Why did married couples on TV shows have separate beds?

All the married couples on TV shows in the fifties and the early sixties were traditionally required to sleep in different beds, to maintain the moral codes which existed in those times. A number of top TV couples of all time, like Ward and June Cleaver, and Rob and Laura Petrie, never attained the opportunity to sleep together in the same bed in front of an engrossed American audience.

Evolutionary

The first TV show which contained scenes of a wife and husband regularly sharing a single bed was aired in the year 1947. It was the Dumont sitcom “Mary Kay and Johnny”. It was also the first sitcom in the world. The show was about the lives of a newly married couple residing in Greenwich Village. There are currently no copies of the show and hence the validity of this fact is dependent on the document memories of those who had watched the program. Then, in the fifties Ozzie and Harriet did the unthinkable and were seen knocking knees in the same bed.

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in "It Happened One Night"
Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in "It Happened One Night" | Source

A Moment in Time

Darrin and Samantha Stephens from the prime time show “Bewitched”/ABC/1964-72 are another TV couple who are being touted as the first to share the same bed. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from the show “I Love Lucy” definitely slept in different beds. However, their neighbors Fred and Ethel were kind of the first couple on the show to be seen sharing the same bed. In the episode ‘First Stop’ aired on January 17th, 1955, Fred and Ethel can be seen squirming together on a sagging mattress.

We wanna know...

Who's Your Favorite TV Couple?

  • Darrin and Samantha Stephens ("Bewitched")
  • Lucy and Ricky Ricardo ("I Love Lucy")
  • Fred and Ethel ("I Love Lucy")
  • Ward and June Cleaver ("Leave it to Beaver")
  • Ozzie and Harriett Nelson ("The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet")
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Regulations

The Hays Code was the reason why TV couples were not seen in a single bed together. The code consisted of a number of rules and regulations which were created in the 1930s to overlook the action of the producers and directors from the Hollywood film industry.

Goofy Rules

The censorship guidelines of Hays Code mandated that a woman and a man cannot be seen together in a single bed. In case a scenario arose where a man and a woman had to be in the same bed, then one of them was required to place a leg on the floor. For example, a man was allowed to sit on the side of a bed and talk to a women sleeping or sitting on that bed. However, one of his legs had to remain in contact with the floor during the entire scene.

1968

The Hayes Code became defunct after it was replaced by the MPAA Ratings launched in November of 1968. The MPAA ratings guidelines consist of G, M, R, and X ratings.

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