Shows about animals are good. Shows about talking animals are even better. Mister Ed was a chatty Palomino, and his self-titled extravaganza redefined that rarest of genres, the vociferous equine sitcom.
Because they wanted to get a little closer to nature, architect Wilbur Post and wife Carol bought a farmhouse, and in the barn outside said house, Wilbur discovered Mister Ed. Of course, when any of us finds a talking horse in our midst, we’re inclined to spend some time with the fella—and that’s just what Wilbur wanted to do. He set his drafting table up in the barn, and once Mister Ed started flapping that jaw of his, the two friends would chat away the days. In addition to that already high absurdity factor, Ed only talked to Wilbur, and would grow coy whenever Carol was around, which of course put Wilbur right in the middle of madcap situations galore.
The Posts’ next-door neighbor was Roger Addison, a cheapskate who feared his wife Kay’s overspending as much as he did her bad cooking. Roger found solace in his prize-winning roses, poker, and poking fun at poor Mister Ed.
What made the series especially lovable were Ed’s human characteristics. It was easy to identify with his feelings of abandonment, for example, when Wilbur and Carol decided to vacation in Hawaii. But Ed always prevailed in the end. Not only did he tag along on the trip…he also hung ten on a surfboard! Anthropomorphic hilarity similarly ensued in the episode where Wilbur hired a psychiatrist to help Mister Ed with his fear of high places. Attributing a human phobia to a horse just made Ed all the more vulnerable and endearing. Voiced by erstwhile Western star Allan “Rocky” Lane, the sound of Ed’s chatter is one we won’t soon forget.
The original pilot was entitled The Wonderful World Of Wilbur Pope and was produced by George Burns, but the powers that be decided it needed a few changes and it was never broadcast. But in early 1961, Mister Ed debuted as a syndicated series. It was quickly acquired by CBS and added to the prime time line up. In total, 143 episodes aired.
Thanks to Ed, we all want pets with special talents, we all want to spend the work day in a barn, and we all want a friend or two who deign to talk only to us. But when we can’t get those things (and let’s face it, we normally can’t), we settle happily for Mister Ed reruns.
“A horse is a horse of course of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course.
That is of course unless the horse
Is the famous Mister Ed!
…A horse is a horse of course of course,
And this one’ll talk ’til his voice is hoarse.
You never heard of a talking horse?
Well, listen to this…
I am Mister Ed!”
USA / Syndication – CBS – Filmways / 144×25 minute episodes/ broadcast 1 October 1961 – 4 September 1966 black and white
Writers: Larry Rhine, Ben Starr, Lou Derman / Producers: Arthur Lubin, Al Simon
Alan Young as Wilbur Post
Connie Hines as Carol Post
Larry Keating as Roger Addison (1961-63)
Edna Skinner as Kay Addison (1961-64)
Leon Ames as Gordon Kirkwood (1964-66)
Florence MacMichael as Winnie Kirkwood (1963-65)
Allan Lane as Mr. Ed (voice)