Hello and Happy Friday! This week we review “Sorry, Right Number.” It originally aired on November 21st, 1969. It is the first sampling of some of the more outlandish Brady Bunch plots. It’s also somewhat of a time capsule as it presents a time when land lines were the most technologically advanced means of communication between homes and businesses. This is an episode I remembered well as it seemed to air more often than others through the years. It is also the first time we see Alice’s beau Sam the Butcher. Let us begin reviewing “Sorry, Right Number”.
The episode begins with Mike and Carol in his office. Mike is expecting a phone call and seems to forget there are eight other people in the home. He answers the phone sans a “hello” and begins a conversation, fully expecting it to be somebody calling him regarding a golf game. It’s not. The caller is Carol’s friend Martha. She is calling to talk about a dress Carol is helping her alter. This will be a very minor subplot in this episode. After ending the call, Carol gives Mike a demonstration of how a dress will “rich up” and he enjoys it. I don’t recall the Brady Bunch being so racy, but season one has given us some rated PG humor. The phone rings again and Mike’s expectations are again dashed as he answers without saying “hello”, only to find this call is not for him either. It is Sam the Butcher calling for Alice. This is the first reference to the character. Carol states that he and Alice have been dating and the quality of the cuts of meat he sells them have greatly improved. I wonder who Sam gave those better cuts of meat too before he and Alice commenced to courting? Carol suggests the home needs a second phone line and Mike agrees.
The next scene is of Mike enjoying his own phone line. He is so enamored with it that even with nobody to call on it, he calls to check the time, despite the fact that he is wearing a
watch. The next shot is of Sam coming into the kitchen to visit Alice. It is the first time we have seen him. Mike passes through the kitchen and compliments Sam on the roast the family enjoyed recently. Sam says Alice isn’t a “bad little lamb chop”. Mike enters the family room where Carol is again talking to Martha about the dress. Mike remembers he has to make a call. It seems his use of the phone is just as excessive as the children’s! He enters his office only to find Greg using the phone. He reminds Greg the kids are supposed to stay out of the den and only use his line for emergencies. He allows a one time exception. This begins a back and forth montage of both phones being used. In the family room, Jan is talking to Dori about freckles. Back in his office, Mike finds Peter talking to Jerry. In a reference more dating than landlines, Peter is instructing Jerry on “the new math”. Peter guilts Mike into allowing him to continue the call and Mike goes back to the family room. There Marcia is talking to Phyllis about her school’s dating scene. Apparently, all the Brady children, must reference the caller’s name mid-conversation. And these must be very short conversations as quickly as users of the phone are changing. Mike’s had enough and determines it is time to set an ultimatum for his, er, his and Carol’s phone.
What follows is the episode’s “talking to”. He lays down the law regarding using the family phone and his own. Problems continue as the kids wait to use their phone. Carol attempts to introduce an egg-timer as a solution. Carol tells Greg that when the timer sand runs out, “It’s goodbye Charley”. Greg tells her he’s speaking to Harvey. In a line that always garnered a chuckle from me, Mike says, “Then it’s goodbye Harvey”. He is shooting daggers at Greg as he and Carol walk away. Greg ignores the timer and the Brady’s phone woes continue.
A new problem enters the equation in the next scene. The financial cost of this dilemma becomes apparent when Mike opens the phone bill. He bemoans that the toll calls on the bill were five times as many units as they are allowed. This has him pacing the bedroom as he and Carol prepare to retire for the night. He says they have great kids who “don’t play hooky, don’t lie” and are not “fresh”. In another line that has been etched in my memory for decades, Carol tells him he will be even more unhappy with the bill for the new carpet he is wearing out pacing the floor.
Before moving on, I am hoping some reader might enlighten us younger folks. Were phone bills back in the day billed based on the number of calls placed? The time used making calls? What constituted a toll call? I can’t imagine the kids had many classmates they would have to use long distance to call. What kinds of toll calls could they be making?
Sam’s butcher shop is seen for the first time in the scene that follows. Sam knows something is wrong with his “lamb chop” when Alice starts dissing his goods. He closes the shop for the day so the two of them can talk. After offering her a crate to sit on, which Alice scoffs at, she tells him that when all the Bradys are upset, so is she. Sam asks if maybe she is “making meatloaf out of a hamburger”. After explaining how everybody is upset and she is concerned, Sam tells Alice she has a heart as big as a cow. Now, I know what a joy in life it can be to love your work and what you do, but Sam needs to give all the meat references a rest. It seems most every reference he makes or point of conversation has to have some meat analogy. It’s like talking to that friend who just went through a bad break up and can speak of nothing else.
While chatting, Alice notices that Sam’s store now has a pay telephone. Sam says customer’s using his business line was devouring his profits ten cents at a time. The payphone has solved all that, save the dime Alice borrows to use his phone and call Mike. Soon thereafter, a gift wrapped box hangs on the family room wall, that must remain unopened until Mike comes home. When he does, it is revealed the box has been concealing a pay telephone! Carol says it looks like a pay telephone, a real pay telephone. Upon confirming its authenticity, Mike tells the kids they will get an allowance supplement allowing them to make two calls per day. Any additional use of the phone will come from their existing allowance. Jan states she makes ten calls a day and Marcia complains she can’t lay on the floor and talk on the payphone. Mike tells them to suck it up.
Carol again calls the financial aspect of the phone problem to Mike’s attention. The allowance supplement will cost them $36 per month, which was more than the phone bill was in the first place. Using just a simple inflation calculator on the internet, $36 in 1969 is about $236.82 now. That’s quite an expense for the children’s additional allowance! For another comparison, Sam’s butcher shop advertised ground round for .89 cents a pound. That translates to about $5.85 today. The payphone rings and Mike asks, “Who could be calling on a payphone?” Had the Bradys disconnected the existing phone line all together? The kids could no longer get calls? Friends and family who used to the old number prior were unable to get through now? As I wrote about this scene, I thought a great reveal for the payphone would have been if started ringing while still gift wrapped. Each kid and Carol would experience great confusion searching for the ringing phone. In true Brady Bunch fashion, there would be a montage of this happening to each kid and Carol, one scene at a time.
What follows is a montage of how change has become a hot commodity in the Brady home. Nobody wants to make change so that others can make calls. Marcia just outright refuses, Peter says he’d rather be a rich brother than a generous brother and Bobby and Cindy fight over a piggy bank. I guess each of them had a racket going to supply change to their siblings. Carol is in Mike’s office again discussing the dress with Martha. Carol says she no longer has time to worry over the dress because she is having so much trouble finding nickels and dimes for the kids. How about you go to the bank and get a roll of dimes? Regarding the dress, can Martha not just come over and let Carol break out a measuring tape? Why must all the dress alterations be discussed by phone? Mike did mention earlier that all calls to Martha are toll calls. Carol can save all those 10 cent charges by taking the time to drive over and visit Martha in person! Mike enters the office excited about some good news he’s received regarding some designs for a factory complex. He urgently needs the phone to call Mr. Crawford to set up a meeting. Mike says you can’t keep multi-millionaires waiting. During the exchange, Martha’s feelings have been hurt and she has laid down her own phone and walked off. Neither Mike nor Carol can get the office line to disconnect so he can call Mr. Crawford. Mike is getting panicked and goes to use the payphone. As he passes through the kitchen, he finds Sam visiting with Alice. Finally, a non meat reference/compliment is made as Sam says he must accompany Alice to an R-rated movie since she isn’t 16 yet.
Mike plops a dime in the phone and finds he must go through two other contacts to reach Mr. Crawford. Upon finally reaching Mr. Crawford and being seconds away from closing the deal, the operator comes on the line and says ten cents more is needed to continue the call. The look on Mike’s face when this occurred was a laugh out loud moment for me. He frantically searches for another dime and calls out for help. Alice is fresh out of change, but Sam comes to the rescue. Alice comments that the kids could find no dimes because he had them all. This made me laugh too. Well, Sam’s dimes come too late. The call has ended and Mike’s deal is seemingly ruined. He is sitting on the couch dismayed at the millions that he was just disconnected from. Sam suggests he call Mr. Crawford back and Mike realizes that this common sense solution is the best one. Alice tries to get Sam back in the kitchen, but he says he wants to hang around and see what happens. This made me laugh too. Alice and Sam leave and Mike calls back Mr. Crawford. This time he connects straight to him without going through either of the previous contacts. Mr. Crawford questions the quality of Mike’s company if they must conduct business from pay telephones. Mike explains the phone is in his home. Mr. Crawford states that doesn’t restore his faith in Mike or his company (another funny line) and he must use his own non-payphone for other calls. Mike then explains he installed the phone in his home because his six children were running up a high phone bill. Mr. Crawford is intrigued at this idea as he has three teenagers of his own. It would have been funny if Mr. Crawford stated, “Well, that doesn’t restore my faith in you if you must resort to such measures to ensure your children are disciplined. Goodbye Mr. Brady”. Of course, that isn’t what happened. Mr. Crawford, the multi-millionaire, likes the idea of charging his children for making phone calls and sets a meeting with Mike.
Mr. Crawford was played by Howard Culver. Per IMDB, he had a long career in show business, to include playing the role of Howie on Gunsmoke for several years and being among Jack Webb’s regular players. His last appearance on television was in 1983, in an uncredited role, in the made for television disaster movie titled “The Night The Bridge Fell Down”. His last credited role was in 1982’s TV movie “The 25th Man”. Horror fans might recognize him as the Man in Pajamas in “Halloween II”. He died in 1984.
The epilogue is a bit strange. Mike is patching the wall as the regular Brady phone has been returned to service. Alice says she will miss the payphone. Why on earth she would, I have no idea. Mike tells her that if she has hankering to pay a dime to make a call from a private residence, she can go to Mr. Crawford’s!
This was a fun episode. I had forgotten how funny the whole scenario with Mike calling Mr. Crawford was. Bradymania shared the story how Robert Reed and Sherwood Schwartz quibbled over this plot. Robert Reed researched which southern California municipality would allow for a pay phone to be installed in a residence and tested Sherwood Schwartz on this. When Schwartz confirmed the Bradys lived in a city allowing such, the show went on. Next time we will review, “Every Boy Does It Once”. I remember little about this one. Please share your own thoughts and comments on “Sorry, Right Number”! If you have not joined the Facebook group, “Here’s The Story: Every Episode of the Brady Bunch Reviewed”, please do so!