You ever watch old TV? I mean REALLY old TV? Maybe you’ve seen a bit of it. At the very least, you’ve probably seen I Love Lucy. I’m talking TV back in the ‘50s. So few of those shows are still remembered, and it’s hard to say more than a couple have stood the proverbial test of time. There have been a few basic sitcom concepts since the beginning. There’s the family sitcom, of course. Married couples, kids, the whole shebang. Then, there’s the workplace sitcom. Would you be surprised to find out one of the first sitcoms was of the workplace variety? Maybe not, but would you be surprised if I told you that it holds up pretty well?
The show in question is called Our Miss Brooks. It was one of the very first hits in television history. After beginning life as a radio show in 1948, Our Miss Brooks was adapted for TV in 1952. For comparison’s sake, I Love Lucy debuted in 1951. So yeah, Our Miss Brooks was an early sitcom. It’s kind of amazing that it still works at all.
Connie Brooks is a teacher at Madison High School. She’s played by Eve Arden, who you may remember as the principal in Grease. However, when she got this role, she had already been nominated for an Oscar for Mildred Pierce. Yes, Arden was doing the whole “film-to-TV” thing before it was trendy. Take that, Meryl Streep!
Brooks is a fairly typical sitcom lead, but bear in mind at the time she was helping to shape the idea of what a “typical” sitcom lead was. Also, she was a single lady working for a living years before Mary Richards! The show follows Brooks, a sarcastic woman, dealing with students and her fellow teachers at her school. There is another teacher she is interested in romantically, but he’s largely clueless. Miss Brooks quips, stuff happens, and it feels a lot like so many sitcoms that came after it.
That being said, I find that to be a strength, not a weakness, of Our Miss Brooks. It feels like it could have been a sitcom in the ‘70s. It doesn’t feel like one of the first sitcoms. It looks a lot better than, say, The Honeymooners, for example. They clearly made the show well. The scripts don’t drag. They move along at a good place, thanks to the quips of Arden, who is a great lead. She won the first Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress. She even beat Lucille Ball!
When I put on Our Miss Brooks when I saw it on TV once upon a time, I was curious, but I figured that would be the extent of my enjoyment. It was a chance to see a relic of early television. Then, much to my pleasant surprise, I actually got some laughs. Our Miss Brooks isn’t an all-time great sitcom, but it’s pretty good, and to me it holds up better than I Love Lucy. Ball and her sensibilities were big and bombastic. She did slapstick. Arden did sardonic humor. Maybe it’s a matter of taste, but Our Miss Brooks deserve some of the love that I Love Lucy got.