Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Honey West (and Other Contenders)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Honey West (and Other Contenders)

After I wrote about That Girl the other night, it occurred to me that there was yet another TV show about a single woman that preceded it. Anne Francis starred as private investigator Honey West for a year starting in 1965. She'd inherited the detective agency from her father, and she cut quite the figure until she was apparently trounced by Gomer Pyle in the ratings. But, as we discovered the other night, the claim made in That Girl's favor (though I don't know whether this is an official claim producers of the series made), Marlo Thomas's character was the first single woman living alone to front her own TV series. I possibly saw an episode or two of Honey West when I was a small child (although it didn't come on until 9:00, so it's very possible that I didn't), but I have to admit that I don't remember it and can't confirm whether she actually lived alone or not. There was an aunt in the cast, and it would be just like 1965 TV to make her a roommate. But she could be the first never-married woman to have her own series. I'm surprised that the show doesn't seem to be available on DVD beyond a handful of episodes, but you never know what might be waiting in the wings.

We can't talk about single women on TV in the mid-60s and not mention Emma Peel, although it's not a clear cut case just what her status was. I'm not enough of an Avengers buff to know what the cover story of her husband was during her entire run on the show, though she might be a candidate for first single woman living alone. Was it ever explicitly stated that she was believed to be widowed? She was known as Mrs. Peel, and the Brits are just saucy enough that, no matter what the sexual tension was with Steed (and with pretty much every man on the show and in the audience--hey, I was six years old, and I felt the sexual tension), it might've been implied that she was still married. When she left the show, her husband, who'd been a test pilot lost in the jungle, was found alive, but I don't know for sure how he'd been explained up to that point--the "lost in the jungle" story may have appeared for the first time on that episode, for all I know. If it was clear that there was no husband at home until that point, and if Honey West lived with her aunt, Emma could've been the first single woman living alone to star in a show, but she can't count as the first never-married woman to do so.

After Emma, there was Stefanie Powers as April Dancer, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and I suspect that she was also a single girl living alone (and as far as I know, she was unmarried, too), but at least according to the reference book within reach, she premiered five days after Ann Marie. So Marlo can hold her specific title, but it still appears that Lucille Ball's 1962 The Lucy Show remains the first series to feature a single woman as lead. Am I forgetting anybody?


At 3:54 AM, September 01, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

He was a test pilot and missing in action. He's found in her final episode.

At 9:09 AM, September 01, 2006, Anonymous Doug said...

Yes, that's what I said. But I'm not sure whether that had been the story all along, or if he was suddenly "found alive" when Diana Rigg wanted to leave the show. How had he been treated in earlier episodes? Did we know all along that she was a presumed widow? Did everybody else think her husband was dead but she still expected him to be found alive some day? Because she was "Mrs. Peel," there was always an implicit Mr. Peel, but how much (if anything) did we know about him before the final Diana Rigg episode?

At 11:39 AM, September 01, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

Just that he was a missing test pilot. It's commented upon (or rather alluded to) in several episodes that it's safe and proper for Steed and Emma to spend so much time together. The impropriety of his interaction with Tara King was also commented on in several episodes and especially in the finale.

O' and I believe Honor Blackman's Cathy Gale was married sans missing husband cover story.

By the way, I've seen a few episodes of Honey West recently and it seemed to me that while she had an aunt who was always popping by, her only roommate was a leopard. And she had a young boy toy who was obviously (almost explicitly) her boy toy.

At 11:43 AM, September 01, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

O' and the complete Honey West is available on eBay

At 5:21 PM, September 01, 2006, Anonymous Doug said...

I'd lay money that those Honey West DVDs are bootlegs. If bootlegs are all you can find then you go with what you can, but you never know what kind of quality you'll encounter.

I was suspicious of the aunt because it's hardly unlikely that network execs of the time would've felt that someone as hot as Honey needed a chaperone, but if she didn't actually share the same house, then Honey takes the title of "first single woman living alone" from Ann Marie by a year.

It's not surprising that Cathy Gale may also have been married, because who would've been irresponsible enough to put a single woman into such suggestive situations? I don't know that much about Cathy because her eps didn't make it over to this country until about fifteen years ago, and I didn't snap them right up at the time (because, let's face it, she's no Emma Peel).

At 5:30 PM, September 01, 2006, Anonymous Doug said...

It's commented upon (or rather alluded to) in several episodes that it's safe and proper for Steed and Emma to spend so much time together.

Wait a minute--if it was only alluded to, then it wasn't explicit, and we may never have known details until that final Emma episode. Previous to that, was he ever more defined than as an unmentioned spouse?

At 12:30 PM, September 03, 2006, Blogger Stuart Shea said...

I think Ann Sothern was single on her show.

At 1:02 AM, September 04, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

Does Fuji from Ultraman count as a single girl living alone? She had a younger brother, but where exactly he lived was never stated.

At 1:40 AM, September 04, 2006, Anonymous Doug said...

Ann Sothern had a couple of shows back in the '50s, and she was single in both. She had a roommate in The Ann Sothern Show, but I can't confirm whether she had a roommate or lived alone in Private Secretary, beginning in '53. From the sound of it, she had never been married in either show, but I couldn't confirm that, either. But Francesca mentioned Our Miss Brooks, which came on TV in '52 (it had already been and remained on the radio). Eve Arden's Miss Brooks was definitely a never-married single woman, but she rented a room from her landlady, so she didn't live alone.

I don't see how Fuji could be a factor here. She's not the star of the show, she's after Honey West anyway, and (implicitly, at least) we've been talking about American TV. Mrs. Peel counts because she was imported to the U.S., but Cathy Gale doesn't. But did we know enough about Fuji? A young Japanese woman in the '60s would almost certainly live with her family (although I guess we don't know for sure if the world of Ultraman followed the same mores as our world). But if we opened this up to supporting characters, we'd have to include Rose Marie as Sally Rogers from The Dick Van Dyke Show, which started in '61. She was never married and lived alone.


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