Friday, July 14, 2017

What Might've Been: Many Happy Returns (1964)

A workplace sitcom in the 60's wasn't always guaranteed to be a sure thing.

Such was the case with Many Happy Returns, which spent a season on CBS (1964-5), filling a vacancy on the schedule created when Danny Thomas ended his sitcom after 11 seasons. John McGiver top lined as Walter Burnley, head of a complaint department in a department store. Today, that would be known under a broader umbrella as customer service.

Now, I've never seen the show, so there won't be a rating. Anyway, CBS, undaunted, tried a department store comedy again nearly a decade later with James Coco in Calucci's Department, and that also lasted a season.

So why is that?

At the time, audiences were simply not ready for laughs in a consumer marketplace.

Here's the intro:

Co-star Mark Goddard moved on to Lost in Space the next year. Elena Verdugo would later turn up on Marcus Welby, MD. Elinor Donohue (ex-Father Knows Best, The Andy Griffith Show) didn't land another series, I think.


Hal Horn said...

Ranked 50th in the Nielsens for the season with a 30.9 share. Not terrible...until you consider the huge dropoff from its lead in, THE LUCY SHOW, which ranked 8th. MANY HAPPY RETURNS not only lost a big chunk of the LUCY audience, but slipped behind ANDY WILLIAMS (45th) into second place in its time slot. CBS' second lowest show of the evening, with its lead-out SLATTERY'S PEOPLE finishing worse.

hobbyfan said...

Couldn't hold Lucy's audience. Hmmmmmm. Small wonder, then, that McGiver was never cast in a lead role again. Thanks, Hal.

Hal Horn said...

One other note on MANY HAPPY RETURNS. Joan Davis' daughter Beverly Wills was originally intended for the regular cast, when the series was in the pilot stage as THE JOHN McGIVER SHOW. Two days after Mike Connolly reported that Wills had been offered a regular role on the series "if it gets picked up", she fell asleep smoking in bed and died in a house fire, along with her grandmother and three children. She was only 29. I believe her part was the one which eventually went to MEET MILLIE star Elena Verdugo.

Mike Doran said...

Just for the record, Calucci's Department was set in a state unemployment office, not a department store.
It was a critical darling, but couldn't go even half a season against Sanford & Son.

hobbyfan said...

@Mike: I found that out after posting. It's still a workplace comedy, just the same.

@Hal: Just sad to read that about Beverly Wills. Maybe a bad omen?