Dennis the Menace : Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

Do you think they should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

I think they should have. That would have been the proper way to honor Joseph Kearns.

IMO not dealing with his death realistically is pretty much a slap in the face to Kearns and to his contributions to this show.

Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

I would say the biggest reason they didn't is because TV series, especially comedies, and even more so, comedies specifically meant to appeal to kids, almost always stayed away from anything to do with death, especially the real-life death of a person who played a character on the series. When necessary, there would be a mention that so-and-so had died some time ago, and the series moved on. One example of this, Gramps on the original Lassie series. ( I realize that was more drama than comedy, but examples of actor's deaths on old-time shows are hard to come by.)

Producers would surely have feared losing their audience--in a highly competitive era where ratings were so important to the series continuing on the air. One serious sad episode about Mr. Wilson dying might have led to the show's cancellation. Forget about whether we today think it should have ended when he died. The people working on the series--all the crew, cast, and executives had plenty of reasons to want the series to continue.

I note that Mr. Kearns died in February and the last episode filmed with him appearing first aired in May--three months later. It might have been awkward to do a show dealing with the Mitchells and Martha grieving over the loss of George that would air over 3 months after the real person died. Maybe they could have pulled it off, but it was certainly not something anyone would have expected of a series in that era. I doubt anyone connected with Kearns or the series at that time thought they were doing anything the least bit insulting to him.




Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?


Producers would surely have feared losing their audience


The way I see it, only a total jackass would be "mad" or tune out because they devoted an episode in memoriam of Kearns. And they could even have a title card at the end which explains the real-life circumstances that led to the episode, so that no viewer would be confused about why they changed the style of the show for that episode.

Now, many jackasses might have existed who would have been mad and tuned out...but if so, the producers ought not to have worried about that. Jackasses being mad and tuning out would have spoken only to the jackasses' own problems, not to the producers having done anything wrong.


One serious sad episode about Mr. Wilson dying might have led to the show's cancellation. Forget about whether we today think it should have ended when he died. The people working on the series--all the crew, cast, and executives had plenty of reasons to want the series to continue.


I see your point. They had food to buy and bills to pay etc. But even so, sometimes, doing the right & honorable thing is even more important than any monetary considerations. IMO giving Kearns proper tribute in-show is one of those times.


I doubt anyone connected with Kearns or the series at that time thought they were doing anything the least bit insulting to him.



Maybe not. But I would be if I were Kearns' relative, since the show treated the tragic event as if nothing bad actually happened - IMO that's really insulting!

Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

I don't think TV ever made mention of an actor when they died like they do now. If they don't mention the passing of an actor or actress now they often mention them in memoriam at the end. You are so right about not having an episode detailing why a person was gone. It was a different world in TV land.

Sylvia Field knew her days were numbered on DTM as she couldn't
continue to live with her brother in law. I don't believe she even mentioned George.

Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

what was the circumstances in introducing Gale Gordon as Mr. Wilson's brother? And what happened to Martha Wilson?

Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?


what was the circumstances in introducing Gale Gordon as Mr. Wilson's brother? And what happened to Martha Wilson?


Towards the end of Season 3, George Wilson went out of town to "take care of some family business" out west. After some filler episodes with other characters filling the void of Mr. Wilson (the grocer, Dennis's uncle), Mr. Wilson's brother came to town to stay for a while so he could work on his new book.

Come Season 4, Mr. Wilson had decided to stay out west, and Martha had left to be with him, and they sold the house to the new new Mr. Wilson and his wife. I believe the former Wilson's only got maybe one more offhand mention a few episodes in S4, then were never talked about again.

But in S4, Dennis was showing signs of growing up (he was taller, and he wasn't wearing the overalls anymore) so the show would have ended after that year regardless of whether Joseph Kearns was still alive or not.

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Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?


I don't think TV ever made mention of an actor when they died like they do now.


The first time a character was killed off because the actor portraying him died was in 1972 when Dan Blocker died and they also killed off Hoss on the show Bonanza. The show only lasted another 14 episodes after the episode where Hoss was killed off. The final season was 16 episodes long (it's shortest season out of 14). In the two part season opener they dealt with Hoss' death and after that the ratings started going down and the show was cancelled mid-season.

Like the others have said, on a early 60s show, especially a comedy and a show that was watched by a lot of kids, having a character die off would not have happened.

It's not like adults of the time wouldn't have heard about the actor dying as it was probably on the tv news and in the newspapers. But actually portraying the character as dying on a family comedy would have been a real downer.

I don't know what they have to say. It makes no difference anyway. Whatever it is, I'm against it.

Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

Gramps was killed off on Lassie when George Cleveland died, back in 1957.

Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

I agree about shows avoiding telling kids about death back then. I remember when we kids learned that Superman committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Being the naive kids we were, we couldn't believe that he was killed but reasoned that he could only have died because he shot himself in the head, the only vulnerable part of his body.

Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

Just saw that particular episode season 3 episode 30 the Man Next Door when Joseph Kearns comes through the cellar window and falls on his head. He looked sort of dazed like he hurt himself. He was too old to do that stunt and I heard it had an effect on his death. Is that what caused his death?

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Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?


Only with the rise of entertainment journalism did the need arise to mention an actors death.


I'll argue that the rise of entertainment journalism is irrelevant to the need to mention an actor's death. Kearns was the anchor which made this show great, and without Kearns, this show sucks very, very, very badly.

For this show completely to ignore Kearns' death and downplay it as if nothing is wrong and nothing happened makes this show look ungrateful and evil. Even if other shows did it too, that's not a legitimate excuse. That just means that those shows were ungrateful and evil too. In my opinion, not to look ungrateful and evil is a very important need that post-Kearns DTM fails to meet, yet would have met if it had dealt with Kearns' death realistically.

Re: Should they have dealt with Mr. Wilson's death realistically?

Ironically enough, I watched Captain Kangaroo during the seventies and over thirty years later, totally by chance, I looked up the little woman who used to sing on his show and appear in skits, to "see what she may have done later on" only to learn she suffered from mental illness, was hospitalized and during a visit to her apartment to get some personal things, she jumped out the window to her death.

I never knew any of this as a kid, and either you are told the events or you aren't, but all I can do now is wonder what I may have thought had I learned this when I was watching her on the show (episodes continued to air with her after her death).

That being the case, I really cannot say if shows should deal with a person's death, especially kids shows.

In some ways I just like the idea of not knowing what happened to Debby.
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