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Series / Mister Ed

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"A horse is a horse, of course, of course.
And no one can talk to a horse, of course.
That is, of course
unless the horse
is the famous Mr. Ed!"

A 1961–66 Fantastic Comedy about a talking horse, based on a series of short stories written by Walter R. Brooks, Mister Ed aired in First-Run Syndication for its first season before jumping to CBS for the rest of its original run.

The series centered around architect Wilbur Post (Alan Young), his wife Carol (Connie Hines), and Wilbur's horse Mister Ed (voiced by an uncredited Allan Lane). Ed was a normal Palomino in most respects, other than the fact that he could speak and read, and was fairly intelligent. He only ever spoke to Wilbur, however, which naturally led to many hilariously awkward situations when the mischievous Ed would get Wilbur caught up in a Zany Scheme or two.

A pilot for a revival series was filmed in 2004 for Fox, with David Alan Basche as Wilbur Pope and Sherman Hemsley as the voice of Ed, but never aired.

This show provides examples of:

  • Amusing Alien: The episode "Moko" featured an alien who traveled inside the bodies of other characters to control them. It was a Backdoor Pilot for a series that never took off.
  • Analogy Backfire: In one episode when Ed wants a shower installed in his stall, the following exchange occurs:
    Ed: Trigger has a shower and a sunken bathtub.
    Wilbur: When you make as much money as Trigger, I'll buy you a swimming pool.
  • Animal Athlete Loophole: In season 4's "Leo Durocher Meets Mister Ed", Ed steps up to the plate for the Los Angeles Dodgers and hits a home run.
  • Baseball Episode: At least two — season 4's "Leo Durocher Meets Mister Ed", in which Ed takes part in a game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and season 5's "Jon Provost Meets Mister Ed", which involves a Little League game.
  • Beta Couple: The next-door Addisons, who unlike many Beta Couples, seemed to actively dislike each other, in contrast to the Happily Married Posts. They were replaced in later seasons by the Kirkwoods.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Wilbur comes across as this to the other characters: he's a fairly successful self-employed architect who works in his barn and talks to his horse.
  • Cassandra Truth: In the pilot episode, nobody believes Wilbur when he tells them Ed can talk.
  • Cast as a Mask: George Burns voices Mister Ed twice when the horse does an imitation of the comedian.
  • Catchphrase: Ed has "Holler, but don't hit!" whenever Wilbur gets mad at him (which is practically Once an Episode).
  • Character as Himself: Mister Ed appears in the credits as "Himself," with no mention of his voice actor (Allan "Rocky" Lane) or the real name of the horse ("Bamboo Harvester.")
  • Character Title: The series is named after Mister Ed himself.
  • Christmas Episode: Ed uses Wilbur's credit card to buy gifts for his friends. When Wilbur confronts him about this, Ed tells a story about how there wouldn't be a Christmas if not for Santa's talking horse. Meanwhile, the Posts and Kirkwoods agree to a spending limit on gifts, but the wives aren't happy when they go over it and the husbands don't.
  • Colorblind Confusion: The title character is inconsistent as to whether he is color-blind or not. Two episodes touch on it: The first, in which Ed wants a color TV, but Wilbur refuses to get him once since horses are color-blind, but Ed proves him wrong by pointing out the color of the clothes he's wearing. In a later episode, Ed wins a color TV in a trivia contest, and a fight among Ed and Wilbur ensues about whether it will go in the house or the barn. In the end, Ed steals the TV and watches it in the barn, and decides to let Wilbur have it, since he discovered he was actually color-blind.
  • Cool Horse: Face it, any horse that can talk is cool. Even disregarding the talking, Mr. Ed (the real horse, not just the character) could accomplish some impressive feats like answering the phone and opening and closing the barn door.
  • Crossover: With Granny, from the The Beverly Hillbillies, of all people. Discussed here.
  • Cutting the Knot: At one point, Ed undergoes an intelligence test that has him choosing between two carrots, one of which is charged with an electric current. Ed unplugs the machine and eats both carrots.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Addison, who may be one of the most deadpan of all snarkers in black-and-white television.
    • His wife is no slouch either:
    Mrs. Addison: "The last time my husband kissed me was New Year's Eve, 1949. It was dark, and he thought I was the cigarette girl."
    • Ed himself is one sarcastic horse.
  • The Ditz: Wilbur was fairly klutzy and cheerful for a male sitcom character.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first seven episodes of Season 1 (early 1961) had an instrumental theme, before the Jay Livingston-sung theme started to be used.
  • Easy Amnesia: Ed gets it, forcing Wilbur to fake having it so he can try whatever cure is used on him on Ed.
  • Everybody Owns a Ford: Studebaker was the show's primary sponsor during the first four seasons, and naturally got Product Placement in-series. Mister Ed and Wilbur were even featured in some Studebaker commercials. Ironically, by the time the show's target demographic was old enough to drive, Studebaker was out of business (having built their last cars in 1966).
    • Applied literally starting midway through the fifth season, as Ford Motor Co. took over Product Placement for the cars seen in the show.
  • Exiled to the Couch: Non-couch variant — Carol occasionally makes Wilbur sleep in the barn with Mister Ed.
  • Expository Theme Tune: As explained by the theme tune, no one can talk to a horse (of course) unless that horse is the famous Mister Ed. (Though anybody can talk to a horse; what's rare is for the horse to talk back).
  • Fanservice: A decent amount courtesy of Connie Hines. She spends a large amount of one episode in dancing tights. In another, she puts on a hula costume and does a number in the backyard.
  • Fantastic Comedy: The "fantastic" element is, of course, Mister Ed the talking horse himself.
  • First-Episode Twist: Ed doesn't talk until halfway through the first episode, at which point the talking comes off as a surprise. And he didn't give his "Hello, I'm Mister Ed" greeting until after the first few episodes.
  • First-Run Syndication: In FRS its first year, the show was bought by CBS for its other seasons.
  • Formally-Named Pet: The titular character is Mister Ed.
  • Happily Married: Wilbur and Carol are a very affectionate couple. It's something of a running gag that the Addisons frequently walk in on them kissing or cuddling and make some comment on it.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: In one episode, Ed moos to a farmer right in his face, and the farmer remarks, "The horse looks me right in the puss and says 'Moo!'" In this case, the "puss" means the face or eye.
  • Hustling the Mark: Card sharps cheat Roger Addison out of a significant sum of money in one episode. Wilbur and Mister Ed cheat them in return and get Addison's money back.
  • Intellectual Animal: Mister Ed, being a talking horse, is naturally just as intelligent as a human.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ed is ill-behaved, cynical, and kind of ungenerous, but he's a decent horse at heart. He cares deeply about Wilbur and is often faithful to him.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Granny from the The Beverly Hillbillies makes an appearance in "Love and the Single Horse." Irene Ryan, dressed in Granny's garb and speaking with Granny's accent, meets Wilbur Post while touring a wax museum. She offers to take Wilbur home and poultice his head; very Granny-type actions. In the credits, however, Irene Ryan is credited as "Irene Ryan" with no character given after her name. (Both shows were produced by Filmways, incidentally.)
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • Wilbur suggests putting Ed on television, much to the latter's disgust.
    • In another episode, Wilbur gets past a stubborn guard by claiming they're on a hidden camera show, prompting the guard to wave at the camera and gush about how excited he is to be on TV.
  • Living Statue: In "Love and the Single Horse", Mister Ed runs away and hides in a wax museum, disguising himself as a wax horse. The episode features a Crossover with the The Beverly Hillbillies as Granny chooses this day to visit the museum!
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Mister Ed's ability to talk was never explained. Ed's one and only comment on the matter (in the pilot episode) was simply "Don't try [to understand it.] It's bigger than both of us." The issue is never addressed again.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Ed is shown to be able and willing to talk to other people, but will only do so in situations where the other party doesn't know they're talking to a horse (behind their backs, over a phone, etc.). There were at least two occasions where Ed talked openly to children. In the first instance, Ed brushed off Wilbur's concern because "who listens to kids?"
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Ed really can talk, but Wilbur can't prove it, and so the entire neighborhood thinks he's nuts, including Carol. It's Ed's idea to pretend Wilbur was invoking this trope in order to get a better deal on the house.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Kay's father, Mr. Higgins, does not like Wilbur; his emotionless and uptight personality clashes with Wilbur's quirky eccentricity and attempts to always be friendly. On top of that, Higgins always refers to Wilbur as a "kook" because of his clumsiness, and is constantly trying to persuade Kay to divorce him.
  • On Second Thought: In an early episode, Mr. Addison walks in and accidentally overhears Wilbur and Ed talking. Ed covers by claiming (from behind his back) that Wilbur is a ventriloquist:
    Addison: A ventriloquist! That is remarkable, you didn't even move a muscle!
    Wilbur: Mr. Addison, would you believe it if I were to tell you the horse actually talks?
    Addison: Why, of course not!
    Wilbur: I've been a ventriloquist for years.
  • Plot Allergy: In the episode "Ed the Sentry", Wilbur's wife Carol apparently becomes allergic to Ed. Actually, she's allergic to the straw hat he's wearing.
  • Poe's Law: According to Snopes, people were confused by a Chappelle's Show sketch showing Mister Ed using the N-word, thinking it came from the show.
  • Rake Take: Wilbur Post is the victim in the first episode. When Wilbur tells his wife Carol that Mister Ed can talk, Carol thinks the rake hitting Wilbur in the head caused him to be delusional!
  • Retcon: Ed's color-blindness. In one episode Wilbur refuses to buy him a color TV, stating that all horses are color-blind. Ed proves him wrong by pointing out the colors of the clothes he's wearing. In a second episode, Ed wins a color TV in a trivia contest. He and Wilbur fight over whether it will go in the house or the barn. In the end, Ed steals the TV, only to relent and give it to Wilbur after he discovers that he is (you guessed it) color-blind.
  • Sapient Pet: Ed pretends to be a normal horse, and talks directly only to Wilbur. He sometimes talks to other people but only when they can't see that he's a horse, such as when he makes operator-assisted telephone calls, or sings when Wilbur is lip syncing, or insults a police officer when his back is turned.
  • Sapient Steed: The Ur-Example of this trope. Mr. Ed is a horse who is just as intelligent and capable of communicating as any human, though he rarely functions as anyone's 'steed'.
  • The Scrooge: Addison, who's always complaining about his wife spending his hard-earned money on things he doesn't think she needs (like a mink stole).
  • Special Guest: Mae West and Clint Eastwood both appeared. George Burns, whose production company produced the show, made a guest appearance in the episode "Mister Ed meets George Burns".
  • Spirit Advisor: Mr. Ed, whose talking is only heard by Wilbur or over the phone.
  • Stock Animal Diet: Mister Ed greatly enjoys all stereotypical horse foods (sugar, carrots, apples, hay and oats), and he's capable of saying so. And does. Often.
  • Talking Animal: Mister Ed, of course, because no-one can talk to a horse, of course, unless it's the famous Mister Ed.
  • Title Scream: The theme song ends with Ed loudly announcing that I am Mister Ed.
  • Voiceover Letter: An episode had Ed run away from home because Wilbur was too insistent on learning the mystery ingredient in Ed's health drink. He left a note read in Ed's voiceover saying the secret ingredient was hay.
  • Wunza Plot: One's a man, one's a horse. They get into comedic hijinks, much to the distress of everyone except Ed himself.
  • You Can Talk?: This was basically what Wilbur Post invokes when Ed first speaks:
    Wilbur: [to himself] It's been a long time since I had a horse.
    Mister Ed: It's been a long time since I was a pony!
    Wilbur Post: Who said that? No, that's impossible. Did you say that? No, how could you?
  • You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses: When Mister Ed has pulled a particularly unfortunate trick on Wilbur, he (somehow) hurriedly puts on a pair of glasses and warns "You can get five years for hitting a horse with glasses!"

Alternative Title(s): Mr Ed