60th Anniversary of Joe and Mabel

[I accidentally published this post a week early on Sunday, June 19th due to an error on my master calendar of TV show premieres and anniversaries. I apologize for any confusion.]

Today is the 60th anniversary of Joe and Mabel, a forgotten sitcom from the 1950s. Adapted from a radio comedy of the same name, the series premiered on CBS on Tuesday, June 26th, 1956. Larry Blyden and Nita Talbot starred as the title characters. Joe was a cabdriver, Mabel was a manicurist. The two were in love but Mabel was tired of waiting for Joe to stop dragging his feet and finally propose.

Or maybe they were already engaged and Mabel wanted the finally walk down the aisle. Most contemporary reviews refer to Mabel as Joe’s girlfriend but also mention her wanting to get married, leaving it unclear whether Joe and Mabel were already engaged. In the episodes I’ve seen, Joe calls Mabel his “girl,” not his girlfriend or fiancee.

Black and white image from the opening credits of Joe and Mabel

Joe and Mabel

The series ran for just 13 episodes before disappearing. It’s notable not for being short-lived but for suffering numerous scheduling delays before finally getting on the air. CBS originally planned to debut it in September 1955 but an actors strike interrupted production and the network decided to postpone it.

Six completed episodes were then scrapped when a new producer was brought on board in October 1955. In early 1956, Jackie Gleason feuded with the network over proposed changes to its Saturday schedule involving Joe and Mabel. The series finally made its debut in June 1956; initially, it was supposed to premiere on June 19th but was delayed one last time until June 26th.

Black and white image from Joe and Mabel featuring Larry Blyden and Nita Talbot

Larry Blyden and Nita Talbot as Joe and Mabel

I hoped to have my article about Joe and Mabel revised in time for the show’s 60th anniversary. I started but wasn’t able to get it done. I hope to have it fully revised sometime this summer. When first I wrote the article back in 2009, I hadn’t seen any episodes. I’ve now watched three of the 13 episodes so I have a better handle on the characters and situations. I’ve also dug up several more contemporary reviews of the sitcom and some ratings information.

The episodes I’ve seen weren’t terrible but at best I’d say Joe and Mabel was harmless. After watching a few episodes, I’m even more curious about the six episodes that were filmed and then scrapped. How bad could they have been that CBS was willing to write them off and start over? Even if those episodes still exist somewhere–which after six decades doesn’t seem all that likely–there’s no chance they’ll ever see the light of day.


1 Comment

  • David says:

    It would seem that CBS had a lot of faith in this show, if they went to the trouble and expense of scrapping and re-filming the first six episodes, as opposed to just scrapping them and forgetting the series altogether. It then seems strange that they would have treated it rather shabbily after that. Maybe it got caught up in corporate politics, which has sunk many other series.

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