Series / Dennis the Menace

"Hey, Misssssssssster Willllllllllllllsonnnnnnnn!"
Dennis Mitchell, calling his 'best friend' Mr George/John Wilson, who generally mutters "Oh, no..." to himself in response.

Dennis the Menace is a US television series based on the Hank Ketcham comic strip of the same name. The show aired from 1959 to 1963 on CBS and stars Jay North as Dennis Mitchell; Herbert Anderson as his father, Henry; Gloria Henry as his mother, Alice; Joseph Kearns as George Wilson, Gale Gordon as John Wilson, and Sylvia Field as Martha Wilson.


  • Adaptation Distillation: Dennis does not own Ruff the dog in the television version, while George Wilson acquires a terrier named Fremont.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Featuring Dennis as an abstract tornado, knocking over paint cans and literally shaking the neighborhood houses.
  • As Himself: Spring Byington and Sandy Koufax
  • Baseball Episode: With Special Guest Star Sandy Koufax As Himself.
  • Catch-Phrase: For Dennis: "Heyyyyyy, Misssssster Willllllllllllson!", "Good ol' Mr Wilson", "Jeepers!", and "I was only trying to help!" For Mr. Wilson: "Oh, Great Scott!"
    • Lampshaded at the end of one episode:
    Mr Wilson: I'm sorry, Alice, I was only trying to help.
    Dennis: Jeepers, Mr Wilson! You sound just like me!"
    Mr Wilson: I do?!?! Jeepers!
    Dennis: Great Scott!
  • Cool Old Guy: George Wilson, in Dennis's eyes at least.
  • Cranky Neighbor: George Wilson, in everyone else's eyes.
  • Crossover: Jay North made a guest appearence in an episode of The Donna Reed Show as Dennis. Apparently the Mitchells and the Stones live in the same neighborhood.
    • Spring Byington appears in one episode as herself visiting her niece, the mother of one of Dennis's friends. Although playing herself, Dennis refers to her by the name of her character from December Bride. (Which is somewhat ironic, as Jay North would grow up to resent the fact that everyone thought of him as Dennis, making it next to impossible to find post-Dennis acting work.)
  • Demoted to Extra: Joey was Dennis' best friend in the comics, but he was pushed to the background.
  • Free-Range Children
  • I Am Spartacus: In Season 4's "The New Principal", Dennis's new principal puts him in detention after he is framed by Johnny Brady signing Dennis's name to a picture that Johnny drew; John Wilson, Mr. Finch the pharmacist, and Mr. Quigley the grocer come to the school claiming to be Henry Mitchell so they can convince the principal of Dennis's innocence. By the time Henry shows up, the principal dismisses all of them and Dennis gets to play in the baseball game.
  • Inept Aptitude Test: Dennis takes a standardized IQ test in school which reveals him to be a genius; but it turns out a wad of gum he left on the underside of the paper screwed up the scoring.
  • Innocent Cohabitation: Oddly enough, the Wilsons share this trope. Considering the time in which it was filmed, the standards were considerably different.
  • Just Eat Dennis
  • Limited Wardrobe: Jay North always wore a striped shirt and overalls like comic strip Dennis for the first three seasons. For the fourth he was allowed to wear regular pants, but they were the same color as the overalls and he still wore the striped shirts.
  • Lucky Rabbit's Foot: An episode called "The Lucky Rabbit's Foot". In it, Dennis has what he thinks is a lucky rabbit's foot. With recent bad luck Mr. Wilson has been having, Dennis offers to let him borrow the foot. Mr. Wilson, however, doesn't believe in such superstition and doesn't take the foot. Immediately thereafter, his bad luck continues when something jams his lawnmower, and he runs over his garden hose with the mower.
  • Maintain the Lie: In one episode John Wilson fears a glamourous movie star will feel he is too old to write her life story, so he enlists Henry Mitchell to meet with her as him instead. Cue the hilarity when both Alice and Eloise come home early.
  • Menace Decay: Like the comic strip, the first few episodes had Dennis being more of an actual menace then the innocent naive boy "just trying to help" that later episodes turned him into.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Dennis. Margaret, too - she was still pushing dolls around in a doll carriage and wanting Dennis to play "house" when her actress was twelve years old.
  • Not Now, Kiddo
  • Parent Ex Machina
  • Put on a Bus: Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, after Joseph Kearns died suddenly in 1962, during the third season. As production of new episodes for the 1961-1962 season was still ongoing, the following changes took place over the next several months, continuing into the fall 1962 season:
    • Initially: Two scripts where Mr. Wilson was either non-essential to the story or did not appear were shot first, with his lines either being removed or rewritten for other characters.
    • The last six (6) episodes of Season 3: Gale Gordon is introduced as George's brother, John. George is away on business, settling an estate "out east." The bus at this point is warming up.
    • Starting with Season 4: George and Martha move from town, presumably "out east." (At this point, Sylvia Field, who played Mrs. Wilson, was let go.) With the bus now departed, there are only a few scattered "blink-and-you'll-miss-them" mentions of the Wilsons in the first few episodes of the new season, after which they are never referred to again.
  • Road Sign Reversal: Dennis mistakenly believes the street sign at the corner is reversed, so he turns it, whereupon a swimming pool company goes to the wrong house and basically destroys Mr. Wilson's backyard.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Gale Gordon replaced Joseph Kearns as George Wilson's brother John for the final season after Kerns passed away. Oddly enough, Gordon resembles the newspaper image of George Wilson much more than Kerns did.
    • Although to be fair, John wasn't completely a clone of George. Being slightly younger he was still working and not the cranky retiree that George was. John seemed to accept Dennis more as an equal, and even conspired with him in a few episodes. The characterizations of Martha and Eloise Wilson on the other hand were indistiguishable.
    • The two episodes filmed between Kearns' last episode and Gordon's first were obviously rewritten with two Suspiciously Similar Substitutes: Grocer Mr Quigley coaches Dennis's Little League Team, and Uncle Ned - who previously was a health nut who drove George crazy with exercise and fitness - now is in such bad health that he suddenly gets exhausted as he prepares his flower garden for a neighborhood contest.
  • Third-Person Person: Opie the Fix-it Man in "Dennis and the TV Set."
  • Umpteenth Customer: An episode revolves around Mr. Wilson trying to be this to win a shopping spree.