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Life With Elizabeth

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Show Description
The Cast
Episode Formula
The Many TV Series of Betty White
Recurring Elements

Life With Elizabeth:  Aired from 1952-1955.  I absolutely LOVE this show!  I've been a fan of Betty White all my life, but wasn't really aware of this show until mid-2006 when I bought a few episodes on DVD.  I was surprised of the outstanding quality of acting, writing, and editing in this little-known series from early television.  The show within itself is an endearing concept and I'm really surprised no show has copied it or borrowed ideas from it since.

    If you are aware of early television, you know that most shows were more gimmicky than good.  Acting wasn't always a requirement and they were usually pretty current for the time, which soon outdated them and today makes them almost unwatchable.  On top of all that, the camera work and editing was usually pretty choppy.  "Life With Elizabeth" is NOT one of these shows.  In fact, LWE is timeless in the way it was done.  It could be aired on cable today, and have a large fan base.  What they did in these shows over fifty years ago holds just as true today and will hold just as true fifty years from now.

    "Life" was comprised of comedy skits that took a funny look at things that happen everyday in marriages.  The little things, the big things, stuff that happens all the time.  As such, there were no real "stories."  It's just Elizabeth and Alvin most of the time, and they do funny things as husband and wife.  That's it.  No kids.  Kids would've complicated things and taken away from the husband/wife repertoire. 

    It's not so much that the show material is really funny or innovative; it's the delivery that is dead-on.  Betty White and Del Moore worked so well together that they could've been husband and wife.  They really were acting.  A show like this required talent, not just bodies, and "Life With Elizabeth" had a lot of talent in its cast.  Most actors of the day (and even fewer today) could not pull this off.  In that respect, everyone concerned with this show's production should be proud.

The Cast:

Betty White-- is wonderful as Elizabeth!  But of course, anyone who has ever been a fan of hers shouldn't have expected any less.  She's got a little girl kind of charm, but is definitely a woman in looks and attitude.  She has timing and funny mannerisms.  The character of Elizabeth herself is typically nice, but can be a real pain in the butt.  But when she's difficult, she's cute at it.  That's hard for any actress to pull off with much success, but Betty does it.  Most actresses can't be cute mean, but just mean mean.  And when you're acting, things like this are important.

Elizabeth is a housewife.

Del Moore-- is a cool actor!  He should've become a much bigger name than he did, but he has an impressive resume of acting work.  Although this series is a Betty White vehicle, Del Moore is just as essential if not more than his counterpart.  Alvin the husband is meant to be a "second banana" kind of character, but he is so important that he is occasionally "top banana" of the comedy sketches.  Without a great actor to play the husband, Betty wouldn't be as funny.  We've all seen TV shows where we can't stand one of the spouses.  And isn't that distracting?  In this show, we like both of them.  And they are both very likeable together.  Alvin is the nice guy, but easily frustrated.  Sometimes he suffers mentally from Betty's doings, but she never physically hurts him.  And he never gets violent or becomes unbearable.

Alvin is some kind of office worker.  This is made unclear, purposely I believe, to make him more identifiable with audiences.  His workplace is not important to the skits, unlike most sitcoms ever made.

Jack Narz-- is a wonderful announcer!  I don't usually pay much attention to show announcers.  They are typically meant to be stage dressing.  Most of the time they are uncredited on screen.  Mr. Narz should have been given a screen credit.  He is not just the announcer; he also plays narrator.  Narz has a good sounding voice and great delivery.  And he looks happy.  Jack often talks to Elizabeth and occasionally Alvin off-screen.  When he introduces a sketch (aka "incident") we're to assume that he somehow knows the married couple.  Jack sets up the little skits.  In a lot of ways, he's more important to "Life With Elizabeth" than the great Don Wilson was to "The Jack Benny Program."

Episode Formula:

    This is a show where dialogue is important.  There are sight gags aplenty, but don't expect lavish productions (this is, after all, TV) or anything that would exceed the budget or technology of an early television show.

    Each show is divided into three comedy sketches referred to as Incident #1, Incident #2, and Incident #3.

    Announcer Jack Narz sets up every skit (incident).


    We see a woman's hands playing the harp, which is a cool visual.  Then it goes to the title screen.  Betty White's head appears from the silhouette in the oval frame.  She winks at you.  Announcer Jack Narz tells us what the show is and that it's "Featuring Del Moore."


    The first two skits will have just Elizabeth and Alvin; usually in the home.


    The third skit will have an extra character played a wonderful actor/actress.  This setting will many times be somewhere that is not their home.

    Jack Narz announces after the third skit that Betty White will come out to say goodbye.


    Jack announces Betty White again as she comes through the curtain.  This is the only time we see these two on screen together.

    Betty White comes out by herself at the end of every show to thank the audience and to invite them to watch next week.


    I like the soft, happy theme music.  Standard TV credit stuff.  This is where you'll find out who the guest star was.  A real-life small dog appears on the bottom of the screen during these end credits.  That's cute, too.

Recurring Elements:

    Many times, the skit will start with Jack talking to Elizabeth off-screen.  She pantomimes her reactions, which is very cute.  When Alvin comes on screen, she starts talking with him.

    Sometimes at the end of a skit, Jack Narz will ask Elizabeth "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"  Betty will either nod or shake her head.

    "I shall leave you at this point," is a phrase commonly said by Elizabeth or Alvin.

The Many TV Series of Betty White:  Betty White's greatest success has been in television, and in later life she's become a popular character actress in theatrical films.  Betty's no stranger to television.  "Life With Elizabeth" wasn't the first time she was on TV, and it certainly wasn't the last.  Here's a rundown of Betty's series.

* Betty was on TV for the first time in 1939, just three weeks after her high school graduation.  TV was extremely experimental back then, and not at all in the mainstream.  She and a classmate sang songs from "The Merry Widow" on an experimental channel in Los Angeles.  After this, Betty went into modeling and stage acting.

"Hollywood on Television" (1949-1952)
    This was a live variety show on the KLAC channel in Los Angeles.  Al Jarvis was the host, and Betty White was co-host.  When Jarvis left in 1952, Betty hosted the series for the rest of its run.

"Life With Elizabeth" (1952-1955)
    This was Betty's first series of her own.  The idea of the show came from skits that Betty used to do on "Hollywood on Television".  The series was nationally syndicated.  Del Moore played her husband, Alvin White.  Betty's character was named Elizabeth.

"The Betty White Show" (1954)
    This was a short-lived daily talk show Betty hosted and produced on the NBC network at the time of "Life With Elizabeth".

"Date With the Angels" (1957-1958)
    Betty's second (scripted) series.  It aired on ABC and was a retooling of "Life With Elizabeth".  Bill Williams played her husband, Gus Angel.  Betty's character was named Vickie (incorrectly spelled as Vicki from some sources).

"The Betty White Show" (1958)
    Premiered just one week after the cancellation of "Date With the Angels" on ABC.  It was a comedy-variety show and ran only for the remainder of the 57-58 season.

* Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Betty White appeared as a guest on many daytime and nighttime game shows, most notably "Password" from 1961-1975.  In 1963, she married the show's host Allen Ludden.

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (1973-1977)
    What was supposed to be a one-shot appearance in an episode of Season 4 led to Betty's being cast as a regular for the remainder of the series.  Sue Ann Nivens became Betty White's all-time, best-known role up to this point.  The joke of it is that man-hungry, bi***y Sue Ann Nivens was nothing like how she presented herself on television; a sickingly-sweet "perfect" personality.

"The Betty White Show" (1977-1978)
    After MTM wrapped, Betty was once again given her own series.  On CBS, it ran for only 14 episodes.  This particular series has developed a strong, cult following and for good reason:  It was good.  The series had a great premise and a great cast.

"Mama's Family" (1983-1985, 1986)
    Betty was not a regular, but a key recurring character as one of Mama's daughters, Ellen Harper Jackson.  "Mama's Family" aired on NBC for two seasons before being cancelled.  When MF was picked up again as a syndicated series, Betty made one last appearance in 1986.

"The Golden Girls" (1985-1992)
    THIS became Betty's all-time, best-known TV series, period.  This was on NBC and incredibly successful.  Betty was one of four female leads alongside Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, and Rue McClanahan.  What's funny to note is that Betty and Rue were both cast members of "Mama's Family"; Rue played her aunt.  Both women dropped out of "Mama's Family" when NBC axed it.  Betty played Rose Nylund who was sweet and dim-witted, nothing like her earlier Sue Ann Nivens character.

"The Golden Palace" (1992-1993)
    A simple continuation of "The Golden Girls" sans Bea Arthur, but adding Cheech Marin as the cook for their upscale hotel.  The Girls got a network switch to CBS (GG had been on NBC).  The series started off with strong ratings, but quickly dropped.  Although initially approved for a second season, the series was cancelled on very last-minute notice.

"Bob" (1993)
    This was another great series that should have ran longer.  The show was completely revamped for its second season, and Betty White joined the cast as a regular:  Sylvia Schmitt, Bob's new boss.  The 93-94 season was abruptly ended in December, 1993.

"Maybe This Time" (1995-1996)
    Betty played second lead to Marie Osmond as her mother Shirley Wallace.  They ran a family bakery.  The series aired on ABC, and starred Ashley Johnson and Amy Hill, two of the stars of the short-lived sitcom, "All American Girl" (1994-1995), also broadcast on ABC.  As I recall, this series was pretty decent.  It just wasn't given enough of a chance.  The same can be said for "All American Girl", but that's another story.

* Starting in 1996, Betty began her hot streak in film work.  By 2003, with her performance in the comedy "Bringing Down the House", Betty was a super-popular character actress and has since done a lot of filmwork.  Things flip-flopped.  Starting in the 90s, Betty has done more movies than television!

"Ladies Man" (1999-2001)
    Betty played third lead to Alfred Molina and Sharon Lawrence as Mitzi Stiles.  It aired on CBS for two seasons.  In one of the later episodes, Betty was reunited with Golden Girls Estelle Getty and Rue McClanahan.

* "Saturday Night Live" (May 8, 2010)
    This is a strange deal, but it was big for Betty!  Someone on Facebook started a petition to have Betty White host "Saturday Night Live".  I was one of the signers!  Apparently, the petition went to the NBC network.  In turn, they asked Betty White to host and she accepted.  Betty was a hit!  Later, on June 16, the first episode of "Hot in Cleveland" aired on the TV Land network.

"Hot in Cleveland" (2010-present)
    Betty plays a really wacky character in this show, and it isn't a family-oriented show.  White's character, Elka Ostrovsky, was only meant to be in the pilot episode.  Her performance was so well-received, however, that she was made a regular.  The show's other stars are Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick.  It is the first scripted series for the TV Land network, which had primarily been a cable network that aired reruns of classic TV programs.