|The Abbott and Costello Show|
|Directed by||Jean Yarbrough|
|Theme music composer||Mahlon Merrick|
|Opening theme||"Toy Soldiers" (1953-54)|
|Composer(s)||Raoul Kraushaar (1952-53)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||52|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original release||September 1952- May 1954|
The Abbott and Costello Show is an American television sitcom starring the popular comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The program premiered in syndication in the fall of 1952 and ran two seasons, to the spring of 1954. Each season ran 26 episodes.
The series is considered to be among the most influential comedy programs in history. In 1998 Entertainment Weekly praised the series as one of the "100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time". In 2007, Time magazine selected it for its "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME." Jerry Seinfeld has declared that The Abbott and Costello Show, with its overriding emphasis upon funny situations rather than life lessons, was the inspiration for his own long-running sitcom, Seinfeld.
The show was a vehicle to bring the duo's tried-and-true burlesque routines to television in a format that the team could control. It contained none of the musical interludes or love stories that marked most of their feature films. Basically, if a situation or gag was funny, the team filmed it with little regard to plot, character or continuity. As a result, the show became a valuable record of classic burlesque scenes performed by the duo.
Abbott and Costello portrayed unemployed actors sharing an apartment in a rooming house in Los Angeles. The supporting cast included Sidney Fields as Sidney Fields their landlord; Hillary Brooke as Hillary Brooke their neighbor and sometime love interest for Costello; Gordon Jones as Mike the Cop, a dimwitted foil for the boys; Joe Besser as Stinky, a "little boy" dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit, played by the clearly adult Besser; and Joe Kirk (Costello's brother-in-law) as Mr. Bacciagalupe, an Italian immigrant caricature who held a variety of jobs depending upon the requirements of the script. Bobby Barber and Joan Shawlee also appeared frequently. Several episodes featured a pet chimp named "Bingo", who was dressed exactly the same as Costello; she was later "fired" from the show after biting Costello. Brooke, Besser and Kirk also left the cast after the first season.
Lou Costello owned the show with Bud Abbott working on salary. The show was not a network program when first introduced in the fall of 1952 but was sold into syndication by MCA Inc. to about 40 local stations across the country. As a result, it was broadcast on different days and at different times in different cities. It was running in other cities before it appeared in New York on WCBS on December 5, 1952. Since WCBS is the CBS affiliate in New York, earlier reference works erroneously presumed that the show was carried nationally on that network beginning on that date. Similarly, second-season episodes (1953-54) were telecast in New York on NBC's flagship station, WNBT (later WNBC), but not carried on that network, either. The only time the show was broadcast on a network was when CBS repeated first-season episodes as part of its Saturday morning schedule in the 1954-55 season.
The sitcom had a long life in reruns from the late 1950s to the 1990s. It has been released on DVD by three different distributors, starting in the 1990s.
The first two establishing episodes were produced by Alex Gottlieb, who had produced the team's first ten films and, more recently, their two independent color films, Jack and the Beanstalk and Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952). Jean Yarbrough, who directed every episode of the TV series, took over the producing chores thereafter. (Costello's brother, Pat Costello, was listed as the producer but his function was nominal.)
Eddie Forman, head writer on the team's radio show, wrote the first five TV episodes, after which Sidney Fields wrote the remaining 21 shows. Episodes in the second season were primarily written by Clyde Bruckman (15 shows) and Jack Townley (10). Fields received a co-writing credit on five episodes, including one with Costello.
The first season was filmed at the Hal Roach Studios in Culver City. The 14.5-acre (59,000 m2) studio, once known as "The Lot of Fun," was torn down in 1963 and replaced by "Landmark Street," an area of light industrial buildings, businesses and an automobile dealership, where a plaque marks the studio's former location. The second season was shot at Motion Picture Center Studios (today Red Studios Hollywood), where the team had made Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd. Soon after, the studio became Desilu-Cahuenga Studios. I Love Lucy and the Danny Thomas and Jack Benny shows were also filmed there.
Both seasons, and the complete series, have been released on DVD by Entertainment One, which now owns the rights to the series.