20 December 2005 | theowinthrop
Not all that great
On a scale (for television sitcoms) I'd be generous if I gave OCCASIONAL WIFE a "4" out of "10". I seem to be in a minority on this thread, but I watched it two or three times while it was on the air in 1966, and it was always too situation oriented. Meaning it was too mechanical to be believed.
The story is that Michael Callan works for a baby food company: the Brahams Baby Food Company. It is run by Mr. Brahms (Jack Collins - an obscure moon faced character actor). Since the company is named for it's owner, the attempt to do a type of pun (for want of a better term) regarding Johannes Brahms famous musical piece (his lullaby, that we sing the words, "Lullaby, and good night..." to.)is there.
Mr. Brahms is one of those hundreds of self-centered bosses on television (and in the movies) who think they know best. He has a company that deals in baby food, so the executives should be married men, preferably with children. Brahms tells Callan that unless he is married, he cannot work for Brahms. That this stupid point of view overlooks that Callan is a hard working young man who does a good job never enters the idiot boss's mind. He reminds me of Edward G. Robinson in GOOD NEIGHBOR SAM, as the puritanical dairy company millionaire, Mr. Nurdlinger.
Facing dismissal, Callan gets the idea that he must have what is a stand-in wife. He knows Patricia Harty from her job as a hat check girl (and she lives in his apartment house - how she does this given the disparity of their salaries is never explained). He offers her money if occasionally she will agree to be his "occasional wife." One of the running jokes is that they will both use the interconnecting fire-escape outside the living room window to meet on the floor between in front of the window of their other neighbor (Bryan O'Byrne) confusing him while he is in the middle of a wide variety of personal activities which he proceeds to botch up while he watches them on his fire escape.
Each episode dealt with a different "crisis" that Callan had to face dealing with his own boss and job, and how his arrangement with Harty keeps interfering with her own personal life (it's hard for her to go out on dates if she is on call for Callan to satisfy the idiocies of his boss). I recall (vaguely) an episode where the situation gets reversed, with Harty being romanced by a pest named Bernie, who learns of the existence of Callan. Instead of simply introducing Callan as her husband, she introduces him to Bernie as her brother. Wonderful - Bernie introduces Callen to his dippy sister Bernice. So in that episode Callan and Harty had to keep running between his and her apartments to satisfy the idiot boss about being married, while then satisfying the stupid brother and sister thinking they were on a cool, promising double date with another unattached brother and sister.
The acting was reasonably good, but not the most memorable. As it lasted one season, I suspect the script writers did not know how it would end exactly, but presumably (had it lasted as long as CHEERS or COSBY) Callan's and Harty's characters would have eventually actually married. But it was not worth keeping beyond one season - it was a mediocre comedy.