(CBS11) – Remember when comedian Jerry Seinfeld would describe his 90’s hit series by his surname as the “show about nothing?” It may have been about nothing but for eight seasons on NBC, it drew huge audiences and later in local syndication. But there was another show about nothing: Burns & Allen.
George Burns and Gracie Allen enjoyed one of the best entertainment careers imaginable: from vaudeville, motion pictures, network radio, and then network television. The premise of their act was very simple. George was typically the moderator/observer of situations where Gracie could and would be involved in. He was the straight man who would set up the punchline for Gracie, who was known for her scatter-brained ideas and involvement in various situations. Most of the predicaments were harmless and what made sense to Gracie, didn’t make sense to anyone else! And when George, who was a lifelong cigar smoker, would puff on the cigar, you knew the punchline was coming!
Their next-door neighbors were Blanche & Harry Morton. Bea Benaderet (later of Petticoat Junction fame) played the part of Blanche while Larry Keating played the role of Harry Morton, starting in 1953, replacing three other actors who had the part prior. Announcer Bill Goodwin started off with the TV show in 1950 but was replaced later by Harry Von Zell in 1951. Keating later starred in another George Burns-backed sitcom in the 60’s: Mister Ed.
The show aired from 1950 to 1958 on the CBS Television Network, starting on Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. and moved later to Mondays at 7:00 p.m. It started as a live show from New York (like many shows did back then) but in 1952, the show moved to Los Angeles and was filmed. A staggering 291 episodes were made during this time. CBS probably would have kept it going but Gracie wanted to retire from the act and show business by the fall of 1958. As a local programmer, I had the local rights to the show in the 1980’s when I was program director for KXTX Channel 39. A great late night show!
A typical Burns & Allen routine could sound like this:
George: Hey Gracie, how’s your brother doing?
Gracie: Oh the one who died?
Gracie: Oh, he’s much better now!
And a great Gracieism: “The President (of the United States) today is the postage stamp of tomorrow.”
Gracie Allen passed away in 1964. George passed away in 1996. Their son Ronnie passed away in 2007. Their daughter Sandra just passed away on January 19, 2018.
Enjoy this classic clip!