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Series / The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis

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Dobie wants a little cutie,
Dobie wants a little beauty...

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was a Sitcom that ran for four seasons (1959–63) on CBS, based on a collection of short stories written in the early '50s by humorist Max Shulman (which had previously inspired the 1953 MGM musical The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, starring Bobby Van as Dobie and Debbie Reynolds as his love interest).

Dobie Gillis (Dwayne Hickman) was an Ordinary High-School Student who wanted simple things in life; money, respect, and the love of beautiful women. His best friend was an oddball beatnik named Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver), who sported a goatee and was allergic to work. Dobie perennially found himself pursuing beautiful girls who were rarely interested in him; meanwhile, his dogged childhood friend Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James) insisted she was destined to be his ultimate match.

The series broke a lot of new ground for television, being one of the first shows to have the characters comment directly to the audience, as well as featuring one of the medium's first "counter-cultural" characters in Maynard. It was also much more slyly scripted than a lot of shows of the era, and was noted for its rapid-fire dialogue exchanges.

Two of the show's best-remembered cast members only appeared in its first season: Warren Beatty (in one of his first roles as Dobie's chief rival, the handsome, rich Milton Armitage) and Tuesday Weld (as Dobie's primary dream girl, the blonde, money-hungry schemer Thalia Menninger).

The show's characters also served as an inspiration for the cast of another CBS show, the Saturday morning cartoon Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (Dobie is Fred, Maynard is Shaggy, Zelda is Velma, and Thalia is Daphne).

In addition to reunion specials in the '70s and '80s, the series lived on in syndication and later on Nickelodeon's Nick at Nite block. There is more info on the show available here.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Zelda is this to Dobie. It's not so much that she's hideously unattractive (at worst, she's just not as glamorous as the girls Dobie usually goes after) so much as it's her pushiness, persistence and Insufferable Genius tendencies that make her off-putting. He's never outwardly cruel to her, however, and even does show affection and appreciation for her more in later episodes.
  • Accidental Misnaming: A running gag has people frequently mishearing Dobie's name as "Dopey."
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the original stories, Dobie isn't ugly per se but he is noticeably short, creating a Tiny Guy, Huge Girl dynamic with him and his would-be love interests. (One of Max Shulman's book collections is even titled I Was a Teen-Age Dwarf). On the series he's of normal height.
  • Always Second Best: Dobie encounters this a lot with Milton and other rich rivals for his various love interests. Zelda has a similar situation with regards to Thalia and Dobie's other crushes.
  • AM/FM Characterization: Maynard is an avowed jazz fan, so much that he once ran up a massive charge on his parents' phone bill trying to place a long-distance call to Dizzy Gillespie in Copenhagen.
  • And Here He Comes Now: A recurring gag with Maynard G. Krebs; once, when Dobie describes one of Zelda Gilroy's scheme as "lowdown, disgusting, and despicable", the slovenly Maynard appears right on cue, saying "You rang?" as if Dobie were describing Maynard's physical appearance.
  • Animated Credits Opening: In the first season, depicting Dobie peeping through a knothole in a wooden fence and seeing various pretty girls on the other side.
  • Armed Farces: The second half of Season 2 deals with Dobie and Maynard enlisting in the army. Their boot camp becomes the primary location of the show.
  • Beard of Evil: Inverted with Maynard's ubiquitous goatee, at a time when such beards were more often associated with more villainous types.
  • Beatnik: Maynard G. Krebs, the first regular "beatnik" character on U.S. TV, at a time when such counter-cultural archetypes were rarely seen on the tube.
  • Berserk Button: Don't mention work around Maynard, or to a lesser extent, getting married.
  • Betty and Veronica: Zelda is the plain-Jane Betty to the Veronicas that make up some of Dobie's other love interests, especially Thalia Meninger.
  • Brainy Brunette: Zelda has dark hair and is a hardworking student.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Most episodes begin with Dobie briefly addressing the audience with a little background exposition of the plot to follow. (Occasionally, these monologues would also appear mid-show as transitional links.) The scenes invariably had Dobie in front of the famous Auguste Rodin sculpture "The Thinker." (The earliest episode openings would start with Dobie emulating The Thinker's pose.) One clever variation had Dobie in traction, unable to speak, while his nurse read his narration from his written notes!
  • Breakout Character:
    • Maynard G. Krebs. By Season 4, the show became mostly about Maynard with Dobie pushed into the background.
    • Thalia Menninger made Tuesday Weld an instant star and she left before the first season was even finished.
    • Zelda Gilroy was such a hit with the viewers that the character left the show for a brief time to star in her own Spin-Off that was never picked up.
    • Chatsworth Osborne Jr. was used very sparingly since the producers felt he would outshine Dobie and Maynard if used in every episode.
  • The Bus Came Back: After being absent since the first season, Thalia returns as a guest in Season 3's "Birth of a Salesman" and Season 4's "What's a Little Murder Between Friends?".
  • California University: Probably the Ur-Example, with the gang moving on to S. Peter Pryor Junior College.
  • Catchphrase:
    • At least Once an Episode, Dobie's father would be heard to intone, "I gotta kill that boy. I just gotta."
    • Maynard's "WORK?!" and "You rang?"
    • All the characters would habitually intone an obligatory (though insincere) "No offense!" right after saying something insulting about someone in their presence.
    • Chatsworth would say "surely you jest!" a lot.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the show's first season, Dobie was more of a scheming lazy bum, Maynard was more of a counterculture figure, Thalia was more of an unrepentant Gold Digger compared to Dobie's later love interests, and Dobie's relationship with his father Herbert was much more antagonistic, with Herbert often threatening to kill Dobie (albeit in a comedic manner). All of this made sponsors uneasy, so the show's more cynical edges were sanded down by Season 2.
  • Character Tics: Zelda would often wrinkle her nose up like a rabbit when she was happy or excited. Dobie would involuntarily do the same thing back, which proved to Zelda that he did like her back.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: By DC Comics, which lasted 26 issues.
  • Cousin Oliver: Duncan "Dunky" Gillis. Dobie's cousin Dunky was brought in season 4 to be Maynard's new running buddy and try to recreate the Dobie and Maynard dynamic from earlier seasons due to Dobie's actor Dwayne Hickman being 28 and thought too old for such TV hijinks.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Dobie's brother Davy. He appears a few times during season 1. His disappears by season 2 and Dobie is identified as an only child, as well as Maynard's cousin Jerome, who only appears for a couple of episodes and is never heard from again.
  • Dogged Nice Guy:
    • A female example in Zelda Gilroy. She believes she and Dobie are meant to be together, but Dobie spends most of the series trying anything he can to get rid of Zelda.
    • Dobie himself qualifies. He often thought just being a nice guy was good enough to land him any girl.
  • The Generation Gap: Played for Laughs with Dobie and his friends to their parents, particularly his father. Seeing as the parents lived through the Great Depression and Dobie's father is mentioned to have fought in World War II, it's not surprising that they're often bewildered and exasperated by their kids' more flagrant attitudes towards finances and the world in general.
  • Generation Xerox: Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis seemed to be setting up a similar dynamic with the children of Dobie and Zelda and Chatsworth and his wife, where "Chatsie" continually chased after Dobie's son in the same way Zelda chased after Dobie.
  • Gilligan Cut: Used frequently, several years before Bob Denver's next sitcom would become more popularly associated with the trope.
  • Girl of the Week: Among the actresses that played Dobie's love interests were such then-unknowns as Marlo Thomas, Sally Kellerman, Ellen Burstyn (then billed as Ellen McRae), Barbara Babcock, Sherry Jackson, Diana Millay, Barbara Bain, and Yvonne Craig.
  • Gold Digger: Thalia wants a rich man. She does have somewhat nobler intentions than the usual gold digger, as her family isn't in a great financial situation and she wants to be able to help them out.
  • Good Is Dumb: Maynard is frequently slow on the uptake, but he's the kindest character on the show.
  • Hear Me the Money: In the reunion movie Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis, Dobie and Zelda now run the Gillis Grocery—now also a pharmacy—on their own. Dobie's ear is especially finely tuned to sound of their son Georgie opening the cash register to remove cash and he can hear it no matter where he is in the house. It is so finely tuned that the sound of Georgie opening the till brings Dobie out of a coma at the end of the film.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Whenever someone described something unattractive or undesirable, Maynard would pop up and say "You rang?"
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Enforced. Dobie's actor (Dwayne Hickman) was made to dye his hair blonde in order to distance him from a previous role. When the show was well established, he was allowed to return to his natural brown hair color; however, at times he had to go blonde again.
  • Loser Protagonist: Dobie is an average guy with big dreams but has little ambition. He's not particularly intelligent or exceptionally skilled in anything (though he does have an affinity for poetry), and all he wants is a girlfriend but most won't give him the time of day, and Zelda is an Abhorrent Admirer. Maynard is an even bigger loser than he is.
  • Magic Realism: While the show is largely grounded in reality, some episodes can have surreal moments (such as "The Chicken From Outer Space").
  • Manchild: Maynard. The guy still believes in Santa Claus.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Zelda.
  • Never Say That Again: Mentioning work in the presence of employment-averse Maynard always triggered a reflexive, panicked interjection of "WORK?!"
  • New Season, New Name: The show's title was shortened to Dobie Gillis in season 2, then changed again to Max Shulman's Dobie Gillis in season 4.
  • No Fourth Wall: Episodes would have segments where Dobie would address the audience directly. Now we know where Zack Morris learned this trick.
  • Pie in the Face: The final episode, "The Devil and Dobie Gillis," features both Maynard and Dobie getting creamed in a pie-throwing booth at a carnival.
  • Put on a Bus: Thalia and Milton by the end of Season 1. Thalia did return for two episodes in Seasons 3 and 4.
  • Reunion Show:
    • Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis, a TV movie that aired in 1988.
    • There was also Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis?, an unsold 1977 pilot for a prospective Revival series.
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: Dobie Gillis. He is well aware that he is average looking, has average intelligence, and is middle class. The whole premise of the show is his quest to punch up in life.
  • Santa's Existence Clause: In "Will the Real Santa Claus Please Come Down the Chimney?", while staying at the Gillis household, Maynard reveals he still believes in Santa Claus. The others try to prove to him that Santa isn't real, but he sees through their attempt and remains committed. While alone in his room, he sees Santa's sleigh fly by.
  • Self-Proclaimed Love Interest: Zelda is this to Dobie.
  • The '60s: The show began in 1959 and had a clear "Wholesome Fifties" aesthetic. But unlike other shows from that era like Leave It to Beaver, there was at least was some feeling that changes were on the horizon. Dwayne Hickman himself would say the show represented "the end of innocence of the 1950s before the oncoming 1960s revolution".
  • The Slacker: Maynard. One of his catch phrases is a panicked "Work?!"
  • Still Believes in Santa: High school beatnik Maynard still believes in Santa Claus.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Warren Beatty left the show midway through the first season, so his character of Milton Armitage was replaced with his (similarly wealthy and handsome) cousin Chatsworth Osborne Jr.
    • Tuesday Weld left late in the first season. Her character Thalia Menninger was replaced with a number of Girl of the Week stand-ins who similarly loved money and thought themselves better than Dobie.
    • Early in Season 1 there was Jerome Krebs, cousin of Maynard G. Krebs. Bob Denver had been drafted into the army and the producers had to write his character Maynard out of the show and replace him with the similar Jerome, played by Michael J. Pollard. Denver failed his physical and was able to return having missed only three episodes. The Jerome Krebs character only appeared in two episodes and was quickly dropped.
  • Syndication Title: Dobie Gillis.
  • Teen Genius: Zelda Gilroy. She is not shy about reminding Dobie and Maynard that she is intellectually superior to them.
  • Token Rich Student: Milton and Chatsworth.
  • TV Teen: One of the first shows to feature a teenage character as a protagonist. It was still sponsored by a cigarette brand (Marlboro).
  • Upper-Class Twit: Milton Armitage and Chatsworth Osborne, Jr.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: The reunion movie reveals that Dobie married Zelda.
  • Women Are Wiser: Zelda and Thalia (and Dobie's later love interests) were shown as much more intelligent and level-headed than Dobie and Maynard. Similarly, Dobie's mother is shown to be more open-minded and calmer than his father.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: "Jangle Bells" is partly this. Dobie gets roped into attending Chatsworth's Christmas party in order to make connections, but Maynard opts to throw his own and expects others to attend. Dobie feels increasingly guilty about leaving his best friend in the lurch and has a dream where a ghostly Maynard visits him. Dobie sees part of their childhood and a future where he's a rich Jerkass.

Alternative Title(s): Dobie Gillis