Thursday, June 18, 2020

This Day in TV History: Ethel Is an Elephant

When I read the synopsis for this half-hour pilot that aired June 18, 1980, I assumed it was an animated special.  A guy walking home from work sees an abandoned, injured elephant and takes her home.

This is indeed live action! Directed by John Astin, the show follows the travails of photographer Eugene Henderson (Todd Susman) as he tries to hide his new friend from Eddie Barth's landlord.

The clip below is taken from an ABC special on unsold pilots:

Tom Shales reviewed this in the Post when it premiered on CBS. Do you think he liked it? 

He's surprisingly not angry about it, but my favorite line is:
Anyone vaguely familiar with the history of situation comedy knows there had to be such a program eventually.

"Hey, Philo, what do you think people are gonna DO with this thing?"
"Well, eventually they'll use it to broadcast a recurring scenario involving an elephant and the man who hides her from his landlord."

"You mean they haven't done that already???"

People was much more elephantish in its Picks and Pans review, stating:
Despite its precious name, this failed pilot isn’t a turkey. A smartly written bit of Aesopian whimsy, it stars Todd Susman as a New York photographer who removes a nail from the foot of an abandoned baby elephant, then gets adopted by the pet and tries to disguise her as a sofa.

Anyone remember this bit of Aesopian whimsy? And how did John Astin get involved?

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