This show was groundbreaking. No other show captured the generation gap of this era quite like Dobie Gillis.
First, it portrayed life from a teen's perspective in the age of Father Knows Best. In the early seasons, Dobie was a high school student consumed with only getting a pretty girl to be his girlfriend. Usually, it was Thalia Menninger who had expensive tastes. The conflicts usually resulted from the fact that Dobie was always broke and never wanted to work. He would always try to get money from his dad, but Herbert T. Gillis was not the type to give someone something for nothing. Also, Dobie, despite being a highly likable boy, was far from an exemplary student, which meant girls realized that his future was not promising.
Second, Dobie's parents were probably the most realistically portrayed of any TV parents from that era. Herbert T. Gillis was a hard-working, but loud-mouthed and had a blustery personality. He openly declared his teenage son a "lazy bum who would wind up living off the county" because he wouldn't work. The first season he would often respond to his disapproval of Dobie's actions by saying, "I gotta kill that boy. I just gotta." This was mildly controversial in that era and that line was later dropped. Instead, he would just be speechless with a bewildered expression that pretty much said he wanted to kill his son. Despite, his outbursts, Mr. Gillis was basically good hearted, but the generation gap between father and son was obvious and portrayed with humorous results. Dobie's mom, Winnie Gillis, was nice, but too nice, and counterbalanced Herbert by doting on her son and letting Dobie get away with not working in the family grocery store. Third, the writing and editing were superb. The writing contained a wit not found in other shows of that era.
HERBERT: Son. Your mother's a wonderful woman. Dobie: She a gem. HERBERT: She's one in a million. Dobie: She's a princess. MAYNARD: She's a warden.
The editing was great, because as a scene would close, it would set up the next scene and instantly cut to the next scene where a character would respond in the exact opposite manner to how that scene was being set up.
MR POMFRITT- You talk to your father, Dobie. I'm sure he'll want you to stay in college. (instant pan to the next scene with Mr. Gillis closeup): MR. GILLIS: You have got to quit school. (After explaining to Dobie and his mom, that Dobie wasn't taking any courses that would help him in the real world at school, and that he was supporting Dobie's lifestyle): (shouting)Wise up, son. Get a job.
Fourth, the cast contained several well portrayed eccentric characters. In addition, to Dobie, Thalia, and his parents, there were:
Chatsworth Osbourne, Jr.- a rich, spoiled, and party time brat who was quite likable and funny. He was often in competition with Dobie for a beautiful girl.
Maynard G. Krebs- Gilligan with a gotee. Always wore a scraggly sweatshirt with holes, loved jazz and bee-bop, would shirk when the word "work" was mentioned, and an even worse student than Dobie.
Zelda Gilroy- was a smart, brainy, scheming, and an unattractive girl who loved Dobie and was always outsmarting him by sabotaging his romances with more attractive girls.
Mrs. Osbourne- was Chatsworth's mother who called her son, "you nasty boy." She was a tyrant, who stirred things up with her son, Dobie, Maynard, and Mr. Gillis. Maynard called her "Your dragonship."
Mr. Pomfritt- was Dobie and Maynard's high school teacher and later professor in college. He played most of their teacher/professors and taught just about every subject that there was. He, like other teachers portrayed on the show, weren't the Leave it to Beaver type teachers. They often complained about being underpaid, under-appreciated, and the "younger generation."
I think the best parts of this series were seasons 1 and the first half of 2 (before they made ill-advised decision to put Dobie and Maynard in the army) and season 3. By season 3, Dobie and Maynard are in college. At this point, Dobie has matured. He does work in his father's store while going to school, but unfortunately, he is taking mostly liberal arts courses and is becoming an idealist. There were a lot of young, cute actresses appearing on the show each week in this season as Dobie's romantic interests. The show also began to focus more on Maynard and Herbert Gillis. Maynard was a beatnik character when the series began, but was becoming more a clownish type character with a gotee at this point. The silly and sometimes humorous and other times ridiculously over the top conflicts between these two were kind of a preview of the Gilligan/Skipper escapades that would be down the road. Personally, I prefer this show and Maynard's character over Gilligan. By season four, Dwayne Hickman had outgrown Dobie, and much of the episodes focused on his cousin, Duncan (Dunkie) Gillis and Maynard's silliness. In fact, Dobie seemed like the only character that wasn't eccentric at this point. Unfortunately, the too many of the episodes were becoming a little over the top at this point. Despite much of the last season, and the last half of the second, this show has a special charm that stands out from most of the others from that era. Some of the material is obviously dated by today's standards, but overall I think this show and the basic premise holds up quite well. I hope they make this entire series available on DVD soon. From what I understand, there are currently copywrite issues.