This NOT Just In: The Last Episode Of J.P. Patches
It was three decades ago this week that one of the longest running daily TV shows in Pacific Northwest history came to an end.
Show Audio: "Let's find out, was that joke a (ding) or a (crash)? It was a (crash)! Oh, Miss Smith, it's tied up! You have one (crash) and one (ding). If you get another (crash), you lose!"
Chris Wedes played J.P. Patches on a kids show by the same name. It aired live on KIRO–TV every morning beginning in February 1958. The show featured skits, special guests and vintage cartoons presented by J.P. from his imaginary shack at the City Dump.
Gertrude: "My new dress is disappearing!"
Gertrude: "Spots all over. It just disappears. No, no, no, no, no. Look, when I say three, it'll disappear!"
J.P.'s co–star was Bob Newman, who played a telephone operator named Gertrude and about a dozen other characters, including Gorst the Friendly Furple, Ketchikan the Animal Man, and J.P.'s arch nemesis, Boris S. Wart. Boris was a creepy but bumbling villain with a bizarre accent. He always tried to take advantage of J.P.'s good nature, and sometimes tried to take over the entire show.
J.P.: "What is it you want?"
Boris: "What is it that I want? I'll tell you what I want."
J.P.: "Tell me."
Boris: "It's about time that you came down to your — "
J.P.: "You want something?"
Boris: "I want this program!"
J.P.: "You want this program?"
Boris: "I want this program. That's it. It's going to be me. It's going to be the Boris S. Wart Program."
In addition to the daily broadcasts, J.P. and Gertrude made thousands of live appearances at shopping centers and county fairs, and they cheered up kids at Children's Hospital.
In person or on TV, the magic came from the quick wit and chemistry of Wedes and Newman, who never worked from a script. Just before show time each morning, they'd map out a basic story line. Then, the pair ad–libbed dialog and improvised visual gags live on the air.
One of the reasons that the show lasted so long was because it appealed both to kids and to grown–ups. Kids liked the slapstick, but Wedes and Newman also gave the grown–ups something to chuckle about. Even the crew enjoyed the gags, as can be heard during this scene with J.P. and Ketchikan the Animal Man:
J.P.: "Hi Gorst!"
Ketchikan: "Gosh. There's something wrong with that Gorst."
J.P.: "Best Gorst we've had in years!"
Ketchikan: "I'm not sure about that."
"The J.P. Patches Show" was a ratings hit and moneymaker for KIRO–TV well into the 70s. Advertising with J.P. was like a Midas touch for products that appealed to kids.
But broadcasting rules changed in 1973, and characters like J.P. and Gertrude were forbidden to pitch products. Critics said they had too much influence on their young viewers. Most local kids programs, including Tacoma's "Brakeman Bill," went off the air within a year or two of the rule change. But J.P. Patches survived.
Then, on December 29, 1978, the bad news came from J.P. himself:
J.P.: "We have a little announcement to make. Today will be the last daily J.P. Patches program, and our next J.P. Patches program will be on Saturday."
The show's 20–year run as a fixture of weekday mornings came to an abrupt end. J.P. would now be seen only on Saturdays.
But even on that final Friday episode, Wedes and Newman played the sad situation for laughs instead of tears. As the clock ticked down, Boris S. Wart made one more attempt to take the show away from J.P., and J.P. let him have it.
J.P.: "You want this program?"
Boris: "That's it."
J.P.: "You can have it."
J.P.: "Yes, it's all yours. On one condition."
Boris: "What's that?"
J.P.: "You start on Monday."
Boris: "Don't you worry, poopsie! At last you came to the right brain movement."
J.P.: "It is — from now on it'll be 'The Boris S. Wart Show.'"
Boris: "My own show!"
J.P.: "Starting Monday."
If anyone tuned in on that Monday expecting to find The Boris S. Wart Show, they would have been disappointed. The City Dump, J.P. and Boris were gone. In their place was a New York TV studio and news anchor Bob Schieffer.
CBS Audio: "From CBS News, this is 'Morning'!"
I'm Feliks Banel for "This NOT Just In."
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Funding for This NOT Just In provided by the KUOW Program Venture Fund. Contributors include Paul and Laurie Ahearn and Puget Sound Energy.
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