5 November: Pushed, pulled, nicked, and nicked

Should Henry Morgan have been a bigger radio star? John Crosby, the heralded radio critic of the New York Herald-Tribune, probably thought so as he wrote for 13 September 1946, after the new show premiered:

1946-47 ad for Morgan's half-hour hash . . . (Photo: ABC.)

1946-47 ad for Morgan’s half-hour hash . . . (Photo: ABC.)

Some time ago I expressed the wish that Henry Morgan, one of radio’s original wits, would some day be given a big half hour program of his own with entertainers, an orchestra and all the trimmings. Well, he’s got one now, The Henry Morgan Show, and you’ll find him, in the East, on the American Broadcasting Company network.

So far as I know, this is the first time the Santa Clauses of broadcasting have paid heed to any of my pleas and I’m deeply grateful and greatly astonished. It was a lovely gift, Santa, even though the paint on it is chipped here and there and some of the workmanship is not as good as it appeared when it was in the window . . .

Satire is so rare in radio, particularly satire about the industry itself, that it deserves an audience, and I hope it gets one. If you’ve never heard Morgan, it’ll take awhile to get used to him. But, once acquired he is a pleasant habit. He ought to have a sponsor, but after the way he kicked the potential sponsors around opening night, I’d be indeed surprised if he ever found one.

Morgan’s inability to resist hoisting his sponsors by their own petards hasn’t changed since the Here’s Morgan days earlier in the decade. When he acquires Eversharp as his new sponsor, promoting their Schick injector razor, he now had another too-inviting foil who lacked the sense of humour in the breach his former sponsor, Adler’s Elevator Shoes, displayed.

Morgan’s frequent zaps at “old man Adler” provoked enough customers to ask to meet old man Adler that the shoe retail chain got in on the gag. Even reluctantly, the chain surely decided that if you couldn’t beat him, you could ride him certain distances to the bank. Eversharp, apparently, had no such insight. One too many Morgan barbs (“push-pull, click-click,” was the company’s Schick slogan; “push-pull, nick-nick” is just one of Morgan’s zaps) and Eversharp will dump him after the 1947-48 season.

Officially, the company pointed to “flabby material” and “low ratings.” Realistically, Morgan himself probably got closer to the truth in the zinger he delivered when learning he’d be dumped: “It isn’t my show, it was their razor.”

The only problem will be that Eversharp has one thing right: The Henry Morgan Show isn’t exactly a ratings smash, not even with Bing Crosby’s Philco Radio Time as a lead-in.

But it makes you wonder whether someone in ABC’s programming and scheduling was on some sort of controlled substance when lining up the season. Der Bingle’s audience was as likely to stick around for Morgan’s kind of satire as Lawrence Welk’s would be to stick around for Black Sabbath.

TUNE IN TONIGHT . . .

The Henry Morgan Show: The Discovery of Weather (ABC, 1947)

You’ll never hear it examined and discussed quite the way it is here, with Morgan’s customary, cantankerously cheerful cheekiness. You can also take it as a continuing zap against an earlier nemesis: the U.S. Navy, who once objected and protested, almost continuously, to Morgan’s earlier mock weather reports, such as the immortal “High winds, followed by high skirts, followed by men.”

Gerard: Arnold Stang. Additional cast: Art Carney, Florence Halop, Madeline Lee. Announcer: Jay Stewart. Music: Bernie Green Orchestra. Director: Charles Powers. Writers: Henry Morgan, Aaron Ruben, Carroll Moore, Jr., Joe Stein.

Further Channel Surfing . . .

Vic & Sade: Vic’s Christmas List (Comedy; NBC, 1941)
The Life of Riley: Piano Lessons for Junior (Comedy; NBC, 1944)
The Mel Blanc Show: Mel Breaks the New Radio (Comedy; CBS, 1946)
Our Miss Brooks: Indian Burial Grounds (Comedy; CBS, 1950)
The Big Show: Series Premiere (Variety; NBC, 1950)
Bold Venture: The Mutineers of the Marino Victory (Adventure; ZIV Syndication, 1951)

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