Fifties TV

I Guess It's Too Late To Re-Think The Title

Author: Jeff Little

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 Jive.

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

Barbara Billingsley

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