The 1959-1963 comedy series revolved around teenager Dobie Gillis (Dwayne Hickman), who aspired to have popularity, money, and the attention of beautiful and unattainable girls. He didn't have any of these qualities in abundance, and the tiny crises surrounding Dobie's lack of success made the story in each weekly episode. His partner-in-crime was American television's first beatnik, Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver).
Krebs had a deep aversion to work; Maynard was convinced life is for enjoying. Dobie's father, Herbert T. Gillis (Frank Faylen), who owned a grocery store, was only happy when Dobie was behind a broom. Dobie's father was often caught up in various elaborate get-rich-quick schemes, or situational bail-outs à la Ralph Kramden, with Dobie getting ensnared along with him; by the end both came around grudgingly to Maynard's point of view.
As a high school student, Dobie lived at home with his parents in the show's early years, and his interaction with his parents was a source of much of the humor. His mother Winnie (Florida Friebus) was very caring and perhaps tended to baby her son a little too much; his father Herbert was a very proud, hard-working child of the Great Depression and veteran of World War II, who was often heard to declare "I've gotta kill that boy; I've just gotta!" but deep down a good and decent man.
Dobie's two main antagonists were rich kids, Milton Armitage (Warren Beatty) and, after his departure, Milton's cousin, Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. (Steven Franken), both representing the wealth and popularity to which Dobie aspired. They both shared the same actress, Doris Packer, as their mother.
Dobie was hopelessly attracted to the money-hungry blonde Thalia Menninger (Tuesday Weld), who frequently entangled Dobie in her money-making schemes. However Weld soon left the series but was replaced by a seemingly endless stream of young women equally hard for Dobie to obtain. Most, however, were not as money-obsessed as Thalia. Thalia's catchphrase was that the money was not for her but for her family; she would talk about ailments her family had that only money could cure. Thalia claimed her looks were all her family had to lift them out of their bad situation in life.
Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James Kuehl) was a brilliant and eager young girl who was hopelessly in love with Dobie, much to his annoyance. Despite his protests, Dobie was clearly fond of Zelda and would be married to her in the proposed 1977 series pilot, Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis? Zelda claimed Dobie loved her too but just hadn't realized it yet. To prove this she'd wiggle her nose (like a rabbit) at Dobie who would do the same back to Zelda, though Dobie said it was only a reflex and not love that made him do that.
During the second season, Dobie and Maynard (along with Chatsworth) did a brief stint in the peacetime U.S. Army. Conscription in the United States was in effect at the time, and the Vietnam War was as yet only a minor concern to most Americans when the series ended.
Beginning with the third season, Dobie moved from high school to S. Peter Pryor Junior College, surrounded by many of the same people. William Schallert played Leander Pomfritt, the English teacher at both the high school and the junior college; and the late Jean Byron (with whom Schallert would later co-star on The Patty Duke Show) played mathematics teachers Ruth Adams and Professor Imogene Burkhart (which was actually Jean Byron's real name).
Created by Max Shulman
Stanley Z. Cherry
Theme music composer:
Opening theme "Dobie" performed by Judd Conlon's Rhythmaires