Thursday, March 24, 2011

Carol Channing in The Carol Channing Show (1966)

So often when I run across pilots of sitcoms from the 60's that didn't make it I'm disappointed. It seems like such a raw deal that we didn't get to see what The Decorator would have been like as a full series. The year after Bette Davis filmed that, Carol Channing put a pilot together too. In it we follow small town Carol as she figures out how to break into show business and make her way in New York. It was produced by Desi Arnaz after his split with Lucy and is featured as a bonus on The Mothers In Law DVD. While it's not a brilliant concept, it beautifully showcases Carol in all her darling quirkiness, though I'm not sure how suited to situation comedy she was. It also features Richard Deacon and Jane Dulo as the couple who take a destitute (but remarkably well dressed) Carol in. The theme song is just wonderful and its no wonder - it was written by Jerry Herman.

This is only available in full on The Mothers In Law series DVD as a bonus feature. The opening sequence is above, uploaded to Photobucket by PhiladelphiaSon.

Obscurity factor: 10 (never aired, never screened, only available as a DVD extra)


  1. Ben digs deep! This looks like it might have been an influence on that Brini Maxwell person! Love the credits' typeface -- & the Prell commercial, I always wanted to taste that stuff. (PS: I took a couple of screen shots of Carol's closeups just to scare peeps with later ...)

  2. I love the tight closeup on her eye looking at Richard Deacon's name. It's worth tracking down the DVD to see the whole show.

  3. Didn't Ethel Merman do a TV pilot as well?

  4. After I watched this last summer, I emailed a friend with my thoughts. I will share here what I wrote:

    The Carol Channing Show" pilot from 1966 - WARNING - This commentary contains spoilers, so if you want to wait and experience it for yourself with no preconceived notions, stop reading this email now! However, I don't think it will hurt anything if you do read it.

    This is one of two pilots aside from "The Mothers-in-Law" that Desi produced. The other is an adventure series called "Land's End," which is also included as an extra but I have not watched it yet. The premise of the series, which was written by Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr., is that Carol moved to New York two weeks ago to launch an acting career. However, she has not gotten a job yet, either in show business or just a job to support herself. The first scene has her sitting on a park bench and along comes a little boy played by Jimmy Garrett! He is eating candy and she tries to get some from him. After he leaves, a young couple played by Sherry Alberoni (who was a Mouseketeer and also played Sharon, Cissy's friend on "Family Affair") and Eddie Applegate (Richard on "The Patty Duke Show) come along and sit on the park bench. A hot dog vendor comes along and sells them two hot dogs, which Carol starts taking bites of while the couple are smooching. After they leave, a friend of Carol's (played by Jane Dulo) comes by and asks Carol how things are going. She invites her to stay with her and her husband, a mounted policeman (played by Richard Deacon). The rest of the plot involves Carol getting a couple jobs that she promptly loses amidst lots of chaos. One is in a restaurant (in an extremely unfunny scene) and another in a dance hall (which was kind of amusing because there was a segment where she was dancing with men of various sizes and shapes to different types of music). The dynamic between Carol's and Richard Deacon's character was a carbon-copy of the dynamic between Lucy and Mr. Mooney/Harry Carter.

    The credits were very modern and stylish for 1966. The episode began and ended with a monologue by Carol in close-up, which was a mistake. I think she looked very good in this pilot, but in longer shots. Part of the reason given for her never having a film career was that she was too much for the big screen, especially as a leading lady. Well, quadruple that for television. Having her in direct close-up talking to the audience is rather overpowering.

    So, the premise of the show was obviously going to be that she was living with this married couple, and she was always annoying/making trouble for the husband, and she would get and lose a job or two every week while she attempted to make it as an actress. I suppose it could have worked, but it was not great. I can see why the networks passed on it. However, as a curio, it is a must!

  5. Yes indeed! Good summation of the show. Land's End is even more of a mess than this is though, with plot points that lead nowhere and trumped up circumstances that mean little...

  6. I'm late to this party, but "The Debbie Reynolds Show" discussion led me here - regarding writers Carroll/Pugh Davis. Can't wait to see this. The link is gone, but I was able to find the intro on Google. As I've said in another post, Bette Davis's "The Decorator" - what fun that would have been! I'm just surprised that THAT pilot wasn't a bit more "glossy".

  7. Thanks for the heads up about the video. It's been replaced!