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It's a grand shame that very few people these days remember this fine sitcom
about teenage life in the early 60s. Dwayne Hickman is endearing as
simple-minded Dobie Gillis, the typical American teenager, who just wants a
girl. Bob Denver is brilliant as his buddy, Maynard Krebs. Who needs
Gilligan? Sheila James is fantastic as Zelda...always chasing after Dobie.
Frank Faylen and Florida Friebus as Dobie's parents are too-oft forgotten
for their parts on this show...they couldn't have gotten a better pair of
There was some really sharp, funny writing on this series, and that, mixed with the snappy editing, jazzy soundtrack and over-the-top situations, made for some very funny episodes. Plenty of hip, jazzy lingo to go around. Lovely Tuesday Weld was also around for a number of episodes during the first season (and a couple later on) as Dobie's object of affection, Thalia Menninger. It's too bad that they couldn't keep her on for more sporadic appearances, because it is the episodes that she appears in, which I consider to be the zenith of the series. The show started to get a little too silly during its last season, when the focus went towards Maynard and Dobie's cousin, Dunkie, but it was still unique.
Without question, one of the high points of 1960s TV, and one of the most winning sitcoms of all time. It's a shame that it hasn't gotten the same kind of exposure in recent years as some of the other shows of the time. Hopefully it gets picked up and restored for a full DVD release sometime soon. It's just waiting to be rediscovered.
This is a classic, classic show. Nick At Nite used to show it 15 years
ago, but I guess it is too intelligent for the types who run TVLand and
Nick now, & who refuse to show any comedies unless they got big
Neilsen's. Hey, TVLand, I've got your Big Neilsen right here!!
Bob Denver is far better in this than in the hideously over-rated "Gilligan's Island". This may have been Dwyane Hickman's last really good role. I seem to remember him in a Civil War series with his brother, Daryl. Frank Faylen and Florida Friebus were wonderful as Mr & Mrs Howard T Gillis. Who'd have thought watching Warren Beatty(as Milton Armitage) that he'd give us a masterpiece like "Bulworth"? Tuesday Weld as Thalia Meninger in her best work until "Falling Down".
DVD's & VHS tapes of Dobie Gillis are available, but for $20 for a 2-episode, 1 hour disc or tape, it ain't worth it. We need someone to bring out some season sets.
On 29 Jan 2010, Dwayne Hickman(using his wife's account)posted the following on a Dobie Gillis Facebook page: "...As for the DVD question, the estate of Max Shulman has agreed to make a deal to release the show, however, with the current economy the studio does not want to release it. That is what I have been told. When and if I hear anything I will post it on my web site www.dwaynehickman.com"
It can't be too soon for me. Heck, I might even pay list price.
I used to watch this all the time on the local independent channel when they'd run in the afternoons at 4:00 pm, and from the first episode, I was hooked. The acting was top-notch, the scripts were good, and the jokes were funny. Bob Denver was THE first beatnik on TV, and probably the best (except for local legend "Ghoulardi", who was a beatnik horror host) and Dwayne Hickman was the only one who could portray Dobie like he did. I hope this is released on video soon, because nobody plays it anymore. Fact: TV Land played this show when the channel was just beginning, and only recently showed some more episodes.
After looking up this lost series from the late 50's,its repeats ran
for a good number of years on CBN back in the 1980's and also recently
on TV Land,but Dobie Gillis was the coolest show I ever had the
pleasure of watching. Dwayne Hickman was the all- American boy next
door who was always competing for the hand of Thalia Menninger(Tuesday
Weld)from either Milton Armitage or the annoying Chatsworth Osbourne,
Jr.(who was the rich kid that had everything)with the help of his good
friend and sometimes wacky Maynard G. Krebbs(played by Bob Denver) who
may have been lazy and sloppy,but he was really cool and down with the
beat... in other words,the essential beatnick....... who was into Dizzy
Gillespie and would go berserk if someone mention "work",around him. My
friend and I were comparing Bob Denver's Maynard to his role as
Gilligan years later,and in my opinion,MAYNARD RULES!!!!! Maynard was
the coolest and hippest cat ever devised for a TV series,but also
wasn't very bright,but still had his props to back up Dobie when
needed(especially in a couple of episodes where Dobie and Maynard
enlist in the Army). The series ran for four seasons on CBS-TV from
September of 1959 to the final episode of the series in August of 1963.
Interesting point about this show: two of the stars of this series went on to greater glory(in feature films) after their run on Dobie Gillis: Tuesday Weld and Warren Beatty(who got his start here before he became box office draw in movieland circles as Mister Hollywood)Who would have thought that Warren Beatty in the first season of this series would played pretty boy Milton Armitage and make that transition to be one of the top box office superstars of all time?
Recently,20th Century-Fox,which produced the series just released the complete first two seasons of "Dobie Gillis" on DVD that were broadcast between 1959 through 1961.
Dobie Gillis may not be groundbreaking, but it is a well-crafted comic gem
of a TV series. Direction is crisp, acting is excellent and the comic
characters are perfection: Maynard, the clueless but lovable loser (who has
been widely copied but never surpassed), Thalia, the sexy, cute gold-digger,
who is smarter than anyone expects, Milton, the insufferable preppie, Zelda,
the nerd, etc. And here sits Dobie--ridiculously average, being tossed
between them all like a beachball, and trying to make sense of it all.
Character actors Wm. Schallert and Frank Faylen shine; Beatty gives an
eerily prescient glimpse into his future roles; and Dobie is the
personification of the likeable schlemiel.
Now all you Wodehouse fans don't have a cow...
Dobie is not a copy of Bertie. Bertie comes from money, Dobie's parent run a Mom-an-Pop grocery store. Bertie has a continental charm, Dobie has a corn-fed earnestness. Bertie spends all of his time running from women, Dobie spends all of his time chasing girls. Bertie has Jeeves, Dobie has Maynard G. Krebs, and I think that says it all.
Though I enjoyed the series when I saw it as a kid (first run), I didn't really get much of the sweet heartache of the show until I was in high school and trying to catch the attention of my own Thalia.
Thing that I loved: Episodes opening with Rodin's "The Thinker" and Dobie trying to think his way out of his current situation...Dobie addressing the camera...Maynard's reaction to the word, "Work!"
Let me encourage anyone who can to get the short story collection by Max Schulman. It is a complete delight and gave me a real appreciation for how well the TV show adapted the tone and snap of the book.
Shulman also wrote "Rally Round the Flag, Boys" and "The Tender Trap" both made into enjoyable movies.
Generations will remember him as Gilligan, and that one-gag show did
have some funny moments, but Bob Denver better deserves recognition for
playing Maynard G. Krebs in this little gem of a series. Although the
show never did precisely represent the Zeitgeist of the times it
portrays, and, in this post-modern age of irony, more than a little of
it seems dated, it really was memorably funny.
It's remarkable to realize that Dobie the quintessential pre-hippie teenager is working awfully hard to convince girls to do something that's really pretty innocent. This is a guy looking for love, first and foremost in the form of affection and caring. It's not as if he were trying to talk the beautiful Thalia into bed, mind you. "Dobie," in the words of the show's theme song, "wants a girl to call his own. Is she short, is she tall, is she fat, is she small, is she any kind of dreamboat at all? No matter he's hers and hers alone; 'cause Dobie has to have a girl to call his own." How sweetly corny! And chaste, too! Not a hint of sex!
A good cast helped this show succeed. Tuesday Weld was more than just a pretty face; she was a surprisingly good actress. The young Warren Beatty was good, too. Dwayne Hickman created Dobie as a likable cipher, and Frank Faylen and Florida Friebus (her real name, not a Max Schulman creation) were convincing and comical as the 1950s parents from hell. Perhaps Sheila James' take on Zelda as Miss Walking Encyclopedia was a little over-the-top, and that nose-wrinkling shtick got a little old, but it worked. The superb character actor William Schallart shone as the English teacher Mr. Pomfritt (recalling the European nomenclature for French fries, "pommes-frites"), who never got to lecture about his favorite poet, William Wordsworth, because the end-of class bell would ring.
And then there was Maynard.
Dobie: "Zelda, I don't think that will work." Maynard: "Work!?!" Dobie: "Maynard!" This oft-repeated exchange became something of a catch phrase in certain circles (mine included), as the beatnik Krebs made America realize that it's much more important to play the bongos in a coffee house than hold down a job of any sort. Without Maynard, there would have been no Fonzie, no Bob Dylan, no Allen Ginsburg, no Beatles well, maybe that's an overstatement. But Bob Denver was the one of the first actors to show the TV audience that people can be hip and likable at the same time. And what a natural he was in the role.
Of course, none of these characters existed in real life. Real beatniks, like Jack Kerouac's Dean Moriarty, were far less likable and wholesome than Maynard. Tuesday Weld's troubled private life was much closer to a real-life situation than her portrayal of the gold-digging beautiful blonde. And nobody could be as non-libidinous as Dobie. These characters are of the same generation as the lusty characters portrayed in the movie "Animal House," after all. But this show was a fine, amusing and memorable little TV confection.
This show is consistently underrated in my opinion. Created and largely written (even the theme song) by the talented Max Schulman, who later brought us such gems as the movie "House Calls", the program gave us such classic characters as the boy-crazy Zelda (ironically portrayed by a Lesbian, Shelia James), Maynard, the closest thing to a "beatnik" most of Middle America ever saw, and Dobie's dad Herbert (played by the great character actor Frank Faylen), the grocer who needed very little prompting to remind whoever was listening, "I was in The Big One, W W 2!" but who was deep down a fine guy (he reminded me a lot of one of my uncles). Dobie's pining for Thalia, and his soliloquies in front of the copy of Rodin's "The Thinker" in the local park, were close to priceless. I think that the fact that this show was filmed in black and white has hurt its chances for being rerun in recent years, even on "TV Land" or "Nick at Nite".
i enjoyed this show in middle school and junior high (first runs)and it's still funny now. the writing is clever (max shulman is brilliant), the actors are good comedians, and the issues of looking for love but being too shy are still pertinent. (it's an idealized version. this is about the 50's. but the goofiness is deliberate, and it works.)
This show was groundbreaking. No other show captured the generation gap
of this era quite like Dobie Gillis.
First, it portrayed life from a teen's perspective in the age of Father Knows Best. In the early seasons, Dobie was a high school student consumed with only getting a pretty girl to be his girlfriend. Usually, it was Thalia Menninger who had expensive tastes. The conflicts usually resulted from the fact that Dobie was always broke and never wanted to work. He would always try to get money from his dad, but Herbert T. Gillis was not the type to give someone something for nothing. Also, Dobie, despite being a highly likable boy, was far from an exemplary student, which meant girls realized that his future was not promising.
Second, Dobie's parents were probably the most realistically portrayed of any TV parents from that era. Herbert T. Gillis was a hard-working, but loud-mouthed and had a blustery personality. He openly declared his teenage son a "lazy bum who would wind up living off the county" because he wouldn't work. The first season he would often respond to his disapproval of Dobie's actions by saying, "I gotta kill that boy. I just gotta." This was mildly controversial in that era and that line was later dropped. Instead, he would just be speechless with a bewildered expression that pretty much said he wanted to kill his son. Despite, his outbursts, Mr. Gillis was basically good hearted, but the generation gap between father and son was obvious and portrayed with humorous results. Dobie's mom, Winnie Gillis, was nice, but too nice, and counterbalanced Herbert by doting on her son and letting Dobie get away with not working in the family grocery store. Third, the writing and editing were superb. The writing contained a wit not found in other shows of that era.
HERBERT: Son. Your mother's a wonderful woman. Dobie: She a gem. HERBERT: She's one in a million. Dobie: She's a princess. MAYNARD: She's a warden.
The editing was great, because as a scene would close, it would set up the next scene and instantly cut to the next scene where a character would respond in the exact opposite manner to how that scene was being set up.
MR POMFRITT- You talk to your father, Dobie. I'm sure he'll want you to stay in college. (instant pan to the next scene with Mr. Gillis closeup): MR. GILLIS: You have got to quit school. (After explaining to Dobie and his mom, that Dobie wasn't taking any courses that would help him in the real world at school, and that he was supporting Dobie's lifestyle): (shouting)Wise up, son. Get a job.
Fourth, the cast contained several well portrayed eccentric characters. In addition, to Dobie, Thalia, and his parents, there were:
Chatsworth Osbourne, Jr.- a rich, spoiled, and party time brat who was quite likable and funny. He was often in competition with Dobie for a beautiful girl.
Maynard G. Krebs- Gilligan with a gotee. Always wore a scraggly sweatshirt with holes, loved jazz and bee-bop, would shirk when the word "work" was mentioned, and an even worse student than Dobie.
Zelda Gilroy- was a smart, brainy, scheming, and an unattractive girl who loved Dobie and was always outsmarting him by sabotaging his romances with more attractive girls.
Mrs. Osbourne- was Chatsworth's mother who called her son, "you nasty boy." She was a tyrant, who stirred things up with her son, Dobie, Maynard, and Mr. Gillis. Maynard called her "Your dragonship."
Mr. Pomfritt- was Dobie and Maynard's high school teacher and later professor in college. He played most of their teacher/professors and taught just about every subject that there was. He, like other teachers portrayed on the show, weren't the Leave it to Beaver type teachers. They often complained about being underpaid, under-appreciated, and the "younger generation."
I think the best parts of this series were seasons 1 and the first half of 2 (before they made ill-advised decision to put Dobie and Maynard in the army) and season 3. By season 3, Dobie and Maynard are in college. At this point, Dobie has matured. He does work in his father's store while going to school, but unfortunately, he is taking mostly liberal arts courses and is becoming an idealist. There were a lot of young, cute actresses appearing on the show each week in this season as Dobie's romantic interests. The show also began to focus more on Maynard and Herbert Gillis. Maynard was a beatnik character when the series began, but was becoming more a clownish type character with a gotee at this point. The silly and sometimes humorous and other times ridiculously over the top conflicts between these two were kind of a preview of the Gilligan/Skipper escapades that would be down the road. Personally, I prefer this show and Maynard's character over Gilligan. By season four, Dwayne Hickman had outgrown Dobie, and much of the episodes focused on his cousin, Duncan (Dunkie) Gillis and Maynard's silliness. In fact, Dobie seemed like the only character that wasn't eccentric at this point. Unfortunately, the too many of the episodes were becoming a little over the top at this point. Despite much of the last season, and the last half of the second, this show has a special charm that stands out from most of the others from that era. Some of the material is obviously dated by today's standards, but overall I think this show and the basic premise holds up quite well. I hope they make this entire series available on DVD soon. From what I understand, there are currently copywrite issues.
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