For twenty years, 1951-1971, The Red Skelton Show was one of the top shows on television, trailing only Gunsmoke (Great American Things, October 1, 2010) and The Ed Sullivan Show (Great American Things, August 25, 2009) in the ratings.
The show featured Red performing his cast of characters, which included the Old West sheriff “Deadeye,” the crooked real estate agent “San Fernando Red,” the boxer “Cauliflower McPugg,” the hick “Clem Kadiddlehopper,” the brat “Mean Widdle Kid,” the seagulls “Gertrude and Heathcliffe,” and the hobo clown “Freddie the Freeloader.” The show usually had a musical act (the Rolling Stones made their first American appearance with Red) and a guest star. During the skits, it wasn’t unusual for the guest or Red to crack up, which was part of the show’s charm.
The show won a few Emmy Awards, but its greatest triumph was the loyalty its fans had during its long run. Red Skelton’s closing each week was the same, and is one of the most memorable in TV history: “Good night, and may God bless.”