Beatlemania trickles down to plots of U.S. sitcoms

We recently commemorated the 60th anniversary of The Beatles famous debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and how it launched Beatlemania in the U.S. Well, it wasn’t only young people who were affected. Writers of sitcoms in the U.S. jumped on the bandwagon as three shows wrote in Beatles-like scenarios into episodes.

Almost a year to the day after the appearance with Ed Sullivan, the highly rated sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show” ran episode titled “The Redcoats Are Coming” on February 10, 1965 which played into the Beatles hysteria reminiscent from “The Ed Sullivan Show”. The 30 minute show centered upon Rob Petrie, the character played by Dick Van Dyke who is the head writer of the popular show “The Alan Brady Show” which is a weekly show somewhat similar to “The Ed Sullivan Show”, who has to hide a popular British pop duo at his home for a night before they appear on “The Alan Brady Show”. However, the “catch” was that Rob Petrie and his wife Laura, played by Mary Tyler Moore, were sworn to secrecy and could not tell anyone for fear that it could set off a Beatlemania-like frenzy.

The British pop duo was the fictitious “Fred & Ernie”, who were played by the real life Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde who performed under the name “Chad & Jeremy”. Fans of modern day British television know Jeremy Clyde for his high-profile acting roles on series like “Downton Abbey” and “Inspector Morse”. It made for an interesting episode of the famous “Dick Van Dyke Show” and was obviously inspired by recent events of Beatlemania.

On December 9, 1965, the CBS show “Gilligan’s Island” followed suit with an episode titled “Don’t Bug the Mosquitoes” when a popular American British Invasion-like band called The Mosquitoes, a name obviously taken to emulate The Beatles, wash up on the desert island in the show’s second season. The members of the rock group are Bingo, Bango, Bongo and Irving. They perform their hit songs “Don’t Bug Me” and “He’s a Loser”, complete with the Beatle-esque format of two guitarists and a bass player upfront and a drummer in back, as well as shaking their heads of hair like The Beatles. The goal of the castaways is to make life miserable on the island for the band members so they will want to leave, and hence take the castaways with them back to the mainland.

The Mosquitoes were played by Les Brown, Jr. and the folk group The Wellingtons. Later in the episode, the three women castaways on the island – Ginger, Mary Ann, and Mrs. Howell – form their own pop trio called The Honey Bees and perform their original song “You Need Us”. As was the case in every episode of “Gilligan’s Island” when a visitor or visitors come to the island, The Mosquitoes leave the inhabitants on the island without rescuing them.

Only a week after appearing on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” as fictitious British Invasion stars, Chad & Jeremy appeared on “The Patty Duke Show” as the duo “Nigel & Patrick” in the episode title “Patty Pits Wits, Two Brits Hits”. Cathy Lane, one of the two “identical cousins” characters played by Patty Duke, was doing a classical musical show on a local radio station and meets up with the struggling duo Nigel & Patrick. She becomes determined to help get them signed to a contract to make a record. She finds them and agent and a record is made en route to success. The duo sings the Chad & Jeremy hits “A Summer Song” and “Yesterday’s Gone” on the show, and of course there is a happy sitcom ending.

In all three of these sitcom episodes, Beatlemania was the undisputed undercurrent. Needless to say, while these shows aired, television executives were already in the planning stages of a thirty minute sitcom entirely based on The Beatles and Beatlemania. “The Monkees” debuted on September 12, 1966