I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.
I’m very interested in a TV pilot of 1965 for CBS called “Dream Wife” starring Shirley Jones! Its aka “With This Ring” and “happily Ever After” however there is little info about it… Apparently it was a clone of TV’s Bewitched!!! Could you tell me about the pilot show please ??? Also, I noticed in the 1965 Season a lot of series used ghosts and angels !!! Was this too get the same effect of Bewitched ? I mean did other networks try to replicate the series ???
Interestingly, one of the few references to “Happily Ever After” I found was in The Magic of Bewitched Trivia and More by Gina Meyers. Published in 2004, the book mentions the pilot in a section called “Copycat Shows,” but only briefly. Meyers writes that “as a result of Bewitched’s popularity, CBS and NBC networks tried to replicate the magic. CBS in September of 1965, came out with Happily Ever After, shot at the Metro Goldwyn-Mayer studio. It was a musical comedy starring Shirley Jones as a mind reading housewife” . This seems to suggest that the pilot was broadcast by CBS in September of 1965 but I can find no mention of it in television listings during the month.
I don’t know much about the pilot itself. Hedda Hopper reported on December 11th, 1964 that “Shirley Jones got herself a TV series so she’ll stay put for awhile. It’s ‘Happily Ever After’ for MGM–the creation of Stanley Chase (2-time Tony Award winner) and Bob Kaufman (Emmy-winning writer). Shirley plays a housewife gifted with a 7th sense, and she’ll start filming in January” . Her character’s “seventh sense” was mentioned again in a brief article published in The Los Angeles Times on December 15th; the article noted that the comedy series was “planned for the next season on CBS” .
Although the term “planned” suggests that CBS had already decided to order the series, on December 23rd “Happily Ever After” was included in an article by Val Adams as one of 76 pilots in contention for the 1965-1966 season . On January 7th, 1965 Hedda Hopper revealed that filming had already been completed . And on February 19th she reported that the series (now called Dream Wife was “already sold” . It obviously wasn’t or, if it was, never made it to the air.
As for whether or not CBS and NBC took a look at the success of ABC’s Bewitched and decided to try to imitate it, of course they did. The networks have never shied away from copying popular shows or formats. When westerns were hot, all the networks had westerns. When spies were hot, all the networks had spy shows. And when supernatural sitcoms like Bewitched were hot, all the networks wanted supernatural sitcoms.
Critic Lawrence Laurent, in a February 8th, 1965 article in The Los Angeles Times, wrote that “the plans leaking out of headquarters of the three television networks indicate that the programs being most copied (but differently) are The Fugitive, Bewitched and Peyton Place” . Two days later, Cecil Smith agreed, noting that “any talk of trends for next season is idiotic. All the networks want another Bewitched, another Peyton Place, another Fugitive. Imitation is still the sincerest form of television” .
Of course, it wasn’t just Bewitched driving the interest in supernatural sitcoms. My Favorite Martian had premiered the previous season and its success helped pave the way for Bewitched. Indeed, in his review of Bewitched, Jack Gould wrote that the sitcom was “in the supernatural tradition of ‘Topper’ and ‘My Favorite Martian'” . Thus, in a way, My Favorite Martian led to Bewitched and Bewitched led to I Dream of Jeannie.
2 Hopper, Hedda. “Broadway to Have Musical ‘Breakfast’.” Los Angeles Times. 11 Dec. 1964: D15.
3 “Shirley Jones Signed for New Comedy.” Los Angeles Times. 15 Dec. 1964: D14.
4 Adams, Val. “76 Pilot Films Contend for TV Places.” New York Times. 23 Dec. 1964: 53.
5 Hopper, Hedda. “Melina Mercouri Will Do Film Here.” Los Angeles Times. 7 Jan. 1965: C8.
6 Hopper, Hedda. “Beatles, Presley Liked in Liverpool.” Los Angeles Times. 19 Feb. 1965: C13.
7 Larent, Lawrence. “The TV Credo—Imitation Is Sincerest Form of Flattery.” Los Angeles Times. 8 Feb. 1965: C24.
8 Smith, Cecil. “The TV Scene: Selling Season on Madison Ave.” Los Angeles Times. 9 Feb. 1965: C10.
9 “TV Review: Elizabeth Montgomery Stars in ‘Bewitched’.” New York Times. 18 Sep. 1964: 71.