Marty Ingels reflects about his TV series “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster”

Marty Ingels is known best for his role of Arch Fenster in the 1962 short-lived series “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster”.  Thanks to Lightyear Entertainment, the series has been revived and Volume 1 containing the first 16 episode was recently released.  Read our review here.  Media Mikes had a chance to revisit the show with Marty and also talk about working with his wife, Shirley Jones and his possible upcoming one-man show.

Mike Gencarelli: Since “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster” only lasted one season of 32 episodes, how can you reflect on its renewed interest?
Marty Ingels: It is hard to get people interested in things that happened 50 years ago. The fact that it still holds up today is impressive. The big mistake was that it was canceled in the first place.  All the rumors said that they canceled it before the ratings even came in.  When the ratings came out, we had beaten both of our competitions  “Sing-along with Mitch” and “Route 66”.  We had beaten both of them and they were giants.  If we had stayed on one more season we would have caught up and then who knows what would have happened.

MG: How was revisiting the show with the Volume 1 DVD release with new interviews and episode commentary?
MI: Good question.  I will be honest with you, I am 76 years old now and I thought this show was going to be the rocket for me. Funny story, Patrick Cassidy came to me after watching these episodes and told me “Ingles, I have to tell you when I saw you in your twenties and what a natural comic with such great timing you were…you must have done something monumental to fuck up your career.” [laughs]. So, there was a lot of feelings of nostalgia though and looking back over my life, but I am glad the show is getting the attention it deserves.

MG: Did you how any room to improv at all during the production?
MI: You know something, I leaned very much on the material.  All of the writers were great. Lenny Stern came from “The Honeymooners”, amongst many others.  I was up to my ass in creative people, who knew what to do with Marty Ingels.  It was just great.  At that time, improv wasn’t that big either.  Nobody really said “Hey guys, we want you to run with this here”.  There was so much precise physical stuff.  I got a fan letter from Stan Laurel and complimented me on my physical comedy, so that was amazing.  But when you do physical comedy, you can’t improvise as much.

MG: Looking back you have done over 100 TV and film appearances, which are some of the best ones which were some of the worst ones?
MI: All my TV and movie “guest shots” were good…small but good. I only wish they’d have been “bigger”.

MG: How has The TV sitcom changed over the years, good or bad?
MI: It’s easier to get a laugh with blue stuff. The guys who work clean are the REAL comedy masters, period.

MG: You got a couple of films coming up co-starring with your wife Shirley Jones, tell us about that experience?
MI: Those came about when Shirley got the job and they asked “Doesn’t she have an old Jewish husband that they keep upstairs in the Anne Frank room?” [laughs].  We just did a film in Cincinnati and we’ve been doing a lot of independent films naturally.  Shirley had some scenes with me and what’s funny is that we have never worked together before. She works in a different way that I do and goes very strictly by the word of the script.  The director said when we were done with a scene if we could do it again and try improving it and just letting it flow.  So it was fascinating, I did my comic thing and I didn’t hold back at all and Shirley wasn’t afraid to bring it either. So I have been enjoying it quite a bit.

MG: Have you ever considered to do a one-man show?
MI: I have been told that I should do a one-man show many times now.  Nobody gets a regeneration at 75 as a comic.  I actually never did stand-up either, I went straight to Hollywood.  Everyone has been telling me to do it, so I have going back and forth figuring out if I have enough material.  Since comedy now is all about stories, I have quite a few of those.  So I have been circling around that.  I already have my opening line written.  I would point to the lady in the first row and ask “How long did it you to get here?” and she would say “Oh I took the freeway, so about a half hour”.  Ask the person next to her and they would say “I came from Pasadena, so it took an hour and half.  Then I would say to the audience “It took me 47 years to get here”.  Life is interesting and it has a lot of twists and turns.

DVD Review “I’m Dickens…He’s Fenster: Volume One”

Directed by: Arthur Hiller, Norman Abbott
Starring: John Astin, Marty Ingels, Lee Meriwether
Distributed by: Lightyear Entertainment
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: April 10, 2012
Running Time: 609 minutes

Volume One: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

Prior to reviewing this DVD, I have to admit I was unaware of “I’m Dickens…He’s Fenster”. I was though quite aware of John Astin, Marty Ingels and Lee Meriwether. This DVD marks the 50th Anniversary of 1960s TV sitcom and it is also the first time that these episodes have been released on DVD. The release contains a three-disc set which contains over 10 hours of content. It features the first sixteen episodes of thirty-two from the show’s only season. It is very sad that this show only latest one season because it is a riot. It is simple and subtle but extremely funny. The show is created by Leonard Stern who is responsible for hit comedy shows like “The Honeymooners” and “Sergeant Bilko”. I have to certainly thank Glass Onyon PR for allowing us to find this wonderful gem of a show.  I look forward to sharing this series with my soon-to-be-born daughter. This DVD is highly recommended…simply wonderful.

“I’m Dickens… He’s Fenster” follows Harry (Astin) and Arch (Ingels) and their adventures being best friends and also working together as construction workers.  Ingels easily steals the show and is just such a pleasure to watch. The two are absolutely hilarious and are backed but some amazing guest stars including: Yvonne Craig (Batgirl from “Batman”), Harvey Korman (“The Carol Burnett Show”), Sally Kellerman (“M*A*S*H”), Peter Lupus (“Mission: Impossible”), Lee Meriwether (“The Time Tunnel”), Ellen Burstyn (“The Exorcist”), Edy Williams (“Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”), and Jim Nabors (“The Andy Griffith Show”). The series looks great on DVD and the episodes look sharp and really clear for a show that is 50 years old. It is also presented in full frame with 1.33:1 ratio and original mono audio track.

The special features on this DVD release are jam packed. There are all-new interviews including stars John Astin and Marty Ingels, Directors Arthur Hiller, Norman Abbott, and Creator/Producer Leonard Stern. If you are fan of audio commentaries there are bunch feature John Astin and Marty Ingels, Yvonne Craig, Lee Meriwether, Dave Ketchum, Chris Korman (son of Harvey Korman) and creator/producer Leonard Stern. There is a funny featurette called “I’m Dickens…He’s Fenster Get Physical”. There is a very sweet video tribute to the late Leonard Stern. There are three funny featurettes including “The Joke”, “Love Me, Love My Dog” and “How Not to Succeed in Business”. There are old commercials including Bumpers, ABC TV Network Promo and Cast Commercial. Lastly there is a ‘Thank You’ slide show video featuring the dozens of people who helped make the 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition a reality.