June 18, 2022

THE ABBOTT AND COSTELLO SHOW

 

THE ABBOTT AND COSTELLO SHOW
(Syndication, September, 1952-May 1, 1954)

 

T.C.A. Productions, Inc.

 

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were an American comedy duo whose partnership spanned from 1935-57. Their pairing came about on the burlesque circuit when Abbott substituted for Costello’s regular partner after he took ill. At the insistence of other performers and Abbott’s wife, the two became a permanent team with Abbott playing the straight man to Costello’s dimwitted antics. Their work spanned between radio, film and television, making them the most popular comedy team of the 1940s and early 1950s and the highest-paid entertainers in the world during WWII. Their routine “Who’s on First?”, which debuted on the radio in 1938 a month after their first broadcast, is considered one of the greatest comedy routines of all time. When changing tastes and overexposure reduced their popularity and their film and television contracts expired, the two went their separate ways; with Costello dying soon after in 1959.

But and Lou getting into antics with Mike the Cop and Sidney the landlord.


After being part of the rotating roster of hosts for The Colgate Comedy Hour, Abbott and Costello were given their own show. It was loosely based on their radio show and even shared the same title: The Abbott and Costello Show. The premise was that Abbott and Costello were unemployed actors sharing a rooming house apartment in Hollywood. A running gag featured Abbott constantly nagging Costello to get a job while he himself remained happily unemployed. Unlike typical sitcoms, the series was more of a showcase for the pair’s burlesque routines in a manner they could control (and own, as Costello owned the show with Abbott on salary) and put little emphasis on plot, character or continuity. If it was funny, it was in the show. Other characters included their landlord, Sidney Fields (himself); their neighbor and sometimes love-interest for Costello, Hillary Brooke (herself); Mike the cop (Gordon Jones), their dimwitted foil and occasional rival for Hillary; Mr. Bacciagalupe (Costello’s brother-in-law Joe Kirk), a stereotypical Italian immigrant that held whatever job the script required; and Stinky (Joe Besser), a 40-year-old little boy in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.

Lou outside with Stinky.


The Abbott and Costello Show debuted in the fall of 1952, sold into syndication by MCA Inc. to approximately 40 local stations across the country; meaning it was broadcast on different days at different times in different cities. Despite airing on CBS in New York City and later NBC, the series was never carried by a national network. The only time it received network airplay was when CBS broadcast reruns as part of their Saturday morning schedule for the 1954 season. The original intro featured a montage of scenes from the pair’s early Universal films and was followed by a framing sequence with them on a stage addressing the audience (sometimes with another cast member) at the beginning, middle and end. For the second season, Brooke, Kirk and Besser were dropped, the intro was simplified, the stage segments removed, and a more traditional sitcom format adopted with tighter plots at the insistence of series director and season producer Jean Yarbrough. The series aired in reruns through the 1990s, and again from the 2010s to the present on MeTV and sister network Decades.

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