[29 September 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The Patty Duke Show ran for three seasons, from 1963 to 1966. It starred, obviously, Patty Duke in the dual roles of identical cousins. You all know the theme song, right? Of course you do:
Where Cathy adores a minuet,
The Ballet Russes, and crepe suzette,
Our Patty loves to rock and roll,
A hot dog makes her lose control
What a wild duet!
Ringing any re-run bells? Well, if you’re not on the beam, here’s the sitch: Patty Lane is a “normal American teenager” from Brooklyn Heights, New York and Cathy Lane is her poised, proper Scottish cousin sent to finish school in the United States. They’re cousins, but they’re twins! Cuckoo!
OK, period television teen slang aside, The Patty Duke Show was a success for writer/creator Sydney Sheldon (I Dream of Jeannie) and producer/director William Asher (who also worked on shows like Gidget and Bewitched). It garnered Patty Duke, already an Academy Award-Winner for her role in The Miracle Worker, an Emmy nomination in 1964 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Series and a 1966 Golden Globe nomination for Best Female TV Star.
The Patty Duke Show: Season One gathers all 26 episodes of the first season in this six disc set for the first time. Naturally, the confusion about the girls’ identities and hijinks surrounding switcheroos would seem to be the obvious content of most episodes, but surprisingly, it’s not. Sure, that does happen, but the real core of the first season’s stories is the relationships and interactions between these girls and the family as a whole. Patty’s father, Martin (William Schallert), is a newspaper editor with a soft heart and a never-ending wealth of sage advice for the girls.
Her mother, Natalie (Jean Byron), plays the picture perfect put-upon housewife. In something of a departure for sitcom moms of the time, Byron’s Natalie sometimes seems quite harsh with her children, particularly with Patty’s “typical teen” behavior. Paul O’Keefe plays annoying kid brother, Ross, and the regular cast is rounded out by Eddie Applegate as Patty’s clueless boyfriend, Richard. Of course, a lesson is always learned by the end of each day, but unlike a lot of sitcoms, it’s not always the parents teaching the errant children. In fact, it’s usually Patty and Cathy teaching each other.
Most of the episodes revolve around Patty doing something nutty like falling for her French teacher, plagiarizing a love poem and winning a song-writing contest or turning the school newspaper into a gossipy tabloid. Cathy is usually roped into either going along with her cousin, helping her out of these jams or some combination of the two. Sometimes conservative Cathy takes center stage in a story, but not often.
There are a few episodes that focus on other family members (“Are Mothers People” has an under-appreciated Natalie devising a ploy for attention worthy of her daughter’s antics, while “The Birds and the Bees Bit” features Ross nervous about his first school dance.), but it’s not called the Patty Duke Show for nothing. Interestingly (and this is mentioned in the bonus interviews) Patty Duke had much more in common with the character of Cathy—who knows little of the interests and obsessions of an American teenager, because of the isolating nature of her career, than she had with her TV namesake.
The Season One bonus features trumpeted on the slipcase are really just one feature. It’s barely more than 13-minutes of interview clips—some of which are new (meaning recently recorded)—mostly with Duke, though some touchingly lovely comments from Schallert are interspersed with Duke’s as he marvels at her consummate professionalism and as the two talk about how their real life relationship was, and is, as much father and daughter as what was portrayed in the show.
Applegate and O’Keefe are also interviewed, and it’s tough to tell when those took place, although it is interesting to note that Applegate was 26 when he began playing boyfriend to 16-year-old Patty (tidbits like that are one reason to watch DVD extras… I’d never have known!). Jean Byron passed away in 2006, and though she is spoken of fondly here, there are no old interview clips with her included on this set. The set does, however, include the episode called “Cousins” which uses footage from the original pilot in flashback scenes. Schallert was not initially cast in the part of Martin Lane, so many of the other scenes for that episode were reshot later to incorporate him.
The Patty Duke Show: Season One isn’t a set loaded with flashy special features, and naturally, given its early ‘60s origin and a setup even Patty Lane would call cuckoo, the episodes are sometimes monotonously predictable. However, it’s all in good fun, and isn’t that what entertainment should be about?