A Garland Geek's Conundrum
So I've decided on a new undertaking, a new blogging project. I've decided to re-watch all episodes of Judy's critically acclaimed, ill-fated television show which lasted one season from 1963-64, and blog about them, one episode a day for the next twenty-six days. I know this may lose me some readers, as it appeals to a pretty "niche" audience, and yet, this whole blog serves a niche audience, so what the hell. I'm a gonna do it. And once I start. I vow to watch one episode a day, and write about it for twenty-six days, until I've reached the last episode.
Still, a decision has to be made before the first show is watched...
The shows were not aired in the order that they were taped. The first five were produced by George Schlatter, who would later gain fame as producer of Laugh-In. They were glossy, glamorous, and glitzy. The guest stars included Lena Horne, Mickey Rooney, Liza Minnelli, Count Basie and Tony Bennet. But CBS was concerned by some comments made by a random sampling of audience members who viewed the taped episodes. They said things like Judy looked nervous, she touched her guests too much...the concensous was that she was too unapproachable, too glamorous and not enough of the girl next door. The former "best pal" Garland image had morphed through the years into that of a mercurial, extremely talented and troubled "Star!" and the brass wanted someone more down to earth, and a show more in keeping with their current folksy offerings like The Beverly Hillbillys". And so the production team was unduly fired. Schlatter was gone, most everyone else was axed as well, with only a few people remaining. Also dropped were the guest stars Schlatter had planned to team Garland, including Nat King Cole, Betty Grable, Steve and Eydie, and Phil Harris and Alice Faye. Instead there would be a lot more "down home" acts mixed in with the fellow legends, guests like the "The Dillards", and Zina Bethune of the drama "Nurses".
Aside from changing up a lot of the guests, the new team would attempt to provide Judy with a bunch of regulars to be surrounded by, a "family" so to speak, much in the way The Carol Burnett Show would later. The team would also add certain segments which could be relied upon to appear on a regular basis in an attempt to give each episode the same structure, as opposed to Schlatter's approach of each show being a "special". Finally, they would also attempt to make Judy more approachable by writing comedic bits which would knock Judy off her "pedestal". They would mock her age, her reputation, and lack of television know how.
In order to present what the execs thought was one of the better shows as it's series premier, they chose to air an episode produced by the second team rather than the initially planned, first taped show, with Judy's former co-star and dear friend Mickey Rooney. Other episodes would air out of order as well, until you get later on in the series.
So here's the quandary. Watch as aired? See a less cohesive order, which reproduces the way the television audiences first saw them? Or watch them as taped and watch the chronological progression of the show? One allows you to see the show as others first did, and the other allows you a step-by-step walk through the show and lets you see how Judy changes throughout the process. Which is more important? Which is the "true" experience? Seeing the shows as they should have been viewed, or how they actually were.