TV classics: Life with Elizabeth
USA 1953-55, 2 seasons, 65 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, Syndication, black & white. Produced by: Betty White, Don Fedderson, Cal Reed, George Tibbles. Cast: Betty White, Del Moore, Announcer: Jack Narz
Plot summary: Elizabeth is married to Alvin. Together they master their suburban life with all its everyday ups and downs.
Review: Originally filmed at and produced live by local Los Angeles TV station KLAC-TV in 1952, this low-budget program was syndicated nationally one year later and earned Betty White her first Emmy award for her funny portrayal of Elizabeth. And the award was well-deserved. Life with Elizabeth is an entertaining show which presents three sectioned storylines per episode called incidents. Each incident is introduced by announcer Jack Narz and contains little insights into Elizabeth’s life with Alvin, their quirks and problems. Each episode ends at the height of marital turmoil in the third comedy scene, but always with a smooth outro by the show’s announcer and his question to Elizabeth if she’s not ashamed. Elizabeth usually isn’t which adds to the charm of her character’s silliness.
All in all, the show is a real piece of time travel back to a 1950s sense of humor, wardrobe and acting talent. Although Alvin may come across as quite a condescending husband and Elizabeth has a tendency to act like a child, it’s that combination that turns this program into such a treat these days. It is, after all, a comedy show and not a manual on good housekeeping and a perfect marriage. At the same time however, it also reflects on certain cliches that may not have changed all that much over the decades although the roles are often reversed in present-day comedy shows.
Personally I prefer Date with the Angels from 1957 with its classic 25 minute format, singular storyline and wonderful cast, but Life with Elizabeth is a great show for everyone who enjoys Betty White’s entertainment qualities from back in the days when she was still a brunette and played less equivocal yet darling characters.
Selected episodes available on DVD. sample episode of Life with Elizabeth