Skip to main content

Redemption as a Guest Star

I take my nightly sleeping pill in the form of watching DVDs of old television westerns from the late 1950s up til 1965 or so.  Several times now I have been profoundly affected by seeing a guest give a great performance. Previously I had only known that actor as a regular on some idiot sitcom I remembered from childhood. 

As a guest star, they had a real chance to show what they could do as an actor. Of course I remember the actor as the regular on the idiot sitcom. And now, to see that same actor give a great performance as the guest star...

Dick York, and shame on you if your first thought was, "Hey isn't that Samantha's husband?"  From .

It makes me feel so good to see that actor redeemed. In fact it seems to redeem the entertainment industry and the good sense of my parents' generation.

At the time I always wondered how they could produce such a shabby product: sit-coms that never made me laugh; weak, clownish fathers on the sitcoms; intrusive and inane commercials, etc.

I suppose it shows how 'context is everything.' It's tragic though, to see these talented people go for years without a decent venue for displaying their talent. But I suppose they were happy to get steady work as a regular on the idiot sitcom. 

It's also tragic that the market for idiocy is so large, compared to non-idiocy.

Observing this contrast might affect us because there is something universal in it: many people feel trapped in a context that belittles them. It can frustrate the hell out of them because they think they have more to offer than what they are being allowed to show.

The specific examples that have affected me might mean nothing to the reader because you are a different age than me, or had different television viewing habits as a youngster. 

1. Dick York as a guest star on "Rawhide" and "The Virginian," and a regular on the idiot sitcom, "Bewitched."

2. Eddie Albert, guesting in the first season of "The Virginian."  A regular on "Green Acres."

3. Pernell Roberts guesting on "The Virginian." As a regular, he was "Adam" on "Bonanza."

4. Michael Landon guesting on "The Rifleman." Lorne Greene guesting on "Wagon Train." Both were regulars on "Bonanza," of course.

5. The amazingly beautiful and appealing Diane Brewster, guesting on "Wagon Train." She only got secondary roles as a regular on several series. IMDB didn't even have a photograph of her that did her justice.


Ed said…
Diane Brewster pictures that I think look good.

The one that Wikipedia uses does't do her justice either.
Anonymous said…

You have a point but I think your comments more reflect TV in the 50's and 60's rather than any actor's true ability.
TV wasn't into the dark side so much in those days. I think generally there was more of a community/national agreement that TV had a responsibility to teach moral behaviors. The good guy always won no matter the odds. Of course, father always knew best. And, hence, by extension, so did our political leaders. (Mom's subservience to dad's "superior" intelligence helped cement the deal.)
Many actors in those days would only accept good guy roles as their reputation and popularity depended on it. Charles Heston for one.
A good actor though can play both and play them exceedingly well. A ridiculously stupid sitcom and a thoroughly evil bad guy. We get to see that more nowadays and I think it speaks to changes in our culture and awareness more than anything else.
We lived in a bubble back then. Apollonian energies. We're into dionysian energies now.

"Of course, father always knew best." Well, there was the eponymous sitcom. And there were a couple more examples of fathers being dignified and wise, such as Beaver's father, Hugh Beaumont.

But the biggest advertisers were corporations like Proctor and Gamble. The easiest way to pander to their female customers was to portray the husband as a fool that the wife could easily dance circles around.
Anonymous said…

You've got a point with the advertising motive.

Of course, that suggests that women of the 50's and 60's thought their husbands were fools anyway. I don't think a woman who really looked up to her husband's good character would appreciate such a show as you describe. That works both ways.

I remember wondering when I was a kid why my family wasn't anything like what I saw on TV though I knew better than to ask such a question.