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Retro : A Day in the Life of a Modern Atomic Age Family : TBS AIRS 24 HOURS OF ‘LEAVE IT TO BEAVER’

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

TBS has a great cure for those post-Christmas blues: a visit with the Cleavers.

Make that a very long visit with June, Ward, Wally and the Beaver. Ted Turner’s cable network is devoting the entire 24 hours of its programming Tuesday to one of the most well-remembered family sitcoms of the late 1950s-early ‘60s, Leave It to Beaver. Forty-eight episodes are scheduled to be shown.

So set the VCR or sit in front of the tube. Pull up a TV tray laden with peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, a dish of macaroni and cheese, some primo meatloaf and mashed potatoes and a glass of Ovaltine. And check out such blasts from the past as “Wally’s Girl Trouble,” “The Clubhouse,” “Beaver’s Short Pants,” “Lumpy Rutherford,” “Beaver’s Old Friend” and “Beaver’s Hero.”

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TV viewers got their first glimpse of Theodore Cleaver, a.k.a., the Beaver, when “Leave It to Beaver” premiered Oct. 4, 1957, on CBS. The heartwarming sitcom looked at life through the eyes of a young boy. Beaver (Jerry Mathers) was just 7 when the series began; his older brother, Wally (Tony Dow), was 12. Though the Cleavers lived in a big house, the two boys shared a bedroom.

Barbara Billingsley played their nice, sweet, understanding mom, June; Hugh Beaumont was their equally understanding dad, Ward. Unlike that other ‘50s TV dad, Ozzie Nelson, Ward Cleaver actually had a job in the suburban town of Mayfield: He was an accountant.

Beaver’s three most trusted friends were Larry (Rusty Stevens), Whitey (Stanley Fafara) and Gilbert (Stephen Talbot). Diane Brewster played Beaver’s teacher, Miss Canfield, in the first season. Sue Randall joined the series in the second season as Miss Landers, whom she played until 1962.

Wally’s friends were a pretty strange bunch. Frank Bank played Wally’s rotund friend Clarence (Lumpy) Rutherford. (Ward Cleaver worked for Lumpy’s dad.) Ken Osmond stole every scene he was in as the slick bully Eddie. He’d always turn on the charm when he came to the Cleaver house by saying, “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver.”

The series aired from 1957 to 1958 on CBS and then moved to ABC in the fall of 1958, where it continued until Sept. 12, 1963. Though the show has lived in syndication for the past three decades, “Beaver” never cracked the Top 25 series when it originally aired.

By the time the series ended, Beaver was about to enter his teens and Wally was on his way to college. But that was not the last time TV audiences saw the Cleavers. The surviving members reunited in 1983 for the CBS movie “Still the Beaver.” The reunion was so popular that the Disney Channel created the new series “Still the Beaver,” which aired from 1985 to 1986. TBS picked up the series, retitled it “The New Leave It to Beaver,” and it lasted until 1989.

“The 24 Hours of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ airs from 3:05 a.m. Tuesday to 3:05 a.m. Wednesday on TBS.


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