Monday, May 22, 2017

Classic TV: The Joey Bishop Show (1961)

At various points during the 50's & 60's, each member of the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, & Sammy Davis, Jr.) had their own series, with varying degrees of success. To that end, Lawford would be at the bottom of the deck, as his two series (Dear Phoebe & The Thin Man) were not successful. Dean would be at the top, since his 2nd variety show, which led to his Celebrity Roasts being spun off, kept him on NBC for nearly 2 decades.

Somewhere in the middle is Bishop. While most people remember his ABC talk show, which introduced America to Regis Philbin, Bishop's 1st series was a self-titled sitcom that was spun off from Make Room For Daddy, aka The Danny Thomas Show. In the pilot, Bishop was a klutzy public relations rep, but when he landed his own series, he now was an assistant to a Hollywood press agent.

The final three seasons served as a sort of precursor to the talk show that would follow. Joey Barnes (Bishop) was now married and had changed careers, becoming a stand-up comic and talk show host. While Joey had relatives to support (Danny Thomas' daughter, Marlo, later of That Girl, landed one of her first TV roles playing Joey's younger sister) during the 1st season, that was all swapped out in favor of sitcom trappings that mirrored The Dick Van Dyke Show. Show within a show? Check. Hot wife? Check. (Abby Dalton played Joey's wife for the rest of the series) Goofy friends? Check. Joe Besser (ex-The Abbott & Costello Show) was the building superintendent. Corbett Monica replaced Guy Marks as Joey's agent in season 3.

Speaking of season 3, one episode never made it to air in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. JFK's most famous impersonator, Vaughn Meader ("The First Family"), was scheduled to appear, but the episode was scrubbed, and Meader's career was virtually destroyed as a result of Kennedy's death. Co-executive producer Danny Thomas and NBC felt that running the Meader episode would be inappropriate, and it's believed the episode was "wiped", or destroyed, per network practices of the time.

The series moved to CBS for the 4th & final season, but the viewers didn't, and the show was cancelled in the spring of 1965.

From the 3rd season, here's "Double Play: Foster to Joey to Durocher". As in, Phil Foster (later of Laverne & Shirley) and baseball player turned manager Leo Durocher, who would also appear on The Munsters the following season.



Antenna TV has The Joey Bishop Show airing weekdays from 1-2 pm (ET).

Season 1's supporting cast, aside from Marlo Thomas, moved on to better things, too. Joe Flynn, of course, moved on to McHale's Navy for the next 4 years. Madge Blake would later resurface on Batman for the better part of the series' 1st 2 seasons. Warren Berlinger might be better remembered as a character actor who did a lot of television and movies.

Rating (based on what I'd seen on TV Land when they had the rights): B.

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