23 January: The McGees as quiz-lings . . .

Can you bear the McGees on a quiz show? (Photo: NBC.)

Can you bear the McGees on a quiz show? (Photo: NBC.)

Poking fun of itself is often an old-time radio staple; poking fun at its periodic fads or nuisances seems almost a requirement. Three of the most consistent at it were Fred Allen, Goodman Ace, and Henry Morgan. All three liked to zing sponsors, of course. But Allen was also wont to zing network executives. And Morgan wasn’t wont just to zing sponsors, he was far more disposed to dropping atomic bombs upon them.

Much of the time, however, radio performers in the mood to have a little mad fun at their sponsors’ or the medium’s expense were more subtle or playful about it. At 79 Wistful Vista, it was an absolute norm.

Fibber McGee & Molly: Radio Quiz Show (NBC, 1940)

When the McGees (Jim & Marian Jordan) take one of their earliest cracks at the fledgling but soon-to-be ubiquitous (and often obnoxious) quiz and giveaway shows, the genre isn’t even close to what would cause critics to cringe and more discreet listeners to cower. Visiting the local radio station for a tour, Fibber is getting a little bored, Molly insists on sticking it out, and Fibber (it figures) backs into a chance to make a radio impact.

That’s because the McGees bump into Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) at the station, and the big blowhard is stuck like a pin in a cushion—he has to launch his own radio show, promoting his foundations business, and has no idea of what to do . . . until you-know-who offers to help him formulate one—a studio audience-participation quiz show, which may or may not prove as uplifting or as unique as a Gildersleeve girdle.

Which shouldn’t prevent you from laughing along with this company as they zap the fledgling form with barely-disguised pleasure.

The Old-Timer/Horatio Boomer: Bill Thompson. Mrs. Uppington: Isabel Randolph. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men, Jimmy Shields. Writer: Don Quinn.

Further Channel Surfing . . .

Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police: In an Octopus’s Garden (adventure; syndicated, 1937)
The Great Gildersleeve: Does Leroy Need a Mother? (comedy; NBC, 1944)
The Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Death is an Artist (CBS, 1945)
Box 13: Three to Die (Mutual, 1949)
Our Miss Brooks: Head of the English Department (CBS, 1949)
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: Preparing to Attend Truman’s Inaugural (NBC, 1949)
The Whistler: Impulse (CBS, 1949)
The Halls of Ivy: Medal of Honour (NBC; AFRTS Rebroadcast, 1952)
Let George Do It: The Floaters (Mutual-Don Lee, 1950)
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The Duke Red Matter (Part One; CBS, 1956)

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