Mister Ed is an American television situation comedy produced by Filmways that first aired in syndication from January 5 to July 2, 1961, and then on CBS from October 1, 1961, to February 6, 1966.
The stars of the show are Mister Ed, a palomino horse who could talk (“played” by gelding Bamboo Harvester and voiced by former western star Allan Lane [who went uncredited for the entire length of the series]), and his owner, an eccentric and enormously klutzy yet friendly architect named Wilbur Post (portrayed by Alan Young). Much of the program’s humor stemmed from the fact Mister Ed would speak only to Wilbur, as well as Ed’s notoriety as a troublemaker. According to the show’s producer, Arthur Lubin, Young was chosen as the lead character because he “just seemed like the sort of guy a horse would talk to”. Lubin, a friend of Mae West, scored a coup by persuading the screen icon to guest star in one episode.
In the United States, reruns aired on Nick at Nite from March 3, 1986, to February 1, 1993. Sister station TV Land also reran the show from 1996–98 and again from 2003-06. The series is currently broadcast every morning on This TV, along with sister series The Patty Duke Show. As of January 1, 2011, the first two seasons of the show are available on Hulu.
The show was derived from a series of short stories by Walter R. Brooks, which began with The Talking Horse in the 18-Sep-1937 issue of Liberty. Brooks is otherwise known for the Freddy the Pig series of children’s novels, which likewise feature talking animals who interact with humans. Lubin’s secretary Sonia Chernus, is credited as developing the format for television, by introducing the Brooks stories to Lubin himself.
The concept of the show was similar to Francis the Talking Mule, with the equine normally talking only to one person (Wilbur), and thus both helping and frustrating its owner. The Francis movies, not coincidentally, were Directed by Arthur Lubin who performed the same duty on the TV show of Mister Ed. The show had some regular writers such as William Davenport, Lou Derman, Larry Rhine and Ben Starr. The series was restricted in setting, but often quite amusing.
The theme song was written by the songwriting team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and sung by Livingston. After using only the music to open the first seven episodes, a decision was made to replace the instrumental-only version with one containing the lyrics. Livingston agreed to sing it himself, at least until a professional singer could be found; however, the producers liked the songwriter’s vocals and kept them on the broadcast.
A joke/controversy concerning the theme song has existed since at least the 1980s: that the tune contains “satanic messages” if played in reverse. This YouTube video suggests that some portions reverse to “sing this song for Satan” and “Satan is the singer”. Over the years, many radio stations have kept this rumor alive, mostly as a parody of the whole “backmasking” controversy.