Adventures of Champion

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired 1955-56

DAD: Uncle Sandy North (Jim Bannon) / Single (?)

DAD’S JOB: Rancher

KIDS: Ricky (Barry Curtis) (12)

WHERE’S MOM?: Don’t know. Where’s Dad, too?

STAND-IN “MOM”: Champion (?)

Hey who’s ripping whom off here? This show, produced by Gene Autry as a “vehicle” for his Wonder Horse, Champion, sounds pretty much like the plot of Fury (above). Get this: out west, Ricky North lives on his uncle’s ranch, and is the only person able to ride this black stallion named Champion. They have a bunch of adventures defeating bad guys and getting into all kinds of dangerous situations. Sound familiar? I wonder who came up with the idea first.

Tidbit: this show was the first ‘spin-off’ in the history of television (from The Gene Autry Show of 1950-56). Just consider: Laverne & Shirley owes its pedigree to Gene’s horse.

Fury

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired 1955-60

Syndicated

DAD: Jim Newton (Peter Graves) / Single

DAD’S JOB: Rancher

KIDS: Joey (Bobby Diamond)(11)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead. So’s Dad.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Helen Watkins (Ann Robinson), Joey’s schoolteacher; or possibly Pete (William Fawcett), the “Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer” for the Ranch.
Out there in the west, somewhere probably near Sky King’s ranch in the 1950’s, Jim Newton adopts a city kid/orphan named Joey. Joey tames Jim’s “unbreakable” black stallion. Joey names the horse Fury. Fury and Joey wind up having the same kinds of adventures that Timmy and Lassie would have on their show.

Barry Williams, who would later portray the unforgettable Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch, once described this show as “the single most important program” to get him interested in acting. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or…

A tip of the Sebastian Cabot Memorial Bowler to Robert Carson (narcars@webtv.com) for the info on Jim’s last name and the Stand-in Mom details. Thanks, Robert!

…and a clang on the Hop Sing Memorial Triangle for Norman Bensen (normand@webtv.net) for the information about “Pete.” Thanks, Norman!

…plus a wave of the Mrs. Livington Memorial Feather Duster for “Momcat316@aol.com” on the tip about William Fawcett playing “Pete.” Thanks, “Momcat”!

Update: There’s more upset Alert Viewers out there. Here’s a recent note from the Broken Wheel Ranch – “I emailed you once before about your incorrect information about Fury. Nan Leslie played Packy’s mother, she was not Jim’s sister, or even his dead wife. If you are looking for a female for a stand in mother, then you would want it to be Ann Robinson, who was Joey’s scool teacher Helen Watkins. She was always at the ranch, and was there for Joey every damn time he got hurt, which was every few episodes.

If you would like to see more info on it, please visit our site at: http://brokenwheelranch.com

I stand corrected.

Sky King

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1953-54


DAD: Skyler “Sky” King (Kirby Grant) / Single Guy (?)- Uncle

DAD’S JOB: Pilot-Rancher

KIDS: Penny (Gloria Winters)(12) / Clipper (Ron Hagerthy)(10)

WHERE’S MOM?: Unknown. (Please e-mail me if you know the answer)

STAND-IN “MOM”: Unknown

“Out of the blue of the western sky comes Sky King.”

I never saw this show, but here’s what I know about the series: Kirby Grant played a rancher named Sky King, who had a twin engine Cessna (named “Songbird”) to catch rustlers et al. on his big “Flying Crown” ranch in Grover, Arizona. Sky had a niece named Penny and a nephew named Clipper. Penny and Clipper were constantly getting into trouble with the bad guys, and Uncle Sky typically had to rescue the kids from all sorts of perils.

The echoes of Sky King ring through the decades, as shows such as Space Ghost, Flipper, and Jonny Quest toyed with the “two kids in peril” motif. Strange.
Update: Alert viewer Ray Crenshaw (tbivins@greenwood.net) wrote in some more information about Sky’s aircraft: “Sky King had two different airplanes, though both were Cessna’s. The first plane was a ‘Bamboo Bomber’, it had two big radial engines and looked roughly similar to the plane Amelia Earhart flew and was subsequently lost in. Bamboo Bombers are exceedingly rare I’m told, probably even in the 1950’s. Cessna released the new twin-engine ‘310’ in around 1956… I wonder if they donated the new 310 for advertisement? This was, after all, just after WWII… it was commonly thought that almost *everyone* would fly airplanes in the (near) future. For a while it looked like it may happen… then the boom slowed down.”

A toot of the Fred MacMurray Memorial Saxophone to Ray Crenshaw for the aircraft info. Thanks, Ray!

An additional clang of the Hop Sing Memorial Dinner Triangle to Jim Hecht for the clarificaation of Skyler’s full name. Thanks, Jim!

I get more mail about Sky King than any other show in this entire website. What’s really amazing is how many little boys were in love with Penny! 🙂

Another update: Alert Viewer Martin McGowan checks in with more details about the ranch and the planes:

Your previous correspondent is correct, there were two “Songbirds”. The first, with the rotary engines, said to be similar to Emilia Eahrhart’s plane, was a Cessna 310-B. It would take a Cessna Freak to tell you what the second one was—-also a Cessna 310—-but the letter designation is the hard part. The C-310 was the base designation of the Cessna twin engine private plane. The letters designated the evolutionary incarnation, so to speak. Sky King’s ranch was called the “Flying Crown”. Get it? He drove around in Chrysler autos/station wagons with the FC logo/brand on the door.

Wonderful John Acton

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1953

DAD: John Acton (Harry Holcombe) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Court clerk and owner of the general store

KIDS: Julia (Virginia Dwyer)(22),  Kevin (Ronnie Walken)(12)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Unknown – possibly Aunt Bessie (Jane Rose)
Okay, you boomers – if you didn’t see this show, picture Green Acres with Sam Drucker’s family  as the focus. Easily forgettable, it was on from July to October of 1953 and then – – woosh – – -gone.

Update: Received a note from the son of the producer and director of Wonderful John Acton: “It was his first television show. Prior to that, he was a producer and director in radio, his most famous show being “Mr. District Attorney” which was very popular and ran from 1939 to 1952.

“Wonderful John Acton” was based on a real person, my father’s maternal grandfather who was a politician in Kentucky at the turn of the 20th century. I met one of the cast, Ian Martin, some years later when I was 12 or so. I have a claim to fame in that Christopher Walken’s character, Kevin Acton, was named after me. It was probably mom’s idea.

Unlike his radio career, my DAD’S foray into television met with little success. After “Wonderful John Acton”, he produced a show, “Mr. Citizen” which had a run of about a dozen episodes in 1955.”

Note: the charming Jacqui Chen of www.salmonlust.com points out that “Ronnie Walken” is, indeed, the original name of the ubiquitous Christopher Walken. Wonders never cease. Thanks, Jacqui!

My Son Jeep

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1953

DAD: Dr. Robert Allison (Jeffrey Lynn) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: M.D. (like Donna Reed’s husband)

KIDS: Peggy (13) (Betty Lou Keim), Jeep (10) (Martin Huston)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Mrs. Bixby (Leona Powers) / housekeeper

Another half-year wonder, this show was a precursor of Leave It to Beaver, but without June Cleaver. Jeep Allison got into the same kind of mishaps Beaver Cleaver would in the latter part of the decade, and Dr. Allison would have to sort out the mess when he got home from the office.

The repetitive motif of the kids finding suitable “new moms” for Dad to date pops up in this show. Jeep was always trying to get Dad to show some interest in his substitute teacher, Miss Miller (Anne Sargent). Wacky hijinks ensued.

Bonino

Jim 1950s - 1960s

AIRED: 1952-53

DAD: Babbo Bonino (Ezio Pinza) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Basso Profundo operatic singer

KIDS: Doris(Lenka Peterson), Jerry(Chet Allen, then Donald Harris), Carlo(Oliver Andes), Francesca(Gaye Hudson), Andrew(Van Dyke Parks)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, recently

STAND-IN “MOM”: Martha (Mary Wickes) / Maid

This series holds the distinction of being the earliest TV Single Dad show created specifically for television.

Though short-lived, this was a live sitcom starring the famous opera star Ezio Pinza as a (guess what?) famous opera star, Bonino. Bonino’s wife died, leaving him with a “party of six.” Bonino gave up opera touring to raise his kids, but found out that the kids were a leetle more independent than he was expecting.

The series was created by Fred Coe and David Swift, producers of the popular NBC show Mister Peepers. Coe and Swift previously worked with Ezio Pinza on The RCA Victor Show in 1948, and were interested in building a series around Pinza’s vocal and dramatic talents.

I imagine it must have been really interesting to watch a show where five kids had to hit their marks, live, every week.

Very Kewl Update: Just got a cast correction in from none other than Carlo Bonino himself, Oliver Andes!
Hi Jim,
It was even more interesting to actually hit the marks on live TV. I notice that several web sites have the same incorrect information. The part of Francesca was played by Gaye Huston.
Keep up the good work.
Oliver Andes (Carlo)

Much obliged!

Life with Luigi

Jim 1950s - 1960s

AIRED: 1952-53

DAD: Pasquale (Alan Reed) / WidowerMy Little Margie

DAD’S JOB: Restaurant owner

KIDS:  Rosa Pasquale (Jody Gilbert), 18

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN “MOM”:unknown

A radio crossover (started on radio in 1948) – this show missed being the first TV Single Dad show by only a few months. Pasquale sponsored the title character's immigration in the hopes of having him marry his rather obese daughter. Wacky hijinks ensued, of course

Alan Reed is better known as another TV Dad: he was the voice of Fred Flintstone on The Flintstones ten years later.

My Little Margie

Jim 1950s - 1960s

AIRED: 1952-55

DAD: Vernon Albright (Charles Farrell) / WidowerMy Little Margie

DAD’S JOB: Investment Banker

KIDS:  Margie (Gale Storm), 18

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead – so is Dad.

STAND-IN “MOM”:Mrs. Odetts (Gertrude Hoff)

The granddaddy of them all, My Little Margie set the stage for most TV Single Dad sitcom plots: the child decides Dad needs a new wife, and goes “shopping” for one. Dad winds up meeting the child’s “pick” and things go awry. Dad winds up yelling at the child, and then apologizes. Everything is fine until the next exciting episode…

Although it’s the earliest known TV Single Dad show, My Little Margie was a radio cross-over from CBS. The television version of the radio series, produced by Desilu, made it to the screen as a summer replacement for I Love Lucy.

Update: Alert Viewer Gord Bates reports that the company Vernon Albright worked for was “Honeywell & Todd”. Thanks, Gord!