Greetings once again! Thank you for joining me to review “Big Little Man”. It first aired January 7th, 1972. The title appears to be a play on the Dustin Hoffman hit film “Little Big Man”. In last week’s blog, I shared how plots involving Cindy and Bobby were among my least favorites. After reviewing this episode, I must say it is one of the better ones focusing on one of the youngest kids. I had forgotten how much humor was inserted in the story. It is a “woe is me” plot, but Bobby’s efforts to rectify being a “pee wee” are for the most part funny. The episode also involves Greg a great deal, so that contributed to the enjoyment of it. Let us begin reviewing “Big Little Man”!
The episode opens with some high drama. What starts as just a simple repair of a shutter soon transpires into Bobby almost dying or suffering a major injury. Greg has set up a ladder to repair a shutter outside the girls’ room. What exactly is wrong with it is not made clear. It looks well attached to me. I noticed it does swing as a shutter is supposed to do by design. However, in the 20th century, most shutters on suburban homes were for ornamentation only. As Greg toils away on the shutter repair, Alice informs him he has a phone call. Personally, if I found myself being called to the phone while at the top of a ladder in the middle of a task, I’d have told Alice to take a message. However, teenage social priorities often trump chores and responsibility.
As Greg heads inside to take the call, Bobby ignores Greg’s admonishment to stay off the ladder. As he clumsily tries to repair the shutter, the ladder shifts under him and falls to the ground! Bobby is left hanging from the window sill! Thank heavens the girls’ bedroom window has no screen and Bobby has something to grab on to! The scene ends with a freeze frame of Bobby looking downward with a terrified expression. As one watches this drama unfold, his/her escalated heart rate probably results in the viewer not questioning why Greg even needed the ladder for this repair. From the looks of the shutter’s location and the screenless window, the repair could have easily and much more safely been handled from the girls’ room.
As Bobby cries for help, Cindy and Alice run into the backyard and Alice commences to setting the ladder back up. Fortunately, Greg is in his room and can rescue Bobby right away. Greg chides Bobby’s actions and reminds him he told him to stay off the ladder. In a funny reply, Bobby says “I’m off!” Greg then refers to Bobby as a peewee trying to act bigger than he is. Bobby thanks Greg for saving his life and says he will pay him back. I was waiting for him to pledge to be his slave for life, but he didn’t. The scene ends humorously as Alice has climbed the ladder and declares her action better late than never and requests a rescue of her own. The humor continues as all three fall to the floor while bringing her in the window.
The next scene is probably my all time favorite featuring Cindy. Mike, Carol and Jan have returned from a shopping trip. Cindy rushes down to share the news of the day. First she asks if it would be tattling to share something somebody else doesn’t want you to know. She is advised that would be tattling. It’s a nice reference to Cindy’s earlier tattling issues. Jan is pining for this news and even licks her lips in anticipation. Cindy tries to do the right thing and walk away, letting the three of them know they’ll just have to find out for themselves. Jan, being sufficiently baited, immediately queries Cindy for the news. Cindy shares with glee that “Bobby nearly fell off the house.” The reaction on Mike, Carol and Jan’s faces only adds more humor to this entire scene. Susan Olsen owned this scene and performed masterfully in it. The entire scene made me laugh out loud more than once.
Upstairs, Carol pulls splinters from Bobby’s hands and he is again admonished for climbing the ladder. Mike asks what he was doing up there and in a funny reply Bobby says, “Hanging on mostly.” Here, Bobby shares his angst at being a peewee noting he is the second smallest kid in his class. Mike offers encouragement in that maybe Bobby hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet. Bobby says being little is the worst thing in the world.
The next scene begins with Greg sharing he is seeking work. In another past episode callback, Alice asks if he is planning on buying another jalopy. This time around, he only seeks to buy a used surfboard. Seconds later, we see Sam for the first time in season 3. It’s been a while since he has been in an episode. I am glad the producers used Allan Melvin for sporadic guest appearances. He played the part of Alice’s beau very well and was a believable and likeable match for her. As often as this show reused actors in different parts, I am glad they were consistent with Allan Melvin and didn’t attempt to have other actors fill the role of Alice’s beau in random appearances. We learn that Sam is in need of a delivery boy as the last one he had wanted fringe benefits to include free filet mignon every day. Alice suggests Greg and for this episode at least, Greg now has a job as Sam’s delivery boy. Bobby then enters and Sam greets him as “shrimpo”. Bobby is devastated and makes his first dash to his room of the episode.
As Bobby enters the room, we don’t see him start to cry, but he does reach for his handkerchief to imply such. It was a nice touch by the episode’s director. Sam follows Bobby up to his room to apologize. Alice must have told him what room it was as one must wonder how he’d have known otherwise. This may be the only time Sam left the first floor of the Brady home. Sam gives Bobby a pep talk similar to the one Mike gave earlier about hitting a growth spurt. This time it seems to work as Bobby feels better after their conversation.
Bobby’s solution to rapid growth is stretching. He spends an untold amount of time dangling from the swing set. Peter says if Bobby doesn’t grow anymore, he could always be a jockey. Mike and Carol observe Bobby’s stretching from the family room window. A few Tarzan jokes are made about Bobby’s effort and the potential result. In the previous episode’s review, regular contributor Tweety questioned Carol’s concern about Bobby and Cindy’s marathon teeter-tottering. Bobby’s actions here should be cause for concern, but Mike just brushes it off and Carol suggests Bobby could look like a monkey if his arms stretch and the rest of him does not. Bobby’s actions here could result is some damage to the rotator cuff. One will notice the first shot of him hanging has him wearing a blue shirt and the subsequent shots a striped shirt. So, multiple days of just dangling like this should be addressed!
Bobby measures his progress, or lack thereof, via a strip of tape on the bathroom door. After his first measurement shows no results, he goes right back to dangling. Bobby’s sisters are concerned for their brother’s small complex and want to do something. His next few measurements show progress! He excitedly runs down to the living room to share the news of his growth. Mike and Carol are skeptical and have good reason to be. Bobby shares his dangling has caused him to grow and inch and a half. Cindy informs he only grew half an inch, as she moved the piece of tape down a half inch. I played this scene back to make certain I heard her correctly. Her math skills are off as she should have suggested he grew only an inch if she moved the tape down half an inch. What follows are Jan and Marcia stating they did the same. Bobby’s joy is completely and understandably squelched. Mike says while the girl’s efforts were misguided, they weren’t trying to trick Bobby. What follows is a sitcom cliché moment where Bobby angrily storms off to his bedroom.
The next scene has Alice leaving for the market to get the makings for strawberry tall cake. She is hoping by making his favorite dessert, Bobby might be cheered up some. She won’t refer to it as strawberry short cake in his presence! As she leaves, Bobby comes home beaten and bruised. He picked a fight with Tommy Huxley and got a black eye in return. Carol uses this blunder on Bobby’s part to tell him about Napoleon Bonaparte, who was a short man who tried to act big. Carol shares that like Bobby, he got clobbered. Carol might want to read up on her history a bit as Napoleon was largely successful until he attempted to invade Russia; this was his undoing. Carol asks Bobby if he thinks fighting is the answer and in a funny reply Bobby says, “Not if you lose.” Carol goes on to share that a lot of great men were small people who used brain power to be great.
It was strange seeing how Bobby’s fight at school was no big deal. Today, the police would be called and there would be meetings with both sets of parents, an administrator and both offenders. I am not advocating that school yard fights should not be addressed, it was just interesting to see a glimpse into another time where a scrap resulting in a black eye was handled so lightly.
An IMDB contributor noted how Bobby’s black eye heals up very quickly. In the next scene Bobby is seen arriving home with an armload of books. Those things are huge! He must have checked out some encyclopedia volumes. Also, take a look at his clothes. A sweatshirt and striped pants are not a combo one would see today. Bobby puts his brainpower to work right away. He shares with Marcia and Jan a textbook definition of television. In a funny and sarcastic reply, Marcia says, “You really took a load off my mind.” Next, Bobby shares with Mike and Greg that the fourth longest river in the world is the Ob in Siberia. Longer rivers must have been found since 1972 as Britannica.com lists the river as the seventh longest. I only know this because I wanted to look up the spelling of Ob for this review. Fourth or seventh, Mike and Greg could care less about the trivia Bobby shares and both leave to do their own thing.
Wanting to help Bobby feel important, Alice sends him to the meat market for two pounds of sausage for a meatloaf. Sam must sell just one kind as she doesn’t specify what kind of sausage she needs. Maybe Sam would know because she is a regular customer. Well, Sam won’t be at the shop. He is making Greg’s deliveries and leaving him to close the store. Sam and Alice have a date for the demolition derby. The closing duties include putting the meat away, wiping down the counters and locking the door. It would seem a sweeping of the floor should be added too as it appears to be covered in sawdust. However, I learned today that was at one time common in butcher shops.
When Bobby arrives at the store, we get a second go around of high drama for this episode. With all the meat stashed away, Greg must go inside the meat locker to retrieve Alice’s order. Bobby quietly follows him in and shuts the door. This is bad! Although the laugh track did play a single person laughing at Bobby doing this. Sam has a policy that the door remains open anytime somebody is inside the meat locker, as it is antiquated and can only be opened from the outside. If the door can’t be opened from the inside, I wonder what that silver handle is for. Greg attempts to whack the handle with the broadside of an axe, but it only breaks as the axe strikes it. He then breaks the axe trying to pry the door open with it.
The third escape effort has Greg breaking the window with the axe handle. The window is too small for Greg to fit through, per the script. To me it looked like he would be able to wriggle through. Since he won’t fit, it is up to Bobby to save the day. To his own surprise, Bobby says, “I sure hope I am small enough.” With Bobby out the window he goes to payphone to call for help. He comments on how cold the dime is he has to use and Greg angrily compares the dime’s temperature to his own.
The scene transitions to Alice, Sam, Mike and Carol at the butcher shop. A pry bar is used to remove the handle and free Greg. Sam comments he will modernize that meat locker no matter what the cost! I could not help but wonder if Sam’s entire inventory would now be lost due to the damaged door. Something else that didn’t make much sense was Alice’s attire. First off, she and Sam seem way too well dressed to attend a demolition derby. Maybe at the time folks dressed up regardless of the occasion. Secondly, since we know the sausage never made it home, was she going to make the meatloaf dressed like that? Bobby is thanked for saving Greg’s life. Never mind that he was the one who imperiled it by closing the meat locker door! Bobby is now glad he is little.
The epilogue has Bobby standing on his head trying to prevent growth. Just kidding. It really has Greg giving Bobby a surfing lesson on Greg’s surfboard. Peter is sneaking up to splash water on Bobby, but Bobby was tipped off and ducks at Greg’s warning of a big wave. The water misses Bobby and splashes Greg instead. The scene is just the Brady boys having fun.
Thank you for joining me to review “Big Little Man”. It is another solid and enjoyable episode and an example of The Brady Bunch in top form. The strains of credibility are few and far between. It was also fun seeing Sam again. Next week’s review will be of “Dough Re Mi”. Have a great weekend!