June 11, 2005

Make Room for Daddy.

There's no Danny Thomas ("Danny Williams") on TiVo's list of TV's Greatest Dads! Throwing Things doesn't acknowledge the glaring omission of that classic TV dad, but found lots of other omissions -- like "Uncle Bill, who deserves a credit for "taking in those three kids like he did and keeping his 'relationship' with Mr. French behind closed doors as not to scar them."

Wasn't "Make Room for Daddy" the original dad show? It started in 1953 and ran until 1964 and was a top show the whole time. TiVo puts Andy Taylor second on its list (after Cliff Huxtable), but did you know that the pilot for "The Andy Griffith Show" was an episode of "Make Room for Daddy" ("'Danny Meets Andy Griffith'")?

Well, all I can say is that if they ever do a TV's Greatest Uncles list: don't forget Uncle Tonoose.

IN THE COMMENTS: A reader asks, "How about Ozzie and Harriet? That was from way before Make room for Daddy. I can remember when it was a radio program." Good point! Especially since the TiVo list includes Ozzy Osbourne.

"Ozzie and Harriet" goes back to 1941 in radio form and to 1952 as a TV show, one year before Danny Thomas. Funny, I just heard an Ozzie Nelson band song on the 1940s Decade channel on the radio the other day. Ozzie also made the first TV music video, with Ricky, who went from kid to teen idol, singing "Travelin' Man."

Ozzie was the original hapless, bumbling TV dad. Many people over the years have joked about how he didn't seem to have a job. Harriet played the smart housewife, another classic TV sitcom type. By contrast, "Leave It to Beaver" seems to have been designed to copy O&N (down to the two sons, with the younger one the troublemaker), but getting the proper sex roles enforced. (Ward Cleaver does make the TiVo list, at #5.)

I think a big part of my love for "Make Room for Daddy" was that, unlke Ozzie and Ward, Danny had a daughter. I was so jealous of Angelica Cartwright! Why wasn't I on TV? That question nagged me throughout childhood. Sometimes, I imagined my life was a TV show. I really enjoyed the way the television audience saw everything from my point of view!

Anyway, like Ozzie Nelson, Danny Thomas was on the radio -- even named the "best newcomer in radio" in 1945. He's also notable for being a Lebanese-American, and for refusing to yield to pressure to get his big nose rhinoplastied. The nose proved useful for many jokes. He did change his name, though -- from Muzyad Yahkoob.

Here's a Danny Thomas bio. It's very impressive. Click on the link to see a picture of him doing something no TV dad of today would do.


Pancho said...

There was no better TV Dad than Ward Cleaver. Generous, understanding to a fault, giving and able to be nice to even the likes of Edward Haskell. I miss Ward.

Ann Althouse said...

I agree. I watched ALL the sitcoms of the 50s and 60s (except the really early 50s), and the Cleavers are the ones that impressed me as the ideal. Both parents presented very strong role models. They were equals but clearly masculine and feminine.

dick said...

How about Ozzie and Harriet? That was from way before Make room for Daddy. I can remember when it was a radio program.

Ann Althouse said...

Dick: You're right. I'm going to do an update!

John R Henry said...

I've always found it sad that Bill Cosby was seen as such a good TV dad.

I watched the show from time to time (My kids loved it) but got very angry with it.

Cliff Huxtable should have been locked up for child abuse. The reason is his near constant belittling of his son Theo, his son's smarts, and any idea his son had. Yes, it was done as a joke and for laughs.

That doesn't change the fact that it was child abuse, pure and simple.

Bill Cosby should have known better and he should not have done it.

I was a big fan of his from his early records, I Spy, Fat Albert and so on. I know he does a lot of very good work.

After the Huxtables, though, I have trouble seeing him in any context other than a child abuser.

John Henry

PS: I agree with you about Danny Thomas.

Jeffrey Boulier said...

Other great TV uncles should include Bob Cummings, the randy photographer and father-figure for his nephew on the "The Bob Cummings Show", and the electrifying Uncle Fester from "The Addams Family".

But really, the number of uncles is vast. I think radio's Great Gildersleeve was the first to be the primary caregiver (or sometimes the assistant) for a deceased or absent sibling's kids, a device that has been much-imitated since.

The list of great Aunts is much shorter. Aunt Bea, of course, would top the list. She also strikes me as one of the very few among the already small number of Aunts who were mainly defined by their relationship with their nieces or nephews. Other Aunts, like Jacky from the "Roseanne Barr Show", served mainly as a foils to their sisters or brother in-laws.

I say sister/brother-in-law, as I don't seem to be able to come up with *any* paternal aunts outside of Rebecca Romjin on "Full House", and she was only an Aunt by marriage.

Jeffrey Boulier said...

I don't seem to be able to come up with *any* paternal aunts outside of Rebecca Romjin on "Full House"

IMDB says that I was wrong twice. John Stamos played Bob Saget's brother-in-law, and Stamos' character married Lori Laughlin. So we're back to zero paternal aunts.

On the other hand, I am very relieved that I do *not* know "Full House" as well as I feared!

Greybeard said...

Funny how many of the sitcoms are formulaic......
Bumbling, but kind husband whose wife constantly has to pull him back from the precipice.
Tim Allen, Jackie Gleason.....
Edith Bunker was a ditz, but she kept her man out of trouble!

Roger Sweeny said...

The Andy Griffith episode is kind of interesting. Danny Thomas plays a hot-shot New Yorker who is caught speeding through Mayberry. Of course, the kindly sheriff will let him off with a warming but Thomas pulls an "I'm important and you're hicks" attitude so he gets locked up. After seeing some of Mayberry's people, he realizes how wrong he is and leaves the next day.

Ann Althouse said...

Roger: I'd like to see that!

Jeffrey Boulier said...

The topic of paternal aunts served as dinner-table conversation with my parents. Between us we were able to come up with a few instances of paternal aunts on the small screen.

1. Sabrina, of Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch, lived with her father's sisters.

2. 'Sandy Hogan' on The Hogan Family. After Valerie was written out of her own show due to a contract dispute, Sandy, playing the father's sister, moved in to serve as substitute mom.

3. On Jumanji (also turned into a TV show), Aunt Nora Shepherd takes care of her brother's children after they're orphaned by their parents' death in a car accident.