It's funny how fictional
characters can sometimes become more recognizable than
actual people. But that is definitely the case when one
considers Leave It to Beaver, a great example of how fiction,
especially on TV, can so fully permeate society. But, believe it
or not, the show was not an immediate success.
One of the most famous television series of all time got
off to a really rocky start when CBS dropped the now legendary
situation comedy after only running it form 1957 - 1958.
Fortunately for fans, ABC picked up the series for the 1958
season and continued its run through June 20, 1963.
Leave It to Beaver still airs in syndication today. And
even though the plots and characters may have become dated,
viewers still enjoy this 50's television staple.
For those of you who have been living under a rock (or
wasting your time reading or having a life instead of watching
TV like the rest of us), Leave It to Beaver followed the comic
misadventures of Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) and
his father, Ward (Hugh Beaumont), mother, June (Barbara
Billingsley), and likable older brother Wally (Tony Dow).
A group of rich characters recurred throughout the
series, rounded out the ensemble nicely, and provided some great
nicknames ("Lumpy", "Whitey", etc.). But far and away the most
memorable was Eddie ("You look lovely today, Mrs. Cleaver")
Haskell, played artfully by Ken Osmond.
Osmond would grow-up, surprisingly, to become a Los
Angeles police officer (despite rumors in the 70's that he was
actually Alice Cooper, had been killed in Vietnam, etc.), and
fellow cast member Richard Deacon (Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford's
father) would go on to become best known as Mel Cooley (one of
Rob Petrie's bosses on The Dick Van Dyke Show).
As for the rest of the cast? Well, they had pretty much
peaked when Leave It to Beaver left the air in 1963. Due to
typecasting the primary players in the cast were relegated to
mostly reprising their Beaver roles for the rest of their
careers…with the exception of Barbara Billingsley.
Ms. Billingsley could apparently do more than just make
us wonder, "Why doesn't my mom do the housework in a dress, high
heels, and pearls?" She could also do cutting-edge comedy that
would make us scream with laughter.
In the 1980's feature film spoof Airplane! Billingsley
demonstrated a tremendous flair for tongue-in-cheek comedy and a
healthy sense of humor about herself. In addition to doing a
fine job with a small, comedic role, she garnered one of the
greatest screen character names of all time: Old Lady Who Speaks
Perhaps Billingsley's turn in this irreverent role
provided a proper bow to one of the most beloved television
series of all time. After all, Leave It to Beaver started out as
a family comedy that usually concluded with an endearing moral
lesson and ended up as a part of numerous jokes involving a
well-known and vulgar euphemism.
But…I guess it's too late to re-think the title.
Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley, Hugh
Beaumont, and Jerry Mathers as The Cleavers.
Ken Osmond as Eddie Haskell