Thomas played Danny Williams, a successful comedian and nightclub entertainer at the Copa Club. Jean Hagen played his serious and loving wife Margaret, Sherry Jackson their daughter Terry, and Rusty Hamer their son Rusty. The show's premise dealt with Danny rarely having time to spend with his family and Margaret dealing with the children on her own. Margaret often felt neglected by her husband, and on several occasions felt like leaving him. Margaret was a society woman and strict with the children, but loved her family. Louise Beavers made several appearances during this era as the Williams' maid, Louise Evans, and often found herself at odds with Danny and sided with Margaret in most fights between the couple. Nana Bryant appeared often as Margaret's kind mother, of whom Danny and the children were fond, but Margaret, who had been raised by her aunt and uncle because of her mother being away on stage tours often, was not as warm towards her mother. Bryant died in late 1955 and her character simply stopped appearing. During 1955, Louise Beavers became ill and Amanda Randolph took over the role of Louise.
For its first three years, Make Room For Daddy garnered decent ratings, but failed to make the list of the top-30 programs. Shortly after the third season finished filming, Jean Hagen left the show due to dissatisfaction with her role and frequent clashes with Danny Thomas. Thomas was upset with her for leaving, as he felt the show would not last without her, but he decided to push on without Hagen. At the start of the fourth season, the series title was changed to The Danny Thomas Show. Both Thomas and producer Sheldon Leonard were faced with a serious dilemma - how to explain Jean Hagen's absence on the show. To have Danny and Margaret Williams separate and divorce would have been unacceptable to television audiences at that time. So, it was explained that Margaret had died suddenly off-screen. It was a risky move. Until this time, no character on a situation comedy had died. Danny was now a widower juggling a performing career while raising two children on his own. Danny had Louise and his friends often looking after the children while he was still touring. He decided to move them to a boarding school, but later relented and the family moved into a new apartment. During the season, Danny dated a few other women and nearly got engaged to a widowed singer until he found out she did not like children. By season's end, the ratings had suffered and it was decided that a wife and mother was needed to complete the family unit. In a four-part story arc that began airing in April, 1957, Rusty fell ill with the measles and Danny hired Kathy O'Hara (Marjorie Lord), a young Irish nurse, to look after him. Kathy was a widow with a little girl (played by Lelani Sorenson). Danny and Kathy became fast friends and Danny fell in love with her very quickly, as did the kids. In the season finale, Kathy proposed to Danny (as Danny was too nervous to do so himself) and the two became engaged. At this time, ABC cancelled the series, which proved to be fortunate. In the spring of 1957, I Love Lucy, which had reigned as the top-rated show for almost all of its six-year run on CBS, was ending production. When CBS heard that ABC was cancelling The Danny Thomas Show, they picked it up for their fall season line-up, adding it to the 1957-1958 schedule.
The Danny Thomas Show made its debut on the CBS Television Network on Monday, October 7, 1957 at 9:00pm, inheriting the time slot vacated by I Love Lucy. The fifth-season premiere episode "Lose Me In Las Vegas" had Danny and Kathy already married and on their honeymoon. The Williams family moved into a larger, brand new apartment and with the change of network, the producers also changed Kathy's daughter. Lelani Sorenson was dropped from the cast and replaced by Angela Cartwright as Linda. Linda was then adopted by Danny, and the show's ratings dramatically increased. In fact, at the end of its fifth season, The Danny Thomas Show posted its highest rating at that time ranking at number two. During this season, Amanda Randolph was sick and rarely appeared as Louise. The majority of the season, Louise was said to be recovering from the flu and Kathy was seen doing most of the housework.
In the early part of the sixth season, Sherry Jackson left the show and the character of Terry was said to have gone to a girls school in Paris. According to an interview posted on IMDB, Jackson commented on her close friendship with Jean Hagen and why she left the series. She said, "The major perk was Jean Hagen. I adored her. We had a great time. She and I were best buddies; she was my only friend from the Make Room for Daddy cast. What made me specifically want to leave the show? I had a five-year contract, Jean had a three-year contract. Jean was thoroughly fed up with the series and made it clear that she didn't want to come back. When she left, I was devastated. I didn't want to continue, either. I wanted to break my contract. They wouldn't let me leave, but gave me less to do; that's why I'm in fewer shows from ages 14–16."
During season seven, the character of Terry was brought back, but recast with Penney Parker. Terry was featured in a seven-episode story arc which had her engaged and eventually married to Pat Hannigan (Pat Harrington, Jr.), a nightclub friend of Danny's. After the wedding, the Hannigans moved to California and Terry was rarely mentioned, and Pat and she were never seen on the program again.
In the last two seasons, Danny and Kathy both regularly traveled (Danny Thomas and Marjorie Lord were tired from their roles and decided to reduce them to a degree) and much of the tenth season they were touring Europe (a handful of episodes featured location-shot footage from Europe), and Rusty and Linda were looked after by Danny's manager, Charlie Halper (Sid Melton) and his wife, Bunny (Pat Carroll). During the 11th and final season, Thomas decided to retire from the show and the program ended in spring 1964. At this time, it was still one of the most popular television programs, ranking at number nine.Danny Thomas as Danny Williams
Jean Hagen as Margaret Williams (1953–1956)
Marjorie Lord as Kathy "Clancey" O'Hara Williams (1957–1964)
Rusty Hamer as Rusty Williams
Angela Cartwright as Linda Williams (1957–1964)
Sherry Jackson as Terry Williams (1953–1958)
Penney Parker as Terry Williams (1959–1960)
Louise Beavers as Louise (1953–1955)
Amanda Randolph as Louise (1955–1964)
The supporting cast included:Sid Melton as Charlie Halper
Pat Carroll as Bunny Halper (1961–1964)
Sheldon Leonard as Phil Brokaw (1957–1961)
Ben Lessy as Benny (1953–1959)
Mary Wickes as Liz O'Neal (1955–1957)
Pat Harrington, Jr. as Pat Hannigan (1959–1960)
Jesse White as Jesse Leeds (1953–1957)
Hans Conried had frequent guest appearances as Danny's eccentric Lebanese "Uncle Tonoose". (In real life, Thomas was Lebanese, Conried was not.) Other frequent guests included Bill Dana as Jose Jimenez, Annette Funicello as an Italian exchange student named Gina Manelli, and Thomas' protégée Italian teenaged singer Piccola Pupa. Other notable guest stars included band leader and musician Harry James, who appeared in the episode "The Trumpet Player", and the legendary Jimmy Durante, who appeared as himself in the episode "Danny and Durante".
The theme music was various versions (changing over the years) of the traditional Irish song, "Danny Boy".
The series was responsible for the creation of another long-running sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. In the seventh season, Danny Thomas is arrested by Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) and detained in the small town of Mayberry in an episode entitled "Danny Meets Andy Griffith". The episode aired on February 15, 1960, and The Andy Griffith Show premiered later that year on October 3.
The series also crossed over to several other series, including The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and The Joey Bishop Show.
Morey Amsterdam guest-starred as Buddy Sorrell of The Dick Van Dyke Show in the episode "The Women Behind the Jokes".
Some episodes featured Bill Dana as Jose Jimenez, which led to the spin-off series The Bill Dana Show. Danny Thomas played himself in one episode.
The show ended in 1964, but Danny Thomas, Marjorie Lord, Angela Cartwright, Rusty Hamer, Sherry Jackson, Amanda Randolph, and Hans Conried returned in a two-hour-long "reunion" specials on NBC – The Danny Thomas TV Family Reunion in 1965 (considered the first TV reunion show), and Make More Room For Daddy, which aired as an episode of The Danny Thomas Hour in November 1967. Shortly after filming the second special in 1967, Randolph died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 70. Then a CBS reunion special, Make Room for Granddaddy, was aired in 1969. The special did so well that it was picked up as a series by CBS, but Thomas considered the slot they gave it as a quiet slot and pulled the show.
ABC brought it back on a weekly basis in 1970, in Make Room for Granddaddy. For the series premiere, Sherry Jackson reprised her role of oldest daughter Terry. No mention was made of her husband Pat Hannigan. Instead, for this new version of the series, Terry's husband was named Bill, who was a soldier. In this episode, Terry left her son, 6-year-old Michael (played by Michael Hughes) in the care of his grandparents (Danny and Kathy) so she could join Bill, who was stationed overseas. In addition to Marjorie Lord, Rusty Hamer, and Angela Cartwright, the only other returning regulars were Sid Melton as Charley Halper and Hans Conried as Uncle Tonoose. During that season, new characters were played by Stanley Myron Handelman and former football player Roosevelt Grier. The show lasted only one year, producing 24 episodes; its cancellation came at a time when the networks were purging content favoring older, rural, and other less affluent viewers due to the loss of a half-hour of daily program time in 1971. According to Marjorie Lord, the series faced many obstacles, including the unprofessionalism and inexperience of the child actor Michael Hughes, the absence of Sheldon Leonard as producer/director to control Thomas and improve the quality of the scripts, and the fact that ABC switched the time slot of the show from Wednesday nights at 8:00 pm to Thursday nights at 9:00 pm. As a result, the ratings went from mediocre to poor.
Reruns of the ABC episodes were aired Monday through Friday, on NBC from October 4, 1960, to March 26, 1965. CBS aired primetime repeats April 19 through September 6, 1965, on Monday nights at 9:30 pm EST. Subsequently, most of the CBS episodes were then syndicated and offered to local stations. The first four seasons from ABC were not put into syndication.
From February 1, 1987 to 1991, the show's fifth through ninth seasons were shown on Nick at Nite. TV Land has also shown several of the Marjorie Lord episodes. GoodLife Television aired the majority of the episodes from the fourth season until the seventh season (and select episodes from seasons eight and nine).
Me-TV aired the show from Labor Day of 2012 to December 31, 2014.
In 2014, the series also joined the weekday line up of Cozi TV, where it currently airs all 1957-1964 episodes featuring Marjorie Lord in reruns.
On September 28, 2004, Questar released the complete fifth season on Region 1 DVD. The set includes two special episodes: the fourth-season finale, "Danny's Proposal", and the pilot for The Andy Griffith Show.
The complete sixth season on DVD was released on January 22. 2008. It was released by a different company from the season-five package and contained uncut episodes with vintage second-run opening titles from the early 1960s NBC network daytime reruns.
Several of the early episodes with Jean Hagen can be purchased on discount DVDs, as these episodes have entered public domain due to lapse of copyright.