Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Many Incarnations of Dobie Gillis (Conclusion)

Though The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis left first-run TV in 1964, it still lives on... the "inspiration" for the Scooby-Doo crew in their newest series, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!, coming in Fall 2015 on Boomerang!
Just as "The Honeymooners set in prehistoric times" served as the thematic basis for The Flintstones, "Dobie Gillis & friends (along with a talking dog) solving crimes" was the basis for every Scooby-Doo series (over a dozen since 1969, plus two live-action feature films and numerous tv-movies, both animated and live-action)
The parallels are obvious:
Fred (handsome, athletic, slightly dense) = Dobie
Shaggy (lazy, slang-using) = Maynard
Daphne (beautiful) = Thalia
Velma (brainy, frumpy) = Zelda
Note that this proposal was the second version of the concept pitched to the networks.
The first one, based on the concept of "The Archies (the cartoon musical group who had been on the air for a year) and a talking dog (not Hot Dog) solving crimes" had been rejected!
The detailed, well-researched explanation can be found HERE.
But, wait!
There's more!
An urban legend postulates that Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was actually a reworked Archie tv series proposal!
Interesting idea...except that Dobie was based on Max Shulman's previously-published stories.
Plus, Dobie's premise was to have numerous girlfriends...hence the name "Many Loves of..."
An idea reinforced in the pilot's epilogue (which was cut when the show actually aired, since it was meant to be seen only by network executives and potential sponsors...
BTW, you may note two performers with sci-fi/fantasy connections:
Dobie's older brother is Ron Ely who would later play Tarzan, Doc Savage, and the Golden Age Superman.
(When Dobie was greenlighted, Dwayne Hickman's real-life older brother Darryl Hickman played Dobie's reel-life older brother who appeared in several first-season episodes, then disappeared!)
And the dark-haired girl is Yvonne Craig aka Barbara Gordon/Batgirl from the 1960s tv series!
(Yvonne appeared five times on Dobie, more than any other non-regular, each time as a different girl!)
While there had been a successful Archie radio series, there was no Archie tv pilot produced until 1964, the year Dobie went off the air.
The pilot didn't sell.
There was also a 1976 pilot that would've starred David Caruso as Archie, but he was replaced at the last minute before filming began.
You can see the details of the two pilots (as well as the 1964 pilot itself HERE.
And now for the kicker...
In 1999, a new animated series debuted about a group of teenagers investigating unusual happenings and crimes.
No, it wasn't one of the many Scooby-Doo series, though there was a new animated tv-movie that year!
It was...
You'll note Jughead's use of Shaggy's catchphrase...on the cover, yet!
The show ran only one year (plus reruns).
The spin-off comic outlived it by two years!
To recap, Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (supposedly inspired by Archie) inspired Scooby-Doo, which, in turn, inspired Archie's Weird Mysteries!
Reality is stranger than fiction!
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Many Incarnations of Dobie Gillis (Part 2)

As we showed yesterday...
Dobie received his own title from DC Comics in 1960, six months after the show debuted.
Written by DC's hippest writer, Arnold Drake, and illustrated by their best caricaturist, Bob Oksner, the mag reflected the mindset and attitude of the tv series pretty closely.
But, perhaps for licensing reasons, only Dobie, Maynard, Dobie's parents, and original girlfriend Thalia (played by Tuesday Weld) appeared in the comics!
(When Tuesday Weld left the show, Thalia also disappeared from the comic!)
No Zelda!
No Milton Armitage! (played by Warren Beatty in his first steady gig)
No Chatsworth (who replaced Milton as Dobie's nemesis)
None of the colorful supporting cast from the series!
Running for 26 issues (and outlasting the show by almost a year), you'd think the comics would go the way of most tv/movie comic adaptations and disappear from sight, never to be seen again.
That's not quite how it went.
Five years later, DC wanted to go head-to-head with Archie Comics with teen-themed titles and felt the Dobie stories could work if they were "updated" with current hairstyles and fashions.
The idea had proven successful with romance comics, where they (and Marvel, and other companies) had been doing that to fill out the books with a new story up front with older (and cheaper, since they weren't paying reprint fees) stories in back as shown HERE!
But, DC had let the license for the Dobie Gillis characters expire since the show was cancelled.
Since they were modifying the art anyway, the editors just renamed the characters!
In addition, "beatniks" became "hippies", and other cultural references were also updated.
With new covers based on the earlier cover jokes (like the Dobie original and Windy re-do covers above), DC launched Windy and Willy in their own book.
Note: "Windy" is the revised Maynard,  so he finally gets top billing over Dobie aka Willy!
Many Loves of Dobie Gillis #20
Windy & Willy #3
Despite the economical updating, Windy and Willy lasted only four issues.
You'd think that would have been the last attempt to recycle the Dobie Gillis concept.
Hoo boy, would you be wrong!
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Monday, May 25, 2015

The Many Incarnations of Dobie Gillis

What do Dobie Gillis and M*A*S*H's Hawkeye Pierce have in common...
...besides being the lead characters in 1950s-set series currently running on MeTV?
They both began life as characters in prose tales, then appeared in movies based on that prose, and finally on long-running TV series based, not on the movies, but the original stories!
Noted humor writer Max Shulman conceived a college-age Dobie Gillis for a series of short stories in Cosmopolitan and The Saturday Evening Post which were gathered into a best-selling anthology called (suprise!) The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
A couple of tales were adapted into a 1953 movie starring singer Bobby Van as Dobie, Debbie Reynolds as girlfriend Pansy Hammer, and dancer/choreographer Bob Fosse as Dobie's best friend, Charlie Trask.
If you're not familar with the flick, it's understandable.
It didn't do well in theatres, didn't do well on VHS, and is currently available only as a limited-run dvd.
George Burns (of Burns and Allen and Oh, God! fame) optioned Dobie for TV, hoping to produce a star vehicle for his son, Ronnie.
Shulman, less than impressed with Ronnie Allen's talent (or lack thereof), stalled until the option expired, then took the idea to NBC, making the characters high-schoolers instead of college students, and with a kid in the lead who had recently made an impression on teenage audiences on Love That Bob aka The Bob Cummings Show..
The astute among you will note the article above lists CBS, not NBC.
That's because NBC turned the show down, then CBS bought it!
(Thought I'd made a typo, eh?)
The show also introduced a brand-new character to replace dull Charlie Trask as Dobie's best friend...
...Bob Denver as Maynard G Krebs, TV's first ongoing beatnik!
Maynard, like Fonzie on Happy Days and Kramer on Seinfeld, quickly became the show's "breakout" character, with his catch phrases entering the pop culture lexicon and episodes written to showcase him instead of Dobie!
BTW, contrary to popular belief, this was not Denver's first professional acting gig...
As hard as it is to believe in an era when half of scripted tv shows feature tweens/teens/young adults (under 25s) as series leads or title characters, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was the first network prime-time TV series with a high schooler (and his friends) as the primary characters!
The show was told from the teen/young adult point of view, and the sarcastic (even snarky) dialogue usually gave the kids the final word with the adults.
Creator/producer Shulman also decided to let the characters age at a normal rate, instead of keeping them high schoolers forever.
The first season showed Dobie and friends as seniors in high school
The second had them graduating and Dobie and Maynard being drafted into the Army.
The third season featured Dobie and Maynard receiving their military discharges and entering college.
The fourth and final season continued their college careers (such as they were) as well as introducing surreal storylines that wouldn't have been out of place several years later on The Monkees.
After the show was cancelled, there were several attempts at sequels and spinoffs, but none of them sold.
MeTV is running the show Sunday mornings at 5 and 5:30 am Eastern.
Set your DVR and recapture the fun of the show that paved the way for teen-oriented series like The Facts of Life and (shudder) Reign.
But don't hold that against Dobie...
This post is part of...
 Click HERE for a complete list of links to other retro-kool entries! Maynard would say, "it's kool, dad!"