The Donna Reed Show
American History, Cultural Studies, Gender, Media Studies, Popular Culture, Television Studies, Women's Studies
Pages: 160 Size: 5x7
Illustrations: 12 black and white images
Explores, comprehensively and precisely, what this often neglected but revealing show tells us about its genre and its era. This is the sort of book the TV Milestones series was designed to cover.
— David Lavery
At a time when television offered limited opportunities for women, Donna Reed was an Oscar-winning Hollywood actress who became both producer (though largely uncredited) and star of her own television show. Distinct from the patriarchal family sitcoms of the era, The Donna Reed Show's storylines focused on the mother instead of the father, and its production brought a cinematic aesthetic to television situation comedy. In The Donna Reed Show, author Joanne Morreale illustrates how the program pushed the boundaries of the domestic sitcom at a time when the genre was evolving and also reflected the subtle shifts and undercurrents of unrest in the larger social and political culture.
Morreale begins by locating Donna Reed in relation to her predecessors Gertrude Berg and Lucille Ball, both of whom were strong female presences in front of and behind the camera. She also explores the telefilm aesthetics of The Donna Reed Show and argues that the series is a prime example of the emergent synergy between Hollywood and the television industry in the late fifties. In addition, Morreale argues that the Donna Stone character's femininity acts as a kind of masquerade, as well as provides a proto-feminist model for housewives. She also examines the show's representation of teen culture and its role in launching the singing careers of its two teenaged stars. Finally, Morreale considers the legacy of The Donna Reed Show in the representation of its values in later sitcoms and its dialogue with contemporary television texts.
Morreale illustrates the interplay of gender, industry, and culture at work in the history of this classic TV series. Fans of the show, as well as students and teachers of television history, will enjoy this close look at The Donna Reed Show.
Joanne Morreale illustrates that The Donna Reed Show was far from the average 1950s sitcom and Reed was far more than the stereotypical happy housewife. In fact, Reed and her show are revealed to be at the forefront of the dynamic transformations taking place in the TV industry, the sitcom form, teen culture, and gender roles during the 1950s and 1960s.
– Alisa Perren, associate professor in the Department of Communication at Georgia State University
Joanne Morreale frees Donna Stone from the iconic identity of complacent supermom and presents Donna Reed as a working mother, uncredited producer of her eponymous series, and film actress positioned at the cusp of major changes in filmed entertainment. Morreale brings to life The Donna Reed Show covering episodes on blacklisted writers, teen dating, parenting strategies for teen rebellion, and guests like baseball player Willie Mays, popular singer Leslie Gore, and teen heart-throb James Darren. Morreale situates Donna Stone on a sitcom mom timeline extending from Lucy Ricardo and Molly Goldberg to her legacy in Laura Petrie, Roseanne, and Lily Munster.
– Mary Beth Haralovich, professor in the School of Theatre, Film & Television at the University of Arizona
Morreale's volume deepened my knowledge and appreciation of the series. The biographical information about Reed enriches her analysis and the sections dealing with melodrama bring forward a less examined dimension of the genre.
– Sarah Matheson
When Nick at Nite brought The Donna Reed Show back into our living rooms, a TV spot promised to reveal for the first time the classic 1960s domestic sitcom's subliminal messages. We learn, for example, that one episode contained the secret message 'Marry a Doctor.' In her revealing and welcome study of The Donna Reed Show, preeminent sitcom scholar Joanne Morreale never delves into its subliminal secrets, but she does explore, comprehensively and precisely, what this often neglected but revealing show tells us about its genre and its era. This is the sort of book the TV Milestones series was designed to cover.
– David Lavery, editor of The Essential Cult TV Reader