By the middle of the 1950s, the heyday of the radio sitcom had passed, at least as far as new programming was concerned. In the midst of radio’s decline, “My Son, Jeep” came to NBC radio in January 1953.
The show was somewhat different from the typical family sitcom as it featured a single father named Dr. Robert Allison (Donald Cook). living in a small town with his son, Jeffrey (aka “Jeep”) (Martin Huston) and his daughter, Peg. They have a housekeeper (Mrs. Bixby) and in the first episode, Jeep manages to wrangle a job for his substitute teacher, Ms. Miller as Dr. Allison’s assistant.
Of course, men raising kids in a motherless situation was not the norm, but it was hardly new. The long-running Great Gildersleeve featured a surrogate father played Harold Perry and later Willard Waterman. After many fits and stars, Perry reverted to that format after leaving Gildersleeve towards the end of his flop The Harold Peary Show.
Jeep was the center of the show and his antics provide the impetus for most of the comedy. Jeep’s mix of cute mischievousness works and really provides nearly all the comedy. In one episode, when Dr. Allison states that he can’t afford to hire an assistant, Jeep proceeds to go through Dr. Allison’s medical records and go and collect. In another, Mrs. Bixby is being installed as Minnehaha of her Indian-themed lodge and Jeep writes an acceptance speech for her filled with “ughs” and”hows.” Jeep is cute. My Son Jeep has been compared by some to Dennis the Menace but if anything Jeep was a forerunner to the Dennis the Menace series which wouldn’t come to television until 1959, although the comic strip launched in 1951.
The rest of the series was mostly stock characters: the “oh-so-mature” teenage daughter, the fussy housekeeper, and the hapless father who is constantly outmaneuvered by his two offspring.
The one thing that’s remarkable about the series is that the Allison family is a loving sacrificing one. When his older sister wants a new dress and Dr. Allison refuses to buy it, Jeep offers to paint the fence in order to purchase the dress. Most of the situations that arise come from the Allisons trying to help each other rather than through selfish pursuits or attempts to cover up wrongdoing. In this way, My Son Jeep is a relatively wholesome and sweet family comedy that is deserving of the oft-used descriptions, “Not the best comedy, but better than most stuff on television.”
After Jeep’s run over NBC radio, it premiered on television in the 1953, but didn’t last. According to John Dunning’s Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio, the series was revived in 1956 as a five night a week fifteen minute serial with a new cast. No episodes of this serial version survive.
Radio episodes of the 1953 run of My Son Jeep are available on the Internet Archive.
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