Monday, February 17, 2020

The Things I Watch: Classic Television-Hank (1965-1966)

Season 1 Episode 1
Who’s Waldo Smith?

Hank was a one season wonder that ran for 26 episodes.  But don’t take that as a failure.  If Hank was around today, 26 episodes could be 2 or 3 seasons on Netflix or some other streaming service.  It’s all how you look at things.

I’m sometimes amazed at what classic TV series gets released on DVD or Bluray.  There’s a lot of good stuff out there that hasn’t seen the light of day and probably never will.  Even Disney is keeping most of the episodes of its prime time show, World of Color/World of Disney/Disneyland/Walt Disney Presents, the title depending on what decade you were watchingd, locked in their precious vault.

Warner Archives decided to release Hank for whatever reason.  Maybe because somebody actually took care of the original prints, you know, just in case.  I don’t know how many Hank DVD Sets they sold but probably not many.  Collectors like me though would rather have one season of Hank instead of three or four different releases of Friends.

I do know that when it originally aired, I did watch the show.  I had to.  I was related long distance to actress Katie Sweet who stars as Hank Dearborn’s nine year old sister Tina.  How am I related?  Not sure really.  One of my never-ending list of cousins would be more inclined to explain that one to you. 

I just know that when Katie had guest roles on everything from Ozzie and Harriet to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds to Bonanza and ending with an episode of The Second Hundred Years (Another one of those single season series I’d like to get my hands on but probably never will), the land lines (because that’s all we had) would heat up and relatives one and all would gather around the TV for a huge dose of Sweetness and Cute. 

Hey, don’t knock it.  It was a cool thing to be related to a real Hollywood actress in those days. Personally, I never got to meet her. But most of the rest of the family hobnobbed with her at a family reunion where my dad took home movies.  Unfortunately, that particular episode in our lives no longer exists as my dad was married to a batshit alcoholic banshee woman who had a major destructive streak.

The premise of Hank was pretty simple.  Hank Dearborn (played by Dick Kallman) is left to raise his much younger sister Tina, which required him to drop out of school at the age of fifteen so he could support her.  These tragic things happen when your parents have no life insurance I guess. 

Not wanting to go through life as a janitor (although certainly an honorable profession because I’ve been there myself) or a fast food worker (McDonald’s was still in its infancy I think) Hank decides to get an education by dropping in to college classes at Western State University.  To help finance this endeavor, he drives a sandwich truck around campus that seems to sell everything and anything besides just sandwiches.  I don’t think I saw one student buy a sandwich in the whole half hour episode although they did buy a hat and some bobby-pins.

Hank drops into classes by impersonating other students.  And that can get him into trouble but only because Dean Lewis Royal, head of the university, is fixated on catching and punishing drop-in students.  It seems to be his one important mission in life unless you count that he probably goes from one school university restroom to another to make sure the toilets flush.  I know, I know just go with it.  You have to if this is going to work.

Another major complication is that Hank is in love with and dating the Dean’s daughter, Doris.  We know there are going to be a lot of silly close calls in this show and there are several in this episode including a bit where Hank plays tennis with himself to hide his identity from the Dean. 

But the main gist of this episode revolves around Coach Ossie Weiss’s attempt to get Hank (or whomever Hank’s impersonation is) on his track team after he spots him running around campus hurdling shrubbery.  Hank is a man of many talents.

The whole premise is really full of holes if you stop to think about it.  But in the 60’s, where we had a talking horse, a talking car, and a witch married to a mortal, you weren’t supposed to let such things as logic interfere with your enjoyment. Or is that judgment? My biggest concern was that after Hank drops into all these different courses, most not related to the others in any way, he was still not going to have a college degree in anything.  But I guess more knowledge even without a degree is better than no knowledge at all.

On a down note, when doing my usual background checks for this story, I was sad to discover that Dick Kallman who played Hank was murdered.  On February 22, 1980, Kallman and business associate Steven Szladek of Brooklyn were found shot to death in Kallman's posh Manhattan apartment. 27-year-old Charles Lonnie Grosso of Queens was convicted of the killings, which took place during a robbery, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. None of the paintings, jewelry, and antiques stolen from the apartment were ever recovered.  He seemed like a nice guy on the series from what I've read.  As for Grosso, I hope he’s still rotting in prison.

I guess it’s best to get the downbeat dreary stuff out of the way in case I want to revisit this show.  I’d say the chances of that are around 80 per cent.  And when that time comes you'll discover that except for this pilot episode, the rest were brought to you in living peacock color.

Until next time.

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