You really can’t get that much older than the progenitor of the television sitcom. Without The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show we wouldn’t have had I Love Lucy (which was pitched as Lucille Ball doing her own version of The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show) and the snowball of influence just carries on from there.
I’m not overstating it when I call this the mother of sitcoms, The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show was one of the first comedy shows on television that had a running narrative rather than being a collection of skits or sketches. It’s also interesting to see a sitcom from this time period that interweaves the main narrative with meta pieces of stand-up – much like in the early seasons of Seinfeld and in the one season wonder Mulaney.
When watching this, it is worth remembering that this was written in the 1950s with all the civil rights issues that might entail. I mean, I haven’t seen anything in this that is even remotely racist but it’s very much: man goes to work, wife maintains the home. However, even with this handicap (when it comes to modern viewings) I still found it laugh out loud funny thanks to Gracie Allen.
It should be enough to make you cringe a little bit, having Gracie Allen play a ditzy housewife, but she is excellent. She is able to play someone who is logically challenged and yet you never leave the show thinking that she’s stupid. Her portrayal of the fictional version of Gracie is incredibly knowing and the logical leaps that the character makes are usually quite intelligent, just not always intelligible.
Most of the episodes of The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show are currently on YouTube and it’s worth giving this a go if you’re at all interested in seeing where a lot of modern day sitcoms are rooted. It’s slightly dated, but it’s still funny and that’s all you can ask for in a sitcom.