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THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS

For Hicksflicks.com, July 5, 2013

Dobie Gillis was born on the printed page in a collection of short stories, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" by Max Shulman, and made his performance debut on the big screen in a 1953 black-and-white MGM musical, "The Affairs of Dobie Gillis," with Bobby Van pursuing Debbie Reynolds in a college setting.

But that version is quite different from — and not nearly as good as — the much more successful TV series that followed some six years later. And now, more than 50 years later, all 147 episodes of that series, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," are on DVD for the first time (Shout! Factory, 1959-63, 20 discs, $139.99). And it holds up marvelously with plenty of laughs generated by every member of the terrific ensemble cast.

Dwayne Hickman plays Dobie, and as the series begins, he's a hapless 17-year-old in high school with his best pal, distracted beatnik Maynard G. Krebs, played with scene-stealing aplomb by Bob Denver (whose next gig was "Gilligan's Island").

During the first season, Tuesday Weld plays snooty, gold-digging Thalia Menninger, the primary object of Dobie's romantic pursuits. And for the first half of that season, his competition is Warren Beatty as entitled rich kid Milton Armitage (replaced in the second half by Steve Franken as entitled rich kid Chatsworth Osborne Jr.).

Others include Sheila James as nose-twitching brainiac Zelda Gilmore, who is convinced Dobie loves her but just doesn't know it yet; Frank Faylen as Dobie's fuming father and Florida Friebus as his flighty but sweet mother (perhaps providing the template for the parents on "That '70s Show"?); and William Schallert as schoolteacher Mr. Pomfritt, who exhibits comic disdain for his students.

Funny people spouting funny lines and reacting in funny ways in a show that teens and parents loved equally when it initially aired. I was in junior high, then high school, and it really struck a chord with me. I watched it with my parents and brother on a regular basis and remember that we laughed a lot.

But when my wife and I began watching a few episodes together, I wasn't sure how well it would hold up. Happily, we both laughed out loud and enjoyed it immensely. And, of course, it's funny without being crass or vulgar or loaded with sex jokes, as is sadly the case with 99 percent of all modern sitcoms.