This light and fluffy sitcom changed formats and producers almost every season. Originally it was about widow Doris Martin and her two young sons who left the big city for the quiet and peace of her family's ranch, which was run by her dad Buck and ranchhand Leroy. Later Doris, Buck and sons Billy and Toby moved to San Francisco, where Doris got a job as a secretary to bumbling magazine publisher Michael Nicholson. In Season Three, the Martin family moved into an apartment above the Paluccis' Italian restaurant, and Doris began writing features for Today's World magazine. Finally, the kids, family, Nicholson, the Paluccis' and all other cast members vanished, and Doris became a single staff writer for Today's World, where her new boss was stentatorial-voiced Cy Bennett. Written by
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THE DORIS DAY SHOW (CBS, 1968-73), stars Doris Day in her only weekly comedy series. An actress whose screen career lasted twenty years (1948-1968), ranging from musicals, comedies and heavy dramas, at this point. By 1968, her career was virtually over, until finding herself working for the little screen called television.
THE DORIS DAY SHOW, premiering on CBS in September of 1968, opens with her signature theme song, "Que Sera Sera." The first season finds the widowed Doris Martin (Doris Day), living with her white haired, bearded father, Buck Webb (Denver Pyle) on the family ranch with her two blond-haired sons, Billy (Philip Brown) and Toby (Todd Starke), the little guy with a buck tooth. With similarities to the recent TV show, GREEN ACRES, Doris is a city girl now back on the farm. Supporting her father is the hired hand country boy, LeRoy B. Simpson (James Hampton). There's also a housekeeper, Aggie (Fran Ryan), and later Juanita (Naomi Stevens). The first season followed the tradition of other sit-coms of that time, sugar sweetness with country humor, never rising above the number one TV show of that time, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. The second season found Doris Martin still living on the farm, but now commuting to San Francisco and working as a secretary for Mr. Nicholson (MacLean Stevenson) at TODAY'S WORLD MAGAZINE. Also in support is Myrna Gibbons (Rose Marie, best known as Sally Rogers in THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW). Rose Marie became an added plus in the show, although her character, a single woman always looking for the Mr. Right, was actually no different from her role on Van Dyke's show. Myrna and Doris were given a second banana character in the carnation of Ron Harvey (Paul Smith), a bachelor co-worker on the trail of beautiful female companionship. With this change, the show was slowly finding itself. For season three, Doris moves from her father's farm, taking her the boys and their sheepdog, Lord Nelson, to an apartment in San Francisco over an Italian restaurant run by Angie and Louie Palucci (Kaye Ballard and Bernie Kopell). Doris continues to work at TODAY'S WORLD MAGAZINE. Denver Pyle, no longer a series regular, appeared occasionally mostly in guest spots. While still working woman, Doris manages to find quality time with her boys. Up to this time, THE DORIS DAY SHOW improved, showing both humor and heart to the character and plots, but it was still trying to find itself.
As a youngster growing up during this period, I always enjoyed programs like this, especially whenever they included kids. The big change came with seasons four and five when Mrs. Doris Martin, still working at TODAY'S WORLD MAGAZINE and living in the same apartment on top of Palucci's Italian Restaurant, becomes Miss Doris Martin, a bachelor girl. The format shifted gears, eliminating the Martin boys, their dog, and contradicting everything from the previous seasons. Regardless, the show finally found itself. Of course there were occasional characters reprising their roles from the previous seasons, namely Kaye Ballard, Van Johnson and Billy DeWolfe (hilarious as Mr. Jarvis), so obviously this is the same character and same show with different format. Another difference, being true to life, is Doris now working as a staff writer for a new boss, Cy Bennett (the mustached John Dehner), supported by new co-worker pal, Jackie (Jackie Joseph). Changing her employer from a handsome and easy-going man to a stuffy middle-aged miser was a fine change, which found Doris at wits with her stingy boss. The final two seasons is the format that lasted the longest.
This new format would have worked had Doris Martin remained what she has been previously. Having the boys mentioned as being sent away to boarding school would have explained the emptiness of her apartment. It's surprising it wasn't renamed THE NEW DORIS DAY SHOW. What did happen was Doris Day succeeded in making this dramatic change work. For most, the working girl/family episodes from the second and third seasons are the best. The worst episodes are those with Doris as the only model in the annual fashion shows. A musical show showcasing Doris's fine singing voice would have been preferable, almost as nostalgic as the two Christmas episodes (1970 and 1971) which made them so enjoyable. One episode I remember most but like the least is "Young Love" from Season Three, where Doris appears in the opening segment, comforting a troubled teen named April (played by Meredith Baxter), who tells her story via flashback, taking up the entire episode. In Seasons Four and Five, Doris Martin found a romantic love interest, a middle-aged doctor, played by silver-haired Peter Lawford.
An episode, which I feel might be the one closest to Doris Day's heart, is the one in which she goes on trial for releasing a group of dogs locked in an automobile parked in the hot sun with shut windows. After being taken to court by the owner, she, of course, gets acquitted following her plea in the courtroom for the safety of dogs and other creatures, and her willingness to do what she did again even if it meant serving jail time. No doubt this could be Doris Day's personal favorite since it's more Doris Martin being Doris Day, an animal rights activist.
All episodes of THE DORIS DAY SHOW were produced on film and in color. Interestingly, seldom revived in syndication. Unseen on cable since the 1980s, all 128 episodes are currently available on DVD.
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