It took Sally Field more than a decade to live down starring in The Flying Nun, and to begin getting the respect as an actress she should've gotten for Gidget, the show she did before donning the habit. Based on Frederick Kohner's lightly J.D. Salinger-esque novel—or, more accurately, on the hit movie series adapted from that novel—Gidget cast Field as an impulsive, melodramatic high-school surfer, suffering adolescent crises alongside her widowed college-professor father in a sunny coastal California suburb. The 32 episodes on the four-DVD set Gidget: The Complete Series don't deviate much from the standard sitcom plots of the time: Field makes two dates for the same dance, joins a rock band, leads her friends in a mostly symbolic protest, and so on. But for a fortysomething woman, head writer Ruth Brooks Flippen had a real sense of the wistfulness and optimism of teenage life.
Credit the show's flavorfully slangy dialogue, which has Field calling her life "a complete and total ick," and introducing her family to her chum "Muzzy The Masochist." Field was also one of the few teenage girls on TV with a real ugly-duckling best friend, and Gidget may have been the era's only show to dedicate an entire episode to the heroine's family thinking she'd lost her virginity, because she used the phrase "sink into nothingness" in her diary.
Gidget became a hit in summer reruns after it had already been cancelled, so ABC and Harry Ackerman's production company Screen Gems rushed to get the actress back on TV, in The Flying Nun, which Field really didn't want to do. While a pop-culture revolution blazed across the country, Field spent 1967 to 1970 playing a peppy nun whose winged wimple, coupled with the winds at her Puerto Rican mission, allowed her to make short flights around the island. The 30 episodes on The Flying Nun: The Complete First Season have a weird, insipid charm even now, but making someone as vivacious and sweetly worldly as Field into an asexual moralist didn't do her any favors. It almost ruined the career of a future Academy Award winner, by crushing the Gidget within.
Key features: Lengthy and surprisingly honest Field interviews enhance both these sets—especially the otherwise-iffy Flying Nun, which Field gleefully rips to shreds.