Mary Kay and Johnny
GenreSitcom
Created byMary Kay Stearns
Johnny Stearns
StarringMary Kay Stearns
Johnny Stearns
Howard Thomas
Nydia Westman
Christopher William Stearns
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes300 (estimate)
Production
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time15 mins (12 minus ads). (1947-1948; 1949)
30 mins. (25 minus ads) (1948-1949; 1950)
Original release
NetworkDuMont (1947-1948)
CBS (1949)
NBC (1948-1949; 1949-1950)
ReleaseNovember 18, 1947 (1947-11-18) –
March 11, 1950 (1950-03-11)

Mary Kay and Johnny is an American situation comedy starring real-life married couple Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns. It was the first sitcom broadcast on a television network in the United States. Mary Kay and Johnny initially aired live on the DuMont Television Network before moving to CBS and then NBC.

Format

Plots centered around a bank employee and his "zany, but not dumb" wife and the problems that they encountered.[1] Much of the activity occurred in the couple's apartment in Greenwich Village.[1]

A review in the March 6, 1948, issue of the trade publication Billboard began, "This program comes close to being a model tele[vision] show. In detailing the adventures, mainly domestic, of a young married couple, Johnny and Mary Kay Stearns have come up with charming and fresh material, which always takes into consideration that there are cameras taking everything in."[2] Later in the review, however, the author wrote, "At times the show got just a bit too cute" with the female star squealing too much and the story falling into familiar family sitcom patterns.[2]

Cast

In addition to the Stearnses, the cast included their son, Christopher Stearns, as himself. Mary Kay's mother was played by Nydia Westman, and Johnny's friend Howie was played by Howard Thomas. Jim Stevenson was the announcer.[3]

Broadcast history

The first 15-minute episode debuted on the DuMont Television Network on Tuesday, November 18, 1947.[4] The Stearnses created and wrote all the scripts. The program was broadcast live, most of the action taking place on a set representing the New York City apartment of the title characters, a young married couple.

Mary Kay and Johnny was the first program to show a couple sharing a bed, and the first series to show a woman's pregnancy on television:[5] Mary Kay became pregnant in 1948 and after unsuccessfully trying to hide her pregnancy, the producers wrote it into the show. On December 31, 1948, the Stearns' weeks-old son Christopher appeared on the show and became a character.

After a year on DuMont, the show moved to CBS for half a year, much of the time being broadcast every weeknight, then ran for another year each Saturday night on NBC, where it debuted on October 10, 1948.[6] It broadcast the final episode on March 11, 1950.

Viewership

At a time when there were no TV ratings (the A.C. Nielsen Company would not begin measuring TV ratings until 1950), Anacin decided to take a chance and sponsor the show. This decision worried the advertising executives at Anacin, who thought that they might be wasting money by sponsoring a show with a sparse audience. A simple, non-scientific scheme to gauge the size of the audience was hatched. During one commercial spot, Anacin offered a free pocket mirror to the first 200 viewers who wrote in requesting one. As a precaution, they purchased a total of 400 mirrors in case the audience was twice as large as they expected. Although the free mirror was offered only during that one spot, Anacin received nearly 9000 requests for mirrors.[7]

Episode status

DuMont's corporate successor, Metromedia, disposed of what was left of the DuMont archive in the East River.[note 1][8]

The fate of the NBC episodes is unknown, although they also were known to have been getting rid of their older recordings in the early 1970s and disposing the ones they could not get the stars of the shows to take.[9] The Paley Center for Media has one 1949 episode in its collection.[10] TV Land used a clip of this one 1949 broadcast in an episode of Inside TV Land called "Taboo TV".[11]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Ed McMahon, David C. Fisher, in their book When Television Was Young: The Inside Story with Memories by Legends of the Small Screen, wrote, "Unfortunately, these kinescopes survived only until the 1970s when ABC dumped all the old DuMont programs into the New York Bay and CBS trashed its own old kinescopes."

References

  1. ^ a b Karol, Michael (2004). Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia. iUniverse. ISBN 9780595752133. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b Chase, Sam (March 6, 1948). "Mary Kay and Johnny" (PDF). Billboard. p. 38. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  3. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 661. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  4. ^ Landay, Lori (2010). I Love Lucy. Michigan, Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0814335734. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  5. ^ snopes.com/radiotv Snopes.com: "Early to Bed"
  6. ^ Hawes, William (2001). Live Television Drama, 1946–1951. McFarland. p. 245. ISBN 9781476608495. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  7. ^ Mitz, Rick. The Great TV Sitcom Book (Expanded Edition). New York, NY: Perigee Books - Putnam Publishing Co., 1983, p9. Print.
  8. ^ McMahon, Ed; Fisher, David C. (2007). When Television Was Young: The Inside Story with Memories by Legends of the Small Screen. Thomas Nelson Inc. p. 117. ISBN 9781418578411. Retrieved 22 September 2017. Mary Kay and Johnny.
  9. ^ Marx, Andy (March 2, 2013). "The day my grandfather Groucho and I saved You Bet Your Life". BoingBoing.net. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  10. ^ Entry for June 13th, 1949 episode at The Paley Center for Media website
  11. ^ Bianculli, David (November 14, 2002). "When TV Was Tame: Special examines old taboos". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 18, 2013.

Bibliography