Retro Review: Karen (1964) – “Who’s Seymour?”

Retro Review is a monthly column that examines episodes of short-lived or obscure television shows. Each column includes both a summary and a review. Retro Review is published on the fourth Thursday of every month.

90 Bristol Court: Karen – “Who’s Seymour?”
Aired Monday, February 8th, 1965 on NBC
Directed by David Alexander
Written by Dorothy Cooper Foote

Black-and-white still from the opening credits of Karen

Karen Title Card
Copyright © 1965 by Kayro-Vue Productions

Background

Karen aired as part of 90 Bristol Court, a sitcom block on NBC during the 1964-1965 season. It and two other sitcoms (Harris Against the World and Tom, Dick, and Mary) were set at the same apartment complex. Karen starred newcomer Debbie Watson as 16-year-old Karen Scott. The theme song, performed by the Beach Boys, describes her as “alarming but disarming and a really very charming modern girl.”

The Cast

Main Cast
Richard Denning as her father (Steve Scott)
Mary LaRoche as her mother (Barbara Scott)
Gina Gillespie as her sister (Mimi Scott)
Introducing Debbie Watson as Karen

Guest Stars
Miguel Landa as Seymour Dumont
Steven Geray as The Male Clerk
Jan Arvan as Martino
Trudi Ames as Candy
Gil Lamb as The Mailman
Jackie Russell as The Lady Clerk
Freddy Raye as Andre

Summary

Karen receives an expensive charm bracelet in the mail but has no idea who sent it to her. She doesn’t know her parents bought it for her as a reward for a B+ average. Karen’s friend Candy assumes it came from an adult because of the sloppy inscription (“To Karen, A Very Sweet Girl”). She becomes obsessed with figuring out who Karen’s secret admirer is.

Candy: “Who sent you the bracelet?”
Karen: “I don’t know. I’ve been busy with tests.”
Candy: “Karen, the biggest thing in your life happens and you let schoolwork get in your way.”
Karen: “I don’t know any secret admirers and I don’t know any older men. Except for friends of my parents but they’re all married.”
Candy: “Married? Boy, this is getting better all the time.”

Candy soon becomes convinced the bracelet came from their French teacher. She starts fantasizing about Karen marrying him and becoming Mrs. Seymour Dumont. But Karen isn’t so sure. The two realize they can go to the jewelry store where the bracelet was purchased and ask who bought it.

Black-and-white still from an episode of Karen featuring Debbie Watson.

Debbie Watson as Karen
Copyright © 1965 by Kayro-Vue Productions

The jeweler recognizes the bracelet but insists he can’t tell them because it was supposed to be a surprise. He inadvertently confirms their suspicions about Mr. Dumont with his hints about the identify of the mystery buyer.

Karen grows increasingly worried about Mr. Dumont and decides to return the bracelet. He’s too old for her and a teacher.

Karen: “Besides, I’m too young to get serious about anybody. I have to finish high school and then college. I want to have the fun of dating a lot of boys and going to parties and wearing pretty dresses. I don’t want to miss all those things, Candy.”
Candy: “Gee, Karen. Ingrid Bergman made that same speech in an old movie on TV. And the next thing she became a nun.”

Karen wants to call Mr. Dumont and tell him but Candy says she has to do it in person. It’s wrong to break a man’s heart over the telephone, after all. Candy suggests Karen meet Mr. Dumont at a fancy restaurant called the Blue Robin. Seeing her at such a sophisticated place will make him realize Karen is too young for him.

Black-and-white still from an episode of Karen featuring Miguel Landa.

Miguel Landa as Mr. Dumont
Copyright © 1965 by Kayro-Vue Productions

Meanwhile, Mr. Scott stops by the jewelry store to pick up Karen’s bracelet, only to learn was sent out that morning. The jeweler tells him about Karen’s visit. Mr. Scott assumes his daughter knows he bought her the bracelet.

Mr. Dumont agrees to meet Karen at the Blue Robin. The maitre d’ isn’t happy to see an older man meeting with a young girl and makes several sarcastic remarks. Karen stumbles her way through letting Mr. Dumont down easy before he tells her he didn’t send her the bracelet.

Karen returns home in tears, confusing her parents. They rush upstairs to talk to their daughter. Karen tells them about what happened with Mr. Dumont. They assure her everything will be okay. Karen finally learns the truth about the bracelet and is happy that her father bought it for her.

Her joy turns to anger, however, when she realizes Candy is the blame for her emotional turmoil over the bracelet. She vows never to talk to Candy again.

Black-and-white still from an episode of Karen featuring Richard Denning and Mary LaRoche

Richard Denning and Mary LaRoche as Mr. and Mrs. Scott
Copyright © 1965 by Kayro-Vue Productions

Black-and-white still from an episode of Karen featuring Gina Gillespie

Gina Gillespie as Mimi
Copyright © 1965 by Kayro-Vue Productions

There’s a minor subplot involving Mimi that has nothing to do with the bracelet. One of her friends, spoken about but never seen, had to ride to school in her father’s bakery truck and found the whole thing so embarrassing she refused to get out. Mimi also finds out about the bracelet.

Mimi: “Did Karen get her bracelet yet?”
Barbara: “How do you know about that bracelet?”
Mimi: “Well, since Dad took the TV out of our room, I do a lot of snooping.”
Barbara: “Karen’s bracelet is supposed to be a surprise.”
Mimi: “Oh, I didn’t tell Karen. I only tell her the bad stuff. I never tell her anything she’s going to be happy about later.”

Mimi later insists that as a member of the family, she’s entitled to know what’s going on. That’s why she listens to phone conversations. The threat of her father finding out about her habit gets her to promise to stop.

Review

As someone who grew up watching television in the 1990s and early 2000s, it was hard to watch “Who’s Seymour?” without rolling my eyes a little at how corny it is. I’ve used the word harmless several times before to describe sitcoms from the 1950s and 1960s. It certainly fits Karen, which from the two episodes I’ve seen was an inoffensive, light family comedy.

Candy’s enthusiasm for a potential relationship between Karen and Mr. Dumont teacher might be unsettling if the whole thing wasn’t so silly. Karen apparently doesn’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with dating her teacher; she just doesn’t want to give up dating other boys to settle down with Mr. Dumont.

Black-and-white still from an episode of Karen featuring Trudi Ames.

Trudi Ames as Candy
Copyright © 1965 by Kayro-Vue Productions

At least the maitre d’ is disturbed that Mr. Dumont is meeting Karen for dinner. He goes to great lengths to point out how young Karen is and how old Mr. Dumont is. Twice, the maitre d’ pointedly refers to her as “little girl” and offers to bring her a children’s menu.

Mr. Dumont’s reaction after learning that Karen thought he as her secret admirer is subdued. He apologizes for the misunderstanding, tells her if he ever has a daughter he hopes she’ll be just like Karen (only less imaginative), then reveals he’s engaged.

Debbie Watson spends most of the episode either shocked or worried. I think she smiles exactly once. Karen often has her head tilted to one side, pondering the complexities of her teenage life. Candy, on the other hand, is far too excitable to ponder anything.

Odds ‘n’ Ends

By the time this episode aired, NBC had cancelled the other two-thirds of 90 Bristol Court. Only Karen lasted the entire 1964-1965 season.

When Karen bursts into tears and runs to her bedroom, her father wryly wonders if her charge account at the malt shop was cut off. Did malt shops really offer charge accounts to teenagers in the 1960s?

Candy makes a reference to Mr. Novak.

Where to Watch

Unfortunately, Karen has never been officially released on home video, so “Who’s Seymour?” isn’t available to watch anywhere.


Were you a fan of 90 Bristol Court and/or Karen? Do you remember watching this episode back in 1965? Hit the comments with your thoughts.


14 Comments

  • Jon says:

    Where did you watch these 2 episodes of KAREN? I’ve only seen its opening credits. I see that there are 2 episodes on You Tube, but not this one. I’d love to see the other 2 shows that comprised 90 BRISTOL COURT, HARRIS AGAINST THE WORLD and TOM, DICK & MARY. I can’t even find opening credits for those 2 series, or for the 1964-65 NBC comedy-drama KENTUCKY JONES, on You Tube, so those series are “lost”, at least to me.

    I’ve noticed that the NBC teen music show HULLABALOO eventually replaced all 3 parts of 90 BRISTOL COURT It premiered in January 1965 in place of “Harris” & “Tom” the week after they were cancelled and then was reduced to 1/2 hour show fall 1965 in the Monday night timeslot left vacant after KAREN’S cancellation.

    I’ve seen Trudi Ames (Candy) in both the Max Schulman pilot DADDY-O (where she got a mention in the closing credits) and in the movie version of BYE BYE, BIRDIE (where she appeared in the segment for the song “The Telephone Hour”). She reminds me of a blond Pamelyn Ferdin, especially with her voice.

    • Robert says:

      A handful of episodes circulate among private collectors. The other episode I’ve seen is on YouTube (“Holiday in Ski Valley”). I’ve long wondered why episodes of Karen are floating around but not Harris Against the World or Tom, Dick, and Mary. The only explanation I can think of is that Karen aired in syndication at some point–it lasted a full season compared to half a season for the other two shows. But I haven’t found any proof it did air in syndication.

      As for Kentucky Jones, it’s available on DVD in Germany, believe it or not. And you can watch the opening credits (with German text) at that link.

      • Jon says:

        Thanks for the link. I watched both bits of video included. Since I don’t know German, I only understood “Kentucky” and “KY” in the boy’s speech. This show would make a great future TV Obscurities post if you ever find English video of it.

  • Lurky McLurkson says:

    Debbie Watson seems to on her way, but…?
    i know her best from the undervalued music industry comedy ‘The Cool Ones’ (1967).

    • charles perry says:

      Watson also starred in the series version of “Tammy” and played Marilyn in “Munster, Go Home!” Apparantly, Hollywood didn’t know what to do with her, so she retired. She is now a 67-year-old grandmother.

      • David says:

        The TV series “Tammy” was rather charming and enjoyable. I never saw any episodes in their original format, but a few years ago on TV I saw the theatrical release that was compiled from a few episodes. I liked it. It is too bad it did not receive ratings that were high enough for at least a second season.

  • charles perry says:

    The movie David refers to is “Tammy and the Millionaire” and is available on YouTube as a download from an AMC broadcast.

    • charles perry says:

      A word of warning about YouTube: Make sure you go to the first listing with a still shot of Debbie. The others are links to illegal downloads that may contain viruses or malware. YouTube should block these links, but won’t. ALWAYS BE CAREFUL!!

      • David says:

        Thank you for the warning, Charles. I had no idea that any YouTube videos would contain viruses or malware. It is a shame that people would post videos that contain those. You really can’t be too careful.

    • charles perry says:

      From what I gather, Mr. Wolters was making a snap judgement based solely on the first episode, Remember that in that era, critics usually only got to see shows when they were broadcast. There were no Netflix binges.

      • charles perry says:

        Further comment on the Wolters item. Clearly he was a big Andy Williams fan by the way he gushed over him. Also, he gave out a semi-spoiler about Alfred Hitchcock, although again to be fair, he was living in an era where a TV show might never be rebroadcast. You couldn’t really spoil anything that would not be available next week.

  • paul kollmar says:

    back from a break….. Trudi Ames’ last appearance was with a Dick van Dyke episode in 65//*The Redcoats are coming *as in a gang of crazed teens haunting the Petrie’s house while hosting the Redcoats'((Peter and Gordon))–I know ’cause my cousin appeared in that episode//.parallel to BIRDIE**..an inside joke for Carl Reiner *and after Patty Duke hosted Chad and Jeremy at the Lane’s remember!?==the movie Billie was wrapping up at this time– (notice that the melendez studios finished wrapping up the Charlie Brown Christmas special with Freida dancing in Donna McKechnie’s roll** -)- that’s Schroeder’s first break*–and the most and best of Vince Guaraldi*s career–Donna mckechnie and my cousin Ellie had the lead dance rolls on Broadway in 1961 in HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS–remember???- hmmmm-==What if Johnny Carson did get the intended roll that van Dyke later got??-Dorothy Provine was first picked for Laura’s roll==same voice range etc////next up==( behind scenes with ALL HANDS ON DECK w/ pat Boone;) just wait..;

    • charles perry says:

      For those of you who wonder WTH is that last post, I believe he’s doing six degrees of Ellie. Birdie was a reference to “Bye Bye Birdie” where DVD introduced the song “Put on a Happy Face.” Also, Carson did indeed audition for Rob Petrie before DVD was chosen.

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