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This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.

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Fibber McGee and Molly: On the Air 1935-1959
by Clair Schulz, ©2013
(From Radio Recall, August 2013)

Bear Manor Media, 2013
531 pgs. Softcover, $ 29.95 plus $6 for S & H
800-253-2187 (order line)
Reviewed by Jeff Whipple

Special Offer:

Order direct from author at $34.95 and receive an autographed copy of the book as well as a a caricature of Fibber McGee and Malty on 11x14 cardstock, suitable for framing:

Clair A Schulz
S67 W13702 Fleetwood Road
Muskego, WI 53150

Since the first edition of Fibber McGee and Molly: On the Air 1935-1959 was published in 2008, many of the 15 minute episodes from 1953 through 1956 have become circulated in the Old Time Radio community. This revised edition includes synopses of all of the 15 minute shows, in fact every episode from the time of Molly's return to the show on April 18, 1939 until the shows final daily episode in March, 1956, as well as the existing Monitor recordings from 1956 -1959.

In the instances where copies of the radio episodes have not survived, Mr. Clair Schulz was able to find scripts through the Wisconsin State Historical Society Library and provide his summary from them. His book starts out with about two dozen pages of text, including an overview of the series and some photos. This is followed by the bulk of the book, some 430 pages, consisting of summaries of all episodes. Appendix A is an alphabetical listing of episodes by title and Appendix B contains the show's Hooper/Nielsen ratings by year.

Mr. Schulz has also included two new appendices. Appendix C contains a chronological listing of their most famous gag, the opening of the half closet. The reason for the closet's opening is also shown in the list. Appendix D is the more interesting to me and a great addition to this edition (Insert Fibber and Molly pun here trying to get the appropriate word usage). For a collector of the radio shows, it is a short cut to many of the first and lasts. There are many lists including cast members, characters, and running gags (such as the aforementioned hall closet or Fibber's "Gotta get them brakes fixed."). The downside of this is that Mr. Schulz lists only the first and last episode the gag aired and not every episode that contains the gag, as he does for the hall closet in Appendix C.

But this also brings me to the problem with books such as this - for lack of a better term "episodic summaries."

In the June 2013 issue of Radio Recall, Mr. Schulz's book on The Great Gildersleeve (Tuning in The Great Gildersleeve: The Episodes and Cast of Radio's First Spinoff Show, 1941-1957) was reviewed by Maury Cagle. Mr. Cagle's asked a very poignant question "Is it worth the price"? I have a much bigger and unfortunately stickier question, "Who is the intended reader?"

It you own or listen to the radio shows, why do you need someone else's synopses of the shows? While the appendices are great, are they alone worth the price of the book? If you do not or have not listened to the shows, well shame on you. Or are books such as this really written to aid someone in research many years in the future when OTA is just a faint part of history?

What a person considers humor has always been a personal preference. What I find funny is not necessarily what others find funny. I would never be able to pull out of the book some of my favorites from Fibber McGee and Molly such as the episode from January 20, 1948. To me the funniest part of this episode is listening to Wallace Wimple bid on Molly's pickles. This is not even mentioned in his synopses.

For comedy shows such as this, even the scripts may not read well; the humor was truly in the voice inflections, sound effects and comic timing of the actors. To summarize the comedy or plot does not give the comedic element the justice it deserves. In fact, if you just read the synopses Mr. Schulz has provided and never actually heard the show, it would be hard to believe this was a top ten comedy for many years.

It is books such as these that make me yearn for an OTR Data Base similar to the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB). While a chronological list is nice how do you find an episode you only vaguely remember? Being able to find specific shows among several hundreds of episodes is daunting at best. Computers make finding some things (not all) possible based on key words.

The utopia would be a database based on the script so if you only remembered a phrase from the show you could find it. If we want anyone to know what the radio shows we all like and listen to are about a hundred years from now, books like this must become searchable web sites (with links to the shows and scripts themselves where possible) and unfortunately not printed tomes such as this.