Episode 15: The Driver’s Seat

Hello again readers, family and friends.  Today we review “The Driver’s Seat”.  Marcia’s attempt at getting her driver’s license first aired on January 11th, 1974.  This was the first sibling rivalry/battle of the sexes plot in a while.  It is fitting that the contest was between Greg and Marcia as it was the two oldest kids who fueled most of the plots involving gender roles.  It is a decent episode overall, but again not one that falls into my favorites or least favorites category.  Let us begin reviewing “The Driver’s Seat”!

 

The story opens with Alice coming down the stairs dusting with gusto.  She playfully flips her dusting rag along the handrail.  The cheery mood continues with Marcia arriving home with good news.  Wow, the later season’s episodes either started with one of the kids walking on air or way down in the dumps.  Marcia’s elation is the result of her passing the driver’s education course at school with the highest score.  When the good news is shared with Greg, he questions if Marcia’s high score even beat the scores attained by the guys in the class.  Here is where the episode’s conflict begins.  Greg believes all women drivers are inferior to male drivers.  Greg is so confident in this that he bets Marcia a month’s worth of chore doing that her score for the driver’s license test won’t beat his own.  This the first Brady bet I recall being waged in a while.

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As we see Marcia and Mike cruise around the neighborhood, we get a good look at Mike’s car.  Of all his vehicles over the course of the series, this one is my least favorite.  That thing is huge!  If Marcia learned to drive behind the wheel of this boat, she is ready to drive anything!  One would almost expect to see a pair of steer horns mounted on the front of the car.

 

Upstairs the b-plot begins with Peter working on a model airplane.  Needing to clean his hands he seeks entry into the bathroom.  Jan currently occupies it and is very confrontational about allowing Peter access.  Here we learn the reason for this is that Jan has joined her school’s debate team and she is practicing confrontation.  She gives it another go with Bobby and Cindy who are playing checkers.  Jan suggests Bobby cheated to rankle his ire and defense in practice of another debate tactic.  A funny exchange occurs as Bobby calls Jan weird and then Cindy agrees with him.  After the two youngest exit the room, Jan confirms their assessment of her by debating with Cindy’s doll.  Is Jan wearing pajamas, a robe or a dress in this scene?

 

For the first time in a while, we see the Brady kids all leaving for school at the same time while Alice and Carol hand out lunches.  Jan’s first debate is that day and she walks out the front door oozing with confidence.  In a well done scene transition she returns through the same dejected.  All her debate practice failed to do her any good that day at school.  She blew it and lost the debate for her team.  She states she has never been so humiliated her entire life.  I guess she has finally lived down her embarrassment as the new brunette version of Jan Brady.

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Just for the heck of it, here is a really nice shot of Eve and Maureen.

The main plot continues with Greg continuing to be a donkey’s rear.  His chauvinistic comments about female drivers continue.  It would seem some of Peter’s ways were passed up to Greg for this episode.  So confident is he in the superiority of male driving ability that he ups the ante and extends he and Marcia’s bet to six months of chore servitude.

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Upstairs, encouragement comes from a sibling instead of Mike and Carol.  Marcia consoles Jan on her dismal debate performance.  She gives some great advice in that since Jan knows what to expect going forward, she is past the problem.  It was nice to see a sisterly bond in action in this scene.

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The next day, Mike gives Jan some further encouragement and advice.  He suggests that Jan just imagine the audience in their underwear.  He says the psychology is that nobody can be frightening in their underwear.  Alice cracks a joke suggesting that should she be seen in her unmentionables, it would be frightening.  Mike’s advice here is good for those with a fear of speaking or presenting in front of others.  Another tactic of my own is to imagine the other person or persons in clown makeup.  If you have a fear of clowns, which seems to be in vogue these days, this will not work for you.

 

At her driving test that afternoon, Marcia seems to begin on the most confident of footing.  When the examiner enters the car, she instructs him to buckle his seatbelt before the test will begin.  From here, the confident ground Marcia stands on gives way to a sinkhole and Marcia bombs her test miserably.  For some reason, she suddenly thinks instruments on the dash (the radio, wipers, convertible switch) are essential to driving the car.  She fiddles with them as she has her meltdown.

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Mike drives he and Marcia home.  Bobby and Cindy eagerly approach expecting good news about the test.  A funny exchange occurs as Mike states Marcia did what a lot of new drivers have done.  Bobby asks if she got a ticket.  Inside, Greg cracks another joke about female drivers.  Marcia explodes in anger at his remark.

 

Jan’s day went much better than Marcia’s.  She arrives home a victorious debater.  The underwear strategy Mike shared served her well.  Upstairs, the sisterly consolation plays out again, but in reverse.  Jan encourages Marcia this time.  Marcia says the situation is much worse for herself as the bad thing happened to her.  The talk from Jan works and Marcia is ready to take the test again.

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Marcia is so ready that she ups the ante yet again with Greg.  Now the chores servitude will be for a year!  Maybe Greg agreed because he knew that in less than a year’s time (and maybe even six months) he would be off to college and no longer around to do his sister’s chores.

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The second time Marcia takes her test, she is successful.  At first it would seem that she is about to repeat her earlier folly.  However, she remembers her father’s sage advice about mentally undressing others and it serves her well.  She looks over to see the examiner in boxers and an undershirt and begins laughing uncontrollably.  The examiner is understandably confused.  I will say that having the examiner’s badge pinned to his undershirt was a nice touch for the scene.

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The driver’s license examiner was played by Herb Vigran.  He played the haggard clerk at the Checker Stamp Trading store in season one.  With the end of his employment with the trading stamp company, he must have gotten a job administering driver’s license tests.

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Upon passing her test, it is found that she and Greg tied scores when both their written and driver’s tests scores were combined.  Instead of discouraging the outrageous year long bet, Mike suggests the siblings go head to head in a driving competition.  Really Mike?  Maybe Marcia mentioned the examiner used to work at the trading stamp store and this jogged Mike’s memory to the time the kids challenged each other in building a house of cards.  He must have thought to himself, “The kids learned a valuable lesson about stress and competition that day, let’s revisit that.”

 

The next shot  has the family on location at a construction site setting up cones for Greg and Marcia to navigate.  They wasted no time arranging the test as it appears to be the same day since Mike, Greg and Marcia have on the same clothes they did in the last scene.  The final test will be to see who can get nearest to the last cone, or pylon, without breaking the egg sitting atop it.  If anybody actually thought Greg lostwould win this contest, they obviously had not ever watched an episode of the show before.  Anytime the boys touted male superiority, they were destined to be defeated.  As Greg overthinks the last few feet of the driving test, he hits the gas pedal of the car too hard and breaks the egg.  Marcia does offer him an out for their bet, but he declines saying he will honor it.

The epilogue has Bobby and Cindy challenging each other as the better bike rider.  They ask Peter to judge their ability.  Peter encourages Bobby to rethink this as we see Greg inside ironing clothes.  At the thought of suffering the same fate, Bobby declines to match his bike riding skills against his sister’s.

 

Thank you for joining me today to review “The Driver’s Seat”.  It is a fun episode that follows the Brady sibling rivalry/ battle of the sexes formula that had served the show well for the past four seasons.  With the exception of Peter who had only a few small scenes, the story involved all the Brady kids in some fashion.  Next week we will review an episode that was probably fun when we saw it as children, but not so much as adults. “Out Of This World” is one of those Brady stories that really stretches credibility, but we will have fun reviewing it!  See you next week!

 

 

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Sunday Special: Kelly’s Kids

Greetings again readers!  Thank you for joining me today in this Sunday Special where we acknowledge the episode “Kelly’s Kids”.  This was the first “Brady Bunch” episode to air in 1974.  Friends, I hope you do not feel cheated that this episode is not getting a full review’s treatment.  That was my original plan, but after watching it again, I just don’t think it is warranted.  The episode has only cameos of the Brady family we love and enjoy.  If you feel this episode deserves more attention or discussion, please share your  thoughts with us in the comments!

The overall consensus I’ve gathered through years of surfing message boards for The Brady Bunch is that this episode is disliked.  Although, not too long ago a poster in one of the Facebook groups numbered this episode as one of his/her favorites.  So, perhaps there exists some silent cadre of fans of this episode.  One poster years ago suggested that “Kelly’s Kids” should not even air in the syndication.  A wise reply came from somebody else in that if viewers were deprived of this episode, there would me a massive lament and search for that lost Brady Bunch episode.

The suggested plot and setting of “Kelly’s Kids” is not a bad one.  A childless couple adopts children of three different ethnicities and raises them.  Next door is a snooty and subtly bigoted neighbor who will cause the new family angst.  The idea has the makings of a fun sitcom, but as we all know, this was the first and last time we saw Kelly and his kids.

 

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So nice to see old friends we’ve never met before.

The brief appearance of the Kellys has always been my primary gripe with this episode.  If viewers were going to accept a new TV family courtesy of the Bradys, we should have at least met the Kellys on an earlier episode.  Maybe an episode where they have just moved back to town and must be the Bradys houseguests for an episode and craziness ensues.  This would have been a fun way to meet them.  Maybe change up the airing order and have Bobby and Peter go UFO gazing in the Kellys’ front yard .  Instead, viewers of the show suddenly had this new couple gracing the screen with flashes of their favorite characters popping up sporadically.

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“Hoy, fans of the Golden Girls will never like us.”

The concept of the episode Kelly’s Kids is that of a backdoor pilot.  This concept is nothing new and continued to be used into the 1980s at least.  Fans of The Golden Girls bemoan the episode titled “Empty Nests” where the four sassy golden girls are hardly seen.  However, this pilot did work for producers of the show.  A very different version of a spinoff series titled Empty Nest did come to fruition.  Readers, if you recall other series cheating viewers out of an episode a-la a backdoor pilot, please share!

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Spinoffs can be wildly successful.  During this episode, Mrs. Kelly states their neighbor makes Archie Bunker look like a liberal.  Ah, what irony.  The very show mentioned in this spinoff attempt garnered two successful spinoffs of its own: The Jeffersons and Maude.  There were actually two more, Gloria and Archie Bunker’s Place, that were lesshappydays successful.  Archie Bunker’s neighbors, The Jeffersons, had a wildly popular show.  I myself enjoy The Jeffersons more than I do All In The Family.  However, the fun black neighbors of the Bunkers were not sprung on viewers by starring in a single episode.  I am not sure how many times Maude graced the Bunkers’ door before she got her own program.  Another spinoff I enjoy more than the original came about in the 90s. For me, the antics of Dr. Frasier Crane are much more enjoyable than those of the bar patrons of Cheers.  In both cases, the title characters were introduced over the course of several episodes or seasons.  This brings me to another question readers.  Do you know of any backdoor pilot successes?  I seem to recall Laverne and Shirley and Mork (of Mork and Mindy) appeared on Happy Days only once before getting shows of their own, but I could be wrong.   I know there are fans of Happy Days who read this blog, so maybe they will fill us in.

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At least Kelly’s Kids was attempted with some star power to back it up.  Ken Berry is a fine actor and I enjoyed his character on Mayberry RFD and Mama’s Family.  There are no doubt those who enjoyed him on F-Troop as well.  I’ve never seen an episode of that show.  Ken Berry has an interesting acting resume that includes dancing, television and film work.  He began his entertainment career as a dancer and was known for his exceptional dancing prowess. However, he wisely chose to add acting to his skillset and it served him well.

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Brooke Bundy who played Mrs. Kelly brought a decade’s long acting resume to contribute to the episode as well.  While she had no recurring role to her past credit, she had appeared on The Donna Reed Show, My Three Sons and The Mod Squad more than once. She would continue acting through the 1980s with a recurring role on General Hospital.  Her last IMDB credit is from 1991.

The three lads playing the title role were Todd Lookinland, Billy “Pop” Atmore and Carey Wong.  Todd Lookinland, who most fans know is Mike Lookinland’s brother, had appeared on Barnaby Jones and a TV movie prior to this role.  He would continue acting in the years that followed with a regular role on The New Land.  He continued acting until 1984 and later worked behind the scenes in an artistic capacity.  Billy “Pop” Atmore, credited in the episode as William Atmore II, played Dwayne.  He would continue appearing in TV and movies until 1988.  He was one of the Mousketeers in the late 70s Mickey Mouse Club show.  His last credit on IMDB was voice work in 1996.  Carey Wong would appear on television two more times after this role, once on Wonder Woman and once on CHiPs.  A Google search for this trio produced nothing significant.

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Molly Dodd

The busybody and uppity neighbor was played by Molly Dodd. Her on camera career kicked off in 1958.  From then until 1981 she appeared on television shows and TV movies.  She appeared on the sitcom Hazel nine times.  Her final credit was the TV movie “Evita Peron” in 1981.  She died that same year.

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The episode “Kelly’s Kids” was not without merit.  As stated before, it was a well done episode and a fine idea for a series.  As a matter of fact, this idea was later revisited in the 1986 series Nothing Is Easy starring Elliot Gould.    The episode did have at least one funny line.  After overhearing Mr. Kelly saying he is trying to be optimistic, the boys later say he can’t be an optometrist.  Seeing Mr. Kelly have a pillow fight with his new sons and teaching them a dance routine was cute.  Although, if that is the routine Mr. Kelly did in his nightclub act in 1972, future episodes might have focused on the family falling on hard financial times when patrons quit visiting the club in favor of more contemporary entertainment.  There was one cringe worthy line where Mr.Kelly refers to Steve as being “Oriental”.  I know this term offends some Asians today.

Friends, your own thoughts on Kelly’s Kids or spin-offs in general are most welcome!  Please share them in the comments section.  On Friday, we will review “The Driver’s Seat”.  See you then!

 

Episode 13: Miss Popularity

Greetings again readers, family and friends.  Thank you for joining me today to review “Miss Popularity”.  The episode first aired December 21st, 1973.  It is another installment where one of the kid’s egos spirals out of control.  This time around it was Jan’s turn to be obnoxious and full of herself.  This episode falls into the “Brady Stock” category for me as I neither love it nor do I hate it.  Well, after last week’s “The Elopement”, this episode is great stuff.  Overall though, it is just another decent installment of the series.  Let us begin our review of “Miss Popularity”!

 

 

We can all be thankful the episode begins with everybody all ready knowing the exciting news.  Jan rushes in to share with Alice her nomination for the title of Most Popular Girl.  Instead of Jan busting with excitement and taking off before actually sharing the good news with Alice, we learn that Peter told Alice all ready.  Jan attempts to share the good news with Bobby, but he too knows all ready.  In this exchange, we see Bobby slide down the stairs.  I don’t recall this ever happening before or again until “A Very Brady Christmas”.  I am sure this was not allowed by Mike in Carol in the 70s just as it was not in 1988.

 

 

Upstairs, Jan is disappointed to learn that her sisters also are aware of her exciting news.  Here we learn more about her opponent, Kathy Williams, who is a formidable foe.  Kathy is a good looking girl with smarts!  This scene is the first instance I recall of Cindy wearing her hair down.  It was a nice look for Susan Olsen.

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The b-plot begins with Mike sharing good news of his own.  He arrives home to tell Carol the long weekend the pair have wanted for so long is going to happen on the 8th.  Based on the dialogue here, Mike and Carol seldom get any husband/wife time.  The last time I recall them getting away was when Peter was secretly recording conversations with the tape recorder and was rewarded for such with a party.

 

 

Jan’s undoing begins in the next scene.  She promises her sisters the world in return for their help in getting her elected.  The next promise is made to Peter and Bobby.  Jan desperately needs a campaign manager and wants Peter for the job.  The problem is he has all ready promised to manage Kathy’s campaign.  This is a savvy move on the part of Kathy!  Recruiting her opponent’s brother to her side!  She must really have the aforementioned beauty, brains and a build to pull this off!    In one of the funniest season five lines, Peter says he wants to help Kathy because she is a girl and Jan is just his sister.  Jan wins Peter to her side with the promise of a blank check loan to him and Bobby.  She cares not what the amount is, the reason for it or when it will be needed.  Peter’s vote and help with the campaign has him promised funds.

Before we go further, let us look at the title Jan was vying for.  I remember my high school yearbooks having categories such as “Most Popular ____”, “Most Likely To Succeed”,  etc.  However, students did not mount campaigns for such.  Sometimes, those nominated for such roles were done only as a joke as the title meant so little.  Even in my mom’s yearbook, from this era, my dad said the kid elected “Most Friendly” was far from being friendly or sociable.  The students were having a laugh at the expense of the yearbook in nominating the guy.  Other than the title of “Most Popular Girl”, what other duties, accolades or responsibilities awaited Jan should she win “Most Popular Girl”?  A Google search of such accolades did not produce much.  There was an article from 2000 in The Washington Post about schools reconsidering these kind of awards.  A link to it is here.

 

 

Greg arrives home and needs to use the phone, but Jan is using it to secure votes.  Alice says the middle sister has been working the phone lines for three hours.  As Greg approaches Jan, she is promising another voter to be a “friend for life”.  Greg only secures use of the phone by suggesting he could encourage the younger siblings of some of his friends to vote for Jan.  During this episode, Greg is the only one who Jan promises nothing and actually gets what he wants for his campaign contribution.  He gets to use the phone!

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The b-plot continues as Carol arrives home with a bikini for a beach weekend.  Mike shares the bad news that the beach is booked; there are no rooms available.  It must be a hugely popular weekend for the seashore as the Bradys live in California where the entire state’s western coastline faces the ocean!  The pair make plans to spend Honeymoon #2 in the mountains instead.

 

 

The other members of the household’s contributions make up the next few scenes.  Alice has made a batch of homemade fortune cookies with a message encouraging a vote for Jan in each one.  Upstairs, Marcia has made a sign encouraging votes for Jan.  She will drive Jan around the neighborhood displaying the sign while Jan hands out the cookies.  Wait, Marcia is old enough to drive?  A future episode has her just obtaining her license.  Also, who are these cookies going to be given to “in the neighborhood”?  The elderly man walking his dog?  The postman?  I can’t imagine the Bradys’ neighborhood would be a good place to campaign for a title being voted on by local junior high kids.  Save those cookies and the sign for the school campus! There is a dumb Cindy scene, the first in a while, as well.  She writes an anonymous letter for Jan’s school newspaper touting the merits of voting for her sister.  Marcia sees the foolishness of this, but Cindy does not.  Poor Susan Olsen.

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Out in the garage, Peter and Bobby are using an archaic device to copy campaign flyers for Jan.  The output of the device is so lousy that Greg cracks a joke about a smear campaign.  This got a chuckle from me. I also wonder where the boys found that wooden table.

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The next day at school, Peter hands out flyers encouraging classmates to vote for Jan Brady.  Since there are only two candidates to choose from, the gift of a piece of scratch paper for later or the makings of a paper airplane might just sway the votes of some students!  I can’t think of any other reason they would be taking a flyer from Peter.

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Jan stands under a tree handing out cookies and making more promises.  She  promises Herman help with algebra, courtesy of Greg, if he votes for her.  Herman was played by Darryl Seman.  He is the same kid who played Billy in “Try, Try Again”.

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A promise of babysitting services is made to Shirley.  Shirley was played by Jerelyn Fields.  She has a steady acting career from 1979 to the early eighties.  Her final acting credits on IMDB list appearances on What Happening Now! and Dads in 1987.  A Google search states she is now a clinician in California.  An initial Google search of her name produced an image for Kim Fields. This led me to expect to find some relation between her and sitcom actress Kim Fields, but I found none.

 

 

Jan arrives home celebrating her victory and title as “Most Popular Girl”!  Alice calls for a special dinner, one with meat in it!  Regular commenter Marty McFly, on last week’s blog, mentioned how meat was scarce in the early 70s.  However, before the Bradys can enjoy the first nibble on some departed beast, the foundation upon which Jan’s win was built begins to crumble.  She enters the living room and finds Greg ending a phone call.  He hasn’t the time to tutor Herman in algebra and is none too happy that Jan promised his services. Greg has a right to be irked here.  Jan was completely out of line committing him to aid her classmate.  Jan shrugs it off as her promise to Herman being nothing but a campaign promise that doesn’t have to be honored.  She is sure Herman will find somebody else to help him.

 

 

Another promise is broken as Jan refuses to babysit for Shirley.  She then encounters Herman in the schoolyard who tells her he wishes he could buy his vote back, as do a lot of the other kids.  Jan surmises her classmates dislike of her stems from jealousy, not broken campaign promises.  The kid who played Herman was a good actor.  When Darryl Seman portrayed a French landlord when auditioning for a play, he seemed nothing like the down and out boy who struggles with algebra we see here.

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The b-plot is revisited as Carol adorns a snowsuit in anticipation for the trip to the mountains.   The Brady house is just a spigot of bad news as Mike and Carol soon learn the ski lodge is overbooked.  The 8th must be some kind of three day weekend for so many people to be booking vacation getaways.

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Downstairs, another promise is broken.  This time, Marcia is being left high and dry.  Jan had promised to do some laundry for her older sister, but can’t do so now.  She is too busy writing her acceptance speech for the Senior Night ceremony.  She says Marcia’s ire at the broken promise is because Marcia can’t use her.  We also learn here that Cindy was promised help with a book report.  Jan says there is not enough time to do everything.  It would need seem there is not enough time to do anything!  At least Greg got to use the phone.

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The main and b-plot converge in the next scene.  Carol enters Mike’s den dressed as a cowgirl.  The pair are going to a dude ranch.  Carol does a John Wayne impersonation that I found to be quite annoying.  The joke about Mike wearing old cowboy boots would have been funny if it was done without the hokey accent.

 

 

Jan enters and begins to recite her speech to Mike and Carol.  I did chuckle as she read the arrogant and ego serving acceptance speech.  Part of it includes how she was chosen as her fellow students found her to have more charm and personality than her classmates.  After questioning the level of humility the speech has, Mike and Carol discourage her to give it.  They are then discouraged to learn that senior night will instead be on the 8th.  Their weekend getaway plans are ruined yet again.  This time for an event they have no desire to attend as their daughter is being an arrogant cuss!

 

 

Upstairs, Jan finally gets wind of just how terrible she is being.  She solicits Marcia’s input on the dress she will wear to senior night.  Marcia asks if that is what creeps are wearing.  Peter seemingly comes to his sister’s defense and says she is not a creep.  He adds, she is a super creep!  Here Jan learns the boy elected the most popular is taking her opponent for most popular girl to senior night.  OUCH!  I guess that is one way that the deserving winner can enjoy the honor, by accompanying the boy who won it.  Since Jan won’t be going with the most popular boy, a tradition has been ended.  Marcia congratulates her sister on giving the word popular new meaning!

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A more self aware Jan visits her parents and lets them know she won’t be attending senior night.  She receives a small talking to about her actions.  However, Mike and Carol seem more concerned that they cancelled their reservation at the Dude Ranch for an event Jan won’t be attending.

 

 

That night, the Bradys dine in stone cold silence.  Jan’s broken promises have cast a dark cloud over the family.  Alice offers a ray of sunshine via dessert, but nobody is having any.  Jan then announces she will be going to senior night and delivering a different speech.  This one apologizes for her behavior and vows to make good on all of her motelcampaign promises, even if it takes the rest of her life.  In my mind, I imagined Jan, in 1982, visiting a low rent motel that Herman calls home. Upon knocking on his door and him answering with a three day beard and brew in hand, Jan holds up an algebra book and beams “Let’s get to work, so you can learn that algebra and move out of this dump!”  With Jan’s new found humility, Peter asks her to be his date to senior night.

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The epilogue wraps up the b-plot.  If Mike and Carol can’t have a weekend away, Alice seeks to give them one locally. She brings them breakfast in bed and a Do Not Disturb sign for the door.  Alice sure is a gem.

“Miss Popularity” is a decent episode with a believable conclusion.  Jan’s fall from her high horse leaves a destructive path behind her, but she does come out a bit wiser.  I think she should have abdicated the title to her opponent as she certainly was no longer the most popular girl.  Please share your own thoughts! Next week, we are scheduled to review “Kelly’s Kids”, but we’re not.  It ranks down there among “You’re Never Too Old” with fans and is not one I am too fond of myself.  Instead of a full review, a blog about this episode will be posted as a Sunday Special.  Next Friday we will review “The Driver’s Seat”.  See you then!

 

Episode 12: The Elopement

Hello again!  Thank you for joining me this week as we review “The Elopement”.  The episode first aired December 7th, 1973.  I found this episode to be a real snoozer.  It falls in line with “Career Fever” as far as entertainment goes.   The past episodes that centered on Alice were quite enjoyable.  Usually Sam’s presence in the story can liven things up too.  The bland quality of this episode suggests it was filmed using the outline of an idea some writer had that was inadvertently sent to the producers who heard the 5 o’clock happy hour calling and wanted to call it a day.  If your opinion of this episode differs, we would love to have you share your thoughts!  Let us begin reviewing “The Elopement”.

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The story begins with Marcia and Jan arriving home and walking through the  backyard.  They find Bobby in the garage practicing playing an organ.  They are none too supportive of his attempts to learn the instrument and celebrate that he has been made to practice outside.  The Brady kids were either 100% in support of their siblings or seeking to make sure they were thoroughly torn down.  I am sure if Jan had attempted to learn to play the organ two episodes ago, she’d have had the resounding support of her siblings.  Bobby defends his lackluster playing by saying his teacher likes his music.  He is then asked why the teacher sent the organ home with him if the music was so enjoyed.  In my mind, the teacher saw a level of potential that could be built upon by Bobby practicing at home.  Marcia and Jan were at their worst in this scene.  As they walk away, Bobby plays a mournful sound on the organ.  This was a funny bit and one of the episode’s scarce laughs.  Maybe Marcia and Jan’s attitude toward Bobby sent me down the negative road for this episode from the outset.

Inside, Alice is on the phone with Sam.  His cousin Clara is looking to elope Sunday morning and he and Alice are going to be in their wedding party.  Sam wants this kept a secret.  Marcia and Jan enter and overhear Alice and Sam’s conversation and immediately assume it is Alice and Sam that are eloping.  This misunderstanding will make up the entire episode’s plot. The conversation between Alice and Sam also involves their bowling date for Saturday night.  The misunderstanding is fueled further by Alice’s discussing plans for the bowling date.

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The two oldest girls talk to Mike and Carol about what they heard.  Mike downplays the suggestion that Alice is eloping as she would have given advanced notice to he and Carol.  Great thinking Mike!  Now, if only you could have remained this reasonable the rest of the episode, this boring story could have been avoided!   Carol tells the girls that Alice’s decision to elope or not is none of their business.

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The thought of Carol doing all the housework and cooking must have motivated her to be a bit more curious about Alice’s plans as the next scene has her trying to pry information about an elopement out of Alice.  Carol states that an elopement was her and Mike’s original plan for marriage.  At the suggestion that somebody in the household was planning an elopement, Alice thinks Carol is speaking of Marcia.

Mike’s suspicion is raised when Sam calls him at the office.  Sam seeks Mike’s input on low cost housing for a friend.  Mike assumes Sam is speaking of himself.  Mike tells the butcher, “Sam, I am an architect who designs huge buildings for clients in Hawaii, Ohio and our city government.  I don’t design low cost housing.  You really should be calling a realtor.”  We all know Mike doesn’t say this, but I wish he had and the rest of the episode could have been about Bobby learning to play the organ.

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The more interesting b-plot continues back at the Brady house.  Bobby’s skill level has improved in that he can play more quickly, but Cindy says he still sounds awful.  If Bobby sounds so bad, then why are Cindy and Peter just standing around listening to him play.  Bobby was too kind here, I’d have told Cindy to buzz off.  Cindy shares with her brothers that Alice and Sam will soon be eloping and encourages Bobby to learn the wedding march.

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Back at the butcher shop, Sam is selling a half pound of ground round to a man of the cloth.  He tells Sam to make certain that Clara and her soon to be husband are at his house promptly at 8 as he has another wedding at 9.  Wait, shouldn’t this guy be preparing a sermon or something on a Sunday morning? Maybe the services don’t begin until 10 AM.  Marcia and Greg enter and make polite conversation with Reverend Melbourne.  He knows the kids well and inquires about the family.  Apparently, the Bradys still have some involvement with a local church, even though we have not seen them attend or mention such since season one’s “The Voice of Christmas”.  The three casually discuss wedding ceremonies and the reverend says he is doing a lot of them as of late.  For some reason, this cinches the idea that Alice and Sam are getting married in the minds of the two oldest kids.  Why the reverend saying he has plenty of weddings to work automatically equals Alice and Sam are getting married is not made clear.

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Byron Webster

Reverend Melbourne was played by Byron Webster.  He had a long acting career in film and television.  His only recurring role was on the sitcom Soap.  He appeared in the feature film “The Poseidon Adventure”.  His final role was a 1990 episode of Knot’s Landing.  He died in 1991.

The next scene has the girls sharing the fact that they saw Alice leaving the dress shop.  The entire family is now convinced that Alice will soon be eloping.  Just then, Alice enters the family room and asks for Saturday night off.  Naturally, the convinced family thinks this is so she and Sam can elope.   The girls all give knowing and loving gazes to Alice who is a bit confused by the attention.  Out in the garage, Bobby practices the wedding march on his organ.  Alice questions the tune he is playing and Carol says it doesn’t sound a thing like the wedding march.  Carol is way to savvy for a joke like this to be believable or funny for her character.

With Alice off on an errand, Carol has the opportunity to acquaint the temporary housekeeper with the Brady home.  The second chuckle of the story comes as we see the housekeeper slyly check for dust.  A common lament among viewers of The Brady Bunch was why the Bradys even needed a housekeeper when Carol did not work.  I’ve never faulted the Bradys for having hired help as Carol was a very active parent in the kids’ lives and often seen helping Alice prepare lunches and meals.  However, if Alice were only going to be gone a week, I think Carol could have shouldered the extra responsibility for a few days.  When she was gone before and Alice out of commission, the kids were all tasked to pitch in and help.  However, if Carol or the kids had taken on extra duties, we would not have had the attempt at humor that follows as Carol tries to explain away Gladys Harris’s presence when Alice returns unexpectedly.  Alice forgot the shopping list and returned for it.  Carol pretends that the potential employee is an old friend who just dropped by.  Carol overdoes it sharing fake memories with the confused woman and sends her away.

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Bella Bruck

Gladys Harris was played by Bella Bruck.  She appeared in the feature films “Alligator” and “The Cheap Detective”.  She appeared on several hit shows to include Mannix and Rhoda, but often in unnamed roles that were identified as “woman” or “landlady”.  Her final role was the TV movie The Ugily Family.  She died in 1982.

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The bowling date for Alice and Sam is off when the pair get into an argument about the gift for cousin Clara and her intended.  Sam wants to get the pair his and her bowling balls.  Alice thinks this is a terrible idea and she and Sam have words over it.  It escalates to Alice telling Sam his tie is ugly and his meat prices too high.  Also, their bowling date is off as are their plans for Sunday!  I could not help but think how Alice was leaving poor cousin Clara in the lurch as she had all ready agreed to be the maid of honor at her ceremony.

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In the next scene, Mike and Carol let Alice know she can have the entire week off, not just Saturday night.  A bit confused at their generosity, Alice lets them know she won’t even be needing Saturday night off as her bowling date is cancelled. This spurs the family into action as they attempt to mend fences between Alice and Sam.  Carol meddles in suggesting Mike call Sam and invite him to the house so that he can discuss the low cost housing.  The kids also try to speak to Sam and Alice who each say the other must make the first move in apologizing.

All the meddling has the intended result of healing the rift between housekeeper and butcher.  After an icy reception by Alice, Sam says he has decided to get Clara and her man an electric mixer as a gift.  Man, the one time I priced these, they were expensive.  Sam could have been intending to buy  a hand held mixer as those cost less. Maybe electric mixers were more affordable in 1973.  Otherwise, that’s a nice appliance to gift to two newlyweds.  Of course, bowling balls for the pair may be pricey too.

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The reconciled duo leave for their bowling date and the Bradys spring into action setting up their wedding reception.  Alice says she will be back in a few hours and Carol acts confused.  For all the completed party preparation we see in the following scene, it looks like they were ready and willing for Alice to return in a short time.  Mike sends them away with a request that Sam take care of Alice.  This could have been funny with a better script, but at this point in the episode it just seemed like a tired joke.

When Alice and Sam return home they are welcomed with a reception that includes well dressed Bradys, streamers, champagne and a cake.  Bobby clumsily plays the wedding march on the organ in the episode’s third chuckle.  The confused victorious bowlers finally make clear they were not married nor planning to be.  The entire family is embarrassed but decides to party anyway.  Sam does make an eloquent speech.  As it begins it would seem he is about to propose marriage or set a date to marry Alice.  Instead, his solemn words are followed with the good news that the meat packers advanced in the bowling tournament.

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The epilogue has a well dressed Alice talking to Mike and Carol about the wedding ceremony.  She confirms that she and Sam are engaged, but he won’t commit to a century for the wedding.

Phew, thank you for reviewing “The Elopement” with me.  The boring factor for this episode was likely amped up in that we as the audience knew the entire time that no wedding was to take place and the Bradys were just spinning the wheels of confusion for naught.  There was no question as to how the plot would be resolved as we knew there was no pending wedding for Alice.  If you have a different opinion of the episode or just wish to share your thoughts, please do so!  Next week, we will have some fun again as we review “Miss Popularity”.  Yes, it is a swollen head episode, but I remember it being a pretty funny one.  See you next week!

 

 

Episode 11: The Cincinnati Kids

Hello again readers, fans, family and friends.  Thank you for joining me today to review “The Cincinnati Kids”.  The episode first aired on November 23rd, 1973.  As I have shared in the past, my first ever round of viewing The Brady Bunch came via daily reruns on WTBS Atlanta.  I had been watching the show for a few years before I happened to see this episode.  I don’t know if for some reason this episode aired less often or if it was just missed regularly during regular afternoon viewings of the show.  It is a fun episode that doubles as a 30 minute advertisement for King’s Island amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I have never visited this park, but if any readers have, please do share your experience with us.

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The story begins at the Brady home.  The four younger siblings all anxiously await Mike’s arrival home as he has promised them a surprise.  Carol tries to downplay the pending news, but soon reveals herself to be just as anxious.  When Mike arrives home, he has a little fun with his anxious family and reveals the big surprise is that he has to travel to Cincinnati!  The family is understandably underwhelmed at this news.  He then adds that the work taking him to Ohio is for an amusement park and the whole family is coming along.  I do not remember ever seeing this opening tag before.  I seem to recall the episode began with establishing shots of the amusement park accompanying the opening credits.  I could be wrong though.

 

The establishing shots showcase some of the fun things King’s Island had to offer in 1973.  Back at their hotel, Mike and Carol reflect briefly on their honeymoon which saw all six kids in tow.  A few seconds later, the moment is relived as all the kids come barging in their parents’ room, anxious to go to the park.  During this scene we also learn that Mike traveled all the way to Cincinnati for just a 30 minute meeting with clients.  They have a plane to catch and can not stay long.  If these clients did not operate out of Cincinnati, one must wonder why Mike was not sent to travel to THEIR home office instead of meeting at King’s Island.  Yes, that would make for a boring episode, but part of this blog is nitpicking!

 

The Brady agenda is laid out in the next scene.  The family is free to roam the park until “noon-sharp” when they will all meet back for lunch.  Bobby and Cindy are warned not to overindulge their appetites as the family will be having a big lunch.  With what food costs at amusement parks, I am sure Carol wants to make sure feeding 8 people lunch will be money well spent!  As the next few shots played out, I could not help but notice the strange reaction from a random female (pictured above in the yellow shirt) park visitor.  Maybe she was hamming it up for the camera or maybe she was genuinely shocked by the person in costume.  If making sure she would be noticed on TV was her goal, she succeeded with this viewer!

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There is a shot of Alice and Carol riding “The Scrambler”.  At least that is what it was called at the amusement park I grew up attending (and is still called as it is still there).  I daresay this ride left King’s Island decades ago as it would be far too tame for an amusement park of this caliber today.

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Bobby and Cindy pay no heed to Carol’s warning and start snacking right away.  It seems these two came to King’s Island just for the junk food!  The rest of the episode has them reasoning their way to enjoying different foods the park has to offer.  Since this episode was kind of like an infomercial, this was a good way to showcase the eats offered at the park.  At least it was not overdone with Bobby saying something like, “All the kids at school were right, the candy apples at King’s Island are the best around.”

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Break a plate and win!

Carnival games are also available at the park.  Peter enjoys a game where players toss balls and shatter plates.  Man, think of all the plates that were made for this game, just so they could be broken!  Most victors of a carnival game seeking to destroy something get only the satisfaction of popping a balloon.  Not at King’s Island!  Here park visitors can shatter china!

 

One of the episode’s subplots begin at a different game.  Greg meets an attractive game operator and will attempt to romance her the rest of the episode.  Greg keeps throwing footballs until she finally gives up her name.   The pretty young gal, Marge, was played by Hilary Thompson.  She was no stranger to TV and enjoyed regular roles on Washington and Operation Petticoat.  Her final IMDB credit is a 1988 episode of Alf.  Her biography states she did not marry until she was 39.  This was about the same time she made her last TV appearance.  A Google search provided no current information about her.

 

Bobby and Cindy enjoy soft serve ice cream and popcorn.  They rationalize that the ice cream is not being eaten, it is being licked.  The popcorn boxes contain prizes, so they must eat the popcorn to obtain said prize.  Oh those gluttonous children.

 

Interspersed with the romance and gluttony subplots are some shots of the family enjoying rides at the park.  The family enjoys the super slide that requires riders to sit in a burlap bag to go down it.  This one does look much larger than the ones I’ve seen at carnivals and fairs.  There is also a shot of the Bradys riding a big wooden roller coaster.  There is some well known Brady trivia surrounding the roller coaster ride.  A camera rigging had been mounted on the front of the roller coaster car so the Bradys could be filmed enjoying the ride.  Robert Reed thought the rigging looked insufficient and unsafe.  He insisted the car be sent on a test run without passengers.  Sure enough, the car returned sans the camera.  It had detached during the trek.  One can only imagine what potential bodily harm one of the show’s cast members could have suffered had Robert Reed not insisted on a test run!

Two other quick trivia bits include the following:  Robert Reed did not like riding roller coasters and did not do so for this episode.  Another is that the Brady cast was allowed to cut line for the rides at the park, much to the other guests’ ire.  A solution might have been to hire some people to stand in line and then surrender their seat to the cast when it came time to film.  I don’t know if any kind of resolution was reached.  All this trivia and more can be found at the YouTube link with an abbreviated episode of Pop Up Brady.

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The episode’s conflict begins with the purchase of a poster.  Jan buys a Yogi Bear poster for a child she babysits.   The middle girl was not thinking ahead.  She would have to lug a poster around the park the rest of the day when she could have just as easily purchased the poster with a quick stop at the gift shop before leaving that day.

 

The family meets for lunch and Jan is already having trouble keeping the poster in good shape.  Here she asks Mike if she might use one of the cylinders his architectural plans are in for the poster.  Mike replies, “Jan, I did not just bring two cylinders across the country just in case you needed a poster container.”  Of course he does not say this, for whatever reason he agrees and gives one of the cylinders to Jan.  Then he mindlessly places them alongside one another under the table.

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Maybe lunch running long and Mike being in such a hurry to make his meeting saw that he did not bother to check the cylinders before he left.  If anything, he should have just taken both of them with him.  He was already carrying two around.  Mike’s appearance at the meeting calls to question how seriously he took the whole project.  He stands before his potential clients dressed in a most casual manner while they are all wearing suits.  Mr. Remington asks to see the sketches and pulls out the Yogi Bear poster.  He thinks Mike is playing a joke and Mike says he is not, there has been a mix-up.  Mr. Remington reminds Mike that he and his associates are leaving in just half an hour.  Mike is on borrowed time to find the plans and get them to his potential clients!

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________ as Mr. Remington

Whoever played Mr. Remington is a mystery at this time.  Neither the closing credits nor IMDB give the actor credit for the episode.  While “Seattle Linda” was left out of the closing credits, she is credited on the IMDB page for “The Undergraduate”.  Readers, if any of you know who played the hurried executive, please let us know.

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Unfortunately, Jan left the cylinder given to her by Mike behind and has no idea where it is.  In another subtle plug for the park, Jan states that the posters are not that expensive and she can purchase another one.

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Back at the park, Greg seeks to visit with Marge while both are adorned in costumes.  She had shared earlier with Greg that later in the day she would be portraying one of the animals that walk around the park.  Greg seeks to meet her by bribing another park character for his costume.  A few seconds later Greg emerges dressed as one of characters from The Hair Bear Bunch.  Marge then exits the employee area dressed as herself.  She looks quite pissed, but the reason is not made known.  Whatever plans she had to work as a park animal seem to not be happening, so maybe that is why.  Before a costumed Greg can romance the girl, Mike arrives and recruits his help in finding the plans.

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The man who surrendered his costume is credited as L. Jeffrey Schwartz.  L. Jeffrey is none other than Lloyd Schwartz.  Regular viewers of the show have seen his name in many episodes’ opening credits. He had a hand in producing several episodes of the series.

 

The next few shots make up a montage of the family searching for the plans. Apparently, they have only ten minutes to find the lost plans.  The timing of the scenes certainly suggests it took longer to find them.  Marcia and Jan search the antique cars.  Alice is searching the barrel ride when it starts operating!  Whoever was running it should be fired as it is the ride attendant’s responsibility to make certain all passengers are seated before starting the ride. Bobby and Cindy continue their eating ways as they decide to search the park’s pizza restaurant and enjoy some while there.

 

Mike and Carol check the lost and found, but do not find the plans.  The attendant working lost and found was played by Bob Hoffman.  He had previously appeared on My Three Sons and I Dream of Jeannie, among other shows.  However, this appearance on The Brady Bunch is his last IMDB acting credit.

 

Jan finds the missing plans at the canoe ride aboard the canoe she just happens to be getting in.  From here, there is a Brady relay across King’s Island as the plans are rushed back to Mike.  They reach Mike just in the nick of time.  He provides them to the departing businessmen.  He then suggests the family take another ride on the roller coaster.  However, he is noticeably absent as the family takes one final ride.

epilogue

The epilogue has Mike receiving good news.  His designs were approved and the family will be staying a few more days at his company’s expense.  Peter then enters the room wearing the Hair Bear costume.  He is filling in for Marge so Greg can take her to lunch.

Overall, “The Cincinnati Kids” is a fun episode.  Seeing the Bradys out and about at the amusement park made for a nice and brief change of scenery.  The story line about the misplaced plans is a bit silly, but when compared to some other season five plots is almost dramatic.  Please share your own thoughts or King’s Island experience with us!  Next week, we will be reviewing “The Elopement”.  See you then!

 

 

 

Episode 10: Try, Try Again

Greetings once again readers, family and friends!  Today we review “Try, Try Again”.  It would appear that once again the writers and producers were try, trying again to recycle a tired “woe is me” plot.  This episode first aired on November 16, 1973.  As you know from previous blogs, the plots about a Brady kid being down on herself/himself are among my least favorites.  This episode did little to change my opinion.   While it is well written and acted, self pity stories just are not entertaining to me.  Perhaps they are to you and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the episode.  Let’s begin our review of “Try, Try Again”.

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The episode begins using the same establishing shot used at least once before.  The building is the same one the kids recorded “Time To Change” in.  It is plausible the building houses a dance studio along with a recording studio.  The dancing in the building being done by Jan is lacking grace and finesse.  As Jan dances, her face is visibly strained and sweaty.  Her hard work and effort are rewarded with the news that her dancing is not dance recital quality.  Jan lets the teacher, Mrs. Clairette, know that she won’t be practicing ballet any longer.

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Mrs. Clairette was played by Judy Landon.  She has a long IMDB resume that includes mostly uncredited appearances.  One might assume she was a dancer in the list of uncredited roles.  Among her acting credits were this episode of the Brady Bunch and an episode of Family Affair.  IMDB trivia notes she was once married to Keith Howard.  I had to look him up to see who he was.

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Back at the Brady house, Mike’s condemnation of the spaghetti sauce kicks off the b-plot.  Mike discusses with Carol and Alice his culinary skills.  He says that as a bachelor he was quite the cook.  Carol cracks a funny line as she states the can opener broke and he found himself needing to get married again.  A sullen Jan passes through the kitchen and states her ballet practice did not go well.  Marcia and Cindy arrive home and share the bad news about Jan.

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Carol goes upstairs to comfort and counsel Jan.  She suggests that Jan not give up and explore another form of dance.  The school the girls attend also teaches jazz, tap and folk dancing.  The scenes that follow show Jan’s failed efforts as a tap dancer.  Her initial display of tap dancing skills clashes with the episode’s b-plot.  A soufflé Mike spent three days preparing tumbles to the floor as Jan flails around the kitchen tap dancing.

 

Her next practice studio is the bathroom.  Maybe the sound of her taps echo well off the porcelain and tile.  Greg and Peter certainly don’t welcome the sounds of the taps on the floor as it spoils their attic recording session.  Just outside the door, the dancing feet cause  a figurine to fall from a shelf in the girls’ room and break.

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The b-plot moves forward with Mike planning to prepare a full gourmet dinner on Saturday.  So important is his dinner preparation plans that he writes out on the chalkboard “SAT DINNER”.  His writing this makes clear this is one important event!  We can assume the Bradys typically don’t have dinner on Saturdays?

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“Sorry you heard me say how bad you are at tap dancing.”

The next morning as the kids parade out the door for school, Jan’s annoying new form of dance is discussed.  Marcia laments Jan’s lack of tap dancing prowess and Jan overhears.  Jan is not terribly upset at Marcia’s slam as she herself had realized she did not have a talent for tap dancing.  Here, Carol suggests Jan try her tap dancing out in the garage where she can tap without disruption and not be concerned about disturbing her siblings.  Actually, Carol does not suggest such.  It might have been a good idea though.  As Jan leaves proclaiming she has no talent, Marcia gets an idea to help her sad sister.

That afternoon, Marcia tries to teach Jan the ways of being a drum majorette.  Apparently this skill can be learned in less than five minutes!  Within a few seconds Jan is twirling the baton with such skill that Marcia encourages her to throw it!  When Jan does, it shatters the family room window.  Again Jan must accept she lacks the “talent” for another task.  I know episodes’ events must be condensed somewhat for brevity, but this was just absurd.  Learning to be a majorette requires practice and time.

As Marcia and Cindy arrive home from a successful recital, Jan’s miseries are discussed again.  Over cups of hot chocolate, Greg comes up with a plan to help his woeful sister.  The next day, Peter and Bobby deny Greg the ping-pong practice he so desperately needs.  This leaves only Jan to help him out. Greg throws the game to give Jan confidence in her ping-pong playing skills.  As I watched this, I could not help but notice that Jan was not without ping-pong talent.  Next, the three sisters play some hack version of Monopoly that allows for prompt game play.  Marcia and Cindy commend Jan’s financial genius and how it allowed her to win the game.  So short is the version of Monopoly that Jan suggests they play again.  Bobby and Peter do their part to fool Jan as they throw darts.  The boys have carelessly tossed their metal tipped plastic into the privacy fence allowing Jan to win the game.

 

The b-plot continues in the next scene as Mike unloads the makings of Saturday’s gourmet dinner.  Alice and Carol are forbidden to know what was purchased.  Surely they’d both need to access the fridge before Saturday!  Maybe Mike concealed the food in paper bags or foil so they’d remain oblivious.  While the mystery food is put away, Cindy shares the scheme her and her siblings have pulled on Jan.  Despite encouraging such behavior in the past, Mike and Carol decide that this time around, fooling Jan is not a good idea.  One will recall in a previous episode, Mike and Carol giving Bobby all kinds of sales leads when he felt inadequate and started selling magazines.

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Greg’s confession and apology to Jan is met without the typical angry Brady drama we would expect in a scene like this.  Jan takes it in stride and as an acknowledgement as to her complete lack of talent.  From out of left field, Mike and Carol encourage her to try her hand at acting and make her promise to try out for a play.  Good grief, had Jan not experienced enough rejection putting her (lack of) skills on display?   Why a play is a good idea is not made clear.

 

Jan follows her parents’ instruction and auditions for a role in the school play.  She has less than 24 hours to learn all the lines for the lead role.  My stars Jan, try out for some smaller role if you have so little time!  Auditioning for the lead role with no experience and so little preparation time is setting yourself up for failure.  Another thing that might set yourself up for failure is distracting yourself with a painting when you should be learning lines.

The next day, Jan bombs once again.  She takes the stage with Billy to audition for the lead role.  As she takes the stage, the play’s director, Mrs. Ferguson, questions the painting Jan has before her.  Jan shares she started the painting the night before so she’d be more comfortable during the audition.  Jan might have been more comfortable onstage if the time she invested in the painting was spent learning her lines!  The painting is of no help.  She is oblivious of acting cues and bombs her lines.  Her humiliation and lack of talent culminates with her spilling paint on Billy.  I wonder if all the kids auditioning for the landlord part had to wear that mustache and bald cap or if Billy was just going the extra mile to win the landlord role.

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Ruth Anson

Mrs. Ferguson was played by Ruth Anson.  She previously appeared as the librarian in “Bobby’s Hero”.

billy
Darryl Seman

Billy Naylor was played by Darryl Seman.  IMDB states his actual name is Darryl Seaman.  This was one of two Brady Bunch appearances for Darryl Seaman.  He will appear in a future episode.  His acting career saw appearances on a few TV shows through the years.  His final acting credit is a 1975 episode of Barney Miller.  A Google search produced no additional information about him.

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The bombed audition brings with it a silver lining.  After Carol is informed of Jan’s terrible audition, she is surprised to see Jan arrive home in a great mood.  After Peter left, Mrs. Ferguson called Jan back.  The play’s director is also an art teacher.  She was impressed with Jan’s painting and encouraged her to enroll in her art class.  Jan gets a happy ending.  One may recall we saw Jan’s artistic skill in season one’s “Katchoo”.  Eve Plumb has also touted herself as an artist.  She tried to showcase her art on an episode of The Jenny Jones Show years ago.  However, the audience was more interested in her role as Jan Brady.

As it has on a few episodes, the epilogue concludes the b-plot.  As Mike finishes preparation of the gourmet dinner he advertised on the black board, he learns all six kids are away at a surprise party.  Also as we have seen in previous episodes, Carol is delighting in making her husband unhappy.  For some reason season five saw Carol as being meaner and more vindictive than in the past.  Mike takes his prepared dish to the dining room and is delighted to see his entire family and Alice waiting to enjoy the gourmet meal.  I really expected Mike to spill his freshly made concoction at the surprising sight of his family.  This does not happen though.  Instead he takes a seat and assigns serving duties to Alice and Carol.

Friends, thank you for reviewing this episode with me.  If this review seemed a bit sarcastic or snarky and it detracted from your enjoyment, I apologize.  A plot like this just seems unnecessary in season 5.  By this point, the kids had all proved themselves talented in some fashion and another story like this just was not needed.  Please do share your own thoughts though!  Be they good, bad, disagreeable or indifferent, your own contributions are what make this blog the great review experience that it is!  Next week, we will review “The Cincinnati Kids”.  See you then!

 

Episode 9: Quarterback Sneak

Hello again readers and friends. Today we review “Quarterback Sneak”. It is a fun season five installment. This time, Marcia must suffer the phony affection of a suitor following a self serving agenda. The episode’s b-plot is also well remembered among fans. The character associated with it, Tank Gates, has been mentioned among fan message boards as one of the most annoying of the series. This episode also features the fourth appearance of Chris Beaumont in his fourth guest role. So, let us hide our playbooks and begin reviewing “Quarterback Sneak”!


The episode begins with Marcia walking about town putting up posters for the upcoming football game. One will notice here that she is in front of “the market” Mike and Sam visited in “Snow White and the Seven Bradys”. The posters Marcia is putting up are encouraging a violent victory over Westdale High’s opponent in the upcoming football game. They read “All The Way With Westdale – Massacre Fairview”. While Westdale seems content with violent jargon to lead their team to victory, Fairview schemes even dirtier. Nearby, Fairview quarterback Jerry Rogers and some classmates observe Marcia open3in action. With the knowledge that Marcia is sister to a Westdale player, he turns on the charm. He approaches Marcia with his casanova ways and says he will help her put up signs for the rest of the afternoon. Marcia shares with Jerry that her brother is on the Westdale High football team as he is the team photographer and has a press pass and everything. Actually, she shares that Greg is a player for the team. Whatever reservations Carol had about Greg playing football in “Click” are now forgotten.


Back at the Brady house, Greg practices with his younger brothers. The trio is none to happy to see Jerry walking Marcia home. Marcia is falling fast for the rival quarterback. An afternoon of sign hanging and his charm have wooed her. With her new affections comes agnst in the family. Peter angrily enters the girls room and seizes the posters Marcia was tasked with hanging. At this point, somebody on the writing staff must have told the writers, “Give Benedict Arnold a rest. Viewers are probably tired of hearing about him.” This scene was the perfect opportunity to reference the famous traitor. One will also notice in this scene that the wallpaper hung in the previous episode is now gone.

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Jan and Cindy chide Peter for his ire at Marcia. In a funny set of lines, they question how he could compare romance to football. Peter says that is easy as football is important. Jan counters with a football game lasts only sixty minutes and a romance can last a whole month.

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The b-plot begins in the next scene. Mike arrives home wearing the pajama shirt with this suit again. I guess last time wasn’t just an accident. People did dress that way. The phone rings and the caller asks to speak to Twinkles. After a brief moment of confusion, it is discovered that Twinkles is a pet name given to Carol by her high school suitor, Tank Gates. Tank is in town and wants to pay her a visit. Carol reflects on what a stud Hank was. Even his muscles had muscles. Mike displays some jealousy over Tank and Carol takes it as a compliment. She and Alice relish in what a great thing it is to have a man be jealous. Once again, Carol seems to be taking delight in her husband being unhappy.

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The true nature of Jerry’s nefarious intentions are made known as he chats with classmate Rich. The pair discuss Jerry’s plan to steal Westdale’s playbook from Greg and gain a most unfair advantage in the upcoming game.

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The afroed Rich was played by Don Carter. He just has one of those faces, coupled with a hairdo, that stand out on camera. He was no stranger to TV in the 60s and 70s. He was in the feature films “A Boy and His Dog” and “Cat Murkil and the Silks”. IMDB lists his final role as being on an episode of CHiPs in 1983.


Jerry drives Marcia home from school and seeks a reward a-la a cold drink. As they head inside, Marcia introduces Jerry to Bobby and Cindy. Cindy confirms Marcia’s sentiment that Jerry is gorgeous. Bobby shows no love or respect and lets him know Westdale high will be victorious. When Cindy tries to chide Bobby’s harsh words, he says she knows nothing about love or football as she has never experienced either. This was a funny line.
Inside, Jerry searches the family room on the sly while Marcia gets him a glass of attempt1bustedlemonade. He even asks if he might see Greg’s room to get some ideas for an attic bedroom of his own. After a quick look around, Jerry finds the playbook under a newspaper in the family room. He makes his first attempt to swipe it by placing it in a non-existent sweater pocket. Seriously, it looks like he thought it might just hang there magically. Bobby is walking past the window and observes this. Perhaps Jerry was jittery due to the drop as he makes no second attempt to steal the book. He just puts it back on the table. He was not aware that Bobby saw him, so that can’t be the reason he did not take the book then and there.


Marcia fumes at Bobby’s accusation that Jerry tried to steal the playbook. She says her new suitor would never stoop so low. Bobby is certain of what he saw. Greg decides the best course of action is to offer Jerry another chance to make off with the playbook. If he does not, Bobby and Greg will apologize. Imagine if Jerry had managed to swipe the playbook elsewhere and made no second attempt at the Brady house. What an awkward apology that would have been. Part of Greg’s plan is “Operation Wipeout” which will see that he drafts a fake playbook for Jerry to swipe.


Adorned in a new dress, Carol excitedly welcomes Tank to her home. Ever the brute, Tank can’t even take the time to learn Mike’s name, calling him Mack, Mick, etc. Any jealousy Mike might have experienced before seems long gone at this point. His reactions to him show how he finds Tank to be a braggart and oaf. Mike enjoys a magazine while Tank and Carol visit. One thing I found a bit odd was that the boys had no interest in meeting Tank Gates. He speaks of his college and professional football accolades. If the boys were so interested in seeing Joe Namath and football in general, it seems they’d also want to meet another pro football athlete.

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Denny Miller

Tank Gates was played by Denny Miller.  Denny had a career in Hollywood that spanned several decades.  His only regular role was on the western Wagon Train.  He had plenty of one time TV appearances on countless hit shows.  It appeared he never lacked for work after getting started in the business.  He even played Tarzan at one point.  He was also a college basketball athlete, playing for UCLA.  His final credit on IMDB is a film released in 2015.  Denny Miller died in 2014.

As Tank and Carol look over an old high school annual, Tank only wishes to reflect on memories of himself. He rudely cuts Carol off as she tries to point out a picture of herself. Upon seeing a picture of him scoring a touchdown, the real craziness begins. Hank reenacts the entire play right there in the Brady living room. In one of my favorite moments of the episode, Mike slides the magazine he is reading under Tank’s foot before he can put it on the coffee table. The reenactment of the touchdown reaches cartoonish proportions as Tank plows into the couch and eventually lobs a pillow that breaks a planter.


Marcia’s doubts are vanquished and the boys’ suspicions confirmed with Jerry’s second visit to the Brady house. This time, he wore a jacket more conducive to playbook theft. While Marcia prepares him a cold drink, he swipes the phony playbook. Then he feigns a reason to leave suddenly and does. Marcia is quite heartbroken to see the playbook gone and that her brothers were right. Maureen McCormick should have been nominated for an Emmy in this scene. She does a fantastic job in front of the camera portraying her heartbreak.


Upstairs, Mike intervenes as the voice of reason in the entire matter. He shares with Greg that Westdale giving the cheating Fairview some cheats of their own makes them no better than Fairview. Greg realizes this as he had not considered that previously. As a kid watching this, I will admit that I learned a lesson too. I was 100% on Greg’s side with the fake playbook, but Mike’s brief lecture had me realize that the fake playbook was just as low down as stealing the real one. Greg calls Jerry to tell him the truth, but Jerry denies knowledge of the stolen book and carries on with his ill design on winning.
Greg’s phone call should have tipped Jerry off that something was amiss. If Greg knew he took it, then Greg could have told the coach, his own teammates or even the referees. Regardless, Jerry should know at this point his plan will fail. Apparently it does not though. Jerry still relishes being in possession of the playbook.  If it was even suspected that Jerry took the playbook, the thief would now know that Westdale would changing up their own plays, rendering a stolen playbook useles

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The final scene has the Bradys arriving home and celebrating a fair Westdale victory. Fairview’s coach got wind of Jerry’s actions and pulled him from the game in the first quarter. While the ringleader of the swipe was out of the game, what about the rest of the team? At least two other guys were in on the plan. Fairview should have forfeited the game. However, that would not have made for as good of an ending to the episode. Also, the gag about Alice making two cakes would have had to be scrapped.

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The epilogue has Tank Gates paying Twinkles one more visit. We learn here that not only is Tank obnoxious and self absorbed, he’s also shallow in other ways. He learned that Jerry had swiped the playbook and thinking they had the game in the bag, bet against his old alma mater.
Overall, “Quarterback Sneak” is a fun episode. The lesson or moral of the story comes only at the end of the episode. It is a very good one though. Cheating the cheaters puts all the players in the game on a dishonest footing. I think this may be my favorite “lesson learned” that the series had to offer. Your own thoughts on this episode are most welcome! Next week we will review “Try, Try Again”! See you then!