‘My name is Dobie Gillis, and I like girls. What am I saying? I love girls! Love ’em! Beautiful, gorgeous, soft, round, creamy girls. Now, I’m not a wolf, mind you. No, you see a wolf wants lots of girls, but me? Well, I just want one. One beautiful, gorgeous, soft, round, creamy girl for my very own. That’s all I want! One lousy girl!”
Such was the plight of Dobie Gillis. Every week, this smart and funny teen tried to woo women and find his place in the world. Lucky for us, TV cameras followed, and the result was The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, one of the most unique and beloved sitcoms of all time. This show treated its teen characters like real people and also managed the neat trick of portraying them with humor but also investing them with realistic depth. As a result, Dobie Gillis became a cult hit, paving the way for later, intelligent teen shows like Square Pegs and Freaks And Geeks.
Unlike most television teens of the time, Dobie had an unusually witty and introspective take on the growing pains he experienced as a teenager. This aspect of the show was neatly symbolized by its framing device: each episode began and closed with Dobie sitting in the park, unconsciously assuming the pose of a nearby replica of Rodin’s famous statue, ‘The Thinker,’ as he filled the audience in on his latest dilemma. His problems usually revolved around his pursuit of the three things he believed he wanted most out of life: fancy cars, money and beautiful women.
Unfortunately, Dobie was not extraordinarily handsome, wealthy or devious, so he had to put extra work into the pursuit of his dreams. Dobie pined for the affection of gorgeous girls like social climber Thalia Menninger, but he had to deal with the competition of rich, handsome golden boys like the super-smooth Milton Armitage. Further complicating things was the fact that the smart but unglamorous Zelda Gilroy was head over heels in love with Dobie and was constantly plotting to marry him.
In the meantime, Dobie always tried to get by with a minimum of effort while he busily figured out his role in life. His buddy in doing little was Maynard G. Krebs, a beatific beatnik with a goatee who shivered at the mere mention of the word ‘work.’ Mr. Herbert T. Gillis hoped his daydreaming son would wake up and take over the family grocery store, but the duty-avoiding duo of Dobie and Maynard consistently evaded him. Luckily for Dobie, he had an understanding mother in Winifred Gillis, who frequently helped him make peace with his frustrated dad. And Dobie certainly needed the help’early on, Mr. Gillis was known to mutter the punch line ‘I’ve gotta kill that boy.’
The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis enchanted viewers with its fresh outlook on teen life and became a hit during its first season in 1959. The characters of Thalia and Milton disappeared after the first season, but an able replacement was devised for Milton in the equally snooty Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. This rich kid managed to confound Dobie with his wealth and superior attitude for the rest of the show’s run. Dobie and company also changed locales during the later seasons’Dobie and Maynard even enlisted for a brief stint in the army for a series of episodes in 1961’but the stars always ended up back home, enrolled in the local college.
In 1963, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis came to the end of its four-year run on CBS. Its cast produced plenty of stars: Dwayne Hickman (Dobie) went on to appear in films like Cat Ballou, while Bob Denver (Krebs) landed the title role in the long running sitcom Gilligan’s Island. Tuesday Weld (Thalia) and Warren Beatty (Armitage) also went on to lengthy careers in film and television.
Meanwhile, The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis spawned two sequels in the form of two-hour television films: 1977’s Whatever Happened To Dobie Gillis? and 1988’s Bring Me The Head of Dobie Gillis. The original show remains popular today whenever it pops up in reruns, thanks to its timeless combination of sly wit and observant detail. All in all, the enduring cult status of The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis proves that this teen TV classic was truly ahead of its time.
USA / CBS – Martin Manulis – TCF / 147×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 29 September 1959 – 18 September 1963
Creator: Max Shulman / Executive Producer: Martin Manulis / Producers: Rod Amateau, Joel Kane, Guy Scarpitta
DWAYNE HICKMAN as Dobie Gillis
FRANK FAYLEN as Herbert T. Gillis
FLORIDA FRIEBUS as Winifred ‘Winnie’ Gillis
SHEILA JAMES as Zelda Gilroy
BOB DNEVER as Maynard Krebs
TUESDAY WELD as Thalia Menninger(59-60)
WARREN BEATTY as Milton Armitage(59-60)
DARRYL HICKMAN as Davey Gillis(59-60)
BOBBY DIAMOND as Duncan ‘Dunky’ Gillis
TOMMY FARRELL as Riff Ryan
YVONNE LIME as Melissa Frome
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