Dennis The Menace (1959-1963)
The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966)
How the heck did this happen? Dennis The Menace and Donna Reed? Me no understand.
Okay, thematically its got some nice rhythms to it. Donna. Dennis. The names are similar sounding. But at the same time the characters themselves contrast to the extreme. Dennis The Menace? Hello. The show was based off of a cartoon strip about a kid who was so much trouble they actually added "menace" to his name. Jay North brought well meaning but destructive Dennis to life for the TV version of the character. Meanwhile you have actress Donna Reed on her show playing Donna Stone, the sweetest most serene mom TV has ever seen. I mean its an interesting pair of characters to bounce off each other.
The crossover happened on The Donna Reed Show. Donna and her family are redecorating their house. One of the kids from the neighborhood, Dennis Mitchell (aka Dennis The Menace) wants to help out. Word to the wise: generally, anyone named Menace should be avoided as a helper when renovating your home. Dennis nearly accidentally kills the entire Stone family in a horrible incident involving a weed whacker and ends up causing their house to burn to the ground in a fiery conflagration of hellish proportions!
Okay, maybe not. He's a menace and all but we are talking family sitcoms in the 50's/60's. Dennis did make a general nuisance of himself and cause Donna many wacky comedic headaches though (Oh that Dennis!). Eventually out of desperation Donna asks Dennis's next door neighbor if maybe, possibly, Dennis could help him out around his house. The neighbor in question? The eternally suffering victim of Dennis's attention through comics, TV shows, cartoons and movies: Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson, played by Joseph Kearn's, who likely tried to foist Dennis off on Donna in the first place just so he could catch some rest, was back in the position of having to deal with the little hellraiser.
So why would this be an unlikely crossover? I mean, two family sitcoms on the air at the same time, characters that would play off of each other nicely. Where's the problem? Well, Dennis was on CBS and The Donna Reed Show aired over on ABC. Characters on different networks almost never crossover. The whole point of most crossovers is to use the crossover to promote both the involved shows. No network ever wants to promote the other network's shows. And usually if there ever is a crossover between networks there is a really good reason for it. The Six Million Dollar Man spins off the Bionic Woman, then the Bionic Woman switches networks. Well since both shows share certain characters it makes sense those characters would appear on both shows on both networks. On you have a guy like David E. Kelley with shows produced by him on different networks and he reeeeally wants to do crossovers. Very rarely does a character cross between shows on different networks just for the hell of it. So why did this happen? I have no idea. Although, again, thematically it makes sense that if any character would cross between networks with no regard for logic or appropriateness it would be Dennis The Menace.
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