Thursday, March 3, 2016

“Peg…it will come back to you…”

First off…many thanks to those of you who sent my mother best wishes on her recuperating from her recent experience with the surgeon’s scalpel.  I would like to honestly say she was overwhelmed by your kind thoughts…but her reaction was more along the lines of “Stop writing about me on your blog, damn it!”

One of the fabulous perks I receive as a result of my liner note contributions to Radio Spirits old-time radio collections—besides a little jingle in my pocket so that I might keep creditors at bay, of course—is that RS usually sends me a few gratis copies of the sets on which I’ve worked.  I usually keep one for myself, and then either hook up a friend with one or give them out as fabulous prizes to reward those people patient when the blog fields at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear fall fallow.

The last giveaway I did here on the blog was for a Don Rickles DVD back in October…so what do you say to a chance to win a copy of the Radio Spirits release The Couple Next Door: Merry Mix-Ups?  For those of you not familiar with the program…here’s a little background:

Actress-writer Margaret Frances “Peg” Lynch—who, sadly, was summoned to the Great Audition Room back in July of 2015 at the age of 98—was one of the most amazing individuals employed during Radio’s Golden Age.  Her website rightfully boasts that she was “the lady who invented sitcom”—that sitcom being The Private Lives of Ethel and Albert, which premiered over NBC Blue on May 29, 1944 (an earlier version had appeared previously in three-minute installments over several local stations at which she was employed).  It was a simple, character-based sitcom: Peg played Ethel Arbuckle (Lynch stepped in when the network brass didn’t think any of the actresses who auditioned were suitable), a typical housewife married to a typical husband in the form of Albert Arbuckle.  Albert was played initially by Richard Widmark, who eventually moved on to a stage and film careet, and he was replaced by Alan Bunce…whose chemistry with Peg was quite convincing.

Ethel and Albert spent most of its run on radio as a five-day-a-week quarter hour—it was expanded to a half-hour in its final season before it was cancelled on August 28, 1950.  After that, it became one of the boob tube’s early successes—first as a fifteen-minute segment on Kate Smith’s variety show, and then as a half-hour series that aired on all three of the majors (ABC, CBS and NBC) from 1953 to 1956.  Lynch went on record as not being overly fond of the TV Ethel and Albert (“…I always felt it spoiled my timing…I would have to hold up for the laugh…”) so when she got an opportunity to revive her creation for CBS Radio beginning in December of 1957 she leapt at the chance.  The only snag was that because she had signed away the rights to “Ethel and Albert” sometime ago, she would have to rename the new series The Couple Next Door.

The Couple Next Door is a quirky little situation comedy in the mold of Vic & Sade (without the engaging eccentricity) and Lum ‘n’ Abner (without the bucolic wackiness).  I only had a passing familiarity with the series before I was asked to contribute liner notes, but in listening to the shows it wasn’t long before Couple Next Door worked its magic on me.  What I enjoy so thoroughly about Peg Lynch’s writing is that it doesn’t come off as writing; the dialogue sounds perfectly natural to the ear—it’s as if you caught yourself eavesdropping on a neighbor couple’s conversation by accident.  Several of the broadcasts in the Merry Mix-Ups collection are Yuletide-themed; one of the funniest is an outing that finds Mr. Piper (Bunce) having to drop off a parcel at the post office and being stymied by the nitpicky regulations that the clerk insists must be followed to the letter before it can be sent on its way.  (You have no idea how much I identified with his situation.)

I have two copies of The Couple Next Door: Merry Mix-Ups to give to two lucky members of the TDOY faithful.  It’s a six-CD set containing twenty-four broadcasts from 1958 and 1959 (retail value: $24.95), and if you’re interested in winning one all you have to do is drop me an e-mail at igsjrotr(at)gmail(dot)com with “Merry Mix-Ups” in the subject header (you can add something witty if you like…though I should warn you that the winners of this giveaway will be determined by the old random number generator at  The contest will end next Thursday, March 10 at 11:59pm EST, and once the winners have been chosen they will be notified of just how very fortunate they are.  (Oh, and I will get their prizes out as soon as possible.)

I need to issue a couple of caveats: 1) this promotion is limited to U.S. residents only.  You know I love the people from the Great White North (sheesh—I sound like Donald J. Drumpf: “I have a great relationship with the Canadians”) but unfortunately when I send packages that way I have to jump through a great many postal hoops like being fingerprinted and submitting some skin from the back of my neck.  (The last time I mailed something to Canada there was a strip search involved…though I can’t swear that had anything to do with the parcel’s destination.)

Secondly, all I ask is that you’ve won something off the blog within the past thirty days that you wait and let some other people have a chance to benefit from this sweet, sweet largesse.  This rule can’t really be applied for this particular giveaway because it’s been about four months since I handed out free swag…so if you’re of U.S. origin, take a chance!  Remember: Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is the phrase that pays!

1 comment:

Mike Doran said...

Strange things you remember ...

Apparently Peg Lynch got the rights to "Ethel and Albert" back sometime around 1960.

I know this because around that time, she and Alan Bunce played the characters by name in a string of TV commercials for a laundry detergent (Cheer, if memory serves - correction welcomed).

There were definitely at least three of these spots (may have been more) and they ran for more than a year, mainly in daytime game shows. I recall that when the spots aired, the hosts would always call attention to "Ethel and Albert" being in them.