Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fifty Years Ago Today: CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?

Thanks to Ivan Shreve, vintage movie and TV maven extraordinaire, I've just realized that today is the anniversary of the first show of one of the funniest television series ever to grace our 1960's living rooms.

CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? debuted on this date, on a Sunday evening in 1961. It was a show created by Nat Hiken, the comedy writing genius behind the screamingly funny, THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW aka YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH (if you're not familiar with Sgt. Bilko - what are you waiting for?).  Hiken wrote for many of the funniest shows of the era and Ivan has lots to say about him in his tribute. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself again.

CAR 54 was a comedy about a rag tag bunch of  NYC cops working out of a mythical precinct in the Bronx. It starred the inimitable Fred Gwynne as Officer Frances Muldoon and Joe E. Ross as Officer Gunther Toody. But the show also had one of the best ensemble casts in comedy history.

Some people (they shall remain nameless) never 'got' the comedy of CAR 54, but luckily there were plenty of us who adored Toody and Muldoon and the gang. We could all be heard through open windows - laughing till we cried. It was a cacophony which spread from building to building, house to house.

And now, thanks to Ivan, you can read all about it. Go check out his brilliant tribute to a show that even if we haven't actually watched it in years, still lingers in some of our collective memories with a great deal of affection. Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face.

One more word, okay, two: Charlotte Rae. Remember her? She was an incomparable and as I commented to Ivan, one of the funniest women to ever walk the earth. She was also responsible for one of the funniest episodes in the series (the cookie eating episode). Ivan does a TEN BEST CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU LIST that will have you laughing in and of itself.

Here's the corrected link to Ivan's post. Avail yourselves.

Apologies for not getting it right the first time.

...and a link to the opening credits and theme song of CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?


  1. Bless you, Yvette, for the shout-out and your magnanimously kind words. I share your opinion of Car 54, of course, but I agree so strongly--to the point where my pistol is at the ready--on your evaluation of Charlotte Rae. She has so many wonderful moments on that show that I start tearing up with laughter when I think about them.

    The cookie eating episode was in Season 2 (so I hope they get it out on DVD with all deliberate speed because while my copy is watchable the screen caps were sub-par) but one of the delights in Season 1 is "The Courtship of Sylvia Schnauzer." Sylvia catches the bouquet at a wedding and, remembering that her ceremony consisted of going down to City Hall with Leo on her lunch hour, demands that her husband not only give her a proper wedding but that he go balls-out in courting and proposing to her as well.

    Leo asks Toody if Lucille will talk to her...and in the next scene, Lucille is fussing with Sylvia's wedding gown, having been absorbed into Sylvia's fantasy. Toody tries to resist but when Sylvia asks him if he'll "give her away" he gets hooked, too...insisting that Leo is "not good enough for my little girl." That's when things just get even funnier -- Sylvia moves in with the Toodys and begins to act like their teenage daughter...the sight of her skipping down the hall when she learns that Leo has finally broken down and is there to pay her a call is absolutely hysterical.

    Maybe someday the folks who disagree with us about the show will get the chance to see this outing and beg our forgiveness for their disloyalty. We can only hope.

  2. Keep hopin' Ivan! It's good for the soul. Just don't hold your breath! LOL

    I feel like I'm hallucinating. I'm in the Twilight Zone. Car 54 is everywhere, all over the web! Help! I'll take help from anybody at this point.


  3. Ivan: You're very welcome. And thank YOU for shining the light on our two favorite funny cops. :)

    I do remember that episode with Sylvia wanting the wedding ceremony and the whole works. What a funny, funny woman. And I must admit I also loved Beatrice Pons as Lucille.

    I lived in lower Manhattan for many years and I always felt this show captured that loony-toons NY vibe to a T. Many of the 'types' captured by Hiken and the other writers were people I ran into all the time. :)

  4. Oh Becky, what can I say? You can't out-run us, you can only keep at a mild trot. We'll eventually sweep you up and turn you into one of us.

    Resistance is futile.


  5. Been out of pocket for much of the weekend but can't wait to read this. Circa 1988-1990 you couldn't tear us away from Nick at Nite around 10:30 our time to watch Toody and Muldoon.

    My favorite episode: "Toody Undercover", but special guest star Bruce Gordon having a ton of fun spoofing his image (4 years before he would do it weekly, albeit briefly, on RUN, BUDDY, RUN.

  6. Hal: You'll definitely love Ivan's post. It's pretty special - about a show a lot of us love/loved.

    Bruce Gordon was a hoot. :)

    Didn't he play Elliot Ness's nemesis? Against Robert Stack?

  7. I was really young when Car 54 was on TV but I do remember loving Muldoon's puppy dog face. "The Munsters" was the show where I really began to love Fred Gwynne!

  8. Yvette, when I click on the highlighted words which you say will bring me to Ivan's post about Car 54 I am taken to only a photo --could you check it again? Thanks!

  9. Pat: I never completely cottoned to The Munsters though I watched it and to this day I can hum the title song. :)

    I mean, it was okay, just not my favorite.

    Thanks for alerting me to the link mistake. I've corrected it.

    Jeez, that will teach me to double-check everything!


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