When fans speak of their undying love for The Abbott and Costello Show, they are almost always talking about the first season, which premiered in 1952. That season featured the team as themselves living in a boarding house run by a landlord who was constantly trying to get them to pay their back rent. With Lou Costello running the show, he and Abbott populated the series with old burlesque stars they knew and loved as well as past film co-stars they worked well with. In short, if you were a cast member of The Abbott and Costello Show, it was because Bud and Lou enjoyed your company and your talent. Hence, burlesque crony Sid Fields played the landlord "Sid Fields" and comic Joe Besser played the bizarre and often violent overgrown neighborhood kid Stinky. Tough guy Gordon Jones, who had worked with the boys in THE WISTFUL WIDOW OF WAGON GAP, played Mike Kelly, aka Mike the Cop, and lovely Hillary Brooke played lovely Hillary Brooke, the classy upstairs neighbor whom Lou had a crush on. Lou Costello's brother-in-law, Joe Kirk, played Baccigalupe, an Italian immigrant who seemed to run a different business in every episode.
The episodes were virtually plotless. The show would start with the boys appearing on stage before a curtain, where they would either set up the "plot" for the evening or run through one of their routines. From there, the shows could literally go anywhere. The first season was undisciplined, ramshackle and often surreal. With Sid Fields writing most of the scripts, almost every episode was just one routine leading to another. Nobody worried about whether a gag fit into the episode as long as it was funny. There were dead spots in each episode, especially the earlier ones, but there were always scenes where the boys and cast suddenly caught fire and rattle off 7 minutes of hilarious footage. In the episode "Alaska", Bud Abbott sports a mustache for the first time. Obviously, scenes for different episodes were filmed at various times and edited together later, because in the same episode, Bud is seen without a mustache, and there is a scene where he is "painting on" his mustache to fool the landlord.
In their films, Abbott and Costello would often bring the plot to a complete stop while they ran through "Who's On First?", "13 x 7 = 28" or "You're 40, She's 10". In the first season of the series, the plots were built around the routines. A plot about a local carnival provided the excuse to run through "The Lemon Bit" and "Buzzin' the Bee". A plot about the boys in the army was used to reprise "The Examination", "The Drill Bit" and "The Dice Game" from BUCK PRIVATES. Building the stories around old burlesque sketches created a world in which it sometimes seemed that Lou Costello was the only sane person on Earth, and everybody else, including Bud Abbott, was completely nuts!
"The Music Lovers" is a perfect example of an Abbott And Costello Show" episode. Bud and Lou overheard Hillary Brooke's father telling her that she must marry a man with musical talent. Bud suggests Lou take singing lessons with Professer Mellonhead (Sid Fields). On the street Lou has a run-in with a crazy woman. At Professer Mellonhead's, they go through an old "Singing Teacher" routine. When they get back to the apartment, they overhear Hillary's father saying he wants his daughter's beau to be a piano player. Bud has an idea, so they head out to Baccigalupe's record store. On the street, Lou has a run-in with Stinky. At the record store, Baccigalupe reads a couple of funny titles of Italian records, and the scene devolves into Lou and Baccigalupe smashing records over each other's head. Back on the street, Lou has another run-in with Stinky. At Hillary's apartment, the boys go through an old routine titled "All Right" in which Bud hides behind a piano, and whenever he hears Lou say the words "All Right", he either starts or stops the record while Lou pretends to play. Between Hillary's dad saying "All Right!" a few times and Bud falling asleep behind the piano, the plan quickly unravels. The show ends not with any sort of resolution about the argument between Hillary and her dad, but with Lou being pushed into a piano, turning it into kindle, and then the boys saying good night to the audience from in front of the theatrical curtain. In the following episode, there was, of course, no mention of Hillary's father.
In the episode "The Politician", Bud and Lou have suddenly adopted a chimp named Bingo, because, I guess, their lives weren't insane enough. - JB
NOTE: I haven't worked my way through Season Two yet.