Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Gidget began life as a novel by Frederick Kohner, who used his own teenage daughter as inspiration. The novel was filmed in 1958 with Sandra Dee as California high-schooler Francie Lawrence, known to her friends as "Gidget" because of her diminutive size ("girl midget"). According to both novel and film, Gidget lived only for surfing and boys, in that order. The property proved popular enough to yield two additional theatrical features, with Deborah Walley and Cindy Carol succeeding Sandra Dee in the title role. Finally in 1965, Gidget was transformed into a weekly, half-hour ABC sitcom starring a 19-year-old newcomer named Sally Field. Fifteen-and-a-half-year-old Gidget narrated most of the episodes, in which she spent the bulk of her time swimming and surfing off the California coast and hanging out with her best friend Larue (Lynnette Winter). Don Porter co-starred as Gidget's widowed father, Professor Russ Lawrence, who would have preferred that his daughter spend more time with her schoolwork and less time on the high waves. Others in the regular cast included Betty Conner as Gidget's overprotective older sister Anne, Peter Deuel as Anne's bookish psychology-student husband John Cooper, and Mike Nader as another of Gidget's surfing chums, Peter "Siddo" Stone. The Gidge's steady boyfriend Moon Doggie, aka Jeff Matthews (played by Steven Miles), wasn't seen too often because he was away at college. Although Gidget posted respectable ratings, it ran only for one season, from September 15, 1965 through September 1, 1966. Reportedly, its cancellation came about because ABC had decided to pick up only one of its Screen Gems-produced sitcoms for renewal, and that one was the proven favorite Bewitched. However, Gidget performed extremely well in off-network syndication, its 32 episodes remaining in active circulation well into the late '70s. Later incarnations of the Gidget package starred such actresses as Karen Valentine and Monie Ellis; and in 1986, a long-overdue sequel to the original TV series, The New Gidget, debuted in syndication, starring Caryn Richman as the now-grown, now-married Francie "Gidget" Lawrence.