Today, we look at the bizarre 1960s sitcom with a shockingly outdated conceit, Occasional Wife.
In Remember to Forget, we spotlight pop culture stories that I wish I could forget, but I can’t, so I instead share them with you all, so you’re stuck in the same boat as me!
This piece is by Adam Barnett, who will be writing occasionally about all kinds of groanworthy pop-culture moments! Here’s Adam…
The Occasional Wife aired on NBC from September 13, 1966 and until May 9, 1967. And, if you happened to catch it, reruns of the show ran on Comedy Central in 1992. The premise was simple: Confirmed and contented bachelor Peter Christopher had a boss who “firmly believed that executives should be married.” Yes, he actually came out and said that to the guy. That would never fly these days, of course, because
our nation matured over the years and all biases and prejudices have been removed from our cultural landscape employers know they need to make up something that won’t get them sued.
So, Peter does what any rational, ambitious person does, and he persuades Greta, a hat check girl (yes, that was actually a job!) into posing as his wife in exchange for bankrolling a Manhattan apartment two floors above his own. This sounds like a pretty cushy deal, but she was expected to climb up the fire escape at any given moment when the need arose to pose as his wife. Meanwhile, Peter was free to (somewhat) discreetly pursue other women These days, we would call that kind of arrangement “marriage,” but back in the day, we can presume it was a laugh riot because it actually did pretty well at first, getting as many viewers as the cultural icon The Man from U.N.C.L.E. But alas, it burned too brightly to burn for long, and down it went.
Peter was played by Michael Callan, who enjoyed a long career as a guest star in many popular shows throughout the years, including Charlie’s Angels and Police Story. But his greatest work, as far as I’m concerned, was playing Metallo in the 1989 Superboy TV show. Patrica Harty, who played Greta, also hit the guest star circuit over the years, but she notably played another titular character in the 1968 Blondie television series.
The show itself was typical of a later 1960s sitcom, with Callan and Harty having chemistry that actually manifested in a brief real-world marriage! It didn’t have a shelf-life much greater than the show did, but that’s show-biz!
The rationale behind Peter’s boss having such a policy was that the company manufactured baby food. Although, taken to its logical conclusion, Greta probably would have been expected to get pregnant sooner or later. I’m sure this show is a precursor to The Handmaid’s Tale, but I can’t prove it….yet. Stay tuned!
If you have a suggestion for another pop culture plot or show or film that is probably best forgotten (but it is fun to revel in how much we can’t help but still remember it), drop me a line at email@example.com!