For four seasons, Max Shulman’s The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis was a huge hit on CBS. Starring Dwayne Hickman as Dobie and Bob Denver as his beatnik buddy, Maynard G Krebs, it ran from 1959-1963. Previously in an MGM film, Bobby Van ( with Debbie Reynolds) was Dobie.
Based on the short stories of humorist Max Shulman, George Burns bought the rights to produce a television series of Dobie at his McCadden Productions. George owned several shows including (of course) Burns and Allen, The People’s Choice with Jackie Cooper( and Cleo the talking dog) and Love That Bob that starred Bob Cummings and Dwayne Hickman as his nephew Chuck. George later initially owned Mr. Ed.
George’s son, Ronnie Burns was a regular on Burns and Allen. George was anxious to find a program for his son. He suggested Ronnie as Dobie. He even filmed a pilot film with Ronnie in 1956. Max Shulman hated it. While Burns owned 67% of the project-Shulman owned 33% and had veto power. Max wanted Martin Milner, Dick Sargent ( later Darrin #2), Mark Rydell or Dwayne Hickman.
Max put up a protest telling his agent that Ronnie burns was a ” wooden Indian” with zero talent. He predicted a quick cancellation if Ronnie Burns was involved. He told his agent that George carried Ronnie who would do irreplaceable harm to Max’s favorite character.
CBS saw the pilot and ordered a series, with Ronnie, for the 1957 season. They even had a sponsor. Shulman still refused to approve the series and eventually , the project was cancelled and George let his option lapse.
In 1959, Twentieth Century Fox bought the property from Max, cast Dwayne Hickman as Dobie( and had to leave George’s show Love That Bob). It was produced by Martin Manulis. Ironically, George’s son in law, Rod Amateau became the director and creative force with Shulman behind ” The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” which became a cultural phenomenon. It became one of the first programs aimed at the youth market
Ronnie Burns eventually left Show business and opened a boat repair shop. He died at the age of 72 in 2007.