Benny rides roughshod: Old-time radio listening, 29 November

The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: Buck Benny Tries Again . . . (NBC, 1936)

Jack and Mary will have big reason to celebrate the 1936-37 season . . . (Photo: NBC)

Jack Benny has been building a steady climb since his premiere as a radio lead in 1932, and this season the work pays off—he’ll achieve his first number one finish in his time slot, on his night, and for the entire season in 1936-37.

The average national Hooper rating for the season will be 12. The average Sunday night rating will be 13.8. Benny and company obliterate both averages with their whopping 28.9—15.1 points above the Sunday night average and 16.9 above the season average. It may be his first number one finish but it will prove anything but his last.

Another reason for Benny’s striking conquest: NBC has yanked his program from what you might consider its farm team, NBC Blue, and moved it to NBC Red. Which is just what the network did the previous season with Amos ‘n’ Andy.

The bad news, at least for NBC: Benny’s will be the only program on the Red network finishing Top Ten for the season. Gossip and commentator Walter Winchell and his Jergen’s Journal will finish an extremely distant fifth (13.1) on Sunday nights on the Blue network; Do You Want to Be An Actor (8.6) an even more extreme distant eighth on the Red network; and, a music program featuring the Shep Fields Orchestra will finish tenth, on the Blue network . . . but with a paltry 6.8.

NBC might finish higher on Sunday nights overall if not for Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour. The great-granddaddy of amateur talent contest shows good, bad, and ugly alike, the Major has defected from sponsor (Standard Brands), network, and night. He signs with Chrysler, Chrysler puts him on CBS, and CBS puts him on Thursday nights—where he will spend the season clobbering Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, and Amos ‘n’ Andy, his 21.3 rating well below Benny on Sunday nights but enough to make him the number three show of the season.

Tonight: Benny’s classic continuing satirical sheriff takes a third stab at taming the old West. Your guess is as good as mine as to who will be slower on the draw, or the drawl.

Cast: Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, Kenny Baker. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Mahlon Merrick, Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: Al Boasberg, Howard Snyder, Hugh Wedlock, Jr.



The Life of Riley: Thanksgiving with the Gillises (NBC, 1947)—The Rileys (William Bendix, Paula Winslowe) and the Gillises (John Brown, Shirley Mitchell) plan for their friendly-rivalry families to share Thanksgiving—until both husbands invite the boss to dinner, to butter him up over a newly-vacant plant foreman’s job. Babs: Sharon Douglas. Junior: Scotty Beckett. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Director: Don Bernard. Writers: Ruben Shipp, Alan Lipscott, Ashmael Scott.

Fibber McGee & Molly: The Bargain Inner Tube (NBC, 1949)—McGee (Jim Jordan) blows one the minute he pulls back into his own driveway—the day after he bought it in the first place—and insists upon fixing it himself despite the cold. Molly: Marian Jordan. The Old-Timer/Bessie: Bill Thompson. Olie: Richard LeGrand. La Trivia: Gale Gordon. Doc Gamble: Arthur Q. Bryan. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Director: Max Hutto. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

The Halls of Ivy: The Honour Student (NBC, 1950)—Hall (Ronald Colman) lectures to the student honour society on intellectual responsibility, which provokes a shock when the first Ivy junior (Jean Bates) chosen for the society turns down the honour—after she surprises Hall with the reason why. Vicki: Benita Hume Colman. Prof. Warren: Arthur Q. Bryan. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Henry Russell. Director: Nat Wolfe. Writers: Don Quinn, Barbara Merlin, Milton Merlin.

Adventures of Maisie: Running for Mayor (Syndicated, 1951)—Remembering how a powerful politician (Wally Maher) helped railroad her into a couple of days in jail for defending herself against an unnecessarily aggressive police officer (Sheldon Leonard), Maisie (Ann Sothern) will move heaven, earth, or at least half of Brooklyn to keep his handpicked candidate from being elected mayor. Alice: Lurene Tuttle. Paul: Sidney Miller. Additional cast: Peter Leeds. Announcer: John Easton. Music: Harry Zimmerman. Writer: John L. Greene.

Our Miss Brooks: A Former Student Visits (CBS, 1953)—Connie (Eve Arden) feels old when Boynton (Robert Rockwell) tells her his mother hopes he’ll marry a much younger woman, and she gets a visit from a former student of hers, now a doctor, who’s accompanied by her father—who’s a former student of a less than enthusiastic Conklin (Gale Gordon). Miss Enright: Mary Jane Croft. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Announcer: Verne Smith. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: Al Lewis. Writers: Al Lewis, Joe Quillan.


Crime Drama

Boston Blackie: The Simmons Construction Murder; or, The Man Who Was Shot on the 21st Floor (Blue Network; syndicated by Ziv, 1945)—Seemingly without an enemy to be found, a popular construction foreman is shot to death from above the top of a project, and while Faraday (Maurice Tarplin) suspects the victim’s hospitalised wife, bedridden Blackie (Richard Kollmar) suspects the next victim—another popular foreman, also killed by the same high-powered weapon—killed the first. Mary: Jan Minor. Shorty: Tony Barrett. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Larry Elliott. Writers: Kenny Lyons, Ralph Rosenberg.

The Green Hornet: The Gas Station Protection Racket (ABC; possible repeat of a Mutual broadcast from earlier seasons, 1945)—After Lowry (Jack Petruzzi) gets punched out by a gas station bombing victim who’s afraid to talk publicly about the racket, Britt (Al Hodge) has the daring idea of stealing the protection money the victim was willing to pay his tormentors, in a bid to lure him to talk and the tormentors into a trap. This is probably one of the absolute classic episodes of this series. Lenore Case: Lee Allman. Kato: Raymond Hayoshi. Axford: James Irwin. Announcer: Possibly Charles Wood. Director: Charles Livingstone. Writer: Fran Striker.

Broadway is My Beat: The Johnny Clark Murder Case (CBS; AFRTS rebroadcast, 1952)—A young man is found shot to death in a sumptuous apartment he was alleged to be robbing . . . by a man (Edgar Barrier) whose wife (Mary Jane Croft) may be involved with the robber’s friend, a shoe salesman and ex-con found murdered a day after he sent the first victim to rob the safe in the presumably unoccupied apartment. Mrs. Clark: Lillian Byeth. Additional cast: James McCadden, Norma Varden. Clover: Larry Thor. Denison: Byron Kane. Tartaglia: Charles Calvert. Announcer: Bill Anders. Music: Alexander Courage. Director: Elliott Lewis. Writers: Morton Fine, David Friedkin.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The Henderson Matter, Part Two (CBS, 1955)—The buck of Johnny’s (Bob Bailey) request for a coroner’s inquest into George Henderson’s death gets passed around a little too much between Sheriff Holden (Herb Ellis) and an even more reluctant mayor (Jackson Beck)—who’s even more determined to keep it ruled an accident—until Holden just as reluctantly agrees to conduct the inquest. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Music: Amerigo Moreno. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: John Dawson.



Truth or Consequences: Sing Rock-a-Bye Baby (NBC, 1947)—In which Miss Hush proves not to be yet a number of famous names while warbling a portion of a Christmas poem; two men must race each other to bed singing “Rock-a-Bye Baby” as loud as they can—unaware of what’s really in the mattress; a shipping clerk must sit atop a barrel until show’s end in a closed room for $50—unaware that the barrel covers a remote microphone designed to make him think the speaker’s under the barrel. Who says you can’t make this kind of stuff up? Host: Ralph Edwards. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox.



The Six Shooter: Sheriff Billy (NBC, 1953)—Dawson’s new sheriff, Bill Riddle (Ken Christy), impresses Ponset (James Stewart) when he arrests an escaped killer (Alan Reed) with the killer willingly dropping his gun belt—a killer who turns out to have only too deep a meaning for the otherwise amiable sheriff. Milt: Howard McNear. Additional cast: James McCallion. Announcer: Hal Gibney. Music: Basil Adlam. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: Frank Burt.

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