Q & A: From a Bird’s Eye View

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 was wondering if you have any information about a British sitcom from 1971 called “From A Bird’s Eye View” that aired briefly on NBC from March to May 1971. It aired on Monday nights at 7:30, taking over the timeslot previously held by the canceled “Red Skelton Show” and leading in to “Laugh-In.” This show starred English actress Millicent Martin and was filmed mostly in the UK.

Production on From A Bird’s Eye View began in London in 1969, although at the time that wasn’t the show’s title. Cecil Smith referred to it as “Up She Goes” in June of 1969, reporting that it was one of several British programs hoping to find a spot on a network schedule in the States [1]. But it didn’t make the 1969-1970 schedule. In September, Jerry Buck reported that the show had no title at the moment, although he confirmed that “Up She Goes” had been a working title; an even earlier working title was “Meet Millie” [2]. Seven episodes had been filmed, with production taking place in London, Venice, Rome and New York City, despite the fact that NBC had yet to give the show a time slot (producer Sheldon Leonard was was under an exclusive contract with the network).

Leonard, whose My World and Welcome To It had been picked up by NBC for the 1969-1970 season, called the show “a Rolls Royce project,” explaining that it was being done “meticulously” [3]. Beck suggested that it would wind up on NBC in early 1970 as a mid-season replacement. Because production on the initial 16 episodes would be completed before it hit the air, however, gathering the cast again to film additional episodes would prove complicated [4]. Indeed, in its October 13th edition, Broadcasting included From a Bird’s Eye View in a list of potential mid-season replacements for NBC [5].

By November 1969, From a Bird’s Eye View was no longer a mid-season candidate but instead one of numerous programs under consideration by NBC for its fall 1970-1971 schedule; Broadcasting noted that 16 episodes had been filmed in England by Sheldon Leonard Productions [6]. The series starred Millicent Martin and Patte Finley as Millie Grover and Patte Finley as Maggie Ralston, two stewardesses working out of London. Millie was British while Maggie was American. Peter Jones played their boss, Mr. Beauchamp, and Robert Cawdron played Millie’s uncle, Bert Quigley. Noel Hood appeared as Mr. Beauchamp’s secretary, Miss Fodsyke.

Ultimately, From a Bird’s Eye View was not included in NBC’s fall schedule. But the network hadn’t given up on the show. Not entirely. In November of 1970, Broadcasting reported that it might replace NBC’s new sitcom Nancy [7]. Instead, From a Bird’s Eye View was eventually slotted in the the Monday 7:30-8PM half-hour filled at the time by The Red Skelton Show, which would end its regular season in March of 1971 [8].

After more than a year waiting in the wings (pun intended) From a Bird’s Eye View finally premiered on Monday, March 29th, 1971 at 7:30PM, opposite Gunsmoke on CBS and Let’s Make a Deal on ABC. Cynthia Lowry reviewed the premiere for The Associated Press, suggesting that it “has not been improved by its long rest on the network shelf” and calling it “pretty old hat, not helped much by a loud laugh track” [9]. Episodes often revolved around Millie’s attempts to be helpful, be it giving up a hotel room to a pair of newlyweds or writing a letter of resignation in support of Maggie only to learn that her friend hadn’t been fired.

The final first-run episode aired on July 19th. It was followed by four weeks of repeats.

Works Cited:

1 Smith, Cecil. “Hollywood & London: this is where it’s really happening.” Los Angeles Times. 22 Jun. 1969: F2.
2 Buck, Jerry. “Sheldon Leonard frets on comedy tv timeslot.” Associated Press. Rock Hill Herald. 6 Sep. 1969: 12.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 “Bench strength.” Broadcasting. 13 Oct. 1969: 5.
6 “Network program development for 1970-1971.” Broadcasting. 17 Nov. 1969: 53-54.
7 “Networks at work on casualty lists.” Broadcasting. 16 Nov. 1970: 54.
8 “Midseason axe hits 4 shows at NBC.” Broadcasting. 7 Dec. 1970: 43.
9 Lowry, Cynthia. “Madcap Stewardess Caper Takes Over Skelton Spot.” Associated Press. Lawrence Journal-World. 30 Mar. 1971: 23.

8 Replies to “Q & A: From a Bird’s Eye View”

  1. I tend to believe that NBC just “burned” the series off as a spring/summer replacement for “THE RED SKELTON SHOW” after it ended its final season; the way they kept moving up the date for its official premiere tells me they simply lost interest in it (and Sheldon Leonard- especially after they cancelled “MY WORLD AND WELCOME TO IT” after one season).

    The next series Leonard produced in England with ITC (for ABC) was “SHIRLEY’S WORLD”, starring Shirley MacLaine, in the fall of 1971…and she gave a blow-by-blow account in one of her autobiographies about how bad it turned out, and that Sheldon didn’t even bother returning her calls once it started to experience ratings problems. That was the end of his career as a TV producer…

  2. The series initially aired on England’s ATV network (a subsidiary of Lew Grade’s ITC Entertainment, which co-produced the series with Leonard) from September 18, 1970 through April 21, 1971…before NBC aired it in the U.S.

  3. When Sheldon Leonard was interviewed by Bob Costas on his “Later” show, Costas brought up the MacLaine series and Leonard reacted with clear disgust at the mention of her name, and then proceeded to give his version of events (which he said was the first time he’d ever talked about it). He blamed MacLaine for sabotaging the series with her desire to load the show with feminist agenda messages that from Leonard’s standpoint wasn’t what he promised the network and that however much he might have agreed with her politics he wasn’t going to allow her to do that.

  4. Ivan, thanks for the link because I completely forgot to mention that the show is available on DVD, albeit in Region 2 encoding.

  5. Okay, both Shirley AND Sheldon are to blame for the disaster that was “SHIRLEY’S WORLD”. Incidentally, the word “bird”, in England, was slang for a girl in the ’60s- and because ATV/ITC was a production partner, they probably dictated the final version of the title (using “bird” as a double meaning) over Leonard’s original choice, “UP SHE GOES”.

  6. I was in third grade when this show was on. I have a vague memory of actual episodes, but I do recall that I really enjoyed it. I haven’t seen it since then. I wonder if it will ever be released on DVD in the US, although that is probably doubtful.

  7. I remember that Millicent Martin was the english stewardess, and Patte Finley was her American fellow Stewardess. Their boss was Mr. Beauchamps (pronounced Beecham), and he was always huffing and reacting to their bumbling. I didn’t think it was as good as “My World and Welcome To It” or “The Red Skelton Show,” but I watched it because Monday nights at 7:30 were a habit.

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