Q & A: Happily Ever After; Supernatural Sitcoms

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” [1]. 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” [2]. 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” [3].

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 [4]. On January 7th, 1965 Hedda Hopper revealed that filming had already been completed [5]. And on February 19th she reported that the series (now called Dream Wife was “already sold” [6]. 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” [7]. 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” [8].

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'” [9]. Thus, in a way, My Favorite Martian led to Bewitched and Bewitched led to I Dream of Jeannie.

Works Cited:

1 Meyers, Gina. The Magic of Bewitched Trivia and More. Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, Inc., 2004: 10.
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.

5 Replies to “Q & A: Happily Ever After; Supernatural Sitcoms”

  1. Seems as if “DREAM WIFE’S” premise was later utilized on two supernatural sitcoms. One was “NANNY AND THE PROFESSOR” (ABC, 1970-1971) with Juliet Mills as a psychic caretaker to the three children of a widowed college instructor (Richard Long). The other was “THE GIRL WITH SOMETHING EXTRA” (NBC, 1973-74), starring Sally Field as a newlywed wife with ESP, and the ability to read other people’s minds. (John Davidson played her bemused husband.)
    I suspect both were also “influenced” by “BEWITCHED,” even though that series was fading by the time “NANNY” premiered and was off the air when “GIRL WITH SOMETHING EXTRA” made its debut. Still, you can’t keep a supernatural premise down.

  2. I also remember a show with a supernatural spin that was actually from a movie ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ that starred Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare (Devin on original Knight Rider)…I remember it on reruns normally on after sproting events before the local news or after the local late news on our CBS and ABC afilliates before Late Night With David Letterman or Nightline.

    I got part of the infor from Wikipedia.

  3. “DREAM WIFE”, or “HAPPILY EVER AFTER”, or whatever the title was quoted as at the time of its initial production, never appeared on CBS or any other network. This was produced for consideration for the network’s 1965-’66 schedule by MGM Television [Don Taylor directed; Stanley Chase was also executive producer].

    Hedda Hopper may have been correct when she printed that item in her column that CBS had bought the pilot for the fall, but almost two weeks later, she had another “item”: James T. Aubrey {“The Smiling Cobra”}, president and chief programmer of the network, had been fired. Apparently, “”DREAM WIFE” was one of Aubrey’s “pet projects”, but after he left CBS, his successor, John A. Schnieder, wiped almost all of the new series he personally appproved off the schedule, including Polly Bergen’s “SELENA MEAD”, which had been pencilled in for 9:30pm on Mondays, but a final season of “HAZEL” was scheduled instead, and “CORONET BLUE” [a “FUGITIVE”-inspired series that Laurent and Smith touched upon in their columns], which had filmed 13 episodes but was withheld until the summer of 1967. The one new “fantasy” sitcom that appeared on CBS’ fall 1965 schedule was “THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW” (Tom the angel, Dick usually bailing him out of “this week’s assignment”), which lasted one season.

  4. cool info … A few years later Sol Saks wrote another pilot “Out Of The Blue” which sounds realy good, anyone seen “Dream Wife” or know the names of the charecters ???

  5. I appreciate that, Mike. I’m quite sure the pilot film for “Out Of the Blue” (which also co-starred Shirley Jones) exists somewhere. Sol Saks had a gift for creating “sophisticated fantasy” comedy ideas [“Out Of the Blue” involved four alien “humanoids” who end up living with an Earth professor to see if they can assimilate themselves into our culture, so that some of their fellow residents might do the same in the near future; sounds like a forerunner of “THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN”, doesn’t it?]- but only “BEWITCHED” (which Saks never worked on again, after writing the pilot episode) was the one that sold.

    I’m also sure that a print of “DREAM WIFE” is in some archive or MGM film vault….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.