme song (written by Gerald Fried, George Wyle, and Sherwood Schwartz) may well be better remembered than the show itself.

While only one fantastic comedy would debut in the fall of 1966, two more would debut at mid-season during the 1966/1967 season. What is more, both debuted on the same night, one after the other, albeit on different networks. Batman having been the smash hit of the 1965/1966 season, it should come as no surprise that both were superhero spoofs.

The first to debut was Mr. Terrific (not to be confused with the DC Comics character Mister Terrific). While Mr. Terrific debuted on January 9 1967, it took some time to get to the air. In fact, the original pilot was being prepared after Batman had only been on the air for a few weeks. The original pilot starred Alan Young, fresh from his success as Wilbur Post on Mister Ed, as shoe salesman Stanley Beamish, who becomes the titular superhero. For whatever reason, CBS did not pick up Mr. Terrific based on the original pilot, and the show was entirely recast and retooled.

By the time Mr. Terrific made it to the air, Stanley Beamish was a filling station attendant (played by Stephen Strimpell). Beamish was the only person in the entire world upon whom a "power pill" worked. The power pill gave Beamish super-strength and the power to fly provided he flapped his arms like a bird. Unfortunately, the power pill also lasted for only an hour. Also unfortunately, Beamish was a bit naive and a bit of a clutz. As Mr. Terrific, Beamish worked for a government agency, The Bureau of Secret Projects, where he reported to Barton J. Reed (played by John McGiver).

Mr. Terrific debuted to mostly negative reviews. The show began with strong ratings, and while they dropped over time, those ratings were still respectable. Unfortunately for Mr. Terrific its audience was primarily children rather than the adult demographic desired by the networks even then. CBS then cancelled Mr. Terrific after only seventeen episodes. With so few episodes it did not have a chance as a syndicated rerun, and after the advent of Political Correctness the fact that its hero gained his powers by popping pills would insure it would be rarely seen.

The second superhero spoof to debut on January 9 1967 was Captain Nice. It debuted immediately following Mr. Terrific on CBS's rival network NBC. Captain Nice was the creation of Buck Henry, who had co-created the smash hit Get Smart with Mel Brooks. While Tim Conway was initially considered for the lead role, it was ultimately William Daniels who played police chemist Carter Nash, who discovered a secret formula that would transform him into the superhero Captain Nice. Unfortunately, Carter Nash's personality as Captain Nice was no different from his ordinary personality. He was shy and dominated by his mother (Mrs. Nash played by Alice Ghostley). And even though he could fly, Captain Nice was still just as scared of heights as Carter Nash was. Despite the fact that Carter Nash was a total Milquetoast, beautiful meter maid Candy Kane (played by Ann Prentiss) was totally in love with Carter rather than his superheroic alter ego.

Over all Captain Nice received positive reviews. Unfortunately, it was scheduled against The Lucy Show on CBS and as a result it received less than stellar ratings. It was cancelled at the end of the season and is rarely seen today.

The 1967-1968 season would see the cycle towards fantastic comedies decline even further with only two shows debuting that season, although both debuted in the fall. What is more, the two comedies featured very little in the way of fantasy content beyond their initial premises. Both debuted on ABC. The first to debut was The Second Hundred Years. The Second Hundred Years was developed by writer Ed Simmons, based on an idea from Roswell Rogers. Ed Simmons had previously worked on such shows as The Colgate Comedy Hour and The Red Skelton Show. Roswell Rogers had worked on the classic domestic comedy Father Knows Best. The Second Hundred Years centred on 19th Century prospector Lucius "Luke" Carpenter (played by Monte Markham), who was frozen in a glacier in 1900. He was revived in 1967 and sent to live with his son Edwin (played by Arthur O'Connell), who is now 67 years old. Edwin had a 33 year-old son, Ken (also played by Monte Markham), who looked exactly like Luke. The humour on the show largely emerged from Luke attempting to adapt to the 20th Century and his conflicts with his much older son.

The Second Hundred Years debuted on September 6 1967 to largely negative reviews. The show initially did well in the ratings. Its debut even beat the season premiere of The Beverly Hillbillies on CBS and the final half hour of a rerun of The Virginian on NBC. Unfortunately, ratings for The Second Hundred Years dropped dramatically in its second week and continued to rapidly decline. ABC moved the show from Wednesday night to Thursday night starting March 21. It was only a few weeks later that ABC announced that it was cancelling The Second Hundred Years.

ABC's second fantastic comedy debuted the following day, on September 7 1967. Unlike The Second Hundred Years it would be moderately successful. The Flying Nun was developed by Bernard Slade (who would later create The Partridge Family), based on the 1966 novel The Fifteenth Pelican by Tere Rios. The Flying Nun centred on Sister Bertrille (played by Sally Field), a nun at the Convent San Tanco in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Between her small size (Sister Bertrille was all of 90 pounds), the wide, heavily starched cornette she wore, and high winds on the bluffs around the convent, Sister Bertrille discovered she had the ability to fly. Sister Bertrille's ability to fly would be both the cause and the solution of many problems throughout the series' run.

The Flying Nun was not particularly a hit with critics, but the show proved to be a hit with audiences, receiving spectacular ratings in its first few months. The Flying Nun would not maintain this momentum as the season progressed, but it still did very well during its first season. Unfortunately, The Flying Nun would falter in the ratings in its second season, along with the rest of ABC's Thursday night line-up except for Bewitched. Ratings for The Flying Nun continued to drop in its third season, so that ABC moved it to Friday night at mid-season. The show's ratings never recovered and it was cancelled at the end of the 1969-1970 season. While rarely seen today, The Flying Nun did have a respectable run as a syndicated rerun.

By the 1968-1969 the trend towards fantastic comedies on American television was very nearly over. The season saw the debut of only one fantastic comedy, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. The Ghost & Mrs. Muir was very loosely based on the 1947 movie of the same name, which in turn was based on the 1945 novel of the same name by R. A. Dick. It was developed by Jean Holloway, who had worked on such radio shows as The Kate Smith Show, The Hallmark Radio Hall of Fame, and Mayor of the Town and later moved into television to write for such shows as Wagon Train and Dr. Kildare.

The Ghost & Mrs. Muir centred on widow Carolyn Muir (played by Hope Lange), who moved into Gull Cottage in Schooner Bay, Maine with her two children and her housekeeper Martha Grant (played by Reta Shaw). It is not long before she learns the cottage has another resident, the ghost of 19th Century sea captain Daniel Gregg (played by Edward Mulhare). Daniel Gregg had various ghostly powers as well as a bad temper, which sometimes caused problems for Carolyn. The only other person to know about the captain's ghost was his great nephew Claymore Gregg (played by Charles Nelson Reilly). Captain Gregg was ashamed of Claymore, while Claymore was absolutely terrified of the captain.

The Ghost & Mrs. Muir debuted on NBC on September 28 1968. The show received generally positive reviews. Initially The Ghost & Mrs. Muir also did well in the ratings, beating long-running sitcom My Three Sons on CBS. In fact, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir was doing well enough in the ratings that, according to Fred MacMurray - A Biography by Charles Tranberg, My Three Sons star Fred MacMurray was actually concerned about the survival of that show. The Ghost & Mrs. Muir also won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series for Hope Lange and was nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Comedy for Charles Nelson Reilly and Outstanding Achievement in Film Editing for Entertainment Programming - For a Series or a Single Program of a Series for Axel Hubert Sr. In the end My Three Sons gradually made a comeback, climbing in the ratings until it was beating The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. It was then towards the end of the 1968/1969 season that NBC cancelled The Ghost & Mrs. Muir.

This was not the end of The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, as it was promptly picked up by ABC. ABC moved The Ghost & Mrs. Muir from the Saturday time slot in which it had aired on NBC to a Thursday night time slot. Once more The Ghost & Mrs. Muir would receive an Emmy Award for Hope Lange. It was also nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series as well as Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series for Edward Mulhare. Unfortunately, ABC had scheduled The Ghost & Mrs. Muir against another popular CBS sitcom, Family Affair, which ranked no. 5 in the ratings for the 1969/1970 season. As a result the show's ratings suffered and The Ghost & Mrs. Muir was cancelled for a final time at the end of the season. The Ghost & Mrs. Muir would have a respectable run as a syndicated rerun.

If there was any sign that the cycle towards fantastic sitcoms that had dominated the mid-Sixties was over, it was the fact that no new fantastic comedies debuted at the start of the 1969-1970 season. The trend on American television in sitcoms for that season was now towards such family comedies as To Rome with Love, The Debbie Reynolds Show, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, and The Brady Bunch. When a new fantastic comedy debuted at mid-season during the 1969-1970 season, it should come as no surprise that it fit in with the new crop of domestic comedies on television.

Nanny and the Professor was created by A.J. Carothers and Thomas L. Miller. A.J. Carothers had written for such TV shows as The DuPont Show with June Allyson and My Three Sons, as well as such movies as Emil and the Detectives (1964) and The Happiest Millionaire (1967). Nanny & the Professor centred on the nanny of the title, Phoebe Figalilly (played by Juliet Mills). Nanny worked for Professor Harold Everett (played by Richard Long), who had three children: oldest son Hal (played by David Doremus), middle child Butch (played by Trent Lehman), and youngest Prudence (played by Kim Richards). Nanny appeared to be psychic. She often knew someone was at the door before they even rang the doorbell. She could also see into the future at times. On rare occurrences she could even make events happen so that they appeared to be coincidences.

Nanny and the Professor debuted on ABC on January 21 1970. In its Wednesday night time slot it proved popular enough that ABC renewed it for the 1970/1971 season. For the 1970/1971 season ABC moved it to Friday night, between the popular Brady Bunch and the even more popular Partridge Family. While Nanny and the Professor did not rank in the top thirty shows for the year, it received respectable ratings, particularly with younger viewers. Unfortunately, its days were numbered. It was with the 1971/1972 season that the Prime Time Access Rule went to effect, which effectively shaved a half hour off prime time network programming each night, so that prime time now began at 8:00 PM Eastern rather than 7:30 PM Eastern. Having to remove one show from the Friday night line-up, ABC then moved Nanny and the Professor to Monday night, before Monday Night Football.

Unfortunately, the new time slot would prove disastrous for Nanny and the Professor. In the time slot it faced two highly rated shows, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In on NBC and Gunsmoke on CBS. Worse yet, many ABC affiliates elected to air Nanny and the Professor in entirely different time slots, so that it might air at one time in one market and a completely different one in another. Naturally, this led to ratings for the show entirely collapsing. In the end Nanny and the Professor went off the air at mid-season, on December 27 1971

Of course, not only were there several sitcoms with fantastic premises to air in the Sixties, there were also several straightforward sitcoms that might feature fantasy content in individual episodes from time to time. As early as its second season Dobie Gillis featured an episode involving ESP. In its third season there was an episode involving a Stone Age caveman, while the fourth season had Maynard gain the abilities to analyse hit songs from a robot and Maynard gain super-strength through pills. Gilligan's Island would feature even more fantastic content, with episodes featuring "voodoo," a robot, seeds that granted Gilligan telepathy, mad scientists, and yet more. Similarly, The Monkees featured several episodes that included such fantastic elements as a mad scientist and his Frankensteinian creation, aliens, a magical monkey's paw, mind control, and even the Devil himself. Other shows, such as The Beverly Hillbillies and particularly Green Acres could often be so surreal that they could be considered as bordering on outright fantasy.

As to why fantastic sitcoms came to dominate American television in the Sixties, there can be little doubt that there were multiple factors. Chief among these was the president of CBS at the start of the decade, James T. Aubrey, whose formula for the network was once summarised by another CBS executive as "broads, bosoms, and fun." Aubrey placed an emphasis on escapism, debuting such comedies as The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Gilligan's Island. CBS saw great success with James T. Aubrey's formula of pure escapism so that ABC and NBC soon followed suit in airing escapist shows. It was to a large degree James T. Aubrey who sparked the cycle toward fantastic comedies in the Sixties by bringing the syndicated hit Mister Ed to CBS and putting My Favourite Martian on the air.

Of course, the escapist television shows that James T. Aubrey put on the air would not have succeeded had there not been a demand for them. In many respects the Sixties was a very volatile decade. It was the decade of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the Vietnam War. It was the height of the Cold War. It should then not be surprising if audiences wanted escapism on television in the Sixties. Indeed, in the weeks following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, The Beverly Hillbillies set records in the Nielsen ratings that stand to this day. Even given the success of My Favourite Martian, it should then come as no surprise that the 1964/1965 saw the beginning of a cycle towards fantastic comedies.

While the fantastic comedies of the Sixties can be counted among the many escapist television shows of the decade, that it is not to say that they did not acknowledge the social changes of the times. In particular, the producers of Bewitched seemed to recognise that the times were changing. After all, the central premise of Bewitched was a mixed marriage (that is, a witch married to a mortal). Over the course of its run Bewitched dealt with issues that other, more mainstream shows could not, including bigotry, capitalism, and feminism. Some have even seen a gay subtext on the show, and not simply because some of the cast (such as Paul Lynde) were gay. There were those who interpret the underground culture of witches as a metaphor for the underground culture of homosexuality at the time. Of course the show could also be considered an allegory for civil rights in general.

While most of the other fantastic comedies would not touch upon issues of the day in the way that Bewitched did, in some respects they also acknowledged the changing times. While the Sixties saw a counterculture arise that rejected the societal norms of the Fifties, the theme of nonconformity ran through many of the fantastic comedies. On Bewitched most witches and warlocks paid no heed to the rules of human society. The Addams Family refused to conform to society's expectations, preferring their own macabre outlook on life instead. Such "fish out of water" comedies as My Favourite Martian, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Second Hundred Years sometimes pointed out the absurdity of modern, American life. It certainly cannot be denied that the fantastic comedies served as an escape from the realities of the Sixties by many viewers, but at the same time the shows acknowledged that the times were changing.

There were likely other factors that caused the proliferation of fantastic comedies in the Sixties, making it difficult to assess all of them. As to why the cycle towards fantastic comedies came to an end, that is a bit easier to determine. To a degree cycles in American broadcast network television can be considered fads. In the book Fads, Follies, and Delusions of the American People by Paul Sann, it is noted that often the more intensely a fad is adopted, the shorter its duration will be. Given the sheer number of fantastic comedies that the networks debuted in the 1964/1965 and 1965/1966 seasons, it should come as no surprise that the cycle would come to an end after a time.

Of course, here it must also be pointed out that the cycle towards fantastic comedies in the Sixties was one of the larger cycles in the history of American television. Ten different fantastic comedies aired on the American broadcast networks during the 1965/1966 season alone. It would not be a surprise if audiences grew tired of the genre and wanted to see some other sorts of shows. It seems significant that the majority of fantastic comedies to debut in the 1964/1965 and 1965/1966 seasons saw some degree of success, but the fantastic comedies that debuted in the 1966/1967 season did not. Like other cycles, such as the cycle towards Westerns in the Fifties or the cycle towards police procedurals in the Naughts, audiences simply grew tired of those types of shows and wanted to move onto the Next Big Thing.

The last original episode of Bewitched aired on March 25 1972, making it the last of the fantastic comedies of the Sixties. Since that time several more fantastic comedies have aired on American television, some of which proved to have some degree of success. Despite this, at no point since the Sixties has there ever been a cycle towards fantastic comedies that has been as large as the one during that decade. What is more, an argument can be made that none of the fantastic comedies that have aired since the Sixties have seen the level of success that such shows as Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and Get Smart have seen. In the end, many of the fantastic comedies of the Sixties would prove to be among the most successful shows of all time.