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Dick Van Dyke,
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Debbie Thompson was an ordinary housewife who wanted desperately to become a newspaper reporter. Her husband Jim was a well-known sportswriter for the Los Angeles Sun, and was constantly being put on the spot by Debbie's schemes and plans to build a career for herself. The resemblance to "I Love Lucy" isn't coincidental, since this show was produced by "Lucy" writer Jess Oppenheimer. Debbie's sister Charlotte was Debbie's sidekick in her nutty plans, while brother-in-law Bob remained chagrin. Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
'The Debbie Reynolds Show' was possibly the most generic sitcom ever televised. It made its debut on American TV in September '69 and finished its inglorious run just less than a year later: 26 episodes, spread out over 50 weeks (with repeats and summer hiatus). In Britain, those same 26 episodes were compacted into a much briefer run, spanning January to mid-August 1970. I recall that the BBC (fully aware that 'The Debbie Reynolds Show' was nothing much) transmitted this series in the dead-awful schedule slot at 5.40 on Saturday afternoons. The Monty Python gang memorably parodied this series as 'The Attila the Hun Show', bootlegging a recording of Debbie Reynolds warbling 'With a Little Love', which was the bland theme song she'd actually recorded for her self-named sitcom.
Debbie Reynolds must take some of the blame for 'The Debbie Reynolds Show'. She supervised the (very derivative) scripts, and she personally approved all the sponsors' commercials! In 1969, it was still legal to advertise cigarettes on Yank TV: the R.J. Reynolds company wanted to advertise their cigarettes on the Debbie Reynolds show: Ms Reynolds personally turned them down ... but then, learning that the same corporation also made Mott's Apple Juice, she permitted them to air a Mott's spot instead.
'The Debbie Reynolds Show' is usually derided as a rip-off of 'I Love Lucy'. Reynolds is a much more talented performer than Lucille Ball ever was, yet this charge is accurate. Whereas the untalented Lucy Ricardo (played by the equally untalented Lucille Ball) was always pestering her conga-drummer husband to help her get into show business, here we had Debbie Reynolds as a former entertainer (named Debbie, of course) who gave up her glamorous showbiz career to get married, and now she's pestering her sportswriter husband to help her get a career in journalism. This premise lost something in its translation from 'I Love Lucy' to here. Success in showbiz is largely a matter of contacts, so it made sense for Lucy Ricardo to exploit her husband's connections. Success in journalism has more to do with hard work and the ability to meet a deadline: Debbie should have been pestering editors and publishers, instead of nagging her husband. Her sitcom husband is played here by Don Chastain, a tall actor with impossibly handsome features, a chiselled jaw and no discernible acting talent.
The 'Ethel Mertz' character here is Debbie's (fictional) sister. Tom Bosley is wasted in the 'Fred Mertz' role, given no ability to use his great talents in this thinly-written role. Their on screen son (Debbie's nephew) is played by a blond child actor of some genuine acting ability. The lacklustre direction is by Ezra Stone, who began his sitcom career as a child performer playing Henry Aldrich.
Even the scripts on this show were horribly derivative. One episode used a premise previously done by 'I Love Lucy' AND by 'The Dick Van Dyke Show': Debbie and her husband discover that, due to a legal technicality, their marriage was never legal. Until they can remarry, Debbie insists they should sleep in separate rooms. Her husband doesn't want to give up the bedroom, so they agree to flip a coin to see who has to sleep on the couch. Debbie tosses the coin, but 'accidentally' tosses it over her shoulder. When her husband bends down to see how the coin landed, Debbie lifts her foot to push him out of the bedroom and slam the door shut behind him.
Another episode featured an exact reversal of Lucy Ricardo's usual routine, with everybody else urging Debbie to get back into showbiz while she modestly refuses. A local charity are producing a benefit; Debbie's husband and her sister and her brother-in-law all urge Debbie to perform in the benefit, but she keeps insisting that her showbiz days are behind her. At the end of the episode (big surprise!) she changes her mind and performs a big musical number. Wearing clown make-up and costumes, Debbie and two men perform Cole Porter's 'Be a Clown'. One of the male clowns does a very stupid 'magic trick' in which he spits a dozen light bulbs out of his mouth, one at a time. This trick *would* be very impressive, except that we're obviously watching a looped film clip of this guy spitting out the same light bulb, over and over and over.
I'll rate 'The Debbie Reynolds Show' 3 points out of 10, and that's solely for my tremendous admiration of Debbie Reynolds as a performer. This sitcom was a very dim showcase for her considerable talents.
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