A lot of people will tell you that television has never been better than it is now. They have a point. Between the gobs of money being funneled into it by streaming services like Netflix, and big-time movie stars showing up in fancy prestige dramas, and the sheer number of quality options out there for the audience to choose from, it’s an exciting time for the business in a lot of ways. We can kind of become immune to it all sometimes, I think, just because it’s all been happening so much for a few years now, but it’s still pretty incredible to think about. So there’s that.
But there’s also this: In a 1963 episode of Mister Ed, a horse hit a home run off of Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, so modern-day television can go screw.
We should back up, though. Some context will help. And by “some context,” I mean “a brief discussion about how profoundly weird Mister Ed was.” It was a show about a man who had a mischievous talking horse and tried to hide it from everyone. Also, the horse was a genius. Also, the horse was named Mister Ed, which is a kind of hilarious thing to name a horse, if we’re being honest about it. Especially since the main human character is named Wilbur. Wilbur is a better horse name than Ed. I have always said this.
And it’s not just the premise that was weird, which, again, it was, incredibly, in a “this sounds like the plot of an Adult Swim cartoon that people on Reddit are very passionate about for some reason” way. The individual episodes are madness. Wild, unhinged madness, often involving Mister Ed doing people things and/or being a real jerk. Look at this brief list of actual episode descriptions from the show’s Wikipedia page.
- “Mister Ed feels unwanted and attempts to become the first horse astronaut in space.”
- “A magician’s elephant that Wilbur takes in drives Mister Ed crazy with his antics.”
- “Zsa Zsa Gabor is in town to film a western but is fearful of horses. She overcomes her fear of horses and plans to take Ed to Australia.”
- “Ed decides he feels rejected and unwanted so he joins the beatniks on the beach.”
- “The Posts buy Kay a cockatoo for her birthday. Ed gets it into his head to liberate the bird and the entire animal shelter in the style of Abe Lincoln.”
- “Ed pretends to have the mumps in order to compete for attention with a neighbors’ baby who is attracting the attention of the Posts and the Kirkwoods.”
- “Kirkwood goes over the line in playing with pool sharks so Ed comes to his rescue.
- “Ed desires to learn how to fly an airplane.”
And so on. There’s another one that reads “To teach Ed a lesson, Wilbur locks him in his stall so he can’t steal any more brownies and warm baking pies out from the kitchen window,” which would be goofy enough on its own even if the episode wasn’t titled, I swear to God, “Ed’s Tunnel to Freedom.” When your parents and grandparents tell you the shows you like are too weird and disturbing, please remind them of this. It’s not like there were hundreds of channels, either. There were, like, four. There were maybe 70-80 shows total at the time and one was about a devious talking horse who tunneled out of his stable to steal pies. The Greatest Generation, indeed.