Mary Kay and Johnny (partially found American TV sitcom; 1947-1950)

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Mary Kay and Johnny.jpg

The titular actors/characters Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns.

Status: Partially Found

Mary Kay and Johnny is considered to be the first American situation comedy, or sitcom, on national television. It ran from 1947 until 1950 and was broadcast live in both 15- and 30-minute formats on DuMont Television Network before moving to CBS and then on to NBC.

The two main actors, real-life couple Mary Kay Stearns and Johnny Stearns, portrayed a newlywed couple living in Greenwich Village, New York City and going through their daily lives. The show took many cues from real life; the Stearns also lived in the Village and, when Mary Kay became pregnant, they incorporated both the pregnancy and their son into the show.

In addition to these larger events, Johnny, who was a writer for the show, would use mundane events that they experienced as inspiration for events in the series, or as he put it: "The show hit close to home. If Mary Kay got stuck in an elevator, it would give me an inspiration for us getting stuck in an elevator."[1] In addition to being the first sitcom, it was also the first TV show to have a couple in the same bed.[2]

Episodes & Availability

As of now, only one full episode is known to survive, from June 13, 1949. It is held by the Paley Center for Media and is from the NBC era.[3] Additionally, a few fragments of later episodes allegedly exist, but these claims are unconfirmed. It is also not clear exactly how many episodes were produced in total.

TV Land showed at least one clip from the series during a Taboo TV documentary aired in 2002.[4] The clip(s) were used to illustrate the series' notoriety as the first to show a couple sharing a bed. The clip(s) either came from the Paley Center episode or from NBC's library, although probably the latter as the surviving Paley Center episode does not feature the couple in a bed together.

During the entire run of Mary Kay and Johnny, it was broadcast live, so there were no recordings made until 1948 when the show started using kinescopes. The kinescopes were saved for some time, until about the 1970's. CBS then destroyed its recordings, while DuMont's episodes were dumped into the Upper New York Harbor. Besides the one surviving full episode, the NBC episodes' collective fate is unclear, but it is likely that most, if not all, were also destroyed.[1]

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