The actress in the Wanted Dead or Alive premiere was meant to be Laura Petrie

Can you picture Jennifer Lea in Mary Tyler Moore's big role?

The history of television is littered with casting "What If's?" What if Micky Dolenz of the Monkees had been cast as the Fonz? What if Raquel Welch had washed up on Gilligan's Island as Mary Ann?

Here's another one with a less familiar name, but it might have swayed the course of TV more than the others. Jennifer Lea was the first actress marked to play the role of Laura Petrie. 

The November 22, 1958, issue of TV Guide featured Ronald and Nancy Reagan on the cover. A small production news item inside mentioned that Jennifer Lea had been tapped to play Laura Petrie, Carl Reiner's wife in an upcoming sitcom titled Man of the House. The character Laura Petrie will be familiar to any classic television fan — the role turned young Mary Tyler Moore into a household name. What would have become of Mary Tyler Moore had she not won that role?

Of course, a lot changed about "Man of the House" before it premiered three years later as The Dick Van Dyke Show. Reiner penned the semi-autobiographical pilot script about a TV writer named Rob Petrie, a role that he intended to play. The network hoped to cast a more popular comedian in the lead.

Nevertheless, in 1960, a pilot was made starring Reiner as "Robbie Petrie" — only it was now called Head of the Family. Oh, and Barbara Britton was playing his wife, Laura. Somewhere along the way, Lea lost the job.

Landon and Adams in ''The Martin Poster''

But Lea can be found at the start of another popular classic. The Wanted: Dead or Alive premiere, "The Martin Poster," a spin-off from Trackdown that gave Steve McQueen's bounty hunter Josh Randall the spotlight, offered a bounty of famous Western faces. Michael Landon guest-starred as one of the wanted Martin boys. The episode aired one year before he made his debut as Little Joe on Bonanza. By his side as the other Martin brother was Nick Adams, best known as Johnny Yuma of The Rebel. Beloved character actor Dabbs Greer rounds out the stellar cast.

Lea turns up as Louise Martin, who ends up assisting our hero Josh Randall in collecting his bounty. She also gathers some eggs from the chickens in a barn, where the final showdown takes place.

The Oklahoma-born actress did not have too many other roles. Her near-miss on Man of the House ended up being a major turning point for her career. She can be found in The Rifleman, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Have Gun - Will Travel. However, following a couple of guest spots on Family Affair, she vanished from the screen.

Watch Wanted Dead or Alive on MeTV!

Saturdays at 4:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


bagandwallyfan52 32 months ago
Does anyone know if there is
Ever going to be a movie
I wonder if there will ever be
A Happy Days Reunion Movie
Or a Reboot of Happy Days.
bagandwallyfan52 32 months ago
Jerry Van Dyke was the original
choice to play Gilligan on
Gilligan's Island but he decided
To go with My Mother The Car.
Also if movie actor Eddie Cantor
Had been born in 1952 instead
Of 1892 he might had had his
Own TV Show called
And Eddie Cantor might have
been competing with Pee Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) with
His show Pee Wees Playhouse.
I read an article on the internet
that Pee Wee Herman would
Like to do a Remake of the
Eddie Cantor movie KID MILLONS (1934).
Kelley1 41 months ago
Harrison Ford gave up trying. He was building a doorway when someone convinced him to try it again. The rest is history.
bagandwallyfan52 Kelley1 32 months ago
Some persons think that
Harrison Ford played Chester Anderson on Leave
It To Beaver but no it was
Buddy Hart who played
Chester Anderson on Leave. It To Beaver
DethBiz 42 months ago
Mary Tyler Moore was a good choice for Laura, but I always thought Victor Buono would have been a better choice for Rob Petrie.
Pacificsun DethBiz 25 months ago
MrsPhilHarris 42 months ago
I love MTM as Laura, although I admit whenever she starts singing or dancing I tune out.
Pacificsun MrsPhilHarris 25 months ago
You mean you haven't DVR'd the "Come Join Me" skit yet?
Andybandit 42 months ago
Mary tyler moore was a good choice for Dick Van Dyke show. I also Dick Van Dyke show and wanted Dead or Alive are good shows.
texasluva 42 months ago
It's fun to read who was either originally cast or turned down a spot in a TV-Show or movie. We learn something new here or from posters everyday. I had no idea the other day when cperrynaples talked about Shatner living out of the back of his truck almost penniless. Things I should know but who knows it all
Load previous comments
texasluva harlow1313 42 months ago
Well look at it this way. One day outta the year you're a hit and Holiday. We love stuffed turkey
or... Two Rules of the Office:

Rule #1 - The Boss is ALWAYS right.
Rule #2 - Should the boss be wrong, refer to rule #1.
MadMadMadWorld harlow1313 42 months ago
I never liked stuffing, since it is mostly full of high calories, high fat levels, and little nutrients. So, don't bother with stuffing, and save on the above and the cost!
Happy Holidays!
I very much enjoy the movies It's A Mad Mad Mad
World with Buddy Hackett
Milton Berle Phil Silvers
Ethel Merman and the rest
Of the cast and I like the
Comedy Movie Sex And The
Single Girl with Tony Curtis
And Natalie Wood.
There are a lot of funny
Scenes of persons in cars
In borh of those 2 movies.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?