The Life Of Riley

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The first Life of Riley radio show was a summer replacement show heard on CBS from April 12, 1941 to September 6, 1941. The CBS program starred Lionel Stander as J. Riley Farnsworth and had no real connection with the more famous series that followed a few years later.

The radio program starring William Bendix initially aired on the Blue Network, later known as ABC, from January 16, 1944 to June 8, 1945. Then it moved to NBC, where it was broadcast from September 8, 1945 to June 29, 1951. The supporting cast featured John Brown, who portrayed not only undertaker "Digger" O'Dell but also Riley's co-worker Jim Gillis. (Brown also played the character of Waldo Binny.) Whereas Gillis gave Riley bad information that got him into trouble, Digger gave him good information that "helped him out of a hole," as he might have put it. Brown's lines as the undertaker were often repetitive, including puns based on his profession; but, thanks to Brown's delivery, the audience loved him. The program was broadcast live with a studio audience, most of whom were not aware Brown played both characters. As a result, when Digger delivered his first line, it was usually greeted with howls of laughter and applause from surprised audience members.

The series was co-developed by the non-performing Marx Brother, Gummo. The American Meat Institute (1944-45), Procter & Gamble (Teel dentifrice and Prell shampoo) (1945-49), and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (1949-51) took turns as the radio program's sponsor.

Episode Number Episode Title Aired Datesort descending
13 Riley Is Best Dressed Man Sunday, April 9, 1944
16 Baxter Goes To New York Sunday, April 30, 1944
37 Making Each Other Jealous Sunday, September 24, 1944
37 Making Each Other Jealous Sunday, September 24, 1944
39 Muleys Surprise Party For Riley Sunday, October 8, 1944
41 Bosses Son In Law Sunday, October 22, 1944
182 Riley Gets Junior Two Dates for a Dance Saturday, January 3, 1948
183 Women's Equal Rights - Wedding Ring Saturday, January 10, 1948
184 The Telephone Is Rationed - Walking Man Contest Saturday, January 17, 1948
185 Babs Quits School Saturday, January 24, 1948
186 Uncle Baxter Returns - Scholarship Saturday, January 31, 1948