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Before There Was Willy Gilligan, There Was

In 1959 there premiered a TV series that was definitely ahead of its time and what's more, it lasted for four seasons. The unprepossessing title of this new series was The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

Starring Dwayne Hickman as Dobie, an easily lovestruck teenage boy cursed with frequent unrequited love and lower middle-class parents, and Bob Denver as his best friend Maynard G. Krebs, a genuine beatnik (look it up, kids), the series offered a rare intelligent look at the lives of teenagers, their angst, and culture of the late 1950's and early 1960's. From the IMDb:

It's a grand shame that very few people these days remember this fine sitcom about teenage life in the early 60s. Dwayne Hickman is endearing as simple-minded Dobie Gillis, the typical American teenager, who just wants a girl. Bob Denver is brilliant as his buddy, Maynard G. Krebs. Sheila James is fantastic as Zelda...always chasing after Dobie. Frank Faylen and Florida Friebus as Dobie's parents are too-oft forgotten for their parts on this show...they couldn't have gotten a better pair of actors.

There was some really sharp, funny writing on this series, and that, mixed with the snappy editing, jazzy soundtrack and over-the-top situations, made for some very funny episodes. Plenty of hip, jazzy lingo to go around. Lovely Tuesday Weld was also around for a number of episodes during the first season (and a couple later on) as Dobie's object of affection, Thalia Menninger. It's too bad that they couldn't keep her on for more sporadic appearances, because it is the episodes that she appears in, which I consider to be the zenith of the series. Without question, one of the high points of 1960s TV, and one of the most winning sitcoms of all time.

Sounds pretty good, eh? it must be said at once that it was Bob Denver's scenery-gnawing performance as Maynard G. Krebs, the allergic-to-work beatnik, that led to his being cast as Willy Gilligan the year after the series ended. And the rest, as they say, is history.

YouTube seems to have many if not all epodes and I have embedded a few below for your viewing pleasure. If nothing else, be on the lookout for Maynard's reaction to 'WORK!?!?', which occurs frequently.

Premier Episode

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Interesting how the producers went from an irritating, loud laugh-track in the first episode to more subdued audience tittering in later weeks. The stories by Max Shulman were warmer and more intelligent than the program, I thought.
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