When I Love Lucy debuted in 1951, it became a hit for CBS and sponsors were clamoring for more shows like it to bring attention to their products. NBC commissioned a similar production of their own with physical comedienne Joan Davis as the lead. I Married Joan centered on the antics of scatterbrained and clumsy housewife Joan Stevens who tended to get herself into a variety of pratfalls all designed to show off Davis’ physical skills. Early episodes would set up their stories by featuring her husband, mild-mannered community judge Bradley Stevens (Jim Backus), relaying it to people appearing before him in his court. These wraparound segments were abandoned after a few episodes, allowing the stories to stand on their own. In the second season, Davis’ daughter, Beverly Willis, would play her younger sister Beverly Grossman for several episodes.
I Married Joan debuted on NBC on October 15, 1952. To help entice Lucy’s audience to check it out, the first season was directed by Lucy season one director Marc Daniels. NBC scheduled it against the first half of the popular Arthur Godfrey and his Friends on CBS, resulting in it getting marginally decent ratings. Fortunately the scandal that followed Arthur Godfrey’s on-air firing of singer Julius La Rosa caused an irreparable decline in Godfrey’s popularity, allowing Joan to get significantly better ratings for the second season. Unfortunately, this boost was temporary as the ratings plummeted again when ABC debuted Disneyland. That, combined with Davis’ reported health problems (although she continued to make appearances up until her death), led to the show being cancelled after 3 seasons and 98 episodes. The following season, NBC moved reruns to its Saturday morning line-up for a year. Beginning in the 1980s, the series has had a sporadic syndication run on CBN (now Freeform), ION Television, AMG TV and Decades network. Episodes have also been screened at the annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention.