Monday, December 26, 2016

Forgotten TV: Duffy's Tavern (1954)

A good number of radio shows made the transition from radio to television in the early years of the latter medium. However, for every Jack Benny Program or Dragnet or Gunsmoke that succeeded, there were others that failed, spectacularly, like The Shadow, or, in this case, Duffy's Tavern.

Series creator-star Ed Gardner thought Duffy, which had previously been adapted into a feature film, could succeed in television, and sold Hal Roach, Jr. on the idea. Unfortunately, it also resulted in career death for Gardner, who didn't land another significant gig in either radio or television, as this version lasted just 1 season.

Gardner's vocal patterns as bartender Archie were the inspiration for Daws Butler's feline sleuth, Snooper, on The Quick Draw McGraw Show just a few years later. Least-ways, now I know why Snooper talked like some ill-educated Noo Yawkah.

Anyway, let's get to the series opener, "Grand Opening", as Archie and faithful customer (if you can call him that), Finnegan (Alan Reed) discover the reason why no one's going to the tavern.

The problem? Gardner wasn't as good an actor as he thought he was, and made a terrible transition to television. He played his role the same as he did on radio, and did nothing to try to advance the concept for television. Duffy was never seen nor heard, just someone Archie talked to on the phone at the start of every episode, both on radio & television. As it happened, Jackie Gleason perfected the idea for his Joe The Bartender skits, which introduced the world to his Finnegan, one Crazy Guggenheim (played by actor-singer Frank Fontaine). Maybe Gardner should've gotten lessons from the original "Great One".

Rating: C-.

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