Our Miss Brooks (1952–1956)
Miss Brooks teaches English at Madison High, rents a room from Mrs. Davis, gets rides to school with student Walter, fights with Principal Conklin, and tries to snag shy biology teacher Boynton. In the last year she switches to Mrs. Nestor's private school.
- Connie Brooks was a young English teacher at Madison High School. "Our Miss Brooks" pointed up the economic plight of school teachers in the 1950s. Miss Brooks did not own a car and depended on student Walter Denton for a ride to her classes. She lived modestly with an elderly landlady, Mrs. Davis, and frequently had trouble making ends meet.
Her nemesis, as was the case for all of the characters, was the curmudgeonly principal Osgood Conklin. Mr. Conklin seemed to have virtually no sense of humor and ran a cold, tight ship at MHS.
Connie suffered through four years of unrequited love for biology teacher Philip Boynton. Mr. Boynton seemed oblivious to Miss Brooks' overtures, preferring to discuss the characteristics of a fruitfly rather than the beauty of his long-suffering admirer.
Mr. Conklin's daughter Harriet, a student at Madison High, offered some solace to Miss Brooks and her friends. Harriet often spotted when her father was on the warpath.
Walter Denton was the epitome of the scatterbrained high school senior of the 1950s. Denton had a nasal, high-pitched voice and seemed to draw the ire of Mr. Conklin for no reason. One had the idea Walter would have been protective of Miss Brooks in a heartbeat.
After three seasons, "Our Miss Brooks" was moved to an earlier time slot on Friday nights on CBS. The producers totally revised the format, virtually killing the series. Abruptly, Mr. Boynton was gone, Walter Denton and Harriet Conklin disappeared, and Mrs. Davis was significantly de-emphasized.
After a city decision to raze Madison High to make way for a new highway, Miss Brooks somehow ended up teaching at Mrs. Nestor's Elementary School, a private facility. Even more inexplicable, Mr. Conklin ends up as the headmaster (much in the same fashion as Gale Gordon as Mr. Mooney ended up moving to California at the same time as Lucy Carmichael did in the fourth season of "The Lucy Show" in 1965).
In a reversal of the Madison High format, Gene Barry is introduced as a handsome gym teacher who has a far more aggressive approach toward Miss Brooks. She did not respond in kind.
Viewers tuned out in droves. Madison High was a Friday night appointment for viewers. The thought of Miss Brooks in an elementary school without the romantic tension (or lack of) with Mr. Boynton gave the audience a collective feeling of being guests at a party they did not want to attend.
In a desperation move, Robert Rockwell was brought back at midseason as Mr. Boynton. However, he was no more responsive to Miss Brooks than in three years at Madison High. By that point, viewers wanted a payoff. "Our Miss Brooks" was canceled after four years in 1956.
Interestingly, the radio version continued at Madison High in 1955-56 despite the locale and format switch on television.
Another note: despite the school locale, Miss Brooks was never shown actually teaching. During the Madison High years, the action was largely in Mr. Conklin's office, Mr. Boynton's lab, or at Mrs. Davis' home. She was shown in a classroom at Mrs. Nestor's but not during teaching hours. She was usually having a conversation with a student either after school or between classes.
Ironically, a movie version of "Our Miss Brooks" was filmed by Warner Brothers and released to theaters in late April 1956 before the television series ended on CBS. The original regulars were all back together at Madison High. In the film's closing scene, Mr. Boynton, after becoming jealous of a rival (Don Porter), proposes to Miss Brooks and gives her an engagement ring.
Twenty-two years after the final episode of "Our Miss Brooks" aired, Eve Arden finally climbed to the top rung of the ladder. She appeared as the high school principal in the movie version of "Grease."