Arf! Meet Seven Sitcom Dogs of the 1950s
Like any time in history, the 1950s is riddled with generalizations and clichés that would take a lifetime to route through and discard. It’s claimed to be the last stand of the gray flannel suit, xenophobia, and chauvinism — all impressions burned into our retina by the era’s favorite household appliance, television, but not quite jiving with the persistence of these things outside the idiot box, into the great idiot expanse of 21st-century reality.
On that tip, the Atomic Age also saw the rise and rise of the nuclear family as depicted in the decade’s biggest dramatic trend: No, not two-hour plays about a couple guys waiting around for another guy — but the TV sitcom. Pets were essential to holding up the sense of familial normalcy television strove for in those early days. And, okay, they were adorable.
Here are seven examples of canines bringing a little light to a dim medium.
I Love Lucy
In this episode, Little Ricky took care of a Cairn Terrier named Fred. But in this scene, father Ricky takes a special interest in the dog’s obedience training, an investment he sunk a whopping $30 into.
Leave It to Beaver
This puppy makes a brief cameo near the end of the pilot episode of Leave it to Beaver. He would not appear again in the series. This episode was shot first but broadcast later in the show's first season because of the controversial appearance of a toilet (the first ever to appear on American TV) in a key scene.
Commercial Break: Gaylord the Dog
We've reached the halfway point of this post. So it seems only natural to pause for commercial. Gaylord was a battery-operated pull toy from a company called IDEAL. He would change direction with a tug of his leash and generally look somber, like he was burdened by thoughts of mortality or, maybe, capitalism.
Ozzie and Harriet
A neglected dog from down the street interrupts Nelson's plans to take a fishing trip, thus introducing the "noisy neighbor's dog" leitmotif into the world of old-school sitcoms.
The Phil Silvers Show
After Private Doberman's long-distance romance goes kaput, he adopts a Poodle named Louis to keep him company. Surprisingly, the network never exploited the dramatic possiblities of a spin-off series centered on the daily trevails of the Private and the Poodle. Just think of the many social issues of the time such a show could've tackled! McCarthyism! Juvenile delinquency! Public pooping!
In this legendary episode, Ralph confuses his health records with those of his mother-in-law's Collie and concludes he is fatallly ill. Interesting fact: among dogs, this episode is considered a masterpiece of bitter existentialist drama.
And lastly, my favorite '50s sitcom dog: Neil, the deceased martini-swilling Saint Bernard who haunts bank executive Cosmo Topper (Leo G. Carroll, seen above with screen wife Lee Patrick) throughout the series' run.
We'll be sharing more sitcom mutts through the decades of TV. Check back soon for more!
24 dogs watching TV by Shutterstock.