Saturday, March 31, 2012

Overture! Curtain! Lights! The Bugs Bunny Show

It’s Saturday morning. Time for cartoons! Or at least it was when I was a kid back in the early sixties. The very first cartoons I watched, however, were actually in prime time! THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW, for instance, premiered on ABC in 1960.

Apparently my parents had no qualms about me watching THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW because they had, themselves, been enjoying Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for years in theaters! It was a known quantity. My Dad, especially, although then in his fifties, had been a fan of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and friends for as long as they’d been around.

In the years since then, of course, parents’ eyes were opened up to see all the gun violence, suicide gags, cross-dressing and back-stabbing in so many of the Warner Brothers cartoons but, in 1960, that was just considered good, clean fun!

THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW took many of the old theatrical cartoons and recycled them into a format of three per episode with all new linking material animated by Warner’s animation department. Even the commercials for Post were new little cartoons!

The opening theme was one of the most memorable in television—“Overture, curtain, lights…” Entitled “This Is It,” the song featured Mel Blanc singing with himself via overdubs as both Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. In fact, Blanc, long the sole credited voice for the Looney Tunes characters (for contractual reasons) probably got more new work out of THE BIGS BUNNY SHOW than anyone else!

As an impressionable city child, I was introduced via this cartoon series not just to Bugs, Daffy, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzalez and a dozen other memorable characters but also to, among others, the concepts of skunks, duck hunting, cats eating birds, Mexican accents and roosters. Oh, and anvils.

As I learned to read, THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW credits also introduced me to the names of the great Warners animators including Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, and Chuck Jones.

Bugs ran in prime-time with new material for only a couple of seasons before switching to Saturday mornings for what would ultimately be more than a twenty year run on multiple networks with multiple titles, sometimes even zooming to a 90 minute format! There was little new from that point, though, other than animated commercials. Instead, the pre-existing material was recycled in endless variations, over time editing or censoring much of the more “questionable” materials.

Although originally aired in black and white, most of the vintage cartoons had naturally been in color and the new animation was also thus so the show easily transitioned to color by the mid-sixties.

All during this time, those same Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons were also appearing throughout the country in various local programs and I watched them religiously anytime I saw one!

Perhaps it was because they were never included in the original series but I was never that big on Road Runner and the Coyote. I admire their cleverness with the endless variations on a theme but otherwise, eh.

Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, taught me perseverance. Nothing ever rattled him for more than the length of a seven-minute cartoon. He was nearly always prepared for whatever came along or was quickly able to adapt and deal with a problem. Most of the time, Bugs was calm, clever and determined. I wanted to be like Bugs.

Daffy, on the other hand, served as Goofus to Bugs’ Gallant.

I feel sorry for today’s kids that they aren’t growing up in a world where some variation of THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW is on constantly. As opposed to that “new” LOONEY TUNES show. In fact, although nearly all of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies are available on DVD, one would be hard pressed to find a single one of the cartoons on any of the hundreds of stations that are out there today. 

I feel lucky that I met these great characters when I did. THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW in 1960 probably influenced more kids of my generation than just about any other TV series. I’m glad my Dad loved it, too. We watched Warner Brothers cartoons together for the rest of his life. He’d hate the fact they aren’t on TV anymore. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Well, Shazayum! It's Gomer Pyle, USMC


Like most Americans in 1962, at age 3, I was, along with both of my parents, a regular viewer of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. One of my favorite characters was the genial, slow-witted hick named Gomer Pyle who worked down at Wally’s filling station. Gomer had a good heart and could take a car apart and put it back together with his eyes closed but he was otherwise reasonably oblivious. At first perhaps a throwaway role, Gomer quickly became a regular in Mayberry, picking up the slack from Howard McNear’s Floyd who was sidelined for quite a while after a stroke.

After two years on the show, it was Andy who went to the producers with the idea of doing a spin-off that essentially ripped off his own famous stage and film role, NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS only starring the Gomer character.

Jim Nabors had been a struggling nightclub comic and singer when Bill Dana discovered him and Andy added him to his show. The basic Gomer characterization had been a part of Jim’s stage act.

In 1964, GOMER PYLE, USMC debuted to good ratings. The series would stay atop the Nielsens for the next five years as Jim molded Gomer from a stereotype into one of THE all-time great TV characters.

The premise was simple and lifted directly from Andy’s earlier play---young, naïve country boy ends up in the military and a tough sergeant doesn’t deal well with him at all. Hilarity ensues. And it did!

One of the factors really making this show was the brilliant comic performance of actor Frank Sutton as Sgt. Carter, befuddled weekly by the disingenuous antics of Private Pyle and determined to either make him or break him. Sutton played the role at the top of his lungs through much of every episode, just like a good drill sergeant should.
GOMER PYLE, USMC was basically a two-act between Nabors and Sutton. There were a few other semi-regulars including, at various times, future TV stars Ronnie Schell, Ted Bessell, Larry Hovis and William Christopher as Gomer’s fellow recruits. Schell would later return as Sgt. Carter’s corporal, a role played originally by TV Jimmy Olsen Jack Larson and then, for most of the show’s run by a blasé Roy Stuart.

Allen Melvin, the great voice actor and veteran of THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW (but probably best remembered for his later role as Sam the Butcher on THE BRADY BUNCH) was around from time to time as the Mess Sergeant and both Carter and Gomer had semi-regular girlfriends. Barbara Stuart’s Miss Bunny, was the Sergeant’s long-suffering paramour and Gomer seemed to have an on-off relationship with the wonderfully named (and accented) Lou Ann Poovie, played by Elizabeth MacRae (later seen nude in Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION).

In the mid-sixties, the country had not yet turned against the war in Viet Nam but it was never mentioned on GOMER PYLE, USMC. Instead the show adhered to the time-honored clichés of the military sitcom format with little to no criticism of the Marine Corps in any way so as to stay in good with them and maintain their unofficial sanctioning. The show could, in a way, be seen as a recruiting forum. It showed the hard work and the discipline involved sometimes but overall it made the Marines look like a fun place to be.

On the series itself, Jim Nabors slowly refined Gomer into a true innocent, similar to the later Forrest Gump. He wanted to serve his country, he wanted to please his Sergeant and most of all he wanted to help people. His expressions of “Shazam!” and “Gollllllll-eeeee” became popular catchphrases.

Week after week, he would get into some mess or other either on the base or off the base by trying to do the right thing and the Sergeant would usually be dragged in with him or go in after him.  As time went on, one could see that carter was developing not just an affection for his “problem child” but an actual respect. Not that he could ever let that show.

In the meantime, Nabors caused fans mouths to fall open when it was revealed that he could sing like a semi-operatic angel! He was suddenly in great demand on talk and variety shows and ultimately put out scores of successful “easy listening” record albums.

Still doing well in the ratings but feeling the series had run its course, Nabors took the regulars into a musical-comedy variety show of his own in 1969. It’s best remembered for…well…okay it isn’t best remembered at all. Although popular for a while, Sutton in particular was just nit a sketch comedy actor. It didn’t work. The chemistry was different.

GOMER PYLE, USMC went into syndicated reruns, often dominating local markets where it aired in spite of backlash at the military by that point because of the escalated mess in Viet Nam.

Frank Sutton sadly passed as early as 1974. Jim Nabors, in spite of a long and successful career before health issues led to semi-retirement in the nineties, would never again reach the heights of popularity that he had as Gomer Pyle.

In fact, one of his last TV performances was in the acclaimed reunion movie, RETURN TO MAYBERRY, which reunited Andy, Barney, Opie and the whole surviving cast of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. Jim, of course, was Gomer Pyle. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My First Doctor--Who? Tom Baker

It’s 1967 and my parents take me to see a cool Japanese monster movie called KING KONG ESCAPES in which the giant gorilla (whom I’d never heard of at that point) fought a robot version of himself created by a villain with the memorable name of…Doctor Who. Well, it sounded like that anyway but it was actually Doctor “Hu.” I was eight but a lot of other people interpreted it as “Who,” also. Doctor Who. A name to conjure with.

I heard it again around 1970 when a movie called DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEKS premiered on local TV one Saturday night.  It was five years old at that point. I had seen that film’s star, Peter Cushing, in several horror films by that point. Here, though, he was playing a kindly old absent-minded professor who lived in a space-time machine that he invented himself. It was bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. His granddaughter lived with him, too, and one day her teachers came by to see her home and got taken to an alien world where they had to fight their way out of being enslaved by weird metal creatures called Daleks.  Cool. Fun movie.

And a few weeks later, they aired a sequel! THE DALEKS’ INVASION EARTH, 2150 AD. Peter Cushing and his granddaughter were back in their T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time and Relative Dimensions In Space) and again a couple of normal folks get dragged along on an adventure, this time into the future when the Daleks were on Earth!  This one was even cooler than the other one for 11 year old me!

11 year old me was also a regular reader of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, as were many boys my age. Soon after seeing those two movies, I saw a photo in that magazine that showed a weird alien creature said to be from the British TV series, DOCTOR WHO. “Wait a minute,” I remember thinking. They have different TV series in England than we have? And apparently they had made one out of those two movies that I enjoyed so much. Ah, well…not being in England, I figured I’d never get to see it.

It was another five or six years before I heard of DOCTOR WHO again. This time, it was in the weekly comics collecting newspaper TBG that I subscribed to by mail. Columnists Don and Maggie Thompson—mostly Maggie I think—began running some newspaper clippings about the building popularity of the latest actor to portray Doctor Who or, as I learned there, simply “the Doctor.”

And he wasn’t an old man for some reason. He looked like Harpo Marx with a wide grin but with a floppy old hat and an oddly long scarf! What in the world? The articles and clippings that TBG kept running mentioned that PBS stations were starting to run the series in some parts of the country. Was there a chance…?

Well, not for another couple of years there wasn’t. Finally when I was about 19 years old, our local PBS station began airing DOCTOR WHO, starting with the very first episode. Well, the very first episode starring Tom Baker from 1974. I still had a lot to learn about what had come before that.

That first episode was called “Robot.” The Doctor was absolutely nothing like the one I remembered. And where was his granddaughter? There was a woman there who seemed to know him but didn’t. There was also a man. And a military group and…well…really cheesy looking special effects! The absolute only thing that was familiar to me was the blue Police Box—the TARDIS!

But there was something about the Doctor. Over the following weeks, I quickly became hooked by his eccentric charm and charisma on the Saturday night show. In England a serial, here the chapters were edited together to be long TV movies, sometimes as much as three hours long in fact!

He was not “Doctor Who” at all. That was just the name of the series. He was “the Doctor.” And rather than a kindly old earthman, he was an ancient member of an alien race called the Time Lords who, when their body “died,” simply evolved into a new body. That was where the series had picked up for me. Tom Baker’s Doctor was, in fact, the fourth Doctor the series had had since it began in 1963. 1963!!?? That meant that the two Peter Cushing films were actually based on the series and not the other way around!

As the series turned up in more markets, more and more articles began appearing and TBG ran more and more clippings. Thus, I learned more and more about DOCTOR WHO. The previous three Doctors had all been a bit older and so the character of Harry in this series had been created before Baker’s casting to handle the action scenes. The girl was Sarah Jane Smith, destined for her own fame in time in her own successful series many years later. As far as the Doctor’s “companions” went, she was my first and in the end my favorite.

Running them in the format they were, my local station burned through each series quickly and I met later companions such as Leela, the wild girl, K-9 the robot dog, Time Lady Romana (in two different incarnations) and the ever-popular Adric.. I watched my hero defeat Cybermen, Zygons—all sorts of evil, generally cheap-looking aliens including, yes, the Daleks of my youth. More and more backstory was added to the franchise as the Doctor and his companions galavanted all around the universe. Merchandising started hitting the US shores including Marvel UK’s DOCTOR WHO WEEKLY magazine. By 1981, PBS was nearly caught up with where the series was in England at the time. It was then that word began to filter across the pond that Tom Baker felt he’d had a good run and was ready to move on, transmogrifying into yet another actor as had been done three times before.

Tom Baker had taken an already long-popular TV series character and made him iconic to a whole new generation on at least two continents. It was conceded that he would be an almost impossible act to follow. But he would be followed…as he had been preceded.

In 1987, the first time I ever looked twice at the woman I would eventually marry was when she mentioned that she, too, was a Tom Baker and DOCTOR WHO fan. Today, in 2012, DOCTOR WHO in its various incarnations remains one of my all-time favorite TV series. But each of those incarnations is so very different. In time, we’ll meet the next Doctor that I personally discovered---Jon Pertwee. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New For the 1967-68 TV Season

1967-68 was a pretty good season on American television. Some highlights of the new shows, by network:




Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Perry Mason On Defense

In 1985 I dated a lovely young lady who loved old time radio and PERRY MASON.  Being a book person, I never took her flowers or candy but rather old Perry Mason novels. In a relatively short time I cleaned out all the used bookstores in the Cincinnati area of both hardback and paperback editions. The relationship didn’t really go far but its lasting legacy was that I finally “discovered” Perry Mason. It helped that, by coincidence, 1985 was also the year that TV’s Mason. Raymond Burr, revived the character in the first of what would prove to be a long and successful series of TV movies.

Oh, I had seen PERRY MASON before. The original series had run from 1957 to 1966 and THE NEW PERRY MASON came along in 1973 starring Monte Markham, a TV favorite of mine since THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS. I don’t recall my parents watching it when I was a kid but the reruns were on up in the afternoons for ages and I’d catch one from time to time, not really enough to even know the supporting characters, though.

So in the mid-eighties, I finally became a PERRY MASON fan. I was already a Raymond Burr fan from IRONSIDE, his late sixties-early seventies follow-up series which had lasted just as long as Perry had!

Burr had proven himself quite the versatile actor on old time radio and in character parts in films, perhaps most memorably as the killer in Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW. He had an odd, easily imitated way of breathing during his delivery of lines that made him a favorite of impressionists. Once he played Perry, though, he settled into a knowing, authoritative style that served him well going from Mason to Ironside to his third series, KINGSTON: CONFIDENTIAL and then back to Mason. He really didn’t need range anymore. He was Raymond Burr and that’s what the people wanted.

Although ostensibly a defense lawyer, author Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason, whether in the original novels, a series of movies, on radio or on television, was, in fact, a detective. He was never really as concerned about proving his clients’ innocence as he was in finding the real killer and getting them to confess. Although there were a lot of assistants and sidekicks over the years, his main support came from investigator Paul Drake and his secretary, Della Street, one of THE great secretary characters in fiction.

There was no romance between Perry and Della in the TV series but many, women in particular, seemed to find it by reading between the lines. Their relationship seemed even closer in the later films. Della was played wonderfully by actress Barbara Hale. Romance or no romance, she and Burr made a great team.

Paul Drake was played by William Hopper, a tall, stalwart but wooden actor who was the son of Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. In some of the later TV films, actor William Katt, son of Barbara Hale, played Paul Drake, Jr, replacing the deceased Hopper.

Lt. Tragg of the police force was sometimes a friend, sometimes a thorn in Perry’s side. He was wonderfully played by the great Ray Collins, a veteran of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater troupe.

Burr’s Perry Mason only ever lost one case to his perpetual rival, prosecutor Hamilton Burger (played by William Talman) and that was clearly done as a novelty.

The writing on PERRY MASON was some of the best on episodic television in its day with very few episodes wasting a moment on anything other than plot and letting the characters develop from that. Although they could be as convoluted as the next show’s, the plots on this one were at least semi-realistic by comparison, too. Taken in bulk, the episodes become formulaic with the great defense attorney consistently getting the real killer to break down and confess. One by one, though, they can be positively riveting in their courtroom drama.

In the long run, PERRY MASON probably got lawyers more good press than anything before or since and no doubt inspired many young fans to enter the profession.

Burr gained much weight in later years but never lost respect, even when dogged by the persistent rumor that he was gay. He was, in fact, but never wanted it to come out. He was of the old school where that simple fact could kill a career in Hollywood. He needn’t have worried. Raymond Burr had long ago passed into the pantheon of television legends. He didn’t need to defend himself from anything…and hey, if he did, he was Perry Mason.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I Wonder Why the Wonderfalls

Originally posted in an earlier version at BOOKSTEVE'S LIBRARY in 2005.

As one cannot live in the past forever, I occasionally try new television shows. Very occasionally these days but....This, unfortunately, is often the kiss of death for said shows. One such situation—has it been nearly nine years now?—was WONDERFALLS. After watching the highly touted debut, I was simply enchanted. It was TRU CALLING and JOAN OF ARCADIA without the angst and with a madcap, quirky sense of humor. I loved every second of the first episode and watched it again when Fox aired it a second time to pick up more viewers. Couldn’t wait for the second episode! In spite of mostly rave reviews, though, the campaign to "Save WONDERFALLS" began soon after the second episode’s ratings plummeted. The show was cancelled after episode four.

It’s my considered opinion that WONDERFALLS was too hip for the room. Lots of pop culture references such as a tiny wax lion singing Michigan J. Frog songs and a potential arsonist singing the theme to THE FACTS OF LIFE under her breath as she wraps a victim in duct tape are the first couple that come to mind.

It’s also a very adult show, not skimping much on the curse words and featuring some of the most sexually explicit scenes I’ve ever seen on a show made for non-cable TV including a running gag—pardon the expression—blowjob shown several times over several episodes in flashbacks. It’s okay, though. Seriously. It really IS integral to the plot!

Said plot, by the way, features Jaye, a young "slacker" working in a Niagara Falls gift shop who suddenly finds inanimate objects talking to her and telling her to do things. When she refuses, they make sure she changes her mind one way or another. Ultimately, she comes to reluctantly accept that they are prompting her to do good things but inevitably in a roundabout way that gets her in big trouble first. Along the way, we deal with her dysfunctional but loving family, her best friend (who eventually starts a secret relationship with Jaye’s brother), her psychiatrist and her sort of boyfriend/sidekick whose cheating wife (FIREFLY cutie Jewel Staite in several episodes) may or may not be trying to poison him. Hmmm. Doesn’t sound all that interesting to me just writing it out like that.

Still, absolute winning performances all around make the series. Caroline Dhavernas as Jaye is an amazing , delightful discovery. Her comic timing is some of the best I’ve seen in ages for a young performer.  William Sadler and Diana Scarwid are perfectly cast as Jaye’s mother and father, screwy and screwed up on their own but both given more depth as the series progresses.

The loyal fan base rallied on the Net and somehow got Fox to agree to release this failed series on DVD fairly quickly, complete with all 9 originally unaired episodes! Not only that but they went all the way with the extras, offering documentaries, a music video of the catchy theme song, the usual cast bios and multiple episode commentaries from Dhavernas along with various writers, producers and co-stars (including the marvelously named Scotch Ellis Loring who appears not only as the psychiatrist but as the voice of the wax lion that starts the whole thing.)

I break it out and watch a few episodes every once in a while. most recently about a month back. I still say that WONDERFALLS is the best US series I’ve seen on TV so far in the 21st Century. If you're an adult with an odd sense of humor, you’re in for a twelve hour treat whenever you decide to watch WONDERFALLS.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

When the West Was Fun-1979

I mentioned in a previous post that my Dad was a big fan of TV westerns--movie westerns, too! In 1979, I was 20 years old and still living at home. During those twenty years, my father had introduced me to the fun B westerns, the big screen color Oaters, the frivolous TV westerns, the comedies, the dramas, the anthologies. But by the late seventies, nearly all of that was in the past as Westerns had seemingly run their course in popular culture.

ABC chose that moment to serve up some TV cowboy nostalgia with what was billed as the world's first Western reunion, a one hour special entitled WHEN THE WEST WAS FUN.

WHEN THE WEST WAS FUN is an odd animal to say the least. All the actors appear as themselves--in a way--and yet they're all dressed as their characters. Nearly half of the show consists of clips of their old series with much of the rest an uneasy mix of nostalgia and mostly unfunny comedy skits. But none of that matters. What's important here is just seeing so many old friends. And in 1979, to me, that's exactly what they were. Whether I had caught them in first run or in reruns, there were very few of the folks on this show that I didn't know and it was so nice to spend a little more time with them after all those years.

Essentially, the show is set in an Old West saloon with F TROOP's Larry Storch as the bartender. Movie and modern TV cowboy Glenn Ford (CADE'S COUNTY) was the host. IMDB is sadly lacking in the names of other actors who appeared so let me share just a few here:

Lee Van Cleef--at the time a huge star throughout the world in spaghetti westerns except in the US
Chuck Conners and Johnny Crawford from THE RIFLEMAN
James Drury and Doug McClure of THE VIRGINIAN
Ken Curtis and Milburn Stone, GUNSMOKE's Festus and Doc
John Russell and Peter Brown, LAWMAN and his deputy
Jack Kelly's Bart MAVERICK
Clayton Moore's LONE RANGER
Also Jock (O') Mahoney, John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan, Guy Madison, Neville Brand, Keenan Wynn, Will Hutchins (with whom I would later perform onstage), Iron Eyes Cody, Denver Pyle, Dan Haggerty, Pat Buttram, Slim Pickens, George Montgomery and, believe it or not, still a lot more!

Conspicuous by their absence were such stars as RAWHIDE's Clint Eastwood and MAVERICK's James Garner and Roger Moore (all probably overpriced and overbooked) but with a familiar Western face everywhere one looked, it was easy not to notice who WASN'T present.

Throughout the show one character, described in the credits as the "Old Prospector" and seemingly an amalgam of all the old Gabby Hayes/Fuzzy Knight sidekicks, keeps asking where "Roy" is. (This character is played by Fred Putman, the show's writer.) Toward the end, we find out where Roy is when Roy Rogers, the King of the Cowboys himself, shows up with his cowgirl spouse Dale Evans to do some campfire singing.

There's even a shoutout from Glenn Ford to John Wayne, sadly then on his deathbed but who was expected to be watching.

If you've never seen and enjoyed a TV horse opera, you'll wonder what all the fuss is about. If you, like me and so many others in 1979, had grown up with all of these cowboys in your living'd have loved this TV special.

Years later, Will Hutchins hosted a smaller scale but similar made-for-video feature and VANITY FAIR magazine did a wonderful photo-reunion.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fantastic Things Keep Happening--Nanny and the Professor


What? A rerun, already?
This post was written just recently for my BOOKSTEVE'S LIBRARY blog but it's sort of the one that inspired THE BOOKSTEVE CHANNEL so I thought it belonged here, also. 

I've been watching a lot of episodes of NANNY & THE PROFESSOR lately, recorded way back when the FX network was actually a fun place to hang out. A favorite series back in 1970, it had a likable cast and a lovely theme song. Essentially it was a belated TV version of MARY POPPINS starring English actress Juliet Mills (daughter of Sir John sister of Hayley and former CARRY ON star) and handsome Richard Long (former co-star of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies and THE BIG VALLEY). Rounding out the cast were three personable kids and a big sheepdog named Waldo.

This Viewmaster reel was one of only two I ever bought (since I can't see 3-D), the other predictably being BATMAN. NANNY & THE PROFESSOR was never a huge hit but was marketed extensively during the three seasons it was on. There were comic books, a series of novels, colorforms, paper dolls and even two later spin-off animated cartoons that reunited the cast.


The Dell comic books below were some of the last in a long line of licensed TV series comics from the by-then fading rapidly company. 

The novel tie-ins were written by prolific hack writer --in the true sense of the word--William Johnston who also did a fun DICK TRACY novel around that same time. 

The SATURDAY SUPERSTAR MOVIE was an experimental Kids show offering longer-form cartoons, sometimes based on older TV series (including THT GIRL and THE BRADY BUNCH). NANNY & THE PROFESSOR got two animated outings.

Phoebe Figallily arrived at the Everett household with a perplexing mix of ESP and seeming magic that was never completely acknowledged or spelled out, even to the viewers. The family quickly fell in love with her, presumably even the Professor although that was only in subtext. OOver the course of the series, we met eccentric relatives and old friends but nothing was ever explained. In fact, the actual plots sometimes left much to be desired, even for a silly sitcom. 

Juliet Mills, now on Facebook, continued her career, appearing soon after NANNY in a nude scene in Billy Wilder's AVANTI with Jack Lemmon. She resurfaced on the soap PASSIONS many years later as a real witch. Richard Long, a very wooden actor but always a welcome presence,  sadly succumbed to heart disease just a short time after the series and the cartoons. Even more tragic was the fate of Trent Lehman, the younger son on the show, who hanged himself just ten years later. David Doremus, Trent's older TV brother, had a recurring role on THE WALTONS for a while but ultimately left show business. Kim Richards, one of the cutest TV child stars ever, went on to star in both of Disney's popular WITCH MOUNTAIN movies and later in a shocking scene in John Carpenter's original cult classic ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. After years out of the spotlight, her private issues have sadly become very, very public recently as one of the most troubled of the REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS.