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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 aired from 1959 to 1963 on CBS. 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 women who were rarely interested in him, while his dogged childhood friend Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James) insisted she was destined to be his ultimate match.

It broke a lot of new ground for TV, being one of the first shows to have the characters comment directly to the audience, as well as one of TV's first "counter-cultural" characters (Maynard). It was also much more slyly scripted than a lot of the more dated shows of the era, and was noted for rapid-fire dialogue exchanges (one of the most dialogue-heavy sitcoms of the era).


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 Worthy Opponent, 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! (Think Fred as Dobie (or Chatsworth), Shaggy as Maynard, Velma as Zelda, and Daphne as Thalia.)

The series was adapted from 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). There is more info on the show available here.


This show provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: A running gag has people frequently mishearing Dobie's name as "Dopey."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 a plain-Jane Betty to some of Dobie's other love interests, especially Thalia Meninger.
  • 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 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, 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 only added once per month since the producers felt he would outshine Dobie and Maynard if used regularly.
  • 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." Also Maynard's "WORK!" and "You Rang?"note  And 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.
  • 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 they were in love.
  • 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. Dobie's star Dwayne Hickman was now 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: The 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. Dobie's relationship with his father Herbert was much more antagonistic. His father often threatened to kill him (in a comedic manner) which made sponsors uneasy. This was toned down by season 2.
  • Dogged Nice Guy:
    • A female example in Zelda Gilroy. She believes she and Dobie are meant to be together. Dobie though wants a much prettier girl. A Running Gag through the entire series deals with Dobie's attempts to get rid of Zelda.
    • Dobie himself qualifies. He often thought just being a nice giy was good enough to land him any girl.
  • Drop-In Character
  • Emotionally Tongue-Tied
  • 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.
  • Good Is Dumb: Maynard is frequently slow on the uptake, but he's the kindest character on the show.
  • 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 Gillis
  • Magic Realism
  • Manchild: Maynard
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Zelda
  • Never Say That Again / Verbal Tic: Mere mention of the word "work" in the presence of employment-averse Maynard always triggered a spasmodic, panicked interjection of "WORK?!"
  • No Fourth Wall
  • Plain Jane: Thalia Menninger.
  • Put on a Bus: Thalia and Milton. Thalia returned for two episodes in season 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.
  • The '60s: The show began in 1959 and had a clear Fifties vibe. But unlike other shows from that era like Leave It to Beaver, there was at least was some feelings that things might be changing.
  • The Slacker: Maynard. One of his catch phrases is a panicked "Work!"
  • 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 popular 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. 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 that she is mentally superior to him.
  • TV Teen: One of the first shows to feature a teenage character as a protagonist.
  • 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.
  • Yes, Virginia: 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.
  • 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


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