Apr 9, 2013

I'm Dickens...He's Fenster: Early 1960s Bonding

When I was a kid,  I knew John Astin as the mustached, googly-eyed Gomez Addams on The Addams Family (1964-66), as the Riddler on Batman (a replacement for Frank Gorshin), and as various kooky characters thereafter, such as Professor Gangreen in Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988).  Funny, but not really swoon-worthy -- I was more interested in his teen idol sons, Sean and Mackenzie.

And Marty Ingels as a voice on Cattanooga Cats and Grape Ape on Saturday morning tv, married to Shirley Jones and the stepfather of David, Shaun, and Patrick Cassidy.  Again, not really swoon-worthy.

Then a Boomer of the older generation suggested the sitcom I'm Dickens -- He's Fenster (1962-63), which appeared after The Flintstones on Friday nights.   I looked up some episodes on youtube.

John Astin (age 32) and Marty Ingels (age 26) play bumbling carpenters Harry Dickens and Arch Fenster.  Dickens is married, and trying to be stable and respectable.

Arch is a swinger (with a Little Black Book full of women's phone numbers), and keeps trying to drag his partner into crazy adventures.

But in spite of the blatant girl-leering, there's a blatant homoromantic subtext.  The two behave as if they were romantic partners, in that unself-conscious way that performers had before they were aware that gay readings were possible: an amazing physicality, a devotion to each other, and even a domesticity, as Fenster practically lives with Dickens.

And they are swoonworthy.  No nudity, but 32-year old John Astin displays a respectable chest and nicely-toned biceps in a tight black  t-shirt, and 26-year old Marty Ingels has a beefy, promising physique.

Producer Leonard Stern was also responsible for the beefcake-heavy Run, Buddy, Run and the buddy comedy The Good Guys.