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
You Can't Say That About Me
Knits to You, Sir
If You Go Into the Blue Yonder, I'll Go Wild
Don't Call Us, and We Won't Call You
Love at First Flight
I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl Who Married Dear Old Dave
No News Like Nude News
Feet of Clay and Head to Match
Where Have You Been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Stan and Ollie Meet Larry and Dave
The Return of Bibian
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Maybe
If You Marry Me Today, I'll Marry You Tomorrow
The Voice of the Turtle is Better Than Mine
The Man Who Came to Din Din
The Wedding Present
Partner Meet My Partner
1st Down and 200 Miles to Go
I Love a Charade
For My Daughter's Hand You'll Get My Foot
Here Comes the Bribe
The Lady and the Pussycat
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.