Synopsis by Bruce Eder
Make Room for Daddy was the first modern family sitcom, although, to see it at any time since the 1960s, one would think that it was hopelessly dated. In fact, it was the most important 1950s sitcom after I Love Lucy -- and has a production history closely connected to that show -- and it spawned more than a decade's worth of hit sitcoms in its wake. Danny Thomas was the star and co-owner of the production company behind it, along with actor-turned-producer/director Sheldon Leonard. The series itself was based on Thomas' experiences as a standup comedian and father, trying to juggle a career and his responsibilities as a husband and parent. The series' original title, Make Room for Daddy, came from a phrase that Mrs. Thomas used to use on their oldest daughter, Marlo, who often slept in the master bedroom when Danny Thomas was out of town performing, reminding her to move back her own room, telling her "We must make room for daddy." As it went on the air in the fall of 1953 on ABC, Thomas portrayed Danny Williams, a New York-based standup comic and nightclub singer married to Margaret (Jean Hagen), with two children, daughter Terry (Sherry Jackson) and son Rusty (Rusty Hamer). Louise Beavers played their housekeeper, Louise; Horace McMahon played Danny's agent, Phil Arnold; Mary Wickes played Liz O'Neal, Danny's publicist; and Hans Conried played Danny's uncle Tonoose, the patriarch of Danny's Lebanese family back in Toledo, OH. Jean Hagen wanted to leave the series after three seasons and was written out of the show by having her character die of an illness. During the 1956-1957 season (by which time the series had been renamed The Danny Thomas Show, which was what most people called it anyway), the series introduced Marjorie Lord as Kathy O'Hara, a nurse who takes care of a seriously ill Rusty; a romance was written in, and Danny Williams proposed marriage at the end of the season. The couple were married, and Kathy's daughter by a previous marriage, Linda (Angela Cartwright), joined the Williams clan as the youngest member. The following season, the series moved to CBS and opened with the Las Vegas honeymoon of Danny and Kathy, with their three children in tow. Other characters came and went, including Sid Melton as Charlie Halper, an excitable family friend and the owner of the Copa Club, where Danny was often booked, Pat Carroll and Charlie's wife Bunny, and Penny Parker, who took over the role of Terry after 1960. The series ran until 1964, and there were more than a few notable guest stars and cameo appearances, including Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, Bill Dana, and comedy legend Joey Faye, among numerous others. Annette Funicello was also a regular on the series during the 1959 season. The theme song for the run of the show was a big band version of "Londonderry Air," also known as "Danny Boy."