Wait, Is Someone in My Bed?
When television couples start getting couple-y.
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Mary Kay and Johnny was the first show to feature a couple sleeping in the same bed.
Nowadays, seeing two people in the same bed on television seems about as common as sipping coffee in the morning or tripping over nothing while walking down the sidewalk (maybe that’s just me?).
The show Sex Education opens with a couple in bed. Another Netflix show (which will remain nameless because of spoilers) ends with a couple cuddling atop the sheets.
Back around World War II, however, beds were like the classic song by The Offspring: “You gotta keep ‘em separated.”
(Or, more likely, there just weren’t a lot of bed situations on TV, which was still a new medium.)
Mary Kay and Johnny bucked that trend while also reaching several other milestones along the way.
On November 18, 1947, Mary Kay and Johnny, a 15-minute program, debuted on the DuMont Network. You know, that channel all of us had on our televisions.
The show starred real-life couple Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns and their adventures in a Greenwich Village apartment. Since the show was performed live, most of the episodes were set in the apartment, and the couple was often conversing on the bed. Alas, the bedroom had no bathroom, but that never seemed to be an issue.
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Mary Kay and Johnny was the first-ever sitcom, and after Mary Kay became pregnant in 1948, the producers — who tried to hide the pregnancy at first — wrote the birth into the show. The Stearns’ son, Christopher, even made some appearances after he was born.
The show moved to CBS and, later, NBC and lasted for three seasons. Unfortunately, because television was still the Wild West, Mary Kay and Johnny producers didn’t consider preserving the episodes, so the show isn’t available on YouTube. There’s perhaps one episode that’s still around more than 75 years later, which you can check out if you visit the Paley Center for Media in New York City.
One other thing about Mary Kay and Johnny that’s quite delightful: Anacin, which makes a product featuring aspirin and caffeine, sponsored the show even though there were no TV ratings at the time.
To test out the size of the audience, Anacin ran an ad that included an offer for a free pocket mirror to the first 200 viewers that wrote in and requested one. Just in case things got wild, the company bought 400 mirrors. Then they checked their mail, and there were NINE THOUSAND requests.
Perhaps phones have replaced pocket mirrors, but maybe we can bring them back! What a handy little tool.
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