Monday, June 29, 2015

Classic TV: The Patty Duke Show (1963)

Talk about seeing double!

The gimmick to The Patty Duke Show had the star playing identical cousins. Cathy Lane (Duke) emigrated to the US from Scotland to live with her cousin, Patty (Duke again) and her family. If you thought that was enough "twin magic", think again. In one second season episode, Duke played a 3rd Lane cousin and gained special guest star credit, something that wouldn't happen today.

In addition, the cousins' dads were played by the same actor as well, nattily dressed William Schallert, who played Martin Lane's twin brother in 3 season 1 episodes, and added a 3rd persona in the form of an uncle, Jed, later in the series.

Maybe it should surprise no one that the concept was the work of two men who would utilize the "twin magic" gimmick after moving to Screen Gems the next year. William Asher created Bewitched, and eventually went with the identical cousin gimmick. Future best-selling author Sidney Sheldon followed that with I Dream of Jeannie, which bowed during Duke's final season (1965), but opted for the standard twin sister instead of cousin for star Barbara Eden. Jeannie, of course, aired on NBC, while Bewitched and Duke aired on ABC. Y'think maybe the folks at United Artists, which produced Duke, rued the day they let Sheldon & Asher jump to Screen Gems?

Currently, This TV, which has a lot of MGM/Sony properties on its roster, airs Duke. Check local listings. In the meantime, scope out the open:

Schallert was later used as a studio announcer at ABC for a few years before ceding the gig to Ernie Anderson. Duke parlayed the sitcom into a brief singing career, leading to a crossover with Shindig!.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I've caught a rerun here and there on Antenna-TV, and while it was acceptable for the time, the joke ran thin rather quickly. I guess someone wanted to cash in on the twin trouble premise of The Parent Trap. I happened to see the episode in which the third look alike cousin popped up. Yes, it was pushing it, but it worked somehow. Probably because the character was a little more of a distant cousin to Patty & Cathy - her father was Martin & Jed's first cousin, making her a cousin one removed from them and twice removed from Patty & Cathy. Plus, they gave her a good storyline about wanting to be with family, since her parents sent her off to boarding school rather than parent her.

In his memoirs, Davy Jones claimed the series was initially meant for him, but it ended up going to Patty Duke instead. It's possible since he was a contract player at Columbia/Screen Gems (and released a solo record on the Colpix label before he joined The Monkees to cash in on the British Invasion scene). Personally, I think it could have been that Patty Duke could affect a better pseudo Scottish accent than Davy could an American one.

Like Loren Chapin in "Father Knows Best", it's harder to watch this show knowing all the suffering Duke went through during this time in her life. I remember in interviews promoting her book, "Call Me Anna", she used to lay in the hallways of her home crying and wishing for a pill that could cure her of [her bi-polar disorder]. Ironically, Lithium did exist as a treatment for it back in 1962, but no one thought she was in that camp.

Funny you should mention Elizabeth Montgomery's turn as her look alike cousin Serena. Remember the credits used to refer to the actress playing her as "Pandora Spocks".

hobbyfan said...

I referenced that and Barbara Eden playing her own sister on "Jeannie". Unlike Elizabeth Montgomery, Eden got no extra credit......