What will be, will be Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger whacking his gavel into the side of Ron Harvey's head.
Que sera sera…
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, thank you for helping us solve this missing persons case. Here are the facts in evidence. Using The Brady Bunch as a convenient cohort example, the evidence shows that:
1) The Doris Day Show ran longer, and
Yet, incredibly, The Doris Day Show was never syndicated by a major network, and in fact has been virtually unseen since 1973. The question this court must explore is: why?
Facts of the Case
The second season finds Doris Martin (Doris Day, The Pajama Game) in San Francisco, where she takes a job as an administrative assistant to a manager for a posh fashion journal. Substitute father figure Buck Webb (Denver Pyle, The Dukes of Hazzard) stays behind on the ranch to watch the kids. Meanwhile, Doris and her co-worker/gal pal Myrna Gibbons (Rose Marie, The Dick Van Dyke Show) try to keep the ship running while appeasing their bosses, the genteel Michael Nicholson (McLean Stevenson, M*A*S*H) and the cad, Ron Harvey (Paul Smith, In Broad Daylight).
The episodes for this season are:
The review of The Doris Day Show: Season One by Judge DeWees makes two observations that bear on Season Two: the frequent shifts in the show's format, and the rural setting that did not capitalize on Day's strengths. Season Two gives us the first of the show's major format shifts, bringing Doris from the sticks to San Francisco. According to Judge DeWees's review, "Those who prefer to see Day in a more sophisticated urban milieu would do well to hold out for a future season of the show." That urban milieu arrives with this season, which should please Judge DeWees; it certainly pleased America, bringing The Doris Day Show a top ten Nielsen rating against stiff competition.
So why did this top ten show vanish into obscurity? In short, Doris Day was as square as this four-disc boxed set. In 2005, the "square" label is a rather quaint put down that suggests a wholesome naïveté. In the early '70s, a time of great sociological upheaval and bitter struggles for gender equality, it was tantamount to treason. The show may have been a big budget vehicle for one of the top-grossing film stars of the era, but admitting you liked it was gauche. Now that we're in an era where both males and females are free to feature themselves on C.O.P.S. or star in maverick Spring Break videos, the stigma has diminished somewhat. We can now look back on the show and discover it anew.
I did just that, and all I can say is "Yep, it's a sixties sitcom, alright." The situations are manufactured, fraught with lots of scurrying. The reaction shots are exaggerated, with widened eyes and triple-takes. The laugh track tells us when to laugh, just as the swelling music tells us when to be happy/wistful/glum. In other words, the bulk of The Doris Day Show is indistinguishable from the sea of its contemporaries. The colorful supporting actors are as hammy as can be (particularly Paul Smith, whose Dopey the Dwarf-ish, sheepishly grinning siege of sexual harassment made me wilt inside). The crises could all be solved with one well-placed word of explanation.
What's the draw? Get ready for a shocker: it's Doris. She's cute, she's sweet, she's in charge—yet vulnerable. She is honest about her likes and dislikes; harried, but willing to help. Day is particularly winning in her interactions with co-stars. Rose Marie's reprisal of the man-hungry role seems less seedy than it did in the Van Dyke days. Denver Pyle's pre-Uncle Jesse role seems less hokey and more honest. McLean Stevenson retains the authoritative, managerial air he would have as Lt. Col. Henry Blake, but without the eau de fool. Day brings out the best in people, it seems.
That radiance extends to her own character, whether she is looking for a lost frog at the farm or standing in to model clothes for a hot French designer. When the same actress seems equally at home in a grubby flannel shirt or haute couture, you know she's versatile. Her mixture of class, physical beauty, humor, and gracious demeanor won Day millions of staunch fans. This show is perhaps not the best showcase for Day, but she puts her game face on and makes each episode watchable.
The episodes in this season vary wildly. There are cringe-inducing setups such as the aforementioned frog-hunting expedition, or the painful false marriage to her boss, or worst of all the interminable two parter "Doris Hires a Millionaire." But there are winning moments as well, such as the embodiment of holiday spirit in "A Two-Family Christmas" or the intriguing season opener where she seeks a job in the city. Though I found the plot structure lame, I was fascinated by the retro fashion parody in "Doris, the Model," an episode that made fun of high style while showcasing the actual mod styles of the day. "Doris vs. the Computer" is downright prescient, while "Today's World Catches the Measles" is a sign of its times. Perhaps the greatest moment is when Doris defends herself in court after freeing a pack of dogs from a hot car, showcasing the animal-rights friendly Day at her most passionate. This is a microcosm of what's right with the show, just as it clarifies the position of its detractors who seek less sunshine with their TV.
The show is at its best in quiet moments. Zany plots may fill the bulk of the runtime, but I was most charmed by Doris when she conspired through a glance with Myrna, or snuck brownies from the fridge at night. Touches like this make the show seem real, and I found myself looking forward to these lesser revelations rather than the wacky episode finales.
MPI has given The Doris Day Show: Season Two fine treatment. The mono audio is in good shape, with but a hint of warble to betray its vintage. The show has high production values, with stunning shots of San Fran in the background, power lunches with all the trimmings, a full ranch set, and other expensive bits of flair. Claustrophobia is kept at bay by venturing out into the city on a regular basis. A bold, reasonably clean transfer highlights the eye-popping color schemes of the '60s while retaining admirable contrast.
But the best part is the cornucopia of extra content. MPI has covered the typical bases with trailers, bloopers (less satisfying than you'd hope), season promos, cast interviews (fluffy, fun, nothing spectacular), and textless credits. Then there are the unique extras. Doris recorded a bunch of promotional content for CBS, and we see some of the cooler examples in this set (for example, thank you messages to Steelcase—cube furniture manufacturer extraordinaire—for providing their wares for the office sets). The audio-only promos are less interesting (to guys, anyway), but they contain some incidental behind-the-scenes stuff. There are several minutes of additional material recorded for the main credits (a 9:50 rendition of "Que Sera Sera" is not available, so this segment lacks audio). Best of all is the McLean Stevenson screen test, which might be the earliest available footage of this actor. In any case, the extras are creative and thorough.
This is my first exposure to Doris Day, and insufficient evidence for me to come down on the "Love Me" or "Leave Me" side of the debate that seems to follow this actress. As a total package, the show is saddled with the same flaws as other hokey late '60s-early'70s fluff. Nonetheless, Doris Day makes the experience feel somehow warm in spite of my smirk. If you're at all interested in this era of television, The Doris Day Show blows away some of her contemporaries. If you prefer the edge of shows like C.S.I., then this isn't for you.
For sheer appeal alone, this court finds Doris Day not guilty.
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