Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Bickersons

The Bickersons was a radio comedy sketch series that began September 8, 1946, on NBC, moving the following year to CBS where it continued until August 28, 1951. The show's married protagonists, portrayed by Don Ameche and Frances Langford, spent nearly all their time together in relentless verbal war.

The Bickersons was created by Philip Rapp, the one-time Eddie Cantor writer who had also created the Fanny Brice skits (for The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air and Maxwell House Coffee Time) that grew into radio's Baby Snooks. Several years after the latter established itself a long-running favorite, Rapp developed and presented John and Blanche Bickerson, first as a short sketch on The Old Gold Show and The Chase and Sanborn Hour (the show that made stars of Edgar Bergen and his dummy, Charlie McCarthy), and then as a 15-minute situational sketch as part of Drene Time. This was a variety show starring Don Ameche and singer-actress Frances Langford as co-hosts, airing on NBC and sponsored by Drene Shampoo.

Drene Time typically opened with Langford singing a big band-style arrangement before Ameche and Langford would slip into routine comedy, often aided by co-star Danny Thomas, in routines that often expressed Ameche's frustration that Thomas was more interested in modern technology and discoveries than in women. After another musical number and a commercial spot for Drene Shampoo, Miller would announce Ameche and Langford as the Bickersons, "in 'The Honeymoon's Over'", for the final 15 minutes of the show.

As transcribed by John Crosby, this was a typical Bickersons exchange:

B: You used to be so considerate. Since you got married to me you haven't got any sympathy at all.
J: I have, too. I've got everybody's sympathy.
B: Believe me, there's better fish in the ocean than the one I caught.
J: There's better bait, too.
B: I don't see how you can go to bed without kissing me good night.
J: I can do it.
B: You'd better say you're sorry for that, John.
J: Okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
B: You are not.
J: I am too. I'm the sorriest man that was ever born.
B: Is there any milk for breakfast?
J: No.
B: Then you'll have to eat out.
J: I don't care, I've been doing it all week.
B: What for? I left you enough food for six days. I cooked a whole bathtub full of rice. What happened to it?
J: I took a bath in it.
B: Why didn't you eat it?
J: I've told you a million times I can't stand the sight of rice.
B: Why not?
J: Because it's connected to the saddest mistake of my life.
B: You stopped loving me the day we were married.
J: That wasn't the day at all.

The Bickersons had at least three television runs. The first was as a segment on Star Time, which ran on Dumont for a half-season, from September 1950 to February 1951. A stand-alone Bickersons series ran on CBS for a short time in summer 1951. In both versions, Lew Parker (later familiar as That Girl's harried, slightly overbearing father Lew Marie) took the role of John Bickerson, as he also did on radio a season earlier. The televised version did not work as well as the original skits. Langford did not appear to have the seamless anti-chemistry with Parker as she did with Ameche, and the show's persistent setting (always in the same bedroom) made the show less than ideal for the visual medium. Premiering as a summer season replacement, the CBS version of The Bickersons lasted only 13 episodes.

For a more lengthy and in depth look at The Bickersons, be sure to refer to their Wikipedia page or the official Bickersons website.

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