The television series ran just one season, 1969-1970. It was created by Melville Shavelson, who wrote and directed the pilot episode and was one of the show's principal writers. Sheldon Leonard was executive producer. Another of the show's producers, Danny Arnold, co-wrote or directed numerous episodes, and even appeared as Santa Claus in "Rally Round the Flag."
Live action adaptations of Thurber's writing are another show staple. For example, "Rally Round the Flag," in which Monroe purchases a very large flag as a gift, is loosely based on a Thurber piece called "There's a Time for Flags." An incident with a policeman in "Christabel" is an almost verbatim transcription of the Thurber story "The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery". Fables for Our Time is another source, as when John Monroe sees a unicorn in the back yard, a reference to "The Unicorn in the Garden." Many of the episode titles are taken from Thurber's Fables for Our Time (e.g., "The Shrike and the Chipmunks") and other writings ("Rules for a Happy Marriage" and many more).
Aside from his obvious resemblance to Thurber himself, John Monroe is based on one of Thurber's characters, who appeared in several short stories including "Mr. Monroe Holds the Fort" and "The Monroes Find a Terminal." Monroe and his family first came to television in a 1959 Alcoa Theatre/Goodyear Theatre production called "Cristabel (The Secret Life of John Monroe)", also written by Melville Shavelson. The dog Cristabel was named after a dog Thurber gave to his daughter.
Despite the liberal use of "drawings, stories, inspirational pieces and things that go bump in the night by James Thurber" (as stated in the opening credits), the show also contains character and story elements that owe little or nothing to Thurber's work. For example, there is no Thurber basis for Monroe and daughter Lydia playing chess throughout "Little Girls Are Sugar & Spice - And Not Always Nice!" Although Thurber material is woven around it, the episode's storyline itself is fairly conventional situation comedy.
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The tone of these pieces ranges from lighthearted wordplay and dialect ("What Do You Mean It Was Brillig?") to literary satire ("The Macbeth Murder Mystery") to psychological horror ("The Whip-Poor-Will" and "A Friend to Alexander"). The most famous story is "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", which bears little resemblance to the film starring Danny Kaye.
None of the stories in the book are about the Monroe family, as seen in the television series.