Hello once again friends, family and readers. I am glad you are here to review “The Winner” with me! It originally aired on February 26th, 1971. It is one of the “woe is me” plotlines and is played for drama. This episode ranks among my least favorites for the entire series. There was hardly even a semi-chuckle enjoyed while watching it. As stated in previous reviews, the episodes where one of the kids feels sorry for himself/herself throughout the entire show was always irritating to me. A kid feeling down on himself/herself was often the motivation for some humorous plotlines, as evidenced in “Will The Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?” and “Our Son, The Man”. In these episodes, the child’s attempts to remedy his/her woes were fun and still taught the lesson of believing in one’s true self. Episodes like “The Winner” were borderline depressing as the poor child just couldn’t believe in their own self and moped around for the episode’s duration. With that, let us begin our review of “The Winner”.
The story kicks off with Cindy dashing about the Brady home showing off a giant jack. She has won the giant jack trophy for being the best jacks player on the playground. The trophy looks very much like a toy/decoration that I recall being fairly common in the 70s and 80s. The prop master could have at least put some gold spray paint on Cindy’s award. What probably happened was that whoever oversees the playground was cleaning out a child’s room and wanted to get rid of some things. Hence, the giant jack toy was made a trophy! The whole family gathers around admires her trophy; the whole family except for Bobby that is. Cindy’s bringing home this token of accomplishment means that he is the only Brady kid without a trophy. He mopes upstairs while the rest of the family oohs and aahs over Cindy’s new toy, er trophy.
Upstairs, Bobby places a donkey mask atop his head for unknown reasons. He languishes in the presence of some nice continuity references in the form of Greg’s plaque noting his presidency of the student body in “Vote For Brady” and Peter’s citizenship award given by the Daily Chronicle in “The Hero”. He then looks longingly at some sports trophies won by Greg and Peter and finally one large silver award given for reasons unknown. He then finds his way over to the girls’ room and laments over Jan and Marcia’s trophies. One appears to be for cheerleading and the other for volleyball. In the presence of these monuments of achievement Bobby pulls the donkey mask over his face.
Bobby moves the pity party to his bedroom closet. It must have been a long one since everybody has changed clothes since the last scene. After finally having Bobby confess the origin of his miseries, Mike and Carol encourage him to pick something and work to be the best at it. This will see that he someday has his own trophy to polish.
The scenes that follow reveal that not only is Bobby not good at anything, he is also a very sore loser. Peter (in his canary shirt) wallops Bobby at checkers. Bobby flips the board and angrily storms away. Marcia and Jan are REALLY enjoying a ring toss game that looks to be made for preschoolers. Bobby interrupts their fun to demonstrate his mad ring tossing skills, only to fall short. Upon this failure, he violently slings the other rings across the yard. After losing to Greg in free throws, there’ll be no more basketball at the Brady home as Bobby is owner of the basketball and has restricted further use of it. These reactions warranted a strong talking to by Mike and Carol, but that isn’t what happens.
Greg and Marcia go to talk with their parents about Bobby’s explosive behavior and use the worst of G-rated expletives and call him a “stinker”. Carol chides both children as they know she doesn’t like use of such a harsh adjective. They explain Bobby’s plight and Mike’s only action is to hope he wins at something soon, since it weighs on Bobby’s mind so much as of late. By the end of the conversation, Mike and Carol have also called Bobby a you-know-what.
The next scene gives us another Brady dream sequence. I had completely forgotten about this one. Bobby scores the winning run as a Dodger, wins a speedboat race piloting a crippled craft and makes a fantastic leap as a skier. After each amazing feat, he is awarded the same trophy over and over. The dream ends with Bobby falling out of the bed and shedding a tear at his lack of a trophy.
It is a new day and Bobby is in the family room watching Kartoon King. This program seems almost as annoying as this episode! The Kartoon King makes the stupidest jokes and then laughs at his lame comedic self. He tells the kids to tune in the next day for a big announcement! After hearing this, Alice asks Bobby to answer the doorbell because she is busy. The person at the door is a kid selling magazine subscriptions. Take a look at the magazine he is holding! It is an issue of Car Sport; the same magazine we saw in “Call Me Irresponsible”. Upon learning that Bobby doesn’t want to buy a subscription, the kid starts to walk away. Bobby chides him for his lack of salesmanship. Here Bobby learns that the boy is in a contest and third prize is a trophy! The kid has Bobby buy a magazine so he can get the details for the contest. Maybe the kid has some salesman mojo after all!
The credits list the magazine peddling youngster simply as “The Boy”. He was played by Kerry MacLane. He had previously appeared on “The Monkees”, “Gunsmoke” and this was one of two “Brady Bunch” appearances. He would also appear in the feature film “Johnny Got His Gun” and enjoy recurring roles on “The Cowboys” and “Shazam!” IMDB lists no acting credits for him beyond 1976.
Bobby gets details for the magazine contest in very short order. That company must really want kids out there selling magazines! The entire family is on board to help Bobby feel like a winner as they are all buying subscriptions. It has been a while since we’ve had a “dumb Cindy” line, but we get one here. She is so motivated to help Bobby that she buys two subscriptions to the same magazine. Mike and Carol get on board and recruit all their friends to buy subscriptions from Bobby. Things are going well until Cindy spills the beans that Mike and Carol asked their friends to buy magazines from Bobby. Bobby storms downstairs and throws his orders slips and book on the floor and lets Mike and Carol know that the victory is theirs’! Okay, how did Bobby get all the numbers or contacts for Mike and Carol’s friends? Did he happen to swipe their address books and make the calls/visits? Any good salesman needs leads and his parents should have told him that is what they were giving him and state they knew he would be calling their friends. Instead they acknowledge the errors of their ways and take some solace in that “parents can be human too.”
The next scene has Bobby watching the Kartoon King again. He is just as annoying as before. However, he shares his big announcement! Wait, earlier he said it would be shared the next day, but surely not only a single day has passed since Bobby entered the magazine contest and found himself to be a fraud at peddling them. We can surmise that maybe the Kartoon King had been sharing this exciting news over the past few broadcasts and just now gave the number out for the kids to call. The Kartoon King is announcing an ice-cream eating contest! The prize is a golden scoop trophy and all the ice cream the winner can eat for a whole year. However, this huge announcement for all the viewers really only benefits 6 children; the first 6 to call the station. Bobby can take heart that he was a winner of sorts as he was one of the six to get through to the station and get to be in the contest.
The Kartoon King was played by the late great Hal Smith. He previously played the role of the department store Santa Claus in “The Voice of Christmas”. As an actor he will always hold a place in my TV viewing heart as he portrayed the lovable town drunk Otis Campbell on “The Andy Griffith Show”. However, this time around, I found his character to be quite annoying!
Bobby sets out for the TV studio amidst much bravado. He is confident he will return home holding the golden scoop! Oh friends, I dislike this episode more by the minute. Should Bobby be victorious, then alongside awards that honor Greg’s being the student body president, Peter’s lifesaving heroics would sit an ice cream scoop signifying Bobby’s ability to consume dairy. I am all ready no fan of eating contests. One day the local newspaper ran a story on hunger in the USA on one page and the next page had a story about a Krystal eating contest. I can be a tad more forgiving for the eating contest in this episode as it involves children limited to a single serving of ice cream and not adults guzzling as much meat and bread as their gullets can hold.
At the studio, the contest is about to commence when the Kartoon King realizes the kids should not have spoons. He cracks another joke he finds hilarious by answering Bobby that the kids will eat the ice cream with their mouths since they have no spoons. Some whipped cream is also added for the kids to consume. The contest commences and all six kids are scarfing down the chocolate ice cream. I kept imagining each of the kids getting a brain freeze in sequence as they consumed the ice cream too quickly with the Kartoon King finding this very funny. “Oooh-hoo-hoo-hooo, looks like we have some cold brains! here” Instead, we get to see Bobby lose yet again. There will be no golden scoop adorning the bedroom wall at the Brady house.
Before we get to the lame conclusion of this episode, I wanted to point out this one extra’s swanky duds. I kept wondering if he was some sort of station crew member and if that vest was part of the work attire. I do believe that was just a style for the day though. A felt vest with its own belt. Readers, do you recall people wearing this?
When Bobby, Mike and Carol arrive home from the station, we see one of the best known Brady bloopers. Bobby left home that day triumphantly sitting in the open air convertible. They all come back home in the station wagon. They notice how dark and empty the house looks. Bobby comments on how they didn’t want to see a loser. Mike finally tells Bobby the pity party is over with “That’ll do”.
Inside Bobby is greeted with a surprise party and an altered trophy. A piece of paper has been wrapped around the base of Greg’s trophy with a commendation for trying hard written on it. Also prepared for this on-the-fly shindig is a huge container of chocolate ice cream. Bobby groans at the thought of eating more of it! I am sure there are many viewers who found this ending heartwarming and sweet. I am not among those. I just can’t see how Bobby would be happy to get this. After feeling as sorry for himself the entire episode, a phony trophy for effort, awarded by his brother’s and sister’s, should have only disheartened him more. It’s the end we got though. I have similar feelings about the end of the “The Hero”, but via the comments section found many viewers found the conclusion a very good one. So readers, your thoughts on this ending are most welcome!
The epilogue has Alice adding her own trophy to the Brady mantel. I thought it was interesting that she went to Westdale High. This is the same school Greg and Marcia attend in the series. Alice won this cup for a dance contest that she won accidentally when her gym bloomers’ elastic broke. She’s also scratched off the year so her age won’t be revealed.
Thank you readers for reviewing “The Winner” with me. While I don’t care for it, it is a solid episode. It should be noted this was Robert Reed’s directorial debut for the show. Perhaps that contributed to its lack of laughs. With all the on-set tension we’ve heard about over the years, I am surprised the Schwartz family allowed him to direct an episode. Next week we will review “Double Parked”. See you then!