If you think back to all of the classic television shows you’ve watched, you may notice that something is missing. For most shows, there were no toilets. Some shows didn’t even mention the bathroom. Television audiences didn’t see a commode on the small screen until 1957. “Leave it to Beaver,” was the first series to show the necessary bathroom appliance. Even then, it was only a partial glimpse. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and track the history of the toilet on television.
“Leave it to Beaver” Shows the First Toilet in 1957
“Leave it to Beaver” is a classic television show. It broke ground in several respects. At the same time, it made a star of Jerry Mathers. The show also made television history by showing the first toilet on screen. However, it wasn’t the whole toilet and it wasn’t being used for its intended purpose.
In the 1957 episode, the Cleaver brothers were looking for a place to keep a baby alligator. They decided that the best place to keep the little guy was in the toilet tank. So, they had to be able to show the commode. However, network censors didn’t like the idea. In the end, they reached a compromise. The censors allowed “Leave it to Beaver,” showrunners to show the tank of the toilet. The bowl, however, had to be left out of the shot.
“All in the Family” Had the First Toilet Flush in 1971
More than a decade after “Leave it to Beaver” broke ground by showing a toilet tank, “All in the Family,” took it a step further. In 1971, the boundary-pushing sitcom played a loud flushing toilet sound for the first time. Unlike its privy predecessor, this wasn’t a one-time thing for the Bunker family. In fact, there were several instances of Archie talking to Edith from the upstairs bathroom. “Do You Remember,” notes one of the funnier toilet flush scenes. In a flashback to Gloria and Mike’s wedding, Edith is calling for Archie to walk his daughter down the stairs. Gloria yells down that she’s waiting on her dad, About that time, the toilet flushes. Archie was otherwise occupied, it seems.
“The Brady Bunch” Never Had a Toilet
“Leave it to Beaver” showed the toilet tank twelve years before “The Brady Bunch” hit the airwaves. However, the folks behind the late-sixties sitcom weren’t trying to push any bathroom boundaries. The Brady clan had a big Jack and Jill bathroom for the kids to share. It had just about everything you would need. They had a nice shower, a double vanity, and some great lighting. On the other hand, there was no toilet in the bathroom.
This stands out because there are several scenes set in the bathroom. Instead of omitting the room completely or keeping to tight shots in the bathroom like “Leave it to Beaver” and several other sitcoms, the Brady home just didn’t contain a commode.
Bonus Toilet Tidbit: The First Cinematic Flushing Toilet 3 Years After “Leave it to Beaver”
Television censors wanted to keep the toilet off-screen as much as possible. At the same time, big-screen standards and practices committees had much the same idea. However, three years after “Leave it to Beaver” broke the toilet taboo by showing the tank, the first flushing toilet appeared in the cinema.
The scene was in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film “Psycho,” and may have been the most shocking scene in the movie. The shot comes when Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, tears up a small note and tosses it into her motel toilet. The camera focuses on the bowl as she flushes the scraps of paper away.
Toilets and bathroom humor are fairly commonplace in television today. However, without “Leave it to Beaver,” we may still be in a world where the commode is a no-go for television shows.