Question: I was wondering if you can remember a show that I think was called It's About Time, It's About Space. It was about two men that were lost in space. I think they went faster than the speed of light and landed in the past. Also, how about My Living Doll? Was that a show in the '70s, too? — B. Young, Pacifica, Calif.
Televisionary: Oh, so you're sneaking two questions into one missive, eh, B.? Not a problem, since I answered the first one last year in my February 27 column (you'll find it at the bottom).
Yes, My Living Doll was indeed a series, but it ran on CBS a decade or so earlier than you guessed, starting in September 1964. It starred future Batman Catwoman Julie Newmar as a fetching experimental robot left in the care of psychiatrist Robert McDonald (Robert Cummings) after her inventor was reassigned to a post in Pakistan. McDonald named her Rhoda, told everyone she was his niece and set about training her to be an appropriately subservient woman. Of course, nothing's ever that easy and hilarity ensued when McDonald's neighbor, Peter (Jack Mullaney), fell in love with the mecha-maiden and came ever closer to learning her secret.
Of course, it wasn't all that funny when Cummings picked up and left the show after shooting just 21 of the full season's 26 episodes. An anonymous source told TV Guide at the time that there was a great deal of tension between Cummings and Newmar:
"This thing has been building all season. It is a case of a tense young Method actress and the old pro who thinks he wrote the book. Cummings showed her how to play the scenes; she burned. Last week Julie told Louella Parsons she was going up to the Big Sur for a rest from 'people who tell you how to act.' That tore it. Cummings took a walk, thereby setting something of a precedent. The show, while not exactly a soaring hit, doubtless will make it to the end of the season, and Cummings seems to be throwing away a bundle of money. But Julie couldn't be happier."
Indeed she was. But this was a woman who could present difficulties of her own. A choreographer who'd worked with her in the movies told the tale of driving to the studio and getting stuck behind a car that kept weaving from one side of the road to the other. "[I]t turned out to be Julie," he recalled. "She was driving along and reading a book at the same time." Not that such intellectual pursuits are all bad, mind you. In fact, to her credit, the actress could find an interesting challenge in any role. "I have had to learn an entirely new area of comedy — develop a character that's never been done before," Newmar said a few months after My Living Doll launched. "I am giving birth to something!"
Perhaps, but unfortunately for all involved that something didn't live long — the show was off the air after one season. (And I'll add that I'm sure as heck not one to make fun of Newmar. She may have played a robot, but she ain't no dummy — unlike many others who've squandered their showbiz earnings, she invested her money wisely and owns an impressive portfolio of Los Angeles real estate.)