The first teen centric sitcom on TV follows the exploits of Dobie Gillis to secure money and girls- amply illustrating the concerns of post-war American youth. The plots are sometimes outlandish but the best episodes always contain a core of sincerity.
This is my favorite show of all time. So I am biased, what can I say.
The characters and situations contained in this lovely sitcom still resonate with contemporary concerns while remaining a time capsule of the late 1950's.
Of course the standout element is Maynard G. Krebs- the primary supporting character portrayed by Bob Denver. Krebs is a beatnik and his endearing qualities include his immense loyalty to Dobie and his fearless determination to follow his own drummer, however odd it may seem to the rest of the world. Maynard is my personal hero.
The second standout character is the wonderful Herbert T. Gillis, Dobie's father played with great élan by Frank Faylen. Frank was a vaudeville veteran and clearly relished his role and often stole scenes from the rest of the cast.
Dwayne Hickman was wonderful and charming as the young Dobie, but his performances became scattershot as the series progressed and his appearance changed dramatically. He gains weight, his hair darkens, and he looks like he's aged 15 years from the beginning of the series to the end.
Florida Friebus does a wonderful job as Dobie's mother Winnie as well.
Perhaps the most unusual character after Maynard has to be that of Zelda Gilroy- the mousey, homely girl who loves Dobie as much as he loves every OTHER girl in town. Played with wonderful verisimilitude by Sheila James.
The rest of the cast is generally above average as well. Much has been written about Tuesday Weld, and deservedly so. She positively glows. Future luminaries such as Warren Beatty, Yvonne Craig and a young Ron Howard also appear. There is also a wonderful cast of stock and character actors who many viewers will recognize from other shows such as Mel Blanc, Doris Packer, Jean Byron, William Schallert, and Steve Franken.
The best episodes have a wonderful core of realism to them addressing some genuine concern of a teenager of that (or any) time. Be it money, dating, friendship, loyalty, family, greed, temptation, etc. The sometimes absurd plots are always centered upon the character’s relationships with one another.
Even the most outlandish and poorly written episodes (and there are some) usually contain good performances from the cast and interesting interactions from them. As stated above Denver and Faylen both excel in this, often making a mediocre scene quite enjoyable and a good scene an absolute riot.
There is a wonderful sense of an era frozen in amber to the series, and in many ways it is the prototype for "Pleasantville" as much or more than The Andy Griffith Show or Leave It To Beaver or any of the other shows one generally thinks of.
It might just be when I first saw the show, as an awkward teenager in the mid 80's, but The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis changed my life, and in many ways saved it. I really learned all I need to know from Maynard- be yourself, be loyal, and be sincere.
I would recommend the series to anyone who is a teenager, a fan of teen comedies, the 1950’s, television history, or Bob Denver.
The show was well written and conceived by Max
Schulman and director Rod Amateau who were well ahead of their time in many ways, though the episodes with Thalia (Tuesday Weld) were quite brilliantly written as a showcase for cult actress Weld whos
As I mention, most of the shows were awkward and only were well written when not playing it too cutesy. The characters created especially by Schulman and director Amateau,were over the top, except that of the charater Thalia, and Milton Armitage,(Warren Beatty) They were superb, witty inteligently written and performed.
Growing up, I remember watching reruns of "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" on Saturday mornings, just a few years after it finished its network run. I was always fascinated by the young man standing in front of the replica of Rodin's "The Thinker" telling us about the ups and downs of his teenage life. Then years went by before I saw the show again, and when I began watching the shows as they went along from high school life to (briefly) military life and finally to college life, I saw an interesting transformation of the show.
The early episodes of the program were sharp and wrily observant, more imaginative than your average teen comedy, partly because of the edge brought to it by the "far-out" character of Maynard G. Krebs, brilliantly played by Bob Denver, and partly because of Dobie's less than stereotypically benign parents--on what other show would a father express a wish to murder his own son?
Then at some point the show became much more of a stereotype of its age, always ending with a little moral lesson, and not as funny as the show had previously been. I can't at the moment remember if this coincided with the military episodes, of which there were mercifully few, but it seems that those episodes were a part of that.
Then in around its last season, there was another change: the morals were dropped, and the show became even sharper than it was to start. The pacing reached breakneck speed, faster than almost any other show I've ever seen, and it attained a level of hilarity unlike the other sitcoms that were prevalent in the early 60s. Those last episodes are my favorite, and they alone would make The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" a classic.
The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis ran from 1959-63 on CBS and it provided quite a few laughs along the way. It also provided the jumping board for the careers of future A-list stars Warren Beatty and Tuesday Weld. Beatty and Weld appeared in the show's first season as creepy rich kid Milton Armitage and bombshell Thalia Menninger. Dobie Gillis was also the first series to showcase the comedic talents of Bob Denver who stole the show as beatnik and slacker Maynard G. Krebs. The "G" stood for Walter by the way.
Dobie Gillis was a good show for it's time and it still holds up pretty well when viewed today. I thought it lost its way a little when it had Dobie and Maynard go into the Army but to its credit that storyline was soon rectified and our protagonists were sent off to college where they belonged. I also didn't like the fact that Tuesday Weld was dropped after Season One when moralists complained about her character. It would have been nice had she been brought back for at least a few episodes in the show's subsequent seasons.
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