1 9 5 9 – 1 9 6 3 (USA)
147 x 30 minute episodes
All-American teenager Dobie Gillis (Dwayne Hickman) lived in the fictitious community of Central City and was always on the lookout for girls, money and cars. His father, Herbert T Gillis (Frank Faylen) was a grocer and not very wealthy, so the cars and money eluded him.
Bookworm Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James) was trying to hook Dobie though, while good-looking rich kid Milton Armitage (Warren Beatty) vied with Dobie for his girlfriend, Thalia Menninger (Tuesday Weld).
Dobie’s parents, Herbert – who was a member of the Benevolent Order of the Bison lodge – and Winnie (Florida Friebus) tried to understand their bewildering offspring but were usually confused by his adolescent behaviour. The Gillis family lived at 285 Norwood Street.
Dobie was the archetypal middle-class, girl-crazy high-school teenager – his age was brought down in the jump from the page to the box because the TV boffins didn’t think the public would buy such adolescent behaviour from a college student (perhaps they never went to college!)
The show (based on the writings of Max Shulman) also featured Bob Denver (later to star in Gilligan’s Island) as the ultimate beatnik, Maynard G Krebs. Maynard – who lived with his parents at 1343 South Elm Street – was an unconventional fellow who was not the least bit interested in work and therefore not a particularly good influence on Dobie.
Maynard loved to play the bongos, was a fan of jazz and hung out at Riff Ryan’s Music Store. He had a stuffed armadillo named Herman and claimed that the G in his name stood for Walter. He also had the world’s largest collection of tin foil.
Dobie and Maynard’s friend Chatsworth Osborne Jr (Steve Franken) was the rich and spoiled son of Clarissa Osborne – heir to the fabulous Osborne National Bank fortune. He lived in a 47-room Louis XIV home (with broken glass embedded in the wall surrounding it), belonged to the Downshifters Club, was president of the Silver Spoon Club (for snobs) at S. Peter Pryor Junior College and dreamed of getting into Yale University.
Dobie and Maynard first attend Central City High School, then S. Peter Pryor Junior College. Their favourite after-school hangout was Charlie Wong’s Ice Cream Parlor, and in 1961 they both served a hitch in the army.
Dobie’s life was far from smooth and the same could be said for the goings-on behind the scenes on the set. First up, former fourth-grade teacher Denver was drafted into the army and saw his Krebs character permanently (everyone thought) written out of the show early on.
The military rejected Denver because of an earlier broken neck and Shulman brought him back by having the service boot him out on the show, too. Bad news for poor Michael Pollard, who had been cast as a replacement, playing Maynard’s cousin, and was let go when his six-month contract was up.
Meanwhile, Hickman and Weld (who left the series to concentrate on films after the first season) didn’t exactly hit it off; “People used to wonder why I didn’t get along with Tuesday Weld in the early days of the show, and they all thought it was some sort of romantic dust-up or something,” Hickman said.
“It wasn’t. She just wasn’t a pro, that’s all. No discipline. Late to work, getting back from lunch, no sense of responsibility to the show, the crew, the rest of the cast. She’s a very talented girl and maybe by now, she’s learned discipline. I don’t know. I haven’t seen her.”
For her part, Weld responded that she preferred to keep silent if she had nothing kind to say about a person . . .
On 10 May 1977, a one-off special aired called Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis? in which we saw the adult Dobie (now married to Zelda) running the grocery store with his Dad and with a teenage son of his own.
Another sequel appeared in 1988 called Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis offering more of the same.
Maynard G Krebs
Herbert T Gillis
Chatsworth Osborne Jr