Dreaded Purple Master

O Carry Me Back to Wistful Vista

When I started writing "Bumpers Crossroads" for ARTC, I had heard of Fibber McGee and Molly, but I hadn't heard any actual programs. I'm still no expert, but I've come to realize that this is the program that "Bumpers" is most like. I'd give a lot to have written this exchange, from the 11-5-40 show:

Fibber: (Hanging up the phone.) That was Charlie, a fella I used to know in the circus. He used to play the cantaloupe in the parade.
Molly: No, you don't mean cantaloupe, you mean he played the calamity.
Fibber: Molly, a calamity is something bad.
Molly: Well, I never heard one played good!
Fibber: One what?
Molly: One of those steam pianos, those antelopes.
Fibber: Drat it, they ain't antelopes. Antelopes are a kinda deer.
Molly: I don't care how much they cost, I don't like ‘em. And for your information, dearie, a cantaloupe is a mushmelon.
Fibber: Of course it's a mushmelon, I know that!
Molly: Well, how could anyone play a mushmelon in a circus?
Fibber: Charlie did. Bored holes into it and played it like a sweet potato. A little drippy, but it had rhythm. Can't forget one time we played Mishewaukee, Indiana, and Charlie couldn't find a cantaloupe for love nor money. Had to use a persimmon. He played the parade all right, but his face was so puckered up he couldn't get near nobody for three weeks. Ever'body thought he was gonna kiss ‘em.

Now, in this day and age when a television actor is considered an Elder Statesman if he gets renewed for a second season, consider this: "Fibber McGee and Molly" (as a half-hour show on NBC) premiered on April 16, 1935. By March 1938 they had finally settled on Tuesdays at 9:30, where they stayed until June 30, 1953.

That is, they were on the radio every week, on the same day and time, for longer than FDR (the "permanent President", some were calling him) was in the White House.

(Try to imagine if "Cheers" or "Newhart" were still in production today.)

Even that doesn't tell the whole story, because Jim and Marian Jordan worked steadily on a variety of shows before "Fibber", from 1925 on. And after the demise of the half-hour show, Fibber and Molly moved first to a 15-minute five-a-week format for three more years, then to five-a-week four-minute spots on NBC's weekend Monitor until 1959.

(Picture Bea Arthur in 2001 doing "Maude" for four minutes every day on "CBS This Morning".)

Not too shabby


Daniel Taylor: Tuesday, May 15, 2001