Friday, March 20, 2015

Forgotten TV: The Life of Riley (1949)

Irving Brecher's pride & joy, The Life of Riley, first jumped from radio to television in 1949. However, due to filming the feature film version of the series, William Bendix was unable to reprise his lead role as Chester A. Riley. Brecher then hired Jackie Gleason to sub for Bendix.

However, this version lasted just 1 season, due to an impasse between Brecher, sponsor Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, and the network about extending the season to a full 39 weeks. As we all know, Riley would return in 1953, with Bendix back in the title role. Gleason's run as Riley prepared him, you might say, for his seminal sitcom, The Honeymooners, just a few years later.

Right now, scope out this sample episode:

Rosemary DeCamp is better known to viewers of another generation for her role as Ann Marie's mom on That Girl, two decades later.

Rating: B-.


magicdog said...

My dad always used to tell me how Gleason originated the part of Chester Riley for TV. I was surprised since those eps never aired in syndication that I know of. WWOR used to show the Bendix episodes exclusively.

Is it just me or do Bendix and Ed O'Neill sound exactly the same - same accent/inflections, etc.? Especially when O'Neill speaks in his "Al Bundy character".

hobbyfan said...

The Bendix version of the series lasted longer, as even though the Gleason version could've easily been packaged with it, the syndicators figured folks might be too confused since Gleason didn't have his classic look.