I love vintage TV, but to be honest, after the second episode of Good Morning, World, I was ready to bail. There was something wrong with it that I just couldn't put my finger on, but frankly, I was too bored to care about figuring it out. But, pressing on, after the fourth or fifth episode, I found myself perking up a little, with the characters starting to grow on me. The sitcom plots, while a tad silly, were aided by some clever lines, as well. While by no means a forgotten classic, Good Morning, World is a good, solid little show that deserved a few more years on TV -- it was canceled after just one season.
Dave Lewis (Joby Baker) and Larry Clarke (Ronnie Schell) are smart, funny morning DJ's for a small AM radio station in the Los Angeles area. Their act consists of throw-away bits, fast patter, and comic commercials in between the records they play. Making their life difficult is station owner and manager Roland B. Hutton, Jr. (Billy De Wolfe), an officious autocrat who takes a particular disliking to Larry. On the home front, Dave lives in a comfortable apartment in the Valley, and is married to lovely, sweet Linda (Julie Parrish), while Larry plays the field - until he becomes engaged to Dave and Linda's upstairs neighbor, Sandy (Goldie Hawn).
Created by former The Dick Van Dyke Show producers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff (as well as executive produced by TV geniuses Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner), Good Morning, World has a behind-the-camera pedigree that most shows would have killed for. And for the most part, it succeeds as a worthy successor to the Van Dyke show. There's certainly a noticeable progression from the suburban sophistication of Van Dyke's New Rochelle, to the Valley's fun-loving California lifestyle of Lewis and Clarke's. It's obvious that the producers wanted to create a show for bright, affluent new viewers who would respond to the young leads and their upscale adventures. While some critics like to slag off 1960s network TV as being escapist and inane (citing shows like I Dream of Jeannie and The Munsters - which by the way, I don't agree with), the world of Good Morning, World isn't that far from the fluff of Major Nelson and 1313 Mockingbird Lane. After all, you have two guys who have what seems like a dream job (goofing on the radio for a few minutes in between records) that lasts four hours a day, with two lovely girls for companions, residing in spacious, modern living quarters, while they enjoy the "good life" in California, including outings for tennis, flight lessons, football games, swimming, and Hollywood film premieres. How many people (of the few who actually did tune in to Good Morning, World) lived lives like that in 1967?
And there's nothing wrong with that goal. We all watch TV for different reasons, but I suspect most of us watch TV most nights for a little escapist entertainment. It may make us laugh, or make us think, but if we look critically at most of the stuff on television (even today's supposedly hard-hitting dramas), we'd see that TVland is fantasyland, pure and simple. And Good Morning, World succeeds on that level. The plots are familiar to anyone who's watched TV before, and you won't be surprised by the denouement of any of the stories, but there's some clever writing going on here, and an obvious attempt to make something sophisticated and light. From the hipster "ad campaign," jazzy opening (the music of Dave Grusin), we're treated to a view of radio when it was still, for lack of a better description, "newly crazy." Radio used to be disc jockeys who had to prove their worth by being witty, rather than smutty; radio used to have a feeling that anything could happen. As well, this was the period in time when the "anti-commercial" was first popular, when a DJ or TV commercial actually poked fun at the product, in order to make it stand out (something that's so prevalent today we hardly can remember a time when it wasn't). And Good Morning, World does a nice job of conveying that time and place. I rather liked Lewis and Clarke's little comedy routines (there aren't many in the show, though - the domestic portions of their lives take up most of the show), with Baker and Schell showing good chemistry working together. Baker does well with funny voices and imitations, and Schell can get off a smart-ass line with the best of them ("That was the voice of Duke Vincent, who's achieved the dream of every star-struck kid in Hollywood: the power to destroy people!"). While some people have said it's too bad Schell and Baker couldn't poke fun at real bands during their bits (probably for legal reasons), I find the necessity to make up new bands a real bonus for more gags ("That was Roy and Bruce singing, 'Tomorrow, We'll Rule the World, but Today - Leave Us Alone.").
Aiding immeasurably in capturing the fun at work is Billy De Wolfe as the snooty, snotty station manager. Whenever I see De Wolfe, I think of that line from The Boys in the Band: "You've all heard of Billy De Wolfe; well this here's Rosemary De Camp." And camp he is indeed. Long before it was acceptable to have an openly gay character on TV, De Wolfe still manages to get across the humor of camp without being specific ("You're touching me, Larry!"). There's a great episode, Where Have You Been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?, where De Wolfe does a series of shticks for a telethon he's throwing, which has to be seen to be believed. He's an amazingly talented performer, and a perfect persnickety foil for Schell and Baker.
Where things get a little sticky for Good Morning, World is on the home front - which unfortunately takes up most of the time per episode. There's nothing wrong per se with Baker and Parrish's married couple; they have good chemistry together, and both are attractive, sure-footed performers. But there's not much of there there, if you will, at the Lewis house. Sitcom complications like selling a car to a beautiful woman, or the tribulations of returning a defective sweater, don't really light up many sparks here. It's not a problem with the performers; it's a problem with generic situations. As for Schell, watching the entire 26 episodes, it's obvious that Schell was shortchanged as far as sharing screen time. It isn't even until the seventh episode that Schell gets his own main story, while his relationship with Goldie Hawn is brought in only when filler is needed in between the Lewis' adventures. As for Hawn, she's certainly animated and engagingly quirky, but it's difficult to tell she's going to be a future superstar from the limited exposure she gets here. Still, Good Morning, World offers a bright-penny world with some funny lines and good performances.
Here are the twenty-six, one-half hour episodes of Good Morning, World:
You vs. Me
A radio award competition causes friction between Larry and David when they're nominated separately -- not as a team.
Larry is offended when David won't sell him his used car -- but he will sell it to a beautiful blonde!
You Can't Say That About Me
Linda is offended when Dave makes a joke on the radio about her.
Knits to You, Sir
Linda buys David a sweater, that promptly begins to unravel. Will Dave take the sweater back to the store?
If You Go Into the Blue Yonder, I'll Go Wild
Dave wants to take flying lessons, but Linda says, "No way!"
Don't Call Us, and We Won't Call You
Linda's women's club nominates her to head up a charity event -- in the hopes of getting Larry and David to appear.
Love at First Flight
As a goof, Larry names Sandy as his beneficiary on an airline insurance form -- and Sandy starts to hear wedding bells.
I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl Who Married Dear Old Dave
What's bothering Larry? He's in love with Linda, that's what!
No News Like Nude News
Dave and Larry take a freebie vacation at a dude ranch -- I mean, nude ranch.
Feet of Clay and Head to Match
Mr. Hutton wants Dave and Linda to house sit his mansion.
Where Have You Been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
At a telethon, all of the gang get to perform -- even Mr. Hutton!
Stan and Ollie Meet Larry and Dave
Dave and Larry have a falling out over an Oliver and Hardy salt-and-pepper shaker set.
Duke Vincent makes friends with Dave and Larry -- and they almost go broke playing poker with him.
The Return of Bibian
Vivien, Dave's too-nice cousin, comes to visit -- and won't go away!
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Maybe
Dave can't get any rest when he agrees to cover a late shift at the station.
If You Marry Me Today, I'll Marry You Tomorrow
Dave and Linda remember back to their backwards Hawaiian wedding.
The Voice of the Turtle is Better Than Mine
Dave remembers back to his first day at Mr. Hutton's station.
The Man Who Came to Din Din
Mr. Hutton comes to dinner -- and stays when his back goes out.
The Wedding Present
Dave tries to get Larry to remember that he promised Linda a wedding gift -- which he never bought.
Partner Meet My Partner
Dave's old nightclub partner shows up, and tries everything to break Larry and Dave up.
1st Down and 200 Miles to Go
When the big game is blacked out, Dave and the gang go down to Palm Springs to watch the show on TV.
I Love a Charade
Dave insists that he's going to have a surprise birthday party -- only he's not.
For My Daughter's Hand You'll Get My Foot
Mr. Hutton's jet-setting daughter shows up -- and has a real thing for Larry!
Here Comes the Bribe
The government comes to investigate the station for charges of payola.
The Lady and the Pussycat
Dave's dad comes to town -- and has to decide which of his two fiances he's going to marry.
Dave and Linda watch Mr. Hutton's poodle -- with unexpected results.
The full screen video image for Good Morning, World is quite good: clean, clear picture with strong, vibrant colors. There's an occasional scratch or dirt speck, but overall, it's very good.
The English mono track is adequate for this kind of vintage TV show. There is no close captioning option.
There are several extras for Good Morning, World. On disc one, there's quite an entertaining interview with Ronnie Schell, who gives us some background on his own career and on working for Good Morning, World. On disc two, there's a short bio on Goldie Hawn. On disc three, there's a Good Morning, World Trivia Quiz (which is easy), and on disc four, there's a feature called Family Tree (which are cast bios) and a photo gallery.
Good Morning, World is an easy-to-take, sunny sitcom from 1967 that should please fans who like the similar The Dick Van Dyke Show. Silly plots are overcome by some sharp writing and good performances. I recommend Good Morning, World.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.