The Foote Files: December Bride

(CBSDFW.COM) – This morning, an episode of I Love Lucy from 1953, “Lucy Hires A Maid” came to mind. The maid, known in that episode as Mrs. Porter, was not exactly what Lucy was expecting in a housekeeper. As I dug deeper, I learned that the actress who played that part, Verna Felton, was a regular on another CBS Television Network show during the 50’s, “December Bride” and that Desilu Productions actually produced the show and owned a portion of it.

December Bride was a situational comedy that actually started on the CBS Radio Network from June 1952 until September 1953. In October 1954 (2 months after I was born!), the show debuted on CBS Television, Mondays at 9:30 p.m. ET, with its lead in none other than I Love Lucy. The show starred Spring Byington as Lily Ruskin, a widow and mother-in-law who could live with and be loved by her son-in-law. Lily lived with the kids in their home and they were constantly looking for a husband for her, as well as her friend Hilda Crocker (played by Verna Felton). The next door neighbor, Pete Porter (played by Harry Morgan of Dragnet and M*A*S*H fame later), was a guy who hated his mother-in-law. Pete was seen at Lily’s and the kids’ home all the time. He was constantly complaining about his mother-in-law. He also complained about his wife, Gladys, but she was never seen on December Bride, only heard.

There were 157 episodes made. From 1959 to 1961, it aired on CBS Daytime at 10 a.m. ET Monday through Friday, but not having its I Love Lucy lead in anymore and airing in a totally different programming environment, the show was not successful and left the network schedule by 1961. The late CBS programmer Mike Dann, who was with the network at that time, engineered the concept of “hammocking”: scheduling a weaker or new show in between two established and high rated show with the objective to improve its viewership. Some 56 year later after December Bride left CBS, we still see that scheduling strategy on network television!

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