Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: The Jack Carson Show

Jack Carson
Jack Carson was a major Hollywood actor in the 1930's and 1940's for the Warner Brothers.  He was just as often cast as a lover and a good guy as he was a tough guy.  A Milwaukee native, Carson was considered a healthy type - an "All-American" boy, if you will.  He was a large man with stunningly good looks and a pleasant - albeit loud - baritone voice.

In 1943, he got his very own radio show, called (oddly enough) The Jack Carson Show.  In this show, he played himself, the same Milwaukeean who worked for Warner Brothers (etc.) with the caveat that he is much more egotistical than in real life and quite a bit less intelligent.

Dave Willock
The show is about Carson's home life, which includes his nephew Tugwell (Dave Willcock) and man servant (Arthur Treacher.)  Each of these fellows is all about playing foil at every opportunity.  Willcock is much more verbose about it and a bit funnier than Treacher, as Tugwell had the ability to use an Andy Devine-like voice to cut down his uncle.

Tugwell never seems to have a job or go to school at all.  Sometimes he goes to an acting class.  It seems that most of the time, he simply wanders through the house waiting for an opportunity to bust a hole in Carson's balloon.

Arthur Treacher
Treacher, on the other hand, with his British upbringing, was much quieter but still had a knack for sarcastically knocking Carson's rather clumsy attempts at fixing a radio, getting a date or giving an interview.

On the show, Carson has an eye for the ladies and living in Hollywood, he has dates with many gorgeous "dolls."  You'd think that they too would shoot him down - and they usually do, as he never has a steady girl.  Instead, he plays the field -- but this is probably out of necessity, not out of desire.

Irene Ryan
Also contributing to show was Irene Ryan (known on the show as 'Miss Ryan.')  Miss Ryan was a spinster who could never find a man -- and really gave up long ago trying to find one.  She seems to enjoy being a class 'A' hypochondriac.  I suppose it was her way of getting attention.  Ryan ran the general store near Jack's house and Jack would pop in every show and listen to her complain - but you always wondered why he did so.

Ryan, of course, later went on to play TV's 'Granny' on The Beverly Hillbillies.  Though both characters are spinsters, Granny is full of pep, life and shotguns while Miss Ryan is frail and much more concerned about convalescing her ailments.

Rounding out the cast is little Norma Jean Nilsson (known on the show as 'Little Norma Jean.')   A former member of the Father Knows Best cast (as Kathy) she plays Jack's cute neighbor kid.  She is all about correct enunciation and doesn't at all sound like a child.  At any rate, she and Jack are great friends and often will break into song.  The songs are usually the type that you might not hate listening to.

The surviving episodes are all sponsored by Campbell's Soups and the commercials are probably the best incorporated commercials ever -- aside from Harlow Wilcox and Johnson's Wax.  Actually, the commercials are so clever, they kind of outshine the show as a whole as Carson and the gang are really not that funny.   The commercials aren't funny either but they are done really well.

Here's an example of a Campbell's commercial incoporated into the show (allow a few seconds for the clip to start):

The show is upbeat and entertaining - just not brilliantly written or acted.  It's not a bad show but then again, it's not really a good show.  I listen to it once-a-week and it seems to be missing an element or two that would have made the show better.  I seem to say this about every show but an Arnold Stang or Walter Tetley in there would have made the show three times as good.  Or if Little Norma Jean had been a little devil instead of the cutesy moppet living next door, she could have breathed needed life into a show that just walks leisurely about.

Out of 5 stars, I will give this 2.5 -- although 2 stars wouldn't be out of line.  Certainly worth a try if you are looking for a harmless, wholesome comedy.


  1. I do not listen to this show. I never heard one. But, I was interested to read what the show was about. After seeing your review I probably will not listen to it as there are so many other good ones to listen to.

  2. I honestly think you would like the show - Skip the audition but give it a try...


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