TV Review: The Burns and Allen Show (Pain Box)

Posted: December 14, 2010 in Holiday, Pain Box, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,


The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show: Company for Christmas (1955 CBS Dir. Ralph Levy)

I can barely read that. This is going to be an easy one to watch, I can tell.

Well! The commercial will be easy with this one. The very first thing on screen is a Carnation Evaporated Milk can. We’re then told that Carnation Evaporated Milk brings us The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. Before we get the show logo, we get an ad saying that Carnation comes from contented cows, which raises the question… How do they know? It’s been a long time since I was last on a farm, but I don’t remember the cows being contended or annoyed. They were just cows, i.e. big, stupid, lumbering, steaks on legs. That’s really all a cow is, and I say that as someone who has looked into the eyes of a cow and seen nothing looking back but void. At any rate, this is pretty good for me as all I need do now is sit back and watch the madness unfold.

Listen, you can’t get me out of this can you? For old times sake?

So the main premise of this show is like the premise of a lot of shows at the time. George and Gracie act as themselves in these shows. They live in Hollywood and their friends and relations drop in. A lot of humor is based around what a screwball Gracie is and how George puts up with her. It’s a fairly classic straight man/screwball relationship and it worked for about 40 years or so until Gracie retired. The show is fairly funny, although a lot of classic radio and TV shows these days play as painfully simple. The lack of a B Plot or anyone saying cocksucker is what separates this from Deadwood. Okay, there are other things as well, but you get the idea. This one comes on my favorite Holiday Pain Box, which means the video is pretty bad. You’ll have to forgive the cap quality.

If I were a rich man. La-da-de-da-da-da-dah!

The show itself has an interesting format. We start with Gracie talking to some neighbors about how her sister is coming to visit for Christmas. After that plot set up happens, we then get George doing what amounts to a stand-up routine for two minutes. No plot, no story, just George standing there telling jokes, which is sort of amazing really. That a TV show would just grind to a halt for a great star to tell a couple of jokes at a what was considered a fairly leisurely pace even at the time, is something to behold. He stops telling gags when the Gracie returns with the guests. This then quickly descends into gags and jokes again without much story. There’s not much Christmas going on here though, besides a few mentions here and there.

I don’t just love you, I want to be you. What’d ya say? Can I kill you and wear your skin as a suit?

And while they tell jokes, they actually insert their product into the show. When the coffee comes out they talk about Carnation milk for a moment, telling a couple of jokes and then getting on with life. A bit of chaos goes on for a while, and then we go back to George standing in place and telling jokes stand-up style again. He doesn’t do it for as long as he did the first time, but it’s strange to see a show stop dead for someone to just stand there and tell jokes. Anyway, the story comes back and the children are loud and the neighbors are doing comedy bits with Gracie. Then it’s back to George telling jokes on the side again. It’s sort of hokey and lame, but the painful bit is there is a screaming sound coming from the soundtrack on this copy.

This is your God.

Then a guy named Harry shows up with a Santa suit for George. Harry shows up and within twelve seconds of his first word, mentions Carnation, and then five seconds later mentions it again. Harry then tells George how to be Santa by having a pretty young woman sit on his lap and kiss him. Harry then launches into an advertisement for Carnation Evaporated Milk. It’s done sort of humorously, but it’s still a commercial sitting in the middle of a comedy show. I must tell you kids, I’m beginning to think that it’s possible that Carnation Evaporated Milk sponsored this show. When other characters launch into the commercial as well, you sort of get the impression that you live in a mad world or possibly that you’ve spent your life wrong by not telling people about the advantages of whatever product you happen to be holding.


I’m sort of at a loss really. There isn’t really a story here, just things happening. No rise or fall, not conflict, no resolution, just stuff happening. It’s just a lot of nuttiness and talk about Carnation Evaporated Milk. Amazingly, at the end of the show Gracie actually says “We mustn’t forget our sponsors” despite the fact that they’ve hardly stopped talking about them the entire half hour. I’m sort of flabbergasted. I’ve seen old TV and I’ve listened to old radio and I’ve never seen so many insertions of the sponsor into the program as I have just now. I’m kind of at a loss as to what to say about this. I’m not even sure I can rate this. It’s not even a show, it’s just five jokes to string together the commercials. It’s almost like Graffiti Bridge itself, only with more Carnation Evaporated Milk.

Official Score:
0.2 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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