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The Donna Reed Show is an Americanmarker sitcom which aired on ABC from September 24, 1958 to March 19, 1966. The series starred Donna Reed and was sponsored by Campbell Soup Company with Johnson & Johnsonmarker as the principal alternate sponsor.


The series focused on middle class couple, Donna Stone (Reed), a housewife to pediatrician Alex Stone, played by Carl Betz. The couple had two children together, Mary (Shelley Fabares) and Jeff (Paul Petersen). Episodes featured problems of the 1950s such as planning a bash for a retiring colleague, firing an inept housekeeper, and finding quality time away from the kids.

In 1962, Shelley Fabares recorded a single called "Johnny Angel" which debuted in one of the show's fourth season episodes. The single later became a number one hit and sold over a million copies. By the start of the 1962-1963 season (the show's fifth year), Reed felt that the program was reaching an impasse and that the writers were running out of fresh ideas. With Fabares planning to leave at the end of the season, Reed originally was going to end The Donna Reed Show in the spring of 1963. However, since the series was still very popular, ABC offered Reed a more lucrative contract to continue and as a result, the program was renewed for another three years. At this time, Fabares left the show in 1963 to pursue other acting and singing opportunities, and her character Mary went away to college (Mary later reappeared periodically). Paul Petersen's real-life sister Patty Petersen then joined the show as Trisha, a runaway who was eventually adopted by the Stones. Paul Petersen also had a recording career with his biggest hit being the 1962 single "My Dad", for Colpix Records. Like "Johnny Angel", Petersen's "My Dad" was also featured in an episode of the show.

In the spring of 1966, despite the fact that the series was still garnering decent ratings, Reed had grown tired of the weekly grind and wanted to retire. And so, after eight very successful years on the ABC Television Network, The Donna Reed Show ended its prime-time run.

Characters and cast


Donna Reed as Donna Stone, Paul Petersen as Jeff Stone, Shelley Fabares as Mary Stone, Carl Betz as Alex Stone, (first season, 1958)

  • Donna Stone (Donna Reed) grew up on a farm. She is a "Graduate Nurse" and sometimes works as a nurse on the show. Donna was married to Alex when she was 18 and the couple live in the fictional city of Hilldale. She participates in community activities such as charity campaigns and amateur theatricals. Like several television wives and mothers of the 1950s, Donna wears heels, pearls, and chic frocks to do the housework.
  • Alex Stone (Carl Betz) is a pediatrician with an office in the Stone house. Like most television couples of the 1950s, Alex and Donna sleep in twin beds. The two show a physical affection for each other slightly more intense than other television couples of the period.
  • Mary Stone (Shelley Fabares) is 14 "almost fifteen" and a freshman in high school when the show opens. She has a few boyfriends during the course of the show with Jimmy Hawkins as Scotty being a regular. Mary plays the piano like a professional and studies ballet. She leaves the show to attend college.
  • Jeff Stone (Paul Petersen) is "almost twelve" when the show opens. He is a typical American boy; he plays sports, likes to eat, and argues with his older sister.
  • Trisha (Patty Petersen) is a runaway child the Stones adopt after Mary leaves for college. She remained for the duration.
  • Dr. Dave Kelsey (Bob Crane) and his wife Midge (Ann McCrea) are friends of the Stones. Dave is Alex's colleague. The character Dave appeared 1963-1965. And the character Midge appeared 1963-1966.

Secondary first season characters

The first season had many recurring characters that appeared as neighbors, service people (such as the dry cleaning man), and family friends.
  • Babs (Melinda Plowman) is Mary's girl friend.
  • Scotty (Jimmy Hawkins) is Mary's boyfriend. He appeared in two first season episodes as her boyfriend George Haskell.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Wilgus (Howard McNear and Kathleen Freeman) are busybody Stone neighbors.
  • Lydia Langley (Mary Shipp) is Donna's snobbish acquaintance.
  • Uncle Bo (Jack Kelk) is Alex's bachelor colleague and friend, Dr. Boland. Jeff and Mary call him Uncle Bo.
  • Zachary Blake (Stephen Pearson) is Jeff's friend.

Guest stars

  • Lassie appeared in one episode set in Hollywood.
  • Jay North appeared in one 1960 episode, "Donna Decorates", as his television character, Dennis the Menace.
  • Don Drysdale appeared as himself in two 1964 episodes, "Play Ball" and "My Son the Catcher".
  • Willie Mays appeared in three episodes as himself over the show's run: "Play Ball" and "My Son the Catcher" (both 1964)
and "Calling Willie Mays" (1966)
  • Buster Keaton guest starred in two episodes, "A Very Merry Christmas" (1958) as a hospital janitor who brings gifts to the children's ward and "Now You See It, Now You Don't" (1965)
  • Miyoshi Umeki appeared in "The Geisha Girl" (1961) and "Aloha, Kimi" (1962)
  • Judson Pratt appeared as Metcalfe in one of the last episodes, "Is There a Small Hotel?"
  • George Hamilton appeared in a first season episode as Herbie, Mary's date
  • James Darren played pop singer Buzz Berry in a first season episode
  • Johnny Washbrook appeared once as a boy named "Bill".
  • Gary Lockwood played a soldier with a crush on Mary.

Production notes

The series was developed by Reed and then-husband producer Tony Owens. Upon its premiere, The Donna Reed Show garnered low ratings (it was scheduled opposite NBC's Texaco Star Theater), but gradually improved and built a following. Throughout its eight year run, the series only ranked in the Nielsen Top 25 once (1963-1964 season). After eight seasons and 275 episodes, the series ended in 1966.

Syndication and DVD releases

The series was originally syndicated by Screen Gems, and, later, Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television. In 2008, Sony lost the full rights to the estates of Donna Reed and Tony Owen, and as a result this show is now rarely seen on television, although reruns aired on Nick at Nite from 1985 through 1994 and on TV Land in 2002.

For a limited time in 2004, General Mills offered a DVD of two episodes inside boxes of Total and Oatmeal Crisp.

Virgil Films and Entertainment (under license from the estates of Donna Reed and Tony Owen) have begun releasing The Donna Reed Show on DVD in Region 1. To date they have released the first 2 seasons. Season 3 will be released on December 1, 2009. Season 4 will be released sometime around Mother's Day 2010.

Season Ep # Release Date
Season 1 37 October 28, 2008
Season 2 38 July 28, 2009
Season 3 38 December 1, 2009

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1959 Emmy Awards Nominated Best Actress in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series Donna Reed
1960 Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead or Support) Donna Reed
1961 Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead) Donna Reed
1962 Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead) Donna Reed
1963 Golden Globe Award Won Best TV Star - Female Donna Reed
2004 TV Land Award Nominated Favorite Teen Dream - Female Shelley Fabares
1994 Young Artist Awards Won Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award Shelley Fabares
1997 Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award Paul Petersen


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