The Donna Reed Show
First season title screen
StarringDonna Reed
Carl Betz
Shelley Fabares
Paul Petersen
Patty Petersen
Theme music composerJohn Seely
Opening theme"Happy Days"
ComposersIrving Friedman
William Loose
Stu Phillips
Hans J. Salter
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons8
No. of episodes275 (list of episodes)
ProducersTony Owen
William S. Roberts
CinematographyGert Andersen
EditorsRichard Fantl
Robert B. Hoover
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companiesTodon of California (1958-1963)
Briskin Productions (1958-1959)
Screen Gems
Original release
ReleaseSeptember 24, 1958 (1958-09-24) –
March 19, 1966 (1966-03-19)

The Donna Reed Show is an American sitcom starring Donna Reed as the middle-class housewife Donna Stone. Carl Betz co-stars as her pediatrician husband Dr. Alex Stone, and Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen as their teenage children, Mary and Jeff. The show originally aired on ABC from September 24, 1958, to March 19, 1966.[1]


The series was sponsored by Campbell Soup Company, with Johnson & Johnson as the principal alternate sponsor (succeeded in the fall of 1963 by The Singer Company).[2]

This show was the first TV family sitcom to feature the mother as the center of the show. Reed's character, Donna Stone, is a loving mother and wife, but also a strong woman, an active participant in her community, a woman with feelings and a sense of humor. According to many of Reed's friends and family, Reed shared many similarities to the character that she portrayed on screen, implying that the fictional Donna Stone was a near-identical copy of Reed herself.[citation needed]

In a 2008 interview, Paul Petersen (Jeff Stone) stated:

[The Donna Reed Show] depicts a better time and place. It has a sort of level of intelligence and professionalism that is sadly lacking in current entertainment products. The messages it sent out were positive and uplifting. The folks you saw were likable, the family was fun, the situations were familiar to people. It provided 22-and-a-half-minutes of moral instructions and advice on how to deal with the little dilemmas of life. Jeff and Mary and their friends had all the same problems that real kids in high school did.[3]

Petersen continued,

That's what the show was really about, the importance of family. That's where life's lessons are transmitted, generation to generation. There's a certain way in which these are transmitted, with love and affection.[3]

From the 1958 first season (L-R): Donna Reed as Donna Stone, Carl Betz as Dr. Alex Stone, Paul Petersen as Jeff Stone, and Shelley Fabares as Mary Stone

Cast changes

In season 5, (1963) Mary departed for college, reducing Fabares's appearances, something which continued yearly with her role becoming a minor character. Fabares left the full-time cast to pursue opportunities in films. She eventually returned seven times for guest appearances (Season 6 episodes 8, 11, 14; Season 7 episodes 5, 15, 30; Season 8 episode 13). Following Fabares's departure, Petersen's real-life sister Patty Petersen joined the show as Trisha, a runaway orphan eventually adopted by the Stones.[4] The program achieved its highest Nielsen ratings in Season 6, reaching #16 after Fabares' departure. A possible reason for higher ratings was the addition of new characters, Ann McCrea and disc jockey-turned actor Bob Crane as the Stones' neighbors, Midge and Dave Kelsey. This not only provided both Donna and Alex with best friends, but co-conspirators, as well. So popular were their roles that by the fall of 1964, both McCrea and Crane began receiving billing in the opening credits of the program. Crane left the series in 1965 to star in the CBS sitcom Hogan's Heroes. As a result, he was written out of the show although his character continued to be referred to and McCrea's character remained with the program. Also, towards the end of the series, actor Darryl Richard was regularly featured as Jeff Stone's best friend, Morton "Smitty" Smith. Richard first appeared in 1962 and "Smitty" became a major character after Season 6. Janet Landgard was a series regular from 1963 to 1965 as Karen Holmby.[5]

Characters and cast



Bob Crane as Dr. Dave Kelsey with Donna and Alex Stone

Guest stars

James Darren and Shelley Fabares

The Donna Reed Show featured several celebrity guest stars appearing as themselves during its eight-year run. Baseball player Don Drysdale appeared in four episodes while Willie Mays appeared in three episodes and Leo Durocher once. Musician Harry James and singers Tony Martin and Lesley Gore appeared as themselves. Gore was featured in the series' finale, "By-Line—Jeff Stone", on March 19, 1966. Lassie and film director George Sidney appear as themselves in the 1961 episode "The Stones Go To Hollywood". The episode plugged Sidney's then current feature film, Pepe, in which Reed made a cameo appearance. Teen heartthrob James Darren guest starred as a pop singer with the measles. Iconic silent comedian Buster Keaton appeared in "A Very Merry Christmas." as a hospital janitor December 24, 1958.

Child actor Charles Herbert also had a recurring guest role in four episodes as David Barker, a runaway child whom the Stones assist. In the 1960 crossover episode "Donna Decorates", Jay North appeared with his Dennis the Menace co-star, Joseph Kearns as Mr. George Wilson. Esther Williams guest starred as Molly, a fashion designer and friend of Donna's who is herself about to marry a doctor in "The Career Woman" (1960). In real life, Williams and Reed had been close friends since the early 1940s, when they were rising MGM contract stars.

Several actors guest starred numerous times in different roles including Richard Deacon, Gale Gordon, Harvey Korman, Miyoshi Umeki, Doodles Weaver, and Dick Wilson.

As Fabares co-starred in the Mickey Mouse Club serial Annette before the Donna Reed Show, four other Annette co-stars (Deacon, Cheryl Holdridge, Doreen Tracey & Mary Wickes) would also make respective guest appearances on this show.

Other notable guest stars include:


Main article: List of The Donna Reed Show episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
137September 24, 1958 (1958-09-24)June 3, 1959 (1959-06-03)
238September 24, 1959 (1959-09-24)June 16, 1960 (1960-06-16)
338September 15, 1960 (1960-09-15)June 8, 1961 (1961-06-08)
439September 14, 1961 (1961-09-14)June 14, 1962 (1962-06-14)
534September 20, 1962 (1962-09-20)May 9, 1963 (1963-05-09)
632September 19, 1963 (1963-09-19)April 23, 1964 (1964-04-23)
730September 17, 1964 (1964-09-17)April 8, 1965 (1965-04-08)
827September 16, 1965 (1965-09-16)March 19, 1966 (1966-03-19)

Home media

For a limited time in 2004, General Mills offered a DVD of two episodes inside boxes of Total cereal and Oatmeal Crisp.[6] Virgil Films and Entertainment (under license from the estates of Donna Reed and Tony Owen) released the first three seasons of the show on DVD in Region 1. Virgil also released a four-episode "best of" DVD on April 13, 2010.[7]

On December 17, 2010, it was announced that MPI Home Video had acquired the rights to release seasons 4 and 5 of The Donna Reed Show.[8] Season 4 was subsequently released on December 20, 2011, and Season 5 was released on December 4, 2012.[9]

On September 30, 2014, MPI Home Video re-released the first season on DVD.[10] Season 2 was re-released on March 24, 2015.[11] Season 3 was re-released on June 30, 2015.[12]

As of 2024, the show's sixth, seventh, and eighth (the final) seasons have yet to be released on DVD.

Season Ep # Release Date
Season 1 37 October 28, 2008
September 30, 2014 (re-release)
Season 2 38 July 28, 2009
March 24, 2015 (re-release)
Season 3 38 December 1, 2009
June 30, 2015 (re-release)
Season 4 39 December 20, 2011
Season 5 34 December 4, 2012

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipient Result
1959 Primetime Emmy Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series Donna Reed Nominated
1960 Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead or Support) Nominated
1961 Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead) Nominated
1962 Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead) Nominated
1963 Golden Globe Awards Best TV Star – Female Won
1994 Young Artist Awards Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award Shelley Fabares Won
1996 Best Performance by a Young Actor – Voiceover Role Chris M. Allport Nominated
1997 Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award Paul Petersen Won
2004 TV Land Awards Favorite Teen Dream – Female Shelley Fabares Nominated

In popular culture

In Gilmore Girls season 1 episode 14 "That Damn Donna Reed", Rory and her boyfriend Dean have a disagreement about women's roles after watching an episode of the show. The episode involved Reed's character making a lot of food. Later, Rory dresses up in a dress like Donna Reed and serves Dean a steak dinner.

In the film Major Payne, the theme song to the show plays as Payne fantasizes about an idyllic family life with Emily and Tiger.

A snippet of the show's theme song can also be heard in the film Pleasantville as the scene transitions from a view of the main characters' modern-day suburban neighborhood to David watching the fictional "Pleasantville" show on their TV.


  1. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  2. ^ Leibman, Nina Clare (1995). Living Room Lectures: The Fifties Family in Film and Television. University of Texas Press. pp. 58. ISBN 0-292-74684-9.
  3. ^ a b Glenn Garvin, “Life was better in 'Donna Reed' world, cast member Paul Petersen says”, Catholic Online. December 10, 2008 (Retrieved 2018-07-21.)
  4. ^ Fultz, Jay (1998). In Search of Donna Reed. University of Iowa Press. pp. 151. ISBN 0-87745-625-9.
  5. ^ Donna Reed Org
  6. ^ Lambert, David (January 9, 2004). "Site News – Sony, General Mills serve TV-on-DVD for Breakfast: King Of Queens, Barney Miller, Mad About You, & Donna Reed". Archived from the original on October 2, 2008.
  7. ^ Lambert, David (February 10, 2010). "The Donna Reed Show – Box Front Art Changes on Virgil's 'Family Favorites' DVD". Archived from the original on February 14, 2010. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  8. ^ Lambert, David (December 17, 2010). "The Donna Reed Show – MPI Home Video Picks Up DVD Rights to the 4th and 5th Seasons". Archived from the original on September 2, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  9. ^ Lambert, David (September 24, 2012). "The Donna Reed Show – 'Season 5' Announced by MPI: Date, Cost, Box Art, More!". Archived from the original on January 5, 2013. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  10. ^ MPI Home Video is Preparing to Re-Release 'Season 1' on DVD Archived December 20, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ MPI Sets a Finalized Date for their 'Season 2' Re-Release Archived December 20, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ MPI Home Video to Re-Release 'Season 3' this Summer Archived March 20, 2015, at the Wayback Machine