09-11-1954 & 09-12-1954
Mickey Rooney Show
Cast: Mickey Rooney, Regis Toomey, Claire Carleton, Carla Balenda, John Hubbard, Joey Forman, Alan Mowbray
Writers: John Fenton Murray and Benedict Freedman
Director: Leslie Martinson
Producer: Joseph Stantley
Sponsored by Green Giant and Pillsbury Mills thru Leo Burnett Company
(NBC-TV, 8 to 8:30 p.m., EDT, August 28)
[Note: The first episode of “The Mickey Rooney Show,” a.k.a. “Hey Mulligan” can be watched at Internet Archive by clicking here. More episodes are available to watch free online.]
The debut of the new Mickey Rooney show, subtitled “Hey Mulligan,” was mostly slapstick. Rooney carried off his pratfalls with a bewildered air that was usually quite funny. But towards the end of the half hour, the stunts began to seem too mechanical and studied, especially since each one was automatically punctuated with a canned roar of laughter.
If the slapstick can be restrained from going too far and if the show’s other assets are given a chance to pay off, “Hey Mulligan” can become an audience favorite. Rooney is a talented, likable and distinct personality. And the dialog did have an occasional sparkle.
Rooney plays an NBC page with an unrestrainable desire to become a performer. His mother had been in burlesque, and his father was a cop on the squad that raided the theater. It was love at first sight. According to the network executive in the script (played by John Hubbard), Rooney will have a hard time getting into TV because “he’s too small to be a wrestler and too big to be a puppet.”
At the “Jonathon Page School of Drama and Theater Arts,” Rooney is working as understudy to the entire cast of a new play of Rogerson Hammerstein. The play is a corny melodrama titled “Tomorrow Starts September.” Rooney gets his big chance when the leading man gets laryngitis. And here the slapstick got out of hand.
Rooney’s dad (Regis Toomey) puts glue in the leading man’s throat spray to keep him out of action. Rooney goes on stage in elevated shoes and breaks up the entire set. And the audience reaction recorded on the sound track turned into a steady roar. —Gene Plotnik (Billboard, Sep. 11, 1954)
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Advance notices got one very excited about Micky Rooney’s new filmed half-hour show on WTMJ-TV (6 p.m. Saturday), but after inspecting them we notice there is some room for improvement. For one thing, the continuity bogs down as the result of two interruptions for commercials. To mid-commercials instead of one is a development that is becoming all too customary these days in television. These two, of course, are in addition to those at the beginning and end.
Not particularly appealing is the dubbed-in laughter, another custom becoming entrenched in filmed shows. And the crowd guffaws were exactly alike each time. Otherwise the show is all Mickey—and Mickey is in his element. Although the program isn’t anything like the old Judge Hardy movies, there is something reminiscent occasionally, such as a scene from his home life. His parents, incidentally, are played by Regis Toomey and Claire Carleton.
In spite of the fact Rooney will be 32 Sept. 23, he still plays the role of a teenager (he’s a page boy in a Hollywood TV studio) with the same zest he did in his younger days. He is as cocky as ever, even when things are going against him. This assurance extends to his feelings toward his girl friend, played by Carla Balenda. (The Milwaukee Sentinel, Sept. 12, 1954)
Steve Allen Show
WNBT, New York, Tursday, 11:20 to 12 midnight, EDT
The smoothness and professional quality of the Steve Allen Show, the nucleus from which “Tonight” is to be built, is virtual insurance that when that late night network stanza gets going it will have plenty to offer. Allen, now in the homestretch on his local programming stint,has developed into a warm yet smooth master of the quip and aside. His bufoonery with the studio audience, and his horseplay with a Ruppert Beer commercial which was printed for his reading on cards were the highlights on the show.
Supporting him were Steve Lawrence, guest Faye Emerson, chirper Betty Johnson replacing the vacationing Edye Gorme, and Bobby Byrne and his orchestra. Lawrence has developed into one of the smoothest male singers around. The handsome lad, full of poise and confidence, brought a freshness and sound to “Alone Together” which must have had the bobby-soxers doing nip-ups.
The wholesome-looking Betty Johnson did equally as well with “Joey.” Miss Johnson has a sweetness to her voice and adds to that a distinctiveness of sound that cannot but help impress the viewers. Miss Emerson acted in a sketch with Allen which was a satire on English movies. The Ruppert beer commercials emphasize the no-calorie kick, and the refreshing quality of the beverage. —Leon Morse. (Billboard, Sep. 11, 1954)
Old Shows Return
So far, fall television has been largely a procession of old shows returning after summer vacation. The 30 or so new ones are due later. There were obvious efforts at improvement, but the changes were not particularly exciting. Certainly no one would want to shout because the song quiz now on CBS-TV Thursday nights, “Name That Tune,” has a new emcee in Bill Cullen. He is quick with the phony, planned quips, but so was his predecessor, Red Benson.
Jack Webb’s “Dragnet,” one of NBC-TV’s Thursday shows, has resumed with new material after a summer of repeats. This is its third TV season, which could be the best yet if the opening pace is maintained. Webb, however, seems to be everywhere. He’s producer-director, star actor and even commercial announcer.
“The Hall of Fame” on NBC-TV is continuing with the arena style in which scenery is made incidental to acting. This close up method permits the viewer to concentrate on the action without distraction. Its hostess, Sarah Churchill, has returned to England, but she may be back in January. Many of the scripts will continue to be based on biographies of noted personalities.
Other regulars that have come back early in the fall season are “Ethel and Albert,” still working out in comedy the problems of married life; “Mama” and her family, on CBS-TV, all one year older, and Loretta Young’s filmed drama on NBC-TV, in which she appears in a different play each week. Among returning shows was a re-run of “Mr. Peepers'” wedding of last spring. Someone must have done some editing, for the commercial that blared in right after the ceremony on the original has been carefully transplanted. (The Milwaukee Sentinel, Sep. 12, 1954)
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