Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

DADDY O [LOST PILOT]

Lee Phillips and Don DeFore
DADDY-O (unsold pilot/1961). Director/producer: Rod Amateau.

Daddy-O was a situation comedy with a fairly unusual premise. Ben (Don DeFore of Killer Bait) is a carpenter who is working on a house for TV producer Albert Shapian (Lee Phillips). For some reason, never explained, Albert thinks Ben would make a good actor, and the fellow winds up in a show called Daddy-O, produced by Shapian, wherein he plays a hapless family man in slapstick situations. The show-within-the-show is a big hit, but despite all the money Ben is dissatisfied. He thinks his work is frivolous whereas before he was helping to build homes and thereby helping the nation. He wants to quit Daddy-O, but Shapian won't think of it. At a hospital where Ben's wife Polly (Jean Byron) volunteers, he meets an elderly female patient who tells him how much the show means to her and other lonely people of all ages, to whom it has given a family. Ben decides to stay with Daddy O, not realizing that the old lady was an actress paid by Shavian, although she tells the producer that she actually meant every word. Other characters in the show include Ben's two teenaged sons, and Shavian's dumb brunette but sexy secretary. In the opening sequence -- a scene from Daddy O -- Sheila James from Dobie Gillis plays his daughter. Shavian seems to have a bit of a thing for Polly.

This pilot was apparently aired but wasn't turned into a series. The actors are fine -- even bland DeFore -- but perhaps it was too critical of dumb sitcoms for its own good, and without delivering the major laughs that any good sitcom requires. A surprising scene has Shapian and his colleagues adjusting the laugh track on an episode  -- the fact that sitcoms used laugh tracks was generally downplayed in this era. Still Daddy-O is amiable and has a few chuckles in it. Had this gone to series it might have developed into a memorable show. Phillips at least gives the project a little sex appeal, as does his uncredited secretary. Created and written by Max Shulman. DeFore wound up in the long-running Hazel with Shirley Booth.

Verdict: Had possibilities. **1/2.

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