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Retro : The Perfect Ending for the Perfect Family : NICK AT NITE BIDS 'DONNA REED SHOW' BYE-BYE FOR NOW


Sniff, sniff. Get out your handkerchiefs and whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. "The Donna Reed Show" is leaving Nick at Nite. Donna, Alex, Mary and Jeff ... until we meet again.

But this week The Donna Reed Show is going out with a bang, not a whimper. The baby boomer's favorite cable channel is bidding farewell to the last remaining sitcom from Nick's original lineup when it was launched in 1985.

As a final tribute, Nick at Nite has compiled 20 of the best episodes and will air them Friday.

"The Donna Reed Show" originally premiered on ABC on Sept. 4, 1958. It was the first TV series for Reed, who began acting in the early 1940s as an MGM contract player. She is best known for her roles as James Stewart's wife in the 1946 holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life" and for her Oscar-winning turn as a dance hall girl in 1953's "From Here to Eternity."

The "Donna Reed Show," produced by her then-husband Tony Owen, cast her as the perfect mom, Donna Stone. Her blond hair was perfectly coiffed. Her dresses were perfectly starched. She kept house ... perfectly.

Donna was the wife of Alex (Carl Betz), a handsome pediatrician, and mother to teen-age Mary (Shelley Fabares of "Coach") and preteen Jeff (Paul Petersen).

"The Donna Reed Show" exuded wholesomeness. Problems were minor in the Stone's fictional town of Hilldale. Over the years, the series attracted such guest stars as Willie Mayes, Esther Williams and even Jay North, who popped by as Dennis the Menace.

The series went through numerous permutations. In 1962, Mary left for college and the next year the Stones adopted Trisha, an 8-year-old orphan, played by Petersen's younger sister, Patty. The same season, Bob Crane was introduced as Alex's colleague and neighbor Dave Kelsey; Anne McCrea played his wife Midge.

Though the show continued until 1966, it cracked the Top 25 only once, placing 16th in the 1963-64 season.

The series' young stars also found success as recording artists. Paul Petersen, who has formed a support group for former child actors, had a hit in 1962 with "She Can't Find Her Keys," which he introduced on the series. He also had another Top 10 song in "My Dad," which was about Dr. Stone. And of course, Shelley Fabares recorded one of the all-time fave discs, "Johnny Angel," which went to No. 1 and is a mainstay on oldies radio.

"The Donna Reed Show Farewell" begins Friday at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon; "Donna Reed" airs this week only, weekdays at 1:30 a.m., on Nickelodeon.

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