Duffy's Tavern (1954– )

TV Series   |    |  Comedy

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2 February 2009 | dougdoepke
Couldn't Make the Leap
"Duffy's Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie speaking." The TV show transferred as much as possible from the highly popular radio show. But times had changed by 1954. Population was shifting westward from blue-collar cities to white-collar suburbs, while New York ethnic types were no longer emblematic of the nation as a whole. The show itself was syndicated, not network sponsored, which may account for the cheap production values, often a single set of the tavern interior. That put a lot of pressure on the quality of the scripts. These were often as amusing as the radio half-hours, relying like those half-hours on the fractured English of colorful characters. However, the series lasted only 38 episodes and was unusually non-telegenic. What didn't show up on the radio did show up on the TV screen, namely Gardner's advancing age and gaunt appearance. This wasn't necessarily a problem, except that he remained central to the comedic skits. At the same time, the supporting cast lent little compensating eye-appeal. These were important factors to the new medium that a series rooted in the 1940's did not yet understand. A revealing cross- reference is the popular 1980's series Cheers. The format is similar to Duffy's, but central actors like Ted Danson and Shelly Long are very well suited to the visual medium. Unfortunately, Duffy's remains a good example of a popular show that couldn't make the leap from one entertainment era to the next.

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