1 9 5 8 – 1 9 6 6 (USA)
Academy Award-winning actress – for From Here To Eternity (1953) – Donna Reed became the star of this television sitcom in 1958.
The series was one of US television’s most popular domestic comedies, and the beautiful Ms Reed became one of America’s favourite TV personalities.
Reed played Donna Stone, an all-American stay-at-home wife and mother, whose husband, Alex (Carl Betz) was a work-at-home paediatrician. The Stones had three children, Mary, Jeff and Tricia, played by Shelley Fabares, Paul Petersen and Patty Petersen respectively.
The family suffered through all the usual domestic trials and tribulations – such as measles, problems with boyfriends and girlfriends, academic struggles, fibs etc – that were common in family-oriented TV comedies of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The show’s theme music, Happy Days, introduced viewers to a half-hour of delightful, wholesome TV entertainment, and even TV critics agreed that The Donna Reed Show was well worth tuning in to see. The show remained high in the ratings for an impressive eight years, making it one of American television’s longest-running sitcoms.
Also appearing regularly on the show were Kathleen Freeman as the Stones’ nosy neighbour, Mrs Wilgus; Harvey Grant and Darryl Richard as Jeff’s friends Philip and Smitty; Candy Moore as Bebe Barnes; and Bob Crane and Ann McCrea as the Stones’ friends and neighbours, Dr Dave and Madge Kelsey.
At the height of the show’s popularity, both Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen launched singing careers and recorded several hit teenybopper singles, including Johnny Angel (Fabares) and My Dad and She Can’t Find Her Keys (Petersen).
Reruns of The Donna Reed Show appeared as early as 1964 and ran concurrently with first-run shows until 1968 – a first for television comedy.
Dr Dave Kelsey