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Bill Dana's comic creation José Jiménez first appeared on Steve Allen's
TV show, and swiftly became extremely popular. Jimenez was a Mexican
immigrant, somewhat bemused by life in the U.S.A. but eager to join in.
Dana got so much mileage from this one character that he became one of
those performers - other examples are Paul Rubens (Pee Wee Herman) and
Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci) - entirely known to the public in
the guise of one fictional character, rather than in his own right.
Inevitably, there were some complaints (from Latinos in general and
Mexicans in particular) that Jose Jimenez is an ethnic stereotype. This
is simply unfair. Jose Jimenez is honest, hard-working. He has some
trouble speaking English, but he is naive and uneducated rather than
stupid or gormless. In many ways, Jose Jimenez is a south-of-the-border
version of Gomer Pyle.
Jose Jimenez's origins were in brief skits and spoof 'man in the street' interviews on Steve Allen's show. 'The Bill Dana Show' was an attempt to place the popular Jimenez character at the centre of a weekly sitcom. This series had some genuine potential, with a good premise and a splendid supporting cast, and might have succeeded if it had possessed better scripts. Each episode began promisingly, with a marimba band playing the show's theme tune in rapid three-quarter time.
Bill Dana remained firmly in character as Jose Jimenez, who for purposes of this sitcom was a bellboy in a California hotel. Working on the same shift was his bellboy buddy Eddie. There was some good interplay between the naive, trusting Jose and the cynical Eddie, with Eddie always trying to recruit Jose into his schemes and always eager to explain to Jose the 'right' way to do things in America. Pop singer Gary Crosby showed real acting talent in his role as Eddie.
For modern viewers, the most intriguing aspect of 'The Bill Dana Show' is that the supporting cast featured dry runs for two characters who later became fixtures in their own respective series. Don Adams (a longtime friend of Dana) played the hotel's house detective Glick. Adams played this character with the same crotchets and vocal delivery that he would later employ so successfully as Maxwell Smart in 'Get Smart'. The hotel's pompous manager, Mr Phillips, was played by Jonathan Harris in the same snooty supercilious mode that he later used as the villainous Dr Zachary Smith in 'Lost in Space'.
There were no surprises in 'The Bill Dana Show'. One episode, absolutely typical, began with bellboys Jose and Eddie making a mistake that threatened to make trouble for the hotel. Jose was in favour of confessing their error to manager Phillips, but fast-talking Eddie convinced Jose that they should lie their way out of it. Of course, the lie gets out of hand and grows to unmanageable proportions. Eventually, Jose and Eddie discover that their original mistake had unexpected dividends: if they had only been truthful from the beginning, they would have come up trumps. This prompted Eddie to tell Jose: "You be honest Abe Lincoln, and I'll be George Washington who never told a lie." When Jose agreed to this, Eddie added: 'Now you get ready to kick me across my bridge.' The episode ended with Eddie bent over and Jose about to kick him. This sort of strained dialogue and unfunny humour was absolutely typical of this series, unfortunately.
To vary the monotony of Jose in a bellhop's uniform, working in a hotel, there were occasional episodes in which Jose would daydream that he had some other, more glamorous (and more dangerous) job of work, such as a deep-sea diver or an astronaut. (Dana had already released a successful comedy album featuring an astronaut routine.) This daydream device was later copied by "Gilligan's Island", giving Gilligan occasional chances to vary the castaway scripts by fantasising that he was a spy or somesuch.
It might be interesting to release one episode of 'The Bill Dana Show' on home video - mostly for its curiosity value, and to give us a glimpse of Don Adams and Jonathan Harris before their stardom - but this series as a whole was poorly written and unfunny.
Writer-comedian Bill Dana,whose character Jose Jimenez had a very
successful career on records and in nightclubs following its creation
on "The Steve Allen Show",during the 1950's and into the early 1960's.
Bill Dana brought his character to life for this series which is a spin
off of Danny Thomas' "Make Room For Daddy",in which Bill Dana was a
frequent guest star. The short-lived series "The Bill Dana Show",was
one of the Sheldon Leonard-Danny Thomas produced shows that lasted a
season and a half on NBC-TV from September 22,1963 until January
17,1965. Only 23 episodes were made all in black and white. The same
writers and producers who were behind "The Andy Griffith Show","The
Dick Van Dyke Show","Make Room For Daddy",and "The Joey Bishop
Show",were behind this series which was produced by Danny Thomas and
Jack Elinson along with Sheldon Leonard,who served as executive
producer along with Ronald Jacobs.
Jose Jimenez(Bill Dana)was a Mexican immigrant who worked as a bellhop at the Park Central Hotel,a plush upscale hotel in New York City. Not only did he worked there,it was practically his entire world since he lived in special bachelor quarters provided for hotel employees,ate in the hotel kitchen and had social contact only with employees and guests of the hotel. In his goodhearted naivete he only saw the good in the people around him. Sometimes,he was known to be sort of a bumbling mishap when it came to taking care of situations that may occur within the hotel. Bill Dana's character of Jose Jimenez was the down south-of-the-border version of Gomer Pyle. His biggest concerns were the employees who worked around him,which was his fellow bellhop Eddie(Gary Crosby) who was trying constantly to get him to wise up:however his troubles usually ended up confronted with the less-than-understanding hotel manager,the strictly by the book and uppity forward Mr. Phillips(Jonathan Harris,in a prototype character he would take onward as the slimy,strictly by the book,and deliciously evil/cowardly Dr. Zachery Smith on Lost In Space);and the not-too-bright bumbling hotel detective Byron Glick(Don Adams,in a prototype character he would soon be playing on Get Smart). Walter Mitty-like dream sequences were occasionally used to extricate Jose from his hotel environment,which ended up with hilarious results. Also on-board this series was the show's secretary/receptionist/guest services host Susie(who was played by Maggie Peterson,who was also portrayed Charlene Darling in several episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show").
Out of all the cast of characters,actor Gary Crosby lasted one season. The show hasn't been since it was cancelled in 1965. However,repeated episodes of this series ended up on CBN Cable Network(Christian Broadcasting Network)back in the mid-1980's when the network ran all 23 episodes. And it hasn't been seen since.
Comic Bill Dana was a whole lot like Vaughn Meader in terms of having
the character pull his career right out from under him. Just as Meader
saw his career crash and burn after the assassination of John F.
Kennedy when his act became unwanted overnight, Dana was subject to a
lot of criticism from Latino groups. These were the years that Cesar
Chavez was emerging as a major figure in American life and also when
Black groups succeeded in getting Amos and Andy syndicated reruns off
the air because they saw it as caricatures from white people.
So too with Dana's character Jose Jimenez which he originated on the Steve Allen Show. While it lasted Jose gave Dana a one note career and some stardom. Which manifested itself in The Bill Dana Show.
Dana's Jose played a bellhop in a big city hotel who was a hard working guy, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and was continually having his friend and fellow bellhop Gary Crosby get him in trouble. Crosby was an operator of the first magnitude. Given his involvement you can absolutely take to the bank that somewhere was the influence of Poppa Bing on behalf of the son who turned on him posthumously in the production of The Bill Dana Show.
Pressure from Latino groups got this show canceled which wasn't drawing those good ratings in any event. Jose was not a character capable of sustaining a thirty minute comedy show built around him.
Two other people got to try out some shtick that was put to good use later on. Don Adams played the bungling house detective Glick and you can see more than traces of Maxwell Smart in his performance. And Jonathan Harris who did this show between The Third Man series and Lost In Space played the supercilious hotel manager who was forever foiling Crosby's schemes involving Dana. He was condescending in this role, but had a streak of kindness towards Dana, otherwise he would have canned the poor schnook. If you watch Disney's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody you can see a lot of Harris's character in that of Phill Lewis as Mr. Mosby the hotel manager of the Boston Tipton Hotel.
But like Vaughn Meader's Kennedy impersonation, Dana's Jose was banned due to circumstances beyond his control. Although Dana became a respected character actor, Jose Jimenez became his 15 minutes of fame.
This show was well-acted and well-written. Jose is a well-meaning emigrant who due to mistaken identity ends up as a bell-hop at a posh hotel. His best friend, Eddie is well played by Gary Crosby in what may be his best performance. Don Adams is a pre-Maxwell Smart, even using trademark dialogue such as, "Would you believe...?" Jonathan Harris is extremely energetic in this show, and with a little imagination, you could almost see him yelling at the robot from "Lost In Space" with the same exasperation he yells at Jose. Interestingly enough, Bill Dana played Agent 13 in Don Adams' "The Nude Bomb."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was nine years old and a new comedy show was on the air. The show was
named for it's star, but the fact was that the public knew the star
from his "stage"/"television" persona - it really should have been
called "The Jose Jimenez Show".
Some stereotypes are not meant to be offensive, but eventually are considered that way. Bill Dana created a character named "Jose Jimenez" on the old Steve Allen TONIGHT show. The character was part of Steve Allen's regular troop of characters, frequently popping up in his "Man on the Street" interviews. There was the nervous Don Knotts, constantly shaking at the interviewer and his cameraman, and saying "Noop" instead of "Nope". There was Louis Nye as "Gordon Hathaway", the overly smooth hipster who always addresses his questionnaire as "Stevarino". Tom Poston was a slow witted type, constantly having problems with the questions. The long forgotten (unjustly I felt) Dayton Allen would begin his complicated answers with, "WHY NOT!!". And there was Dana, using a "Mexican" accent as "Jose Jimenez", who in a quiet and gentle manner would try to answer the question in his broken English, frequently making a ridiculous point that most of us never thought of.
Dana's opening line "My nam' Jose Jimenehs...' became a minor catch phrase of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Unfortunately it would go the way of the "Frito Bandito" and other Latino stereotypes after about 1967 or so. As a partial backlash from the more vocal Latino community (being spurred on by the Civil Rights movement, as were feminists, gay rightists, and other minorities), these figures - even if meant as relatively harmless - were seen as bad as "Amos and Andy" were. So the characterization was doomed anyway. Therefore, in retrospect, Mr. Dana getting his own television show may be considered his high point.
I have to agree it was not a well written show, and it really only gets a "6" from me because of the performances of it's three main leads: Dana, Gary Crosby, and Jonathan Harris. Occasionally Don Adams added his comic abilities, but he did not appear as frequently. Set in a hotel, Dana/"Jimenez" and Crosby were bellboys, and Harris the hotel manager. Although one of the other comments suggested Harris like "Jimenez", in truth he found "Jimenez" constantly getting into his hair due to his involvement with Crosby's wild schemes. Crosby would usually have a scheme that would get him a date or some money, and would ask "Jimenez" to assist him, and "Jose" would reluctantly be drawn into it, but would find his own ass in a sling as a result. But he would drive the pompous Harris (honing the domineering tones of Dr. Zachary Smith quite well) up the wall.
In one episode that I can recall, Crosby's scheme deals with hiding a large animal (an elephant I believe) in the hotel without Harris finding out. He convinces "Jimenez" to help "gaslight" Harris, making him believe he is hallucinating or failing to see things (one of the funny bits in the episode is Harris repeatedly trying to act as though nothing is happening to him, but also holding onto walls and banisters to support himself in his illness!). The climax is that Dana and Crosby and the elephant are on the hotel's sun roof when Harris comes upon them. Harris is wondering what the elephant is doing on the roof when they convince there is no elephant, but the distant Empire State Building. Remembering previous hallucinations he has had, Harris is buying this, when some other people turn up on the roof, and ask him what the elephant is doing there. "Oh, that's not an elephant, but the Empire State Building!" he announces, before it dawns on him that they are seeing the same thing he just thought he saw.
It was, as another account on the thread suggests, bad writing that hurt the show. It was not that the show could not rise, but it rose above due to the three or four leads. Dana is actually a good character actor (you may recall he had a running role on THE GOLDEN GIRLS as Estelle Getty's younger brother...and he was quite funny in the role). In one episode his so-called stereotype actually showed some gumption. An episode dealt with the problem that "Jose" and Gary Crosby have with a spoiled heiress at the hotel. Besides the normal demands she puts on their service, she's mean enough to play humiliating pranks on them for her and her friends entertainment. Finally, "Jose" actually (if in his gentle manner) tells her off to the extent of being a spoiled brat. In the episode Harris has tried to keep the staff in line about accepting this brat's behavior until she leaves, so when "Jose" tells her off he lectures "Jose" about not insulting the guests. As it turns out, the girl's father shows up and thanks "Jose" for not being like so many other employees: being too obsequious to his bratty daughter. Harris of course is amazed by this turn about.
It was not a great series, but it certainly had a few good moments due to its leads. It also showed us (briefly) that Gary Crosby had some of his dad's acting talents (his manipulations of "Jose" remind me of Bing's manipulations of Bob Hope in the ROAD pictures). Unfortunately, unlike Harris, Adams, and Dana there was no real follow up for Gary, who made news before he died by trashing his old man in a memoir.
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