Boy, did I want to like this show. Its premise is so good, you wonder why no one’s tried it before: a sitcom about the early days of television in the late ’40s. Ray Gill stars as a second-rate radio comic who gets in on the ground floor of network television. As the star of The Sam Arnold Show, he’s scheduled opposite Milton Berle’s variety show, which has yet to establish itself as a huge hit.
If The Early Days had captured some of Arnold’s ambition and desperation to succeed, if it had embodied the we’re-making-it-up-as-we-go-along spirit of those first years of television, the show would have been fascinating. | Instead, it’s just a drab sitcom. Sam Arnold is supposed to be an unfunny schlub, but Gill doesn’t seem to realize that you can play an unfunny character in a funny way. From a technical standpoint, The Early Days is done well — Sam Arnold’s off-camera life is shown in color, and whenever he’s doing his show, we see it in flickering black-and-white. But this is technique in the service of banality — The Early Days is a woeful disappointment. D