Sunday, November 18, 2007

“Mom...Dad…I’m home…”

I’m going to have to give Harry Heuser at Broadcastellan another shout-out for passing on the news that Ronnie Burns, the adopted son of George Burns and Gracie Allen, died this November 14th at the age of 72.

I have said this often—perhaps too often—in the past, but I still vociferously argue that George and Gracie’s television show, despite its eight-year run on CBS, wasn’t as good as their radio series. To me, George and Gracie were perfect for radio because they said funny things rather than did them. (Even their Paramount shorts—entertaining though they may be—are sometimes are a bit static from a visual P.O.V.) Nevertheless, the famed comedy couple broke into the new medium with great success—I’ve read where, according to writer-producer Paul Henning, George actually preferred television to radio because (at least in the show’s early, live years) it was just like he was back in vaudeville again.

Ronnie was added to the TV version in the fall of 1955, and for a series that was often a bit off-kilter (George’s continued “breaking the fourth wall,” Gracie’s illogical logic) the addition of their son made things that much weirder. Ronnie, in many ways, seemed older than his famous folks—and it was always difficult for me to think of Gracie (or her character, anyway) as the kind of individual who could raise kids (she sure as heck wasn’t Donna Reed, that’s for sure). It’s been a while since I’ve been able to watch George and Gracie’s TV show (and the guilty parties know who they are) but I remember Ronnie spent most of his time on Burns and Allen studying in college and dating a lot of women, particularly a young ingénue named Judi Meredith who played aspiring actress Bonnie Sue McAfee in the show’s last season. (Meredith went on to have a fair amount of success career in TV and movies—her high-profile film roles include Jack the Giant Killer [1962] and The Night Walker [1964].) When Gracie finally called it quits in 1958, Ronnie joined his pop in the unsuccessful spin-off The George Burns Show, and though he made guest appearances on various other TV programs (Bachelor Father, The Deputy) the only regular gig he landed was a summer replacement sitcom (for The Perry Como Show), Happy, in 1960.

R.I.P., Ronnie. You will be missed.

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