The Donna Reed Show is an American sitcom starring Donna Reed as a middle-class housewife as Donna Stone. Her pediatrician husband, Dr. Alex Stone played by Carl Betz, and their kids as Jeff and Mary played by Paul Petersen and Shelley Fabares. The show was originally aired on ABC for 8 years. It was one of the impressive shows of the era that featured the star of the Christmas fantasy film; It’s a Wonderful Life.
The show was not only named after Donna Reed but also, she was the leading role in the sitcom. To your surprise, she even produced and wrote numerous episodes. Taking the typical role of a middle-class family, every American was expecting Donna Reed to be like an average wife but she was more. The show pushed the boundaries and tested the limits by giving women to prove themselves.
Learn About The Donna Reed Show
The sitcom was created by William S. Roberts. It was developed by Reed and then her husband producer Tony Owen. The episodes revolved around the typical issues of families in America. Also, it focused on throwing a retirement party for a coworker, firing a clumsy housekeeper, and finding quality time away from the kids. Over time, bold topics were focused in the sitcom such as press freedom and women’s rights.
The show got off to an uncertain start to audiences and it was almost canceled. As a result, it was moved from Wednesday to Thursday night. In the show’s mid-season, Fabares sang Johnny Angel that became the number one teenage pop hit. During the sitcom, Paul Petersen sang My Dad that was above the average success.
The Donna Reed Show was one of the 20 TV shows during 1963 and 1964. Reed was several times nominated for Emmy Awards between 1959 and 1962. In 1963, she won the Golden Globe for Best Female Star in Television. She got tired of the daily grind of the show and it was canceled after 275 episodes in 1966.
The series was sponsored by the Campbell Soup Company, and an alternate main sponsor with Johnson & Johnson. After the first airing, the show was a daytime rerun on ABC, and for several years, on Nick, Nite, and TV Land.
Donna Reed Show was the first TV family comedy where Reed’s character was a loving wife and mother. On the other hand, she played a character of a strong woman who actively participates in her community. Also, she had a good sense of humor. According to the family and friends of Reed, the Donna Stone character was the identical copy of Donna Reed with similar characteristics off the screen.
A New Trend
The 1950s and the early 1960s were filled with sitcoms. It was the time when you could not turn off your TV without watching at least a few sitcoms that helped to laugh at home. Donna Reed was just another sitcom on the list quite not. This sitcom was not in its original genre. Although it used a mother character as the main protagonist.
In the earlier sitcoms, the male was the head of the home and he ruled it. But when Donna Reed appeared, the producers decided to turn the tide and give the matriarch a chance that the audience can watch in a sitcom.
The idea of Donna Reed
The idea of Donna Reed came out after people spending hours of brainstorming and figuring out the perfect theme for their new sitcom. Unlike others, they wanted to give their audience an inspirational sitcom. This is what happened with Donna Reed and her show.
Reed struggled to come up with a fun concept for a new project. It was a frame from Screen Gem that came up with the family comedy idea. It was easy but they were unable to find one.
Donna Reed Did Not Want The Limelight
In the sitcom, Donna Reed and her character Donna Stone were the leading roles of the sitcom but Reed never wanted a spotlight. She did not want everything to revolve around her. Donna wrote so many episodes of the show where she had control over the stories and place of the characters in the story.
She knew that she would have a major role to play as the main character, she made sure that her co-stars had a spot to shine. She never wanted to have the center of attention in the sitcom and also, she wanted her co-stars to have opportunities similar to hers.
Show Was Nearly Cancelled
Today, it is impossible to think of a world where there were not all the amazing seasons of The Donna Reed Show. For the audience, it looks like a reality. When it was first aired, this sitcom was able to show a new concept to the audience that most other sitcoms were not capable of in the 1950s. Although going against the genre was not helpful and faced criticism.
ABC had to struggle to get viewership and the expected numbers were not added up. As a result, ABC considered canceling the show. But finally, they decided to give it a chance and it worked.
Not Enough Credit
The Donna Reed Show existed because of Donna Reed. Todon, the production company of the show was founded by Donna Reed and Tony Owens, husband of Donna Reed.
Reed was mostly uncredited for her role in the production process of the series. Although the show was created by William Roberts, it was developed by Reed and co-produced by Owens.
Donna Was Not An Average Character
The 1950s television sitcoms were not kind to the average woman. They were portrayed as housewives where they have to stay home, clean home, cook food, take care of kids, and conform to the gender stereotype. Donna Reed and her character were the first ones to break the boundaries and rules of television sitcoms.
Reed was not an ordinary character because she was an active member of the community. She was a strong woman, supporting women’s empowerment on the screen. As a result, she became one of the most important role models of the time.
In Gilmore Girls, season 1 episode 14 named That Damn Donna Reed, Rory and her boyfriend Dean disagreed about the role of women in society after watching an episode of The Donna Reed Show. It proves that this sitcom has been used as an example in the later sitcoms.
The Donna Reed Show – One Of A Kind
The Donna Reed Show was one of a kind in the era. It was first aired in 1958 and ran for 8 seasons. There were a lot of ups and downs in the season because of the different genres. In the 1950s, comedy and family sitcoms were displaying women as housewives or mothers who are supposed to stay home and take care of it.
The Donna Reed Show turned the tide and came up with a strong woman who was not the typical woman in the United States. Donna Reed played the character of Donna Stone who was on average, not a middle-class housewife. In 1993, Shelley Fabres defines Donna Reed as an extraordinary woman with great compassion, integrity, kindness, etc., and a role model for the woman of that era and the ones to come.