DVD Extra: 'Many Loves of Dobie Gillis' in new boxed set
05:00 AM, Jul 06, 2013
The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was different from the very beginning. Most sitcoms of the 1950s revolved around lovable but harried dads and their adorable wife and kids. Dobie was the first to look at life from the angsty teenage perspective.
Dwayne Hickman starred as the good-natured title character whose main goals in life were to become rich, be popular and attract gorgeous girls. Dobie didn’t want to have to work too hard, which is more than could be said for goateed, beatnik, best buddy Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver), who spazzes out at the very mention of “work”!
Dobie, meanwhile, is smitten by every girl that catches his eye, as he tries to ignore that his plain Jane childhood friend, Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James), only has eyes for him. Dobie’s lack of work ethic didn’t sit well with his gruff, grocery-store-owning father, Herbert T. Gillis (Frank Faylen), but his doting mother, Winnie (Florida Friebus), always seemed to smooth things over.
For the first time, all 147 episodes of the groundbreaking TV show are available on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis: The Complete Series (1959-63, Shout Factory, not rated, $140). The 20-disc DVD set includes rare original pilot footage and episodes from early ’50s sitcoms Love That Bob! (which boosted the career of Hickman) and The Stu Ervin Show (where James got her start).
And speaking of starts, the show was a steppingstone into movies for two of the first season’s regulars. Warren Beatty played Dobie’s rich, handsome rival, Milton Armitage, and Tuesday Weld portrayed Thalia Menninger, the gold-digging schemer who was the apple of Dobie’s eye. Characters played by Marlo Thomas, Yvonne Craig, Diana Millay, Barbara Bain, Sally Kellerman, Ellen Burstyn and Sherry Jackson also attracted Dobie’s attention.
The show was created and written by humorist Max Shulman, who originated the character in a series of short stories that were collected in the 1951 compilation, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Those stories were turned into the 1953 musical comedy film, The Affairs of Dobie Gillis.
The sitcom was innovative at the time, featuring one of TV’s first counterculture heroes in Krebs, and being one of the first shows to have characters break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience. Dobie, who would begin and end each episode sitting in contemplation next to a statue of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, would often share his thoughts with viewers about a pending situation.
After Dobie Gillis ended, Hickman found himself typecast as an actor and found more success as a director and programming executive. Sheila James Kuehl eventually turned away from acting and earned a Harvard law degree. In 1994, she became the first openly gay person elected to the California Legislature, where she served until 2008. Denver, who had been a college classmate of Hickman’s at Loyola University in Los Angeles before Dobie Gillis, went on to greater fame when it ended as the title character of Gilligan’s Island.
The cast would reunite twice the failed 1977 TV pilot Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis and the 1988 TV movie Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis. As it turns out, Zelda finally did get her man. The show’s influence can still be seen whenever the cartoon Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is shown. Scooby writer Mark Evanier has said he based Fred on Dobie, Shaggy on Maynard, Velma on Zelda and Daphne on Thalia.