HEY, MULLIGAN! WHAT HAPPENED? @ 30 October 2010 03:55 PM
Mickey Rooney made a lot of TV appearances as a guest on other people's shows -- and won acclaim in the Rod Serling-scripted drama The Comedian, but like a lot of film stars, he never was able to sustain a long running regular series.

The one with the most potential for longevity was The Mickey Rooney Show - Hey Mulligan! (having two titles made things confusing right there). It ran one season in 1954-55 on NBC against The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS.

Each show began with someone shouting "Hey Mulligan!," a title format adopted over a decade later on That Girl. I don't know if those "Hey Culligan Man!" commercials had any connection or not. Anyway, Rooney played a twentysomething Andy Hardy living with his parents (played by Regis Toomey and Claire Carleton), courting a longtime girlfriend (Carla Balenda) and somehow keeping a job as a network page for a fictional TV network.

The network page idea is a great one for a sitcom, not fully realized again until 30 Rock, though Rooney plays it strictly for broad slapstick. Blake Edwards wrote many of the episodes, foreshadowing the legendary success he had with another bumbling character, Inspector Clouseau.

Guest cast members included Angie Dickinson, Guy Williams (Zorro, Lost in Space); Alan Reed (The Flintstones); Pat Carroll (The Little Mermaid, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella); and Robert Shayne (The Adventures of Superman).

One of the strongest assets of The Mickey Rooney Show was the underrated Joey Forman as his "Ethel Mertz." Forman became a favorite featured player in sitcoms and movies of the '60s (Harry Hoo of Get Smart among others) and was a very talented comic actor. This series doesn't maximize his talents as much as it could, but he and Rooney have a good chemistry and it would have been nice to see how the series progressed had it lasted.

Why didn't it last? The competition, first of all, but perhaps more than that, it was an incident in which Rooney was rude to the sponsor at a social gathering. He described it very honestly in his autobiography, Life is Too Short. He felt as if he was being pressed into service as a performer for their social amusement and chose a very off putting way to strike out at the president of the company.

Interesting series, available complete in one DVD set. Interesting book too.

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