Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What Might've Been: The Double Life of Henry Phyfe (1966)

Comedian Red Buttons' schtick was that he felt he "never had a dinner", meaning, he was never the guest of honor. If his 1966 spy spoof, The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, was more successful than it was, well, maybe he would've gotten his "dinner".

Double Life, a Filmways entry for ABC, didn't survive its one and only season. The studio was looking to supply ABC with another hit show to replace The Addams Family, which had been dropped after 2 seasons, but, as fate would have it, it wouldn't happen. After failing twice with Phyllis Diller, Filmways never sold another series to ABC.

So why did Double Life fail? It wasn't a rip-off of Get Smart, which was airing on NBC at the time, because Phyfe wasn't a full-time spy, unlike Maxwell Smart (Don Adams). Phyfe had a regular job, but was called upon at most inopportune times to serve his country by his handler (Fred Clark). In essence, Double Life had more in common with Wally Cox's failed comedy-adventure series, The Adventures of Hiram Holliday, from a few years earlier. Like Cox, Buttons was more of an Everyman comedian, but lacked a certain amount of charismatic appeal that would've helped his show succeed.

Consider the following clip, which is the show open and the first scene from an episode. How do we know it's a Filmways production? Vic Mizzy is the musical director, and had the same gig on almost every Filmways show of the period, save for The Beverly Hillbillies. For what it's worth, Mizzy also scored a non-Filmways series, NBC's Captain Nice, later in the season, and was hired by Universal to score Don Knotts' movies.

Rating: C.

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