Greetings once again. Today we conclude Season 2 with our review of “Tell It Like It Is”. This episode was one I remember considering dull as a kid, but I was pleasantly surprised upon viewing it again to find it humorous and overall a decent story. It seemed that by the end of season 2, “The Brady Brunch” was trending to be more of a dramedy than a sitcom. The latter stories had gone more in the direction of activism, angst and personal conflict without zany resolutions. As we all know, the silliness and absurdity would soon return and the reputation for the show we know and love would remain intact. With “Tell It Like It Is”, we enjoy another dose of a more serious episode. Let us begin our review!
The story opens with Mike sleeping alone. He tosses and turns a bit and reaches over to embrace his wife, only to find her not there. With the effort extolled to reach for Carol, that poor woman must not get many good nights’ sleep. Had she been laying there, Mike would have pushed her out of bed with that level of cuddling. Upon finding Carol missing, he rises to search for her. After checking the children’s bedrooms, he moves the search downstairs. He finds Carol in his den, curled up in a chair writing on a notepad. He tells her he has searched every part of the house except the doghouse looking for her. One must wonder why Robert Reed allowed this line to fly, because Mike had only checked two rooms before finding Carol in his den. The time is established as 1:45 am. Carol is surprisingly secretive about what she is writing about at this hour. Even after deciding to come to bed, she tells Mike, “Even in my sleep, I won’t talk.”
The next morning, Mike visits with Alice who is surprised to see him up “so early”. He says he never really got back to sleep after finding Carol up at such an odd hour. Alice shares she had a similar experience finding Carol awake and writing the night before. The idea that Carol is keeping a diary is dismissed by Mike and the mystery deepens. The girls then enter the kitchen and add yet another element to Carol’s mysterious behavior. She is up all ready as well and preparing for an early lunch appointment. The girls entering the scene dressed and ready for school makes Alice’s comment about Mike being up “so early” strange. Do Mike and Carol typically stay in bed until after the kids are off to school?
Upstairs, Mike finds Carol under a beauty shop style hair dryer. Do ladies still use these in their homes? A classic sitcom gag follows where one person is speaking to the other, who cannot clearly hear what is being said, but responds to what he/she thinks the other said. In a continuity nod, Mike asks if Carol will be lunching with Ellie. Carol declares her lunch date for the day as part of her ongoing secret. She also states she is in an awful hurry and can’t chat with Mike. This being stated as she sits idly under a hair dryer filing her nails only arouses Mike’s suspicion even more. She either mishears or ignores his complaint about being eaten up with curiosity and bids him goodbye.
The establishing shot that follows presents some unnamed restaurant, unless the restaurant’s name is Patio Dining.
Inside Patio Dining, Carol is lunching with Mr. Delafield. He orders eggs benedict and iced tea for them both. He tells her that one’s writing talent can’t be known until it is put down on paper. In a very convenient turn of events, Mike is at the same restaurant having lunch with a client. He joins Carol and Mr. Delafield. Mr. Delafield introduces himself as the editor of Tomorrow’s Woman magazine. The editor commends Carol for deciding to write an article about her family for the magazine. He speaks as though Mike all ready knows all about Carol’s writing ambitions. In retrospect, one must wonder why Mike would not know. Why would Carol be so adamant that writing such a piece be kept from her family? Readers, can any of you see why Mike would object to Carol doing such?
Mr. Delafield was played by Richard Simmons. No, not THAT Richard Simmons! This actor, who was sometimes credited as Dick Simmons, had a long career in Hollywood. He was the star of a show titled “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon” from 1955 to 1958. His final acting role per IMDB was in the 1977 TV movie “Don’t Push, I’ll Charge When I’m Ready”. However, the IMDB trivia for the title notes this was filmed in 1969 but not aired until 1977. This would make the 1971 film “The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler” his last acting gig. He died in 2003.
Back at the Brady house, the rest of the family could not be happier or more supportive that Carol is writing an article for Tomorrow’s Woman magazine. Marcia, Jan and Cindy all comment what a great magazine it is and how they are regular readers. The boys are excited too. Peter states it is great to be written about in a famous magazine, even if it is a woman’s magazine and not Popular Mechanics. Kudos to the writing staff for having him compare the fictitious Tomorrow’s Woman with the real Popular Mechanics. Mike shows his support by setting up Carol with her own desk to write at in his den.
A laugh out loud moment occurred in the scene that follows. Carol is really struggling to get her thoughts typed out and the discarded papers are piling up. The boys are tasked with emptying the wastebasket and seize the opportunity to read the article. Carol shoos the boys on and Mike enters. He isn’t allowed a peek at the article either. Carol delivers another funny line when asked about her progress, she says she is doing great for a paper drive.
The next scenes show the children practicing being famous. The scene with the girls was the one that always first came to mind when this episode was mentioned. All three pretend to be high society women with the stuffy accents to go with the role. There is a cute moment with Cindy when she fakes being aghast at the article referencing her as Cindy instead of her true name, Cynthia. Greg is dressing the part that fame will bring. As he puts on a tie, he explains that when somebody is famous, he can’t look like a slob. After donning his tie, Peter says he looks like a slob with a tie on. Both scenes here with the kids were funny and well done.
Back in the den, Alice is asking if she is a part of the article. Carol assures her she is and that the article is now finished. Carol sends it off and is told to expect follow up within a week’s time. A weeks passes and she is a nervous wreck. Finally, the reply comes via a special delivery. Carol’s article has been declined. She is quite disheartened by this. Mike’s reply is some of that Brady corniness that has endeared the show to the hearts of many. He tells her she was only rejected by Tomorrow’s Woman magazine and not by “tonight’s husband.”
The next scene returns us to Patio Dining. Mike is having lunch with Mr. Delafield seeking additional feedback on Carol’s rejection. Mr. Delafield says the article “tells it like it is” and that’s not the angle Tomorrow’s Woman is seeking. Mike says one can’t mix a second marriage, six kids, a housekeeper and a dog and expect Romeo and Juliet. I question how this line got past Robert Reed. Romeo and Juliet was one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, not a delightful love story. With the dramatic nature of the past few episodes, maybe Robert Reed had let up on his critiques as he found the show going in more in the direction he appreciated. His reference to a second marriage is the first in a long while that mentions the family being blended.
Mr. Delafield explains that his magazine likes to accentuate the positive in today’s dark and grim world. Mike asks if Carol might write another draft of the article doing just that. Mr. Delafield says he will be happy to read another submission. A title like Tomorrow’s Woman suggests to me this is a publication seeking to cater to females in the progressive era of the early 70s. Do any of you find it strange that it is Mike going to bat for Carol seeking a second chance for her? One’s husband doing such doesn’t seem in step with “tomorrow’s woman”. Granted, he is doing this without Carol’s knowledge, but him doing so just seems out of place.
Carol is not happy that Mike took action on her behalf. She claims she is never going near that typewriter again. In an often used, but still funny, gag the scene immediately transitions to Carol sitting at the typewriter. There is a continuity goof as the shirt we see in the close up shot of Carol typing that introduces the scene does not match what she is wearing when the wider shot is shown.
With her new draft complete, she seeks the feedback of Mike, Alice, Greg and Marcia. Another funny moment occurs as the camera gives a close up of each person and their less than enthusiastic reaction. Alice says she had something else on her mind while reading it. Greg says the typing was great, but the subject matter is not what he typically enjoys reading. Marcia says it was too sweet and goody-goody, but that Carol did a good job. Mike says a husband can’t testify against his wife.
Despite any misgivings by her family, Mr. Delafield is very pleased with Carol’s new draft and says it will be published. He shares the news via a phone call where Alice hovers over Carol awaiting the news. With the acceptance of the article, he asks if he and his staff might come to the house for a tea party. Carol shares with Alice the good news and in all the excitement mixes up the time Mr. Delafield will be coming over with his staff for tea.
Carol’s mix up brings the episode to a humorous conclusion. With the Tomorrow’s Woman entourage arriving an hour before expected, Carol is ill prepared to receive them. Mr. Delafield has brought with him a photographer, two other staff members and two syndicated writers: Wally Witherspoon and Nora Maynard.
As the party guests enter, in typical sitcom fashion, things just fall apart. Nora Maynard looks down her nose at the half-dressed Carol asking, “So this is Mrs. Brady?” It is then that Marcia and Jan enter the living room in a loud verbal argument with a hiccuping Cindy in tow. Nora makes a snooty inquiry as to if these are the “lovable little moppets” Carol wrote about. The boys enter with Bobby having torn his good pants, Peter with a black eye and Greg with poison oak! Peter’s black eye is courtesy of Buddy Hinton. It’s a nice call back to “A Fistful of Reasons”. I guess Buddy got a rematch and another good lick on Peter!
During this whole crazy ordeal, the photographer from Tomorrow’s Woman keeps snapping pictures. Mr. Delafield notes he is one of the magazine’s best photographers. If that is the case, why does this guy keep snapping pictures of a scantily clad Carol? After yet another unflattering shot, he gives her a skeevy grin. I can’t help but think these photos were going into the guy’s private collection and not the magazine. Mr. Delafield never puts a stop to the guy taking unflattering photos either. Surely he would not want them in his magazine!
The craziness continues as Alice and Mike collide and spill the tea sandwiches on the floor. A flustered Carol then introduces Wally Witherspoon as Wally Silverspoon. This made me laugh out loud. The uppity Nora Maynard says the family she sees before her is not the one Carol wrote about in her article. Surely this high society lady knew that Carol’s article accentuated the positive as requested by Mr. Delafield and the Bradys were in fact a real family that existed in the real (sitcom) world! Wally Witherspoon tells Carol her writing needs to “tell it like it is”. With that, both of them go into the kitchen. Mr. Delafield lets Carol know he will be publishing her original draft in his magazine. Apparently he too was unaware how real families operated and will now change the tone of his publication to include more realistic stories. Carol’s writing career has ended as she tells Mike she can’t wait to break that typewriter!
The snooty Nora Maynard was portrayed by Elaine Swann. She has one of the most stretched out acting careers I’ve seen to date. She appeared in “Car 54 Where Are You?” in 1963, this Brady Bunch episode in 1971 and would appear on a CBS Afternoon Playhouse installment ten years later. That was her final on camera appearance per IMDB. No date of death could be found for her. While looking over her IMDB page, I was surprised to find an official website link for her. Upon visiting the page however, it will quickly be discovered the link is not for this Elaine Swann, but some other lady.
Wally Witherspoon was played by Jonathan Hole. He was seen previously on the episode titled “The Possible Dream”. He portrayed a bookstore clerk.
The epilogue has Alice trying her hand at writing. Carol has taken over preparing dinner so that Alice may work on her own literary contribution. Carol asks Alice for an autograph and Alice signs it as Ernest Hemingway. When questioned about this, Alice says she wants to start at the top. It was a weak conclusion to an otherwise solid episode.
In conclusion, “Tell It Like It Is” is a much funnier episode than I remember it being as a kid. It is the second in a row that does not focus on the Brady kids, but it was able to pull off a nice mix of humor and drama. The challenges to creditibility are forgiveable as they are those typical of the sitcom writing format of the day. The level of crazy that wrapped up the story didn’t see a model plane smacking the snooty lady in the head or the magazine staff and guests covered in volcano mud; it was a humorous, yet believable conclusion. Next week, we will begin our journey into season 3. Oh friends, with “Ghost Town, U.S.A” we begin our slide down that slippery slope of absurd and outlandish stories that would make “The Brady Bunch” so memorable. Poor Robert Reed probably ended season 2 in a decent mood with the way the final episodes of the season had been written and resumed hating life when shooting commenced for the third season. Season three is going to be a blast! See you next week!