Bachelor Father (U.S. TV series)
|Genre||Noreen Corcoran and John Forsythe, 1961|
|Theme music composer||Dave Kahn
Melvyn Lenard Gordon
|Opening theme||"Bachelor Father Serenade"
"Bachelor Father Theme"
"Bachelor Father Theme"
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||157|
|Running time||25 mins.|
|Production company(s)||Bachelor Productions|
|Distributor||NBC Universal Television Distribution|
|Original channel||CBS (1957–1959)
|Original run||September 15, 1957– September 25, 1962|
|Related shows||General Electric Theater episode "A New Girl in His Life" (aired 26 May 1957)|
Bachelor Father is an American sitcom starring John Forsythe, Noreen Corcoran and Sammee Tong. The series first premiered on CBS in September 1957 before moving to NBC for the third season in 1959. The series' fifth and final season aired on ABC for the rest of the show's run. A total of 157 episodes were aired. The series was based on "A New Girl in His Life," which aired on General Electric Theater on May 26, 1957. Bachelor Father is the only primetime series ever to run in consecutive years on the three major television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC).
Bachelor Father follows the adventures of Bentley Gregg, a wealthy bachelor attorney living in Beverly Hills who assumes the responsibility of raising his niece, Kelly (Noreen Corcoran), after her parents died in an automobile accident. Other members of the cast included houseboy Peter Tong (Sammee Tong), teenage neighbor and Kelly's on and off boyfriend, Howard Meechum (Jimmy Boyd), Kelly's best friend, Ginger Farrell (Bernadette Withers) and Jasper, the dog. Withers appeared in 51 episodes from 1957-1962; Boyd in 37 from 1958-1962. Plots center on Bentley's adjustments to his new role as an adoptive parent, his search for the right woman to share his life, Kelly facing the usual problems of adolescence and young adulthood and her ritual of passage from high school to college and Peter's misadventures with his family, love life and financial schemes. The program's final season storylines led to Kelly's impending marriage to Bentley's junior partner Warren Dawson (Aron Kincaid). The two met, became engaged, interacted with other couples and even met Kincaid's parents (who flew in from New York on short notice), all in a span of three episodes. Without mention or explanation, Kincaid's character was dropped after four episodes and by the series finale, Kelly is seeing a different man with no marriage plans. Meechum (Boyd) appears in several Season 5 episodes, but he is never developed as a serious romantic interest for Kelly. Bachelor Father did not have a formal series finale and no reunion shows were made, mainly due to the fact that Tong committed suicide two years after Bachelor Father ended. 157 episodes were aired. The program never finished any of its five seasons in the top 25 in the ratings.
Forsythe has noted that casting the main characters took considerable effort. The role of Kelly (Gregg) was auditioned and an actress selected. Then actor (and future California governor and United States president) Ronald Reagan, who hosted General Electric Theater from 1954-1962 when he was fired, suggested Corcoran for the role, believing her to be a 'typical teenager' and closer to what a normal 13-year old was like, which Forsythe agreed. Corcoran was already an experienced actress with movie and television roles to her credit. She was 18 when the program left the air and had virtually 'grown up' into a young woman during the show's run. Casting his houseboy was difficult as well, with Tong being cast based primarily on his experience as a stand-up comedian. Forsythe believed much of the program's success resulted from the interaction between Tong and himself and that Tong had great comic timing. He also stated that Tong's character was unique for the time and that he was not the "typical" Asian house servant. Forsythe insisted on Tong being a major character on the program. As such, Tong (Forsythe and Corcoran as well) appears in all 157 episodes. Several of the program plots center around Tong, many dealing with his attempts to improve his position in life. Although none ever pan out (much like Bentley or Kelly) he does develop as a character through the life of the program. The Bentley Gregg character was based, according to Forsythe, on two well-known Beverly Hills bachelors at the time. He combined their names and used it for his own in the program. Because of the implication in the program of Gregg's aversion to marriage no serious thoughts were given to casting a 'regular' or steady woman for him, as was the case with Jerry Seinfeld's character on Seinfeld. Instead, Gregg is forever dating different women with only a handful ever getting a 'second' date with him.
Among the series guest stars were Edgar Bergen, Bill Bixby, Billy Gray, best known for portraying James "Bud" Anderson, Jr., on Father Knows Best, Ryan O'Neal, Frankie Laine, Mary Tyler Moore and singer Patti Page. Eddie Anderson, who portrayed "Rochester" on The Jack Benny Show, reprised his role in the Season 5 episode, "Pinch That Penny." Besides the 'Benny' link, the series had connections to The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show as Harry Von Zell appeared in five season three episodes as Bentley Gregg's friend and next-door neighbor. The Burns' son, Ronnie Burns, appeared on two episodes, as well. Other guest stars include the following:
- Jack Albertson
- Frank Bank
- Jack Benny
- June Blair
- Whitney Blake, who would later go on to co-star in Hazel opposite Shirley Booth
- Ronnie Burns
- Jean Carson
- Donna Douglas
- Barbara Eden, who would go on to co-star in I Dream of Jeannie opposite Larry Hagman
- Linda Evans, who would go on to co-star in The Big Valley (where Corcoran would make a guest appearance in the episode, "The Brawlers") and later co-star opposite Forsythe in Dynasty
- Cheryl Holdridge
- Ricky Kelman
- Charles Lane
- Sue Ane Langdon
- Jenny Maxwell
- Gisele MacKenzie
- Mike Mazurki
- Ann McCrea
- Howard McNear
- Joyce Meadows
- Joanna Moore
- Mary Tyler Moore
- Dean Reed
- Vito Scotti
- Olan Soule
- Greta Thyssen
- Cherylene Lee
The series' pilot episode was originally presented on General Electric Theater (as "A New Girl in His Life") on May 26, 1957. The program was first telecast on CBS on September 15, 1957. It originally aired on Sunday evenings on alternating weeks with The Jack Benny Program (Benny guest starred on one episode) opposite NBC's Sally and ABC's Maverick. The show moved to NBC as a weekly series on Thursday nights in June 1959 (the Summer 1959 run on NBC were reruns of previous CBS episodes) and concluded its run on that network in September 1961. The series then moved on to ABC on Tuesday nights in 1961 for its final season. The last "first run" episode (the 157th unique episode) aired on June 26, 1962, with the remainder of the summer being reruns. Bachelor Father is the only series to ever run in consecutive seasons on all three major TV networks of the time (ABC, CBS and NBC).
Bachelor Father was filmed at Revue Studios. It was primarily sponsored by American Tobacco (Hit Parade, Tareyton cigarettes) throughout its original run. The series was produced by Forsythe's "Bachelor Productions" in association with MCA's Revue Studios. Bachelor Father pilot and first broadcast season were produced by Harry Ackerman, who left after the first season to produce other sitcoms like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie and was later replaced by Everett Freeman for the rest of the show's run.
After running for a few years on classic TV channel Retro Television Network, on October 3, 2011, the show moved to rival Antenna TV, where reruns of Bachelor Father are currently airing on Antenna TV as part of that channel's regular programming schedule, but, as of September 1, 2014, currently airs Monday-Friday from 2:00-3:00pm ET and Saturday 2:00-3:00am ET; prior to that date, Bachelor Father had been airing Monday-Saturday from 4:00-5:00am ET and Sunday from 2:00am-3:00am ET; prior to that date, Bachelor Father had been airing Sunday-Friday from 12:00-1:00pm ET. As of January 5, 2015, Bachelor Father is one of five sitcoms that Antenna TV dropped from its schedule. No plans exist for its return to the schedule.  Prior to Antenna and Retro, Bachelor Father had not been seen on scheduled broadcast television since 1962 and was only in very limited syndication. The series has not been issued for resale in DVD or any other forms. According to the program's Facebook page, it is unknown if any plans to release Bachelor Father exist. It is believed that rights to the program are owned by NBCUniversal Television Distribution.
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