S'More Entertainment has a winner in Good Morning World (1967-68), another interesting sitcom saved from oblivion thanks to insatiable consumer demand for TV shows on DVD and satellite/cable TV. Like another S'More/sfm Entertainment title, Lotsa Luck (1973-74), the show was the creation of writers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff (with supervision from Carl Reiner), then fresh off a fruitful stay on The Dick Van Dyke Show and a season into their maiden sitcom after that series had ended, the long-running That Girl. Good Morning World lasted just one season, and though it emulates The Dick Van Dyke Show's formula with mixed results, the series is pleasant and a decent follow-up for fans hungry for something similar.
Indeed, both onscreen and behind the camera, Good Morning World carries over many people associated with that earlier success. Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner executive produced the show, which the latter sometimes directed as well, with familiar actors like Ann Morgan Guilbert (Millie on D.V.D.) guest starring. Conversely, stars Joby Baker and Billy De Wolfe each had guest-starred on Dick Van Dyke.
Like that show, Good Morning World alternates roughly 50-50 between work and home, with Baker cast as David Lewis, one-half of the radio morning show team of Lewis & (Larry) Clarke (Ronnie Schell). The pair work for station owner Roland B. Hutton, Jr. (De Wolfe), while Lewis spends his evenings at home with wife Linda (Julie Parris), and single guy Clarke usually dates kooky girlfriend Sandy Kramer (Goldie Hawn, in her television debut).
The program's format and characters invite comparisons with The Dick Van Dyke Show. Basically, Clarke is a variation of Rob Petrie, with Linda his Laura, and Clarke a sort of combination Jerry Helper (wise-guy best pal) and Buddy Sorrell (professional collaborator constantly at odds with the boss). Sandy is like a flightier Millie, while Hutton is a fussy manager type in the Mel Cooley mold, though more prominent here.
Because the scripts offer much the same type of material (e.g., the Lewises reluctantly look after a prized poodle, similar to the D.V.D. episode that had guest-starred De Wolfe) it's hard, for example, not to watch Jody Baker and imagine how Dick Van Dyke might have interpreted the same material, and though Baker is perfectly fine, in the end he lacks Van Dyke's great versatility and the mild recognizable nerdiness (on display in shows like "Br-room-br-room") that endeared him to audiences as Rob Petrie. Schell comes off as mildly annoying as Clarke; his character is always "on," too shrill and jokey for audiences to warm up to.
Both De Wolfe and Parrish are a delight, however. He excelled playing fussy minor authority types in the Edward Everett Horton/Franklin Pangborn tradition, and uses that wonderfully fey, clipped delivery to good effect. Cute Julie Parrish doesn't appear to have been influenced by Mary Tyler Moore's star-making role as Laura Petrie; she brings her own personality to the role and makes it her own. Goldie Hawn's billing is pushed to the end titles, as a feature player much as Guilbert had been, but it's clear she was going places, and is featured more prominently in later episodes.
One problem with the series is that Lewis & Clarke's morning show, shown in little chunks in most every episode, isn't all that entertaining. The Dick Van Dyke Show's comedy writers were often seen brainstorming in their office, but the result of their labors, the comedy sketches of Alan Brady (Carl Reiner), were sometimes suggested but almost never actually shown. Lewis & Clarke's material, front-and-center as it is, doesn't work.
The fact that show's stories usually present themselves between on-air monologues creates another problem. The pair spends so much time chatting with one another or Mr. Hutton that the morning show setting becomes unrealistic - don't these guys have work to do? Adding to this air of unreality was a presumably legal and budgetary decision not use real popular music or reference real people in the business. Though based on Persky and Denoff's own experiences as disc jockeys, that part of the show ultimately isn't believable.
Video & Audio
Good Morning World was a three-camera sitcom shot in 35mm and in color. The episodes, presented in their original full frame aspect ratio, are not edited or time-compressed, and look fantastic. Though they show signs of age with some negative scratches, etc., their condition is very good, and the transfers are excellent. Six-to-seven half-hour shows are on each of the four discs. There are no subtitle options, and the English mono sound is fine.
Disc One includes a delightful 14-minute Ronnie Schell Interview with the actor looking much younger than his 75 years. He's very frank about the show's qualities and shortcomings, ultimately blaming a time slot that pitted the program against Tuesday Night at the Movies as the main reason for its cancellation. He also claims that star Joby Baker had trouble memorizing his lines (in several episodes, the actor does appear to be looking off camera, as if at cue cards), and that co-star Julie Parrish suffered a minor stroke between the time that the pilot was shot and the show went on the air, resulting in a loss of energy to her character that had not been anticipated.
Disc Two includes a five-minute Goldie Hawn Bio, which is okay but also shortchanges the other actors. Disc Three includes a Trivia Quiz, while Disc Four has a Family Tree (i.e., actor biographies) and a Photo Gallery (i.e., frame grabs).
In the end, Good Morning World is like Dick Van Dyke Show Lite. It falls well short of its predecessor, but is fairly good on its own terms, and S'More Entertainment deserves lots of credit for making a show like this available.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and Taschen's forthcoming Cinema Nippon. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.