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Retro Review: Joe and Mabel – “Mabel’s Voice”

Retro Review examines episodes of short-lived, forgotten, or obscure television shows. Each column includes both a summary and a review.

Joe and Mabel – “Mabel’s Voice”
Aired Tuesday, September 4th, 1956 on CBS
Written by Unknown
Directed by Unknown

NOTE: My copy of “Mabel’s Voice” is missing the closing credits, so I don’t know who wrote or directed the episode.

Still from the opening credits to Joe and Mabel, showing the title card.
Joe and Mabel Title Card
Copyright Unknown
Background

Based on a 1941-1942 radio comedy of the same name, Joe and Mabel starred Larry Blyden as Joe, a cab driver, and Nita Talbot as his girlfriend Mabel. CBS planned to premiere the show in September 1955 but instead the network scrapped six completed episodes and started over with a new producer.

The series finally debuted on June 26th, 1956 and ran for 13 weeks, with the final episode airing on September 25th. Supporting cast members included Luella Gear, Michael Mann, and Norman Fell.

Learn more about Joe and Mabel by reading my in-depth article about the show.

The Cast

Main Cast
Larry Blyden as Joe Sparton
Nita Talbot as Mabel Spooner

Recurring Cast
Norman Fell as Mike
John Shellie as Harry
Luella Gear as Adele Spooner
Michael Mann as Sherman Spooner

Guest Stars
Oscar Homolka as Ralph Caruso

Summary

Each episode of Joe and Mabel opens with Joe in his cab, talking to the viewer as if they’re sitting in the backseat. “Mabel’s Voice” starts with Joe explaining how music almost tore him and Mabel apart. We then flash back to Joe and Mabel watching an amateur talent program on television.

Joe is enamored with a woman from Nebraska who sings “Beautiful Dreamer.” But Mabel finds the woman–and her singing–underwhelming. She’s convinced Joe finds the woman attractive. Joe thinks Mabel is jealous of the woman’s talent. Upset, Mabel kicks Joe out of the apartment she shares with her mother and brother. Joe says he’ll see her Thursday night, giving her three days to cool off.

Still from the Joe and Mabel episode Mabel's voice showing Nita Talbot as Mabel Spooner and Larry Blyden as Joe Sparton.
Nita Talbot as Mabel Spooner and Larry Blyden as Joe Sparton.
Copyright Unknown

Mabel sits down and finds herself a vocal coach. Despite her utter lack of talent, Ralph Caruso agrees to give her private singing lessons. Unfortunately, when he arrives at Mabel’s apartment Thursday evening for a lesson, Joe drops by and overhears Caruso in the apartment. The two bicker about trust.

When Mabel tells Joe she’ll be busy every evening for the next two months, Joe explodes. He gives her back the birthday and Christmas presents she gave him and storms off. But Mabel isn’t worried: Joe didn’t return the watch she gave him.

The next day, Joe chats with Mike and Harry at the diner. He tells them of his plan to take off and see the world–without Mabel. Harry tells Joe to investigate the situation before running away. So, Joe decides to play detective and leaves. Mike tells Harry that he’ll find out what’s going on by asking Mabel. She’ll tell him, even if he has to beg and plead.

Joe, in full detective mode, sets up a recording device at Mabel’s apartment (with some help from her little brother Sherman). Mike shows up to talk to Mabel. Out on the balcony, Joe misunderstands and assumes Mike is the man he heard in the apartment. He can’t watch, however, and asks Sherman to tell him what’s going on. Sherman thinks Mike is proposing, that Mabel accepts, and that the two of them are kissing.

Still from the Joe and Mabel episode Mabel's Voice showing Oscar Homolka as Ralph Caruso.
Oscar Homolka as Ralph Caruso.
Copyright Unknown

Instead, Mike is told about Mabel’s vocal lessons. But Joe, under the mistaken impression his good friend has stolen his girl, punches Mike in the face when he leaves the apartment building.

Things come to a head when Mike brings Joe and Sherman upstairs to the apartment. Joe can’t believe that Mr. Caruso is the man he was jealous of and is still confused about what’s going on. Mabel finally tells him about the singing lessons. Joe doesn’t believe her and pulls out the tape recorder. He’s embarrassed when everyone hears him singing; he tested the recorder in the store.

Still from the Joe and Mabel episode Mabel's Voice showing Nita Talbot as Mabel Spooner.
Nita Talbot as Mabel Spooner
Copyright Unknown

When Joe hears Mabel singing, he finally accepts that nothing is going on between Mabel and Mr. Caruso. Mabel, hearing her voice, is upset to learn she can’t sing. Mr. Caruso then offers to give Joe a free lesson, impressed with what he heard on the recording. The entire gang breaks into “On The Road To Mandalay.”

We then return to Joe in his cab. He starts talking about another crazy story, when he thought he was going to be a hero.

[My copy of “Mabel’s Voice” cuts off abruptly during this final scene. There are no closing credits.]

Quotes

Joe: “Never heard a voice like that in my life. Gets me right there.”
Mable: “Any girl singer sounds good in a strapless gown.”

Joe: “Go to bed, Sherman. Have a nice dream. Dream your school is burning down.”
Sherman: “Do I rescue the teacher and she gives me all straight As?”
Joe: “Why not? It’s your dream.”

Mabel: “Hello Mr. Caruso. I’d like you to meet Mike, my boyfriend’s boyfriend.”

Review

The show may be called Joe and Mabel but in my opinion, Nita Talbot is the star. In this episode and two others I’ve seen, she’s the standout among the cast and a delight to watch. Mabel is feisty and bold without being domineering.

Larry Blyden portrays Joe a man who considers himself practical and realistic, yet can’t help overreacting to the mildest of situations. The rest of the cast is fine, although limited by their supporting roles. Michael Mann and Luella Gear, as Mabel’s brother and mother, respectively, pop up in a few scenes but don’t contribute much.

Norman Fell is the straight man, painfully aware of the madcap antics of his friends.

Still from the Joe and Mabel episode Mabel's Voice showing Norman Fell as Mike.
Norman Fell as Mike.
Copyright Unknown.

“Mabel’s Voice” is not great television, however. The script is weak, the story stale and obvious, and the tired jokes overwhelmed by the laugh track. If not for Nita Talbot, it wouldn’t be worth watching. I don’t know if she can sing or not but she can act like she can’t. Mabel’s singing is as enthusiastic as it is terrible.

Guest star Oscar Homolka is intentionally outrageous as vocal coach Ralph Caruso, who may be no better at singing than Mabel despite his high opinion of his own talent.

Odds ‘n’ Ends

Based on the last few seconds of the episode, Joe is previewing an episode called “The Lineup.” Curiously, that episode aired on July 10th, 1956–almost two months before “Mabel’s Voice.” Did CBS air Joe and Mabel out of order?

Where to Watch

Joe and Mabel is not commercially available on any format. You may be able to find a few episodes on YouTube.


Do you remember watching Joe and Mabel back in 1956? Were you a fan of the show? Hit the comments with your thoughts and recollections.

NOTE: I accidentally published an incomplete version of this review in December 2017. That’s right, it took me nearly ten months to get around to finishing it.

Bookshelf: seaQuest DSV #1 (Comic Book)

Bookshelf examines printed matter relating to television. While I love watching TV, I also love reading about it, from tie-in novels to TV Guides, from vintage television magazines to old newspaper articles.

seaQuest DSV #1
March 1994
Nemesis Comics

I didn’t watch seaQuest DSV (later retitled seaQuest 2032 for its short third season) when it originally aired on NBC from 1993 to 1996. I probably saw the last few minutes of the occasional episode during the 1994-1995 season when the show aired before Earth 2. When Sci-Fi Channel aired a marathon in 2005 to promote the release of the first season on DVD, I taped and watched the first season. At some point, I also watched the second and third seasons, but I don’t remember when.

I own the three tie-in novels based on the show. Recently, I acquired the first and only issue of the seaQuest DSV tie-in comic book.

Scan of the front cover of The Young Lawyers #2 comic book
seaQuest DSV #1 Front Cover
© 1994 Nemesis Comics/Universal City Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc.

Despite the fact that I’ve seen every episode of seaQuest DSV/seaQuest 2032, I don’t remember many details. That means I can’t say with certainty how accurate the comic book is. Do the interiors of the submarine as depicted in this issue match those seen on the TV show? Do the uniforms? The technology? I don’t know.

What about the characters? A few of them resemble the actor or actress who portrayed them on television. The likenesses aren’t great but they rarely are in comic books. Captain Bridger looks enough like Roy Scheider that someone flipping through this comic book might say, “That looks like Roy Scheider.” Likewise, the character played by Ted Raimi is more or less Ted Raimi. Most of the other characters vaguely resemble their real life counterpart to varying degrees. One glaring exception is young computer genius Lucas Wolenczak, who looks absolutely nothing like actor Jonathan Brandis.

(For the record, I have no idea which character is supposed to be depicted on the cover. Is it Captain Bridger? Someone else? Who knows. At least Darwin the dolphin looks very much like a dolphin.)

As for the story, it’s called “Deep Faith” and involves Captain Bridger and the crew of the seaQuest attempting to infiltrate a cult led by the charismatic yet mysterious Neptune. Their investigation doesn’t get very far before an unexpected cliffhanger ending brings the issue to a close.

Unfortunately, the story was never continued or finished because the second issue was never published. The cover was printed at the end of this issue, however. Take a look:

Scan of a page from seaQuest DSV #1 showing the cover artwork for issue #2.
seaQuest DSV #2 Cover Artwork
© 1994 Nemesis Comics/Universal City Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc.

Issue #1 has a cover date of March 1994. The publisher, Nemesis Comics, was an imprint of Harvey Comics Entertainment (which purchased the original Harvey Comics in 1989). From what I’ve read, Harvey Comics Entertainment stopped publishing comic books at some point in 1994. That’s probably why the second issue of the seaQuest DSV comic book, and any others planned, was never published.

In addition to the 23-page story, issue #1 includes three pages of photographs from the TV show, including a two-page spread of the seaQuest bridge. There are two pages of blueprints and two one-page “Logbook” entries with information on Captain Nathan Bridger and Dr. Kristin Westphalen. Aside from a single house ad for a Frankenstein comic book, there are no advertisements.

Given the unresolved cliffhanger, I can’t very well recommend this comic book to anyone, not even fans of seaQuest DSV.

45th Anniversary of Toma

One season wonder Toma, starring Tony Musante as a detective with a talent for undercover work, celebrates its 45th anniversary today. Based on the career of the real-life David Toma, the series ran for 22 episodes during the 1973-1974 season. Simon Oakland and Susan Strasberg co-starred.

Check out my in-depth article about Toma.

At first, the show fared poorly in the ratings. ABC moved it to a new night at mid-season and ratings improved. Nevertheless, ABC cancelled the show at the end of the 1973-1974 season. Why? Because Tony Musante refused to return for a second season. When approached about starring in the show, Musante had committed to a single season.

Producer Roy Huggins assumed no actor would walk away from a successful TV show, but that’s exactly what Musante did. Had ABC agreed to a shortened season or a series of telefilms, Musante would’ve stayed.

ABC considered reviving Toma during the 1974-1975 season with Robert Blake in the lead role. Ultimately, the network created an entirely new show, Baretta, which remained on the air until 1978.

Toma is one of just a handful of TV shows I’ve written about at Television Obscurities despite never having seen a single episode. It isn’t available on DVD, although multiple incomplete episodes have been uploaded to YouTube.


Were you a fan of Toma during the 1973-1974 season? Do you remember reading about Tony Musante leaving the show? Hit the comments with your memories and recollections.

September 2018: The Month in Home Media

The Month in Home Media highlights short-lived or rare TV shows released on DVD or Blu-ray in the United States during the previous month.

One season wonder Blondie (NBC, 1957) came out on DVD in September. Two volumes of “Television’s Lost Classics” were also released on DVD and Blu-ray last month. Volume One includes two hour-long dramas starring John Cassavetes: “Crime in the Streets” (The Elgin Hour, 1955) and “No Right to Kill” (Climax, 1956). Volume Two includes four unsold pilots: “Case of the Sure Thing” (CBS, 1951) with Reed Hadley; “Cool and Lam” (Unaired, 1958), with Billy Pearson and Benay Venuta; “The Life of Riley” (Unaired, 1948) with Lon Chaney, Jr.; and “Nero Wolfe” (Unaired, 1959) with Kurt Kasznar and William Shatner.

DVD/Blu-ray Releases

Highlight of the Month: Blondie (1957)

Based on the popular and long-running comic strip of the same name, the show starred Arthur Lake as Dagwood and Pamela Britton as Blondie. Lake earlier played Dagwood in a series of 28 films released between 1938 and 1950. The 4-disc set includes all 26 black-and-white episodes, newly transferred from the original 35mm elements.

Support Television Obscurities and purchase Blondie (1957) from Amazon.

Other Releases

Television’s Lost Classics, Volume One [DVD]
Television’s Lost Classics, Volume One [Blu-ray]
Television’s Lost Classics, Volume Two [DVD]
Television’s Lost Classics, Volume Two [Blu-ray]
Lucy: The Ultimate Collection [Time Life]*
Born Free: The Complete Collection
The Triumphant Hour [Alpha Video]**
One Step Beyond, Volume 16 [Alpha Video]
Clutch Cargo, Volume 7 [Alpha Video]
Cowboy G-Men, Volume 9 [Alpha Video]
Captain Z-Ro, Volume 6 [Alpha Video]

*Includes four episodes of the short-lived sitcom Life with Lucy.
**This is an episode of the 1950s syndicated, religious anthology series Family Theatre, hosted by Father Patrick Peyton.

News

Something weird is going on with several recent short-lived FOX shows on DVD. LA to Vegas supposedly came out on DVD on August 28th. Best Buy and Barnes & Noble have it for sale but at Amazon it’s only available to pre-order. APB and Shots Fired are both for sale at Barnes & Noble but are sold out at Best Buy. APB is available at Amazon, but only from a third-party seller, while Shots Fired is “Currently unavailable.” These are all manufacture-on-demand titles, so maybe there’s a problem with the FOX MOD program.


Hit the comments with reviews of recently released DVD/Blu-ray sets or news about upcoming releases.

Unaired Sitcom Us & Them Streaming Now on Sony Crackle

As I reported last month, Sony Crackle started streaming the unaired FOX sitcom Us & Them on October 1st. Based on the British comedy Gavin & Stacey, Us & Them stars Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel as a young couple who, after months of phone calls and e-mails, decide to finally meet in real life for the first time. Their friends and family members all have opinions about their budding relationship. Co-stars include Dustin Ybarra, Ashlie Atkinson, Jane Kaczmarek, Kurt Fuller, Michael Ian Black, and Kerri Kenney-Silver.

The Us & Them title card.
Us & Them Title Card

FOX ordered 13 episodes of the sitcom, planning to use it as a mid-season replacement during the 2013-2014 season. The network later cut the order to seven episodes, shelved it, and decided not to burn off the completed episodes during the summer of 2014.

I watched the first episode last night and enjoyed it. Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel make a cute couple. Their characters are more grounded than the supporting characters, who are all quirky to one degree or another. While that is likely intentional, too many eccentric supporting characters can be overwhelming. I’m curious to see how well the other six episodes balance the relationships between the characters. I also want to see if I can identify what made FOX decide to scrap the show.

There’s no way to know how long Us & Them will remain available on Sony Crackle. So, if you’re interested in the show, I suggest watching it sooner rather than later.

Follow Television Obscurities on Twitter

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If not, you should be. I mostly tweet about short-lived and forgotten television, including the truly obscure TV shows nobody but me cares about. I share my thoughts on the current state of network television in the United States. I also share links to interesting and/or informative articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, and more.

Currently, more than 2,000 people seem to think I’m worth following on Twitter. Maybe you will, too.

If you’re not on Twitter, don’t worry. I always post the most important news and updates here at my blog as well.