Fibber McGee & Molly: Back from Vacation—Gildy Says Goodbye (NBC, 1941)
The number one neighbourly nemesis (Harold Peary) of the Sage of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) is wrapping up his move to Summerfield, to oversee the estate of his orphaned niece and nephew, and said sage—freshly returned from summer vacation (“Home is a four-letter word meaning ‘no tipping’”)—may not necessarily be as glad to see his pompous pal go as you might think, until the subject of Gildersleeve’s perpetually-borrowed lawnmower comes up yet again.
It proves a brilliant move for Gildersleeve, however: The Great Gildersleeve will prove in very short order to be broadcasting’s first successful series spin-off, as the outsize-talented Peary enters into a new milieu of politics (becoming Summerfield’s water commissioner and mayoral aspirant), family (finishing the raising of niece Marjorie and nephew Leroy) friends (from imperious Judge Hooker to laconic druggist Peavey and wry barber Floyd), and paramours, Gildersleeve humanised from his pompous McGee persona into an earnestly bumbling ladies’ man and father figure who trips over his own inability to resist a charming woman and manages, one way or the other, to keep his sanity in spite of himself.
Peary will flourish in the role for a decade, maintaining high and solid ratings. Only a combination of dissatisfaction with feared stereotyping; perceived neglect of his considerable comic range (he is far more versatile a talent than Gildersleeve will allow at times); and, a drastic miscalculation of his actual value (he’ll only think he can get a bigger piece of Gildersleeve and lead the show to CBS, when he succumbs to the temptation of that network’s legendary talent raid), will lead to his walking away from a career-making role and, following a short-lived bid to refine his famous character into a new persona that proves too much Gildersleeve Lite, the end of his life as a major radio star.
Molly/Teeny: Marian Jordan. Mrs. Uppington: Amanda Randolph. Wimpole/The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, Martha Tilton, the King’s Men. Writer: Don Quinn.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
Gunsmoke: The Brothers (CBS, 1956)—Matt (William Conrad) and Chester (Parley Baer) are worried about Leif Tugwell (Vic Perrin), a one-time sharpshooting marshal and old friend, who may have run afoul of a hotshot young Texas tough (Sam Edwards) gunning for him in earnest over a perceived disrespect—and whose insidious disease leaves him unable to fire a gun at all. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Doc: Howard McNear. Announcer: George Fenneman. Music: Rex Khoury. Sound: Tom Hanley, Bill James. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writers: William Lester, John Meston.
Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network: Mr. District Defender (Guess! 1959)—The demonic duo take their whacks at radio legend Mr. District Attorney, after taking a flyer on some of their actual or alleged mail, answering questions about their baby telescope, and taking Wally Ballou’s report on an insurance fire from the Maine coast. Writers, so we’ve been told: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.