Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Birthday, Margie!

In the heyday of classic TV, the month of June was usually marked by the arrival of summer replacement shows. Many would run a few weeks between June and August, never to be seen again. But others developed into popular hits that found a home on the regular year-round schedule.

One of my favorite summer replacement shows was My Little Margie, starring Gale Storm and Charles Farrell, which premiered (get ready!) 62 years ago today, on June 16, 1952. Critical response to the show was mixed, not helped by the fact that it was CBS' summer replacement for I Love Lucy. Lucy's first, groundbreaking season, when it became TV's top-rated show, set the bar high for whatever took its place, even temporarily. But if critics weren't enamored, viewers were. As Miss Storm herself would later say of her show, "Nobody likes it but the people." Given its popularity, the show had no difficulty lining up a sponsor for fall; it ultimately ran for three years, and produced 126 episodes. Once My Little Margie had run its course, Gale Storm returned to TV in 1956 for The Gale Storm Show: Oh, Susanna!, which lasted from 1956 to 1960.

Some years ago, when I was writing The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars from 1950s Sitcoms, I had the privilege of doing two telephone interviews with Miss Storm. She was lively, funny, and generous with her time. It was easy to see how she had charmed movie, television, and theater audiences over the course of her long career -- as she still does today, whenever we have the chance to enjoy her work.

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