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Seattle on TV before Frasier: Here Come the Brides

Seattle's first turn in the network TV spotlight began 45 years ago this week when a show premiered on ABC called "Here Come the Brides." (YouTube screen grab)

The best network TV shows have great writing, a charismatic cast with chemistry, and a setting that functions as a character in the story. Think New York and the original “Law & Order” or even “Portlandia” and Oregon’s quirky metropolis.

Seattle has had its fair share of star turns on TV, with “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Killing,” and perhaps most notably with “Frasier.” Urban legends say that real estate agents still must contend with apartment and condo hunters on Queen Anne Hill asking for the “Frasier View” of the downtown skyline.

The city’s first turn in the network TV spotlight began 45 years ago this week when a show premiered on ABC called “Here Come the Brides.”

The 1960s was the “fish out of water” era, when hit TV programs such as “Bewitched,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Flying Nun” and “My Favorite Martian” featured unreal characters trying to make their way through the unfamiliar territory of domestic America. “Fish out of water” Seattle-style was also set in the 60s, but this time it was the 1860s. The true story of the Mercer Girls, those eligible women brought by Asa Mercer to early Seattle for its eager bachelors, was the inspiration for “Here Come the Brides.”

“Here Come the Brides” was populated with loggers and sailors and, of course, eligible females. Typical plots involved wacky hijinks associated with frontier life and love in a young metropolis. Time Magazine went so far as to describe the show as a “comedy series about a pack of sex-starved lumberjacks working in Seattle after the Civil War.” The Los Angeles Times TV critic said, regarding the show’s setting, that “the thing that looked real was the muddy streets.”

When “Here Come the Brides” was cancelled after just two seasons and 52 episodes, KOMO TV told The Seattle Times that they received “hundreds of letters and telephone calls” from angry viewers. KOMO began playing reruns of the show a few months later.

Along with helping launch the acting and singing careers of teen idols Bobby Sherman and David Soul, the program’s longest lasting legacy is its theme song “Seattle” with the catchy “the bluest skies you’ve ever seen” chorus. Laconic crooner Perry Como’s version is probably the most recognizable, though Sherman, pianist Floyd Cramer and others recorded the song, too. Nearly half a century later, no other song comes close as the city’s unofficial theme song.

Besides those calls complaining to KOMO about the cancellation of “Here Come the Brides,” it’s unclear whether the community embraced the show more than TV audiences in other parts of the country. However, when the one-season wonder Seattle Pilots took the field at the old Sicks Stadium on Rainier Avenue, among other dignitaries on hand for opening day was Bridget Hanley, one of the lead actresses in the series and a University of Washington graduate.

As for the actual Seattle being a character in the show, Seattle in the 1960s looked pretty darn different than Seattle in the 1860s. “Here Come the Brides” was shot at a studio in California, and at a place called Charlton Flats in the Angeles National Forest, 32 miles from Los Angeles.

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