Monday, April 26, 2010

Tommy and his chums

In a folder of various spec scripts and proposals in the Thornton Burgess collection at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, there is a proposal dated 1936 and titled "Tommy and his chums program." I initially thought that this was a proposal by someone other than Thornton Burgess sent for his approval, but now I think it was developed by Burgess himself.

The program was to feature "Tommy" (AKA Farmer Brown's Boy) and his cousins from the city, Sue and Sammy. "Little Buster" the bear cub would be a supporting player and the "Old Hermit" would be on hand to teach real natural history. Burgess describes it as an action-packed hybrid of mystery & suspense with plenty of funny situations, targeted at "clean-minded" boys and girls. Adults were not excluded as potential audience members.

According to LaFollette (2008), in the latter days of the first run of the Radio Nature League, Burgess pitched the program to NBC but was rejected because he was perceived to appeal to children exclusively. It appears that Burgess had similar ambitions during the second run of the Radio Nature League, but crafted something much more closely tied to his child-oriented literary properties. Note: all I've read is the document. I have no idea whether Burgess ever proceeded to the actual pitch level or what the network reaction might have been if he did.

Burgess would recycle elements of the proposed scenario in his Bedtime Story newspaper feature. In the summer of 1938 he introduced "the Old Naturalist," who had arranged to live in Farmer Brown's sugar shack and was in a position to help Tommy and his cousins with their natural history questions. Is it a coincidence that the Old Naturalist, as rendered by Harrison Cady, just happens to look a little like Thornton Burgess himself?


Next: On the fence

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