DAVID BIANCULLI

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1955: 'Mr. Peepers' Ends its Three-Season Run
June 12, 2017  | By David Bianculli
 

The delicate little sitcom Mr. Peepers, starring the equally delicate and little Wally Cox, launched or furthered the careers of several gifted comedic character actors. Cox, as meek science teacher Robinson Peepers, was aided and abetted in this classy live TV production by the likes of Jack Warden, Marion Lorne, and, most notably of all, Tony Randall.

Some elements of Mr. Peepers, such as the protagonist’s continual bouts with seemingly animated inanimate objects, were close to the playfulness of Ernie Kovacs; others, such as Mr. Peepers’s patient removal of an endless array of straight pins when unwrapping a new shirt, are much closer to the found humor in everyday minutiae of Seinfeld, a few TV generations later.

Most plot lines were, by design, minor, but one was major: the wedding of Mr. Peepers to Patricia Benoit’s Nancy Remington, the school nurse who in 1954 became Mrs. Peepers. That TV event caused almost as big a stir as had the birth of Little Ricky on I Love Lucy the year before, and established TV weddings as no less reliable a publicity stunt than TV births.

Despite thousands of letters and phone calls protesting its announced demise, Mr. Peepers was canceled after its initial eight-week summer season, and reinstated only after another NBC series proved an immediate disaster when the fall season began. (Ultimately, the show ran three seasons, ending on this day in 1955.) NBC should have known what a talented cast, quality series, and loyal fan base it had in Mr. Peepers — but in the network’s defense, this audience-measurement miscalculation took place long before the invention of Peeper meters.

—Excerpted from Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses and Events

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is available on Amazon for $20. (Paperback will be available September 5th, here.)

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post

 

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