As we continue our series, “We Salute You,” today we take a closer look at a show that might not be remembered by a lot of people, but it had a memorable cast.
In 1959, Operation Petticoat hit the big screen. Directed by Blake Edwards, it starred Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. This WWII comedy centered around a US submarine, the USS Sea Tiger, that reluctantly must bring a group of female nurses aboard. The film also included Marion Ross, Dick Sargent, and Gavin MacLeod, who would go on to become part of McHale’s Navy and captain The Love Boat later in his career.
Jump ahead a couple of decades and ABC airs a sitcom, Operation Petticoat, based on the movie. It would be on the air till 1979, producing 33 episodes. In the television series, John Astin takes on the Cary Grant role and Richard Gilliland has Curtis’s original role. In the new series, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony’s daughter, played the role of Lieutenant Duran who was played by Dina Merrill in the movie.
For only 33 episodes, this show went through a lot of changes. It was supposed to be a one-hour series. A two-hour pilot was filmed, and several scripts were written. After viewing them, ABC decided it would be better as a thirty-minute show. The written scripts were revised to cover two shows each.
The show had a cast of 18 members, including five nurses. In addition to the nurses being aboard, the other continuing plot line was that the submarine was barely functional. It had been sunk earlier in the war and only somewhat restored, so it was a constant struggle to keep it working. Golf clubs operated the valves, a jeep wheel was used for a part, a girdle helped pump in the engine room, and what was most embarrassing to the men was its color of bubble gum pink, the only paint available when it needed to be painted. However, all this changed after the first 23 episodes.
When the show came back in season two, 15 of the 18 actors were gone, including the three main characters. The writers and producers from season one were also set adrift. For the second season, the entire plot line changed, making it a totally different show. Now the submarine was a lifeguard vessel helping pilots and sailors, and the nurses were part of the Navy and assigned to the ship.
During the 1977-78 season it was on Saturday nights. It was up against The BionicWoman on NBC while CBS aired three different shows during the season in that time slot, We’ve Got Each Other, The Tony Randall Show, and The Ted Knight Show. For season two, it was moved to Friday nights where it went up against Different Strokes on NBC and The Incredible Hulk on CBS.
This show aired in an era where the networks struggled a lot with new shows. It’s amazing how many shows in the mid to late seventies lasted two to five episodes. There just seemed to be constant chaos, so this show lasted much longer than most of its competition. However, in this time of television turmoil, the fact that ABC would take a show that must have been somewhat successful and turn it upside down, replacing almost the entire cast, the writers and the producers amazes me.
You would not think a show set on a submarine would have many other actors in it, but during the year or so it was on, more than 80 additional actors appeared on the show, including JoAnn Pflug and Adam West.
While John Astin had a long television career, Jamie Lee Curtis undoubtedly has had the most successful career from this cast. In a recent interview in The New Yorker, “Jamie Lee Curtis Has Never Worked Hard a Day in Her Life” by Rachel Syme (December 1, 2019), Jamie discussed her time on Operation Petticoat. She said: “The show did not do well. And I was fired, along with eleven of the thirteen actors. (sic) I was devastated. I thought my life was over. I thought my career was over. I thought I would lose my contract. And two weeks later the audition for Halloween came up . . . It’s one of those good stories for people who’ve just been let go from their job.”
I think it’s important to look at some of those shows in television history that haven’t become classics; in this case, however, I think I’d skip the television show and buy the DVD from the original movie if you want to learn a bit more about life aboard the Sea Tiger.
We all have those family members who seem to find fun catch phrases which get repeated by friends. Then there are those relatives who say something that drives us crazy and overuse expressions. That is what we’re talking about today: catchphrases from our favorite television shows. I prepared a list of twenty phrases that caught on with viewers. What seems strange to me are expressions that come from a series or movie that were never actually said. For example, “Play it again Sam,” from Casablanca is a well-known phrase. However, that line was never said in the actual movie. You often hear someone say, “Beam me up Scotty,” but once again, it was never said in Star Trek. The closest line was only used once, and it was, “Beam us up, Mr. Scott.”
I’ll list these memorable phrases by shows alphabetically and tell you how often they were used: none, one, fun, or overdone. I also rate them: green light means I like it, yellow if it was getting close to being overkill, and red for those expressions that never should have been used at all. Here we go.
The A Team – Pity the fool
Mr. T often says this on commercials, public appearances,and as a guest on other shows, but he never said it on The A-Team. Mr. T explained how this phrase came about on the Conan show one night, “When you pity someone, you’re showing them mercy. I didn’t start this pity stuff, it was in the bible. You’ll find pity so many times in the Bible and fool so many times, so I put ‘em together. Pity the fool,” Mr. T said. He added, “Lotta guys in the Bible [were] asking for pity. And then a lot of them were saying, I did a foolish act. So, I put ‘em together.”
Not only has he trademarked the phrase, but he actually had a series developed around the phrase which was the title of the show. It aired in October of 2006 and was off the air by November 6, so I pity the fool who stuck money into it.
Rating: None, Green– I can’t really give it a light because it was never used but it was a good expression at the time.
Alf – I kill me
The Tanner family members weren’t often amused by Alf’s jokes. When no one responded or someone shook their head at him, he was often heard to say, “I kill me.”
The phrase was so popular, a poster and a t-shirt were sold featuring it.
Rating: Fun, Green – I also thought Alf was pretty funny, even when the Tanners were not as impressed.
Alice – Kiss my grits
While Flo was a warm-hearted person who would do anything to help a friend, or Mel, she didn’t take any sass from anyone. Whenever someone did something to irritate her, she responded, “Kiss my grits.”
Rating: Overdone, Yellow– Only Flo could get away with using the phrase so often, but it did become a bit too much.
The Andy Griffith Show – Nip it in the
Barney liked being on top of situations and being in charge.When something happened whether it was questionable behavior by Opie or a dangerous criminal activity being plotted, he was heard to say, “Just nip it, nip it in the bud.”
Rating: Fun, Green –Barney Fife was just a great character.
Big Bang Theory – Bazinga
Sheldon learned about sarcasm during season 2 of the show. Whenever he said something sarcastic or something that proved others wrong in a humorous way, he would utter, “Bazinga.” The first time he used it, it was not actually in the script, but he added it and it stuck.
Rating: Fun-ish, Green– I added the “ish” because it can be overdone some shows
The Brady Bunch – Marcia, Marcia, Marcia
Jan didn’t like being the middle child. While Cindy was the cute younger one and Marcia the pretty older one, Jan often felt left out. When she was upset Marcia was getting attention or doing something she wanted to do, she would pout, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”
In the Season 3 episode, “Her Sister’s Shadow,” Jan said, “all I hear all day long at school is how great Marcia is at this or how wonderful Marcia did that. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” Jan did not say the phrase much, but viewers sure did.
Rating: One, Green – I think every middle child understood what Jan meant. Apparently, viewers loved it, because it is an iconic quote for being only said one time. Actually, I always thought Jan was the cool one.
Columbo – Just one more thing
When the bad guy thought he had gotten away with a crime, Columbo would often turn around and say, “Just one more thing,” and that “thing” was usually the evidence he needed to arrest someone.
Rating: Fun, Green – Even when we knew it was coming, it was fun to see how the villain of the week realizes he has been found out.
Diff’rent Strokes – What you talkin’
Arnold was the “cute” kid in the Drummond family and often made others laugh. Whenever Willis said something Arnold didn’t want to do or thought should not happen, he would look at his brother and say, “What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?”
Rating: Overdone, Red– Ok, I know I have a bias because this was one of those Norman Lear shows my readers know I don’t care for, but I do remember at the time, it was used a bit too often on the show. There is a fine line between defining a character and stereotyping a character.
Friends – How you doin’?
Joey was definitely the ladies’ man on Friends. He was always searching for his next social conquest. When he met a girl he wanted to get to know better, he often drawled, “How you doin?” It was a basic pick-up line, but he was so good looking, it almost always worked. While it became his catchphrase, it was not used for the first time until Season 4.
Rating: Fun, Yellow – It was a fun expression that is still used today but it was getting close to being overused.
Full House – Have mercy
Typically, it was Uncle Jesse who said, “Have mercy,” but occasionally another character would use it. He says Garry Marshall always told him he needed a catch phrase. He took on “Have mercy,” and it was probably one of the most-used phrases ever during the run of the show.
Rating: Fun, Green– I can still hear the exact tone of his voice whenever he used the line.
Get Smart – Missed it by that much
Maxwell Smart often messed up a spy mission, and 99 always saved the day. Often when the bad guys were put away and he was analyzing what had gone wrong, he would say, “Missed it by that much” which usually meant he was nowhere near to taking care of business.
Rating: Fun, Green– Everything on this show was fun and there were enough catch phrases that none of them took over.
Good Times – Dy-no-mite!
The Evans were a close-knit family who lived in the projects. JJ was an artist and the class clown. His favorite expression was “Dy-no-mite!”
He revived his catch phrase in several Panasonic commercials in the mid-1970s.
Rating: Overdone, Yellow– Sorry, it’s my Norman Lear bias again, but I feel like not only did JJ Evans overuse this phrase, but you heard it from viewers everywhere you went. I agree that imitation is the sincerest from of flattery, so it worked, and people liked it, but I thought it was overdone.
Happy Days – Sit on it
I think every cast member used the phrase “Sit on it” at one point or another. It was said when someone said something or insinuated something a character didn’t like.
Rating: Overdone, Yellow– This was a fun phrase when it started but it was overused and overused by everyone on the show.
Hawaii Five-O – Book ‘em Danno
The original Hawaii Five-O would end each arrest with Steve saying “Book ‘em Danno.” They did not resurrect the phrase for the current Hawaii Five-0. However, if you were watching the November 30th episode in 2018, you saw the conclusion of an older cold case homicide and a comic book created the ending to the mystery and in the book, McGarrett did say, “Book ’em Danno.”
Rating: Overdone, Green– It was over used although it did not occur on each episode, but I gave it green because it worked and fit the situation when it was used.
Hogan’s Heroes – I know nothing
Sargent Schultz began saying “I know nothing” when he didn’t want to answer questions Hogan asked him. He realized Hogan could always get him to talk by offering him food of some type. Later, the prisoners were not afraid of telling Schultz things they were doing or planning to foil the Nazis’ plans, and whenever he heard them talking about an upcoming mission, he also emphatically said, “I know nothing.”
Rating: Fun, Green– Schultz said it a lot but that was fitting for his character.
The Honeymooners – Bang, zoom, to the moon, Alice
This particular phrase is quoted a lot. Actually, Ralph Kramden had many similar expressions such as Bang, zoom” or “To the moon Alice,” but they all had similar wording and inferred that he was threatening her. The phrase would not go over well in a show today. However, Alice was never worried. She knew Ralph loved her and was all bark and no bite. Of course, one of the expressions he also used in a lot of shows was “Baby, you’re the greatest.”
Rating: One, Red – I only saw one episode that used the exact wording that has become a quote of the show. While I know it was innocent fun back then, I can’t say I was ever fond of the expression.
I Love Lucy – Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do
Lucy always had some type of scheme in the works to get something she wanted. Often, it was something her husband had forbidden her to do. When he found out what she was up to, he often said, “Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do” in his Cuban accent. Like Ralph Kramden, he rarely said this exact phrase; instead, he would tell her to “splain what happened” or “try to splain why you are here” or something along those lines. Viewers picked up on the exact wording that gets repeated still.
Rating: One, Green – Desi used similar words but not this exact phrase. However, when he used it, it was always an appropriate use because Lucy had done something that did need to be explained.
Laugh In – Sock it to me
Because so many people on the show say, “Sock it to me” started by Judy Carne, it has become a famous line. Of course, the celebrity who got the most attention saying it was Richard Nixon.
Rating: Fun, Yellow– It was still fun because it was used in different situations and with different celebrities but if the show had continued, it might have been overdone.
Lost in Space – Danger Will Robinson
Even kids who never heard of Lost in Space, quote “Danger Will Robinson” when they want to warn someone about an issue. The funny thing is it was only said one time on the show, but like The Brady Bunch, viewers have made it their own and it is now part of our lexicon.
Rating: One, Green– Although it was only said once, viewers have made it into a well-loved expression.
Welcome Back Kotter – Up your nose with a rubber hose
This was probably one of the most unusual catch phrases. The Sweathogs gave the image that they would not put up with nonsense and they made the rules. One of Vinnie Barbarino’s favorite insults was “Up your nose with a rubber hose.”
Rating: Fun, Green– I was not a huge fan of Welcome Back Kotter, but the phrase fit Barbarino, and he had enough other expressions, it was not overused.
I hope you had fun looking back at some of the expressions we grew up with in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. It’s interesting to think about what current shows will produce catch phrases that kids will still be using in 2050.
Each month I would like to take a look at one of my favorite sitcoms. November’s show is BachelorFather which ran from 1957-1962. Bachelor Father is one of my all-time favorite shows. With its sophisticated writing, realistic relationships, and elegant lifestyle, I can find something new each time a re-watch an episode. Before Steve Douglas (My Three Sons), Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show), Bill Davis (Family Affair), Phil Drummond (Different Strokes), and Danny Tanner (Full House), Bentley Gregg took on the responsibility of raising his niece after her parents were killed in a car accident. Somehow he was a lucrative lawyer in Beverly Hills, raised a respectful and intelligent niece, participated in civic affairs, and never let any of it cramp his dating life, well rarely. Part of his success can be attributed to Peter, his houseboy who was the “Mother” of the family and kept the household running smoothly.
Starring John Forsythe as Bentley Gregg, Noreen Corcoran as Kelly, and Sammee Tong as Peter, the series debuted on CBS in September 1957, airing alternate weeks with The Jack Benny Show. In 1959, the show moved to NBC, and the final season in 1962 it aired on ABC. The program was based on a radio episode, “A New Girl in His Life,” which was heard on General Electric Theater in May of 1957. During the show’s run, 157 episodes were filmed, all in black and white. While there was a revolving cast of beautiful women on the show, the other regulars were Kelly’s best friend Ginger played by Bernadette Withers, Kelly’s boyfriend Howard Meecham played by Jimmy Boyd, and their dog Jasper.
The character of Bentley Gregg was based on two well-known Beverly Hills bachelors. Their names were combined for this character. No serious thoughts were given to creating a steady relationship for Bentley by the writers because he had an aversion to marriage, so Kelly was the only permanent woman in his life.
John Forsythe was born Jacob Lincoln Freund in Penns Grove, NJ the son of a Wall Street businessman. He later moved to Brooklyn and went on to school at the University of North Carolina. After college he was hired as the announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He signed a contract with Warner Brothers in 1943. Eventually he moved his family to California in order to give them a stable home life. He starred in two other sitcoms in the 60s, The John Forsythe Show in 1965-66 and To Rome with Love in 1969-71. He is best known as the voice of Charlie on Charlie’s Angels and the role of Blake Carrington on Dynasty. He died April 1, 2010 of pneumonia at 92.
Noreen Corcoran was suggested by Ronald Reagan for the character of Kelly, because he felt she was believable as a typical 13-year-old. She began appearing in films in 1951 and was on various television episodes before getting the role of Kelly. After the show ended, she made a few appearances on shows including Dr. Kildare, Gunsmoke, and The Big Valley and appeared in the movie Gidget Goes to Rome. In 1963 she released the musical single “Love Kitten.” In 1966 she began an 11-year association with the Lewitzky Dance Company. She passed away January 15, 2016 of cardiopulmonary disease at 72.
Sammee Tong had been a stand-up comedian. Forsythe insisted that Tong be a major character on the show, and the banter between Bentley and Peter was similar to that of Steve Douglas and Uncle Charlie or Bills Davis and Mr. French. Although “Peter” spoke broken English, Sammee Tong spoke excellent English. Tong’s first film was Happiness Ahead in 1934. He appeared in more than 30 films and 40 television programs between 1935 and 1965. He was a good friend of Mickey Rooney’s and played his friend on the sitcom Mickey which was cancelled in 1965. By that time Tong was deeply in debt due to a gambling problem, and he committed suicide October 27, 1964 at age 63. His last appearance was posthumously as Cook in the 1965 film Fluffy.
Some of Bentley’s women were played by actresses who would go on to become famous including Whitney Blake, Donna Douglas, Barbara Eden, Sally Kellerman, Sue Ane Langdon, Joyce Meadows, and Mary Tyler Moore.
Male guest stars included Jack Albertson, Parley Baer, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen, Bill Bixby, Ronnie Burns, Richard Deacon, Joe Flynn, Howard McNear, Sid Melton, Ryan O’Neal and Harry Von Zell.
Harry Ackerman produced the first season and was replaced by Everett Freeman for the rest of the series’ life when Ackerman went on to work for other sitcoms, including Bewitched and I Dream ofJeannie. The show was sponsored by American Tobacco which made Tareyton cigarettes and American Home Products which marketed Anacin, Dristan, and the Chef Boyardee line.
The show was filmed at Revue Studios and produced by Forsythe’s Bachelor Productions. The episodes were filmed at 4024 Radford Avenue in Studio City and the exteriors were shot at 120 Colonial Street, Backlot at Universal Studios. The end of Colonial Street was also known as New England Street. In the photo below, the house at the right was the Bachelor Father house. The Cleaver house from Leave It to Beaver was across the street. The Gregg family lived at 113 Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills. Bentley’s office was Room 106 in the Crescent Building on Crescent Drive in Los Angeles.
The theme song, “Bachelor Father” was written by David Kahn and Johnny Williams, today known as John Williams, the famous movie composer.
Vincent Dee was the costume supervisor, Florence Bush was the hair stylist, and Leo Lotito Jr. was the make-up artist.
Bentley Gregg: [regarding his upcoming home vacation] First and foremost, I’m going to do absolutely nothing. Peter Tong: If you get tired doing nothing, I’ll be glad to help out. Bentley Gregg: It’ll be nice to have an expert around.
Kelly Gregg: I’ll have you know I walked right through Kessler’s this afternoon, and all I bought was a hair net. I just wanted the thrill of signing for something. Peter Tong: You be careful. Remember, charge account like ocean. One step too far – you go under.
Peter Tong: Hello, Mr. Gregg. You’re home early. Bentley Gregg: Peter, I’ve just spent eight of the most miserable boring hours of my life with one the most beautiful girls in this town. Peter Tong: Sometime even Mickey Mantle don’t get to first base.
Jimmie Boyd (Howard) recorded the 1952 Christmas song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”
Ginger’s last name changed three times during the run of the show. She was referred to as Ginger Farrrell, Loomis, and Mitchell.
Ginger was played by Bernadette Withers. Jane Withers was her aunt, and Jane was best known as Josephine the Plumber.
In Episode 5 of Season 4, Linda Evans (then Linda Evenstad) played one of Kelly’s girlfriends who had a big crush on Bentley. She would later play his wife on Dynasty.
During the five years of the show, Bentley had five different secretaries: Vickie, Kitty 1, Kitty 2, Suzanne, and Connie; could he have been related to Murphy Brown?
Some of the episodes can be seen on youtube.com. Antenna TV had Bachelor Father on its schedule but it was replaced in 2015. We can only hope they will bring it back soon and that the show will finally be given its due and released on DVD so we can once again enjoy the Gregg family and friends.
Below is the list of episodes by season.
Bentley And The P.T.A. (9/29/1957)
Bentley versus The Girl Scouts (10/6/1957)
Bentley And The lady Doctor (10/13/1957)
Date With Kelly (10/20/1957)
Uncle Bentley keeps His Promise (10/27/1957)
Bentley And The Baby Sitter (11/3/1957)
Uncle Bentley And The Aunts (11/10/1957)
Bentley And The Revolving Housekeeper (11/24/1957)