Episode 23: The Fender Benders

Greeting readers, family and friends.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  Today, we end 2017 and season three reviewing “The Fender Benders”.  The episode first aired March 10th, 1972.  This episode is another dose of the ideal Brady formula.  There is a believable conflict that involves some humor and actions that begin to challenge credibility.  It also features a guest star who was no stranger to classic television.  Let us commence to reviewing “The Fender Benders”.

The episode opens with a glowing continuity error.  The wide shot of the Brady home shows the Brady’s previous station wagon pulling into the driveway.  The next shot has the Bradys newer station wagon parking in the driveway; it is the newer vehicle with a smashed fender!  Carol has just arrived home from the grocery store and had a scrape with another car in the store’s parking lot.  Bobby and Cindy’s reaction is funny as they are going to finish their homework quickly, so they can see Mike blow his top when he learns of the car’s damage.  Carol says Mike won’t be upset over something minor, but her delivery and demeanor suggest otherwise.  As I watched this scene, I wondered if the set dresser/studio mechanic(?) took a hammer to the car’s fender or maybe backed it into a rock or tree over on the Bonanza set.


When Mike arrives home, he conveniently comes through the front door.  Have you ever wondered what motivated Mike to sometimes park in front of the house and sometimes park in the driveway?  Other than convenience of plot, there doesn’t seem to be any other reasoning behind it.  Florence Henderson performs very well in this scene.  She nervously tells Mike all of the day’s good news.  She casually mentions a minor problem.  When Mike answers back “minor problem?” she replies she knew he would see it that way.  It was a funny scene.   Greg enters and saves Carol the trouble of breaking the news of the “minor problem” as he asks, “Who banged up the car?”  Instead of being relieved that the news was shared, Carol seems aggravated which leaves Greg confused.


Outside, Mike doesn’t seem very upset about the mashed fender.   He and Carol discuss what happened.  Carol places all the blame on the other driver and says they agreed to exchange names and phone numbers and fix their own cars instead of reporting the accident.  As I write this review, I question if that was their agreement, why even swap information like that?  Peter and Jan arrive home and immediately assume the damage is Greg’s fault.   In a funny line, right in front of Carol, Jan says, “What a dumb thing to do!”  Scenes like this always crack me up.  Mike tells the kids they are having chicken and dumplings for dinner.  Knowledge of this immediately lets them know it was Carol who is responsible for wrecking the car.  This was another funny and well acted scene.

The scene that follows must not have aired in syndication as I have no recollection of it.  Greg is talking on the phone to his friend Eddie and letting him know he can’t drive for a planned outing as the only available set of wheels is out of commission.  In the living room, Marcia picks up the other line, not realizing Greg is on the phone, and overhears Eddie bashing women drivers.  She speaks her piece and then goes to inform Greg the accident was not Carol’s fault.  Upon learning that he just offended Marcia, a girl he wanted to ask out, Eddie abruptly ends the call.  During this scene, one will notice a fire burning in living room fireplace.  Readers, do any of you recall seeing the fire place in use before?


In the next scene, we get to meet Mr. Duggan.  He is one of the more memorable antagonist guest stars of the series.  Unlike Skip Farnham or BeeBee Gallini, the existence of somebody like Mr. Duggan in the Brady’s lives is believable as we have all most likely crossed paths with somebody similar.  Mike answers the door and Mr. Duggan strolls right into the house.  More humor is delivered as Mike says, “Come on in” as Mr. Duggan is almost into the living room.  Mr. Duggan compliments the Brady home and asks if he has caught Mike at a bad time.  His nice manners soon give way and reveal a sexist and greedy underbelly.  He tells Mike he was hoping the two of them could settle things “man to man”.  He chides Carol’s status as a woman driver as she comes downstairs.  Whatever polite exchange took place at the supermarket parking lot earlier in the day has been forgotten by Mr. Duggan.  He keeps addressing Mike in the conversation and states the fender bender was entirely Carol’s fault.  He adds on that he was doing the marketing as his wife is too frail to do so, since she is a woman.  He then tells Mike he’d like to explain

“Refurnishing your house?”

his side of the story without Carol interrupting.  He reveals himself as more of a horse’s rear by the second.  He shares his car wound up having to be towed from the scene to a body shop and he has come bearing an itemized bill.  Among the repairs he expects Carol to pay for are a smashed tail light, crushed fender, muffler replacement, repainting the left side of the car and realignment of the frame.  This totals $295.11.  In today’s dollars that would be $1758.32.  Mr. Duggan said there were some other things he doesn’t mind paying for himself.  In one of the funniest lines of the series, Carol asks if that might be refurnishing his house.    Mr. Duggan is very chapped that Mike hasn’t all ready whipped out his check book to settle the matter and asks if Mrs. Brady is suggesting he is lying.  She replies that she does think he is and adds that he is doing so very badly.  Mr. Duggan then laments that Mike is going to believe Carol’s version of the events and he can see who wears the pants in the family.  Mike threatens to throw Mr. Duggan out by the seat of his!  Mr. Duggan asks if Mike is threatening bodily harm and Mike confirms he indeed is!  In today’s times, this threat alone could have gotten Mike arrested, but 1972 was a different era.  Mr. Duggan leaves with a promise to see Carol in court.  This scene was masterfully done and one of the series’ very best.



The second conflict of the episode is made known upon Mr. Duggan’s exit.  Bobby and Cindy were listening to the entire exchange between Mr. Duggan and their parents.  They question if they will be called as witnesses at the court proceedings.  Upon being advised they will, they share troubling news.  They have no recollection of Carol checking behind her when backing the car up.  This leads to Mike and Carol begrudgingly deciding to settle the matter to spare Bobby and Cindy a court appearance where they would have to testify against Carol.

Up in the boys’ room, Bobby’s honesty has Peter livid to the point he provides the ultimate insult via a Benedict Arnold comparison.  Benedict Arnold sure was an important figure to the Brady kids.  Based on Peter’s ire with Bobby, we can only assume he’d be content to commit perjury in a court of law!  Over in the girls’ room, Cindy is in the dumps about having to be honest and testify against Carol.  Marcia is just now learning of this and seeks to set the record straight.  Sometimes news travels very slowly in the Brady house.  It’s hard to imagine Marcia was unaware of Bobby and Cindy not agreeing with Carol’s version of the events.  Marcia visits Mike and Carol in their room and confirms Carol was not at fault in the accident.  Marcia asks Mike if there is something he can do.


The next scene has Cindy and Alice having a chat over breakfast.  Alice explains to Cindy some basic court proceedings.  She cites the courtroom television shows The Bold Ones and Owen Marshall as her source.  An internet search reveals The Bold Ones aired on a different network than The Brady Bunch, so it was interesting to see it referenced here.  I had never heard of Owen Marshall, but apparently it was a highly regarded show.  It did air on the same network as The Brady Bunch.  Alice also mentions the granddaddy of courtroom TV shows, Perry Mason.  I was surprised Alice didn’t mention the courtroom show The Defenders as Robert Reed had starred on it.  Cindy asks if she doesn’t take the witness stand would she be able to fib a little.  It was a cute Cindy line.

The breakfast chat is interrupted with Mike instructing Cindy to head to the backyard as soon as possible.  Some of the low level craziness that made the show so memorable is about to commence.  Mike has decided the best way to determine what really occurred at the supermarket parking lot is to reenact the entire event.  The reenactment is to be complete with Greg backing up Mike’s car in the role of Mr. Duggan.  It seems they could have done this without Greg having to drive the other vehicle.  Mike instructs those in the station wagon to behave just as they did at the supermarket.  Bobby and Cindy recall they were arguing over spilled ice cream.  Carol never even begins moving the station wagon, but Greg continues backing up.  Mike realizes Bobby and Cindy were too distracted to notice if Carol ever looked back and therefore can not state with any certainty that she did or did not.  As Mike comes to this realization, he is ignoring Greg’s backing up of the car.  Peter tries to call his attention to Greg inching toward the car, but charliechanMike can’t be bothered.  Finally he notices and yells for Greg to stop.  Greg slams on the brakes.  It was supposed to suggest that this was a close call, but in reality, it looks like there was easily another three feet of space before Greg would have hit the station wagon.  It didn’t even look close to me.  Also, why was Greg not looking back?  Was he so into the role of Mr. Duggan he decided to mimic his actions?  Mike’s great deduction with Bobby and Cindy is hailed by the family as matching the genius of Charlie Chan.  Mike does an impression of the Asian stereotype to complete the compliment.   At the time, the character was still quite popular in America and such an impression would have met with little criticism.


The courtroom scene that follows transforms Mr. Duggan from a nasty and unlikeable villain to a comical one.  He remains as sexist and underhanded as before, but with some pathetic ruses.  One will notice in this scene that the extras sitting behind the Brady family have conflicting personalities.  The man gives the family a polite smile as they rise and go before the court.  The lady beside him looks none too happy about it.  Once the Bradys are before the court, it is discovered that Mr. Duggan is not present.  A few seconds later, he enters wearing a neck brace and claims he has whiplash.  He previously frail wife is now described as being bedridden.


As he demonstrates his version of the events in the parking lot the day of the accident, he tacks on the statement, “You know how women drivers are.”  The judge states that the gender of the defendant is of no importance, except maybe to his or her spouse.  After Mr. Duggan states for the third time he can’t move his head, the irritated judge lets him know he has made that abundantly clear.  This made me laugh out loud.


When it is Carol’s turn to explain her version of the events, Mr. Duggan objects to her children being called as witnesses to the accident.  His objection stems from his belief that Carol told the children what to say.  In another funny moment, the judge tells Mr. Duggan the court does not need advice from him.  The entire courtroom scene in this episode plays out very comically.


As Mike watches the proceedings, he begins eyeing his briefcase and has an idea.  The judge is explaining his dilemma of two conflicting testimonies.  As he does so, Mike tosses his briefcase on the ground, startling Mr. Duggan and causing him to turn his head.  Upon seeing this, the judge states that Mr. Duggan’s neck brace is only a ruse to influence the court’s opinion and therefore the validity of his testimony is called into question.  The court rules in Carol’s favor.  Had Mr. Duggan not turned his noggin, this could have really worked against the Bradys.  Not only could Mike have been fined for his noisy disruption, the judge could have very well said Mike’s actions invalidated Carol’s testimony.  Fortunately, the Bradys have a happy ending as Mr. Duggan’s attempt to extort them fails.


Mr. Duggan was played by the late great Jackie Coogan.  Jackie Coogan was a child star in the early years of Hollywood.  He amassed quite a fortune starring in films as a lad.  His most remembered role was in “The Kid” alongside Charlie Chaplin.  Sadly, his parents squandered all of his earnings and he saw none of that wealth as he entered adulthood.  The silver lining in this was that his experience saw the passing of The Coogan Act that protected the earnings of future child stars.  I would be curious to know how Gary Coleman’s parents got around this bit of legislation.  Fortunately, Jackie Coogan would reemerge as a television star playing the role of Uncle Fester on The Addams Family.  He enjoyed steady work with multiple television appearances through the 1960s and 1970s.  His last appearance on camera was in the 1984 film “The Prey”.  He died the same year.


The judge was played by Robert Emhardt.  He enjoyed a long and steady acting career as he appeared regularly on TV series from the 1950s through the early 1980s.  Fans of The Andy Griffith Show will always remember him as the rushed and anxious traveler in the episode titled “Man In A Hurry”.  Although, he would have a less memorable second appearance on the show playing a different role in a color episode of the series.  Robert Emhardt is also remembered for his role in the original version of the film “3:10 To Yuma”.  He died in 1994.

The epilogue has Peter and Jan forcefully arguing over a candy bar.  They are really struggling to have possession of the sweet.  Cindy intervenes and cites her recent court appearance as credentials to resolve the matter.  In a cute moment, she uses the phone as a gavel and declares court in session.  She then takes a bite of the candy bar and takes possession of it before running off.

“The Fender Benders” is a fun episode that never sees any serious talking to by Mike and/or Carol to the kids.  The drama is all comical and can’t be taken too seriously.  Mr. Duggan is a fun villain and was played masterfully by Jackie Coogan.  The episode focuses mainly on Carol and usually the ones involving only her rank among my least favorite of the series.  This episode is an exception though.  As always readers, please share your own thoughts and opinions!  This episode wraps up the fun ride that was season three.  Next week, we kick off season four with the Brady’s Hawaii adventure.  See you then!


Author: bradybunchreviewed

I am a lifelong fan of the Brady Bunch. I love it for it's wholesomeness, it's absurdity and how it serves as a time capsule for a time that really never existed, but so many of us wish it did. The show was off the air by the time I was born, but I enjoyed it daily at 4:35 PM for years on Atlanta's Superstation 17, TBS. Through the years I've enjoyed the Brady Bunch spinoffs (however short lived), revivals in pop culture, books, reunions, movies and spoofs. Now, I am excited to be revisiting the show after nearly a decade's hiatus from viewing. I am a parent now, so there may be some new perspectives never before experienced. I hope my fellow fans, lovers and haters alike of the Brady Bunch will join me on this blogging adventure and share your own thoughts and observations.

22 thoughts on “Episode 23: The Fender Benders”

  1. Great review and good catch on the blooper at the beginning w/ the wrong station wagon. I’d never noticed that before.

    I recently saw this episode on Me-TV, and I had no recollection of seeing that scene w/ Greg’s friend Eddie on the phone before. Me-TV included it in its rerun. Eddie went uncredited, so I wonder who provided his voice.

    I also noticed yet another Benedict Arnold reference, making him probably the most-referenced historical figure mentioned on this series. I haven’t kept a formal count, but I can remember at least 4 references from different episodes, including this one, and of course he got as many episode title references as George Washington, and Washington’s “episode” was more about Arnold too. BTW, I recently saw a JEOPARDY! episode which wanted to know Arnold’s co-conspirator who was hanged. It’s only because of this series that I knew it was Major [John] Andre.

    The scene where Mike threw his briefcase behind Mr. Duggan is certainly iconic in tv history. It was used on the episode of TV LAND’S ULTIMATE FAN SEARCH FINAL where I appeared back in 2000, and it also received an homage on the sitcom SUDDENLY SUSAN. On that sitcom, Betty White played a woman who was suing Susan’s company for age discrimination after she was fired for incompetence. In the courtroom, when this woman was about to win the case, Todd the goofy music reviewer threw a briefcase on the floor because “It worked on THE BRADY BUNCH”. 🙂

    I’ve known of Robert Emhardt (not Ermhardt) since he had a regular role on the NBC Saturday morning series THE KIDS FROM C.A.P.E.R. during 1976-77. NBC had a few other Saturday morning sitcoms that same season, including 1 of my favorites at the time, BIG JOHN LITTLE JOHN, which was produced by Sherwood Schwartz and his son, Lloyd. Lloyd’s sister, Hope, was a dialogue coach on the show, and it starred former Cousin Oliver Robbie Rist as Little John.

    I’ve often wondered what kind of candy bar Peter & Jan were fighting over. When Cindy bit into it, it looked as though it had some sort of marshmallow filling. Maybe Susan Olsen still remembers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing those thoughts and for calling out the incorrect spelling of Robert Emhardt’s name. I have corrected it in the review.

      To me, Eddie sounded like the guy Greg tried to sell the car to; not the guy named Eddie he bought the car from.

      Thanks for that Brady reference on another show. I never watched Suddenly Susan, but that sounds funny.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. -Great catch on the continuity with the cars.. I never noticed that before. Obviously the producers were not about to spend money to film a new scene so they purposely used an old one.
    -A well-known additional continuity error that you can find easily on the internet is that Cindy keeps claiming that Bobby spilled ice cream on her dress right before the car accident. But Cindy is wearing pants and not a dress when she comes out of the car when they first arrive home after the accident.
    -The writers sure had a thing with candy bars lately. Jan and Peter fighting over one in this episode. Peter received a whole box of them as Scoop Brady. Cindy received several from her secret admirer. Just an example how there seems to be little pockets of repeat topics that the writers use on the Brady Bunch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Always loved this episode and have seen many times, but never realized Mr. Duggan was Jackie Coogan from The Addams Family and also in Chaplin movie The Kid, both of which I like a lot, so thanks for the info! I love that kind of trivia.
    Jon H mentioned the show Big John Little John with “Oliver” Robby Rist, and boy did that ring a bell! I forgot all about that show and I can’t remember any details, but I watched that as a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 1) You’re right about the level of damage to the car. I don’t see any way that this much damage could be done by two cars backing out of a parking space. And I had never thought of it, but you made an excellent point about why they exchanged information if they decided to fix their own cars. I guess they could have exchanged their info and then decided not to file with insurance. But frankly, that was a lot of damage to the back of the Brady’s car for Carol to take it upon herself and decide not to file with insurance, especially if she thought it was Mr. Duggin’s fault.

    2) Carol calls it just a dented fender when talking to Alice. It was a bit more than that.

    3) Carol made chicken and dumplings?? Really? CAROL made them??

    4) How come we were well into the episode and come to find out that Mike didn’t know that Marcia was in the car too?? Wouldn’t he have naturally asked Carol who else was in the car with her when this happened? Instead, Mike and Carol agree not to pursue legal action because they don’t want Bobby and Cindy to have to go to court…then Marcia tells them that she saw Carol look before she backed the car out…and THAT’S when Mike finds out about Marcia being in the car too??

    5) I NEVER made the connection that the Judge was the “Man in a Hurry” from the Andy Griffith Show ( Robert Emhardt). But now, knowing that he was, I recognized him immediately when I watched this episode. For those of you who aren’t super familiar with the A.G. Show, the episode “Man in a Hurry” is probably considered to be one of the 2 or 3 best episodes ever. It showed what made Mayberry Mayberry. A wonderful episode. I’ve been watching a lot of “Gunsmoke” reruns the last few months and have seen him on that show as well.

    6) Peter and Jan were REALLY going at it with that tug of war over the stupid candy bar! Dang! They get WILD when a candy bar is involved!

    Really, not much to “criticize” in this episode. I agree that it was very solid and well done.

    And wow, how wonderful it must have been for the kids to work with a legend like Jackie Coogan. One would hope that he was willing (and had time) to share some of his experiences with them and I would think you couldn’t help but learn a lot from a guy like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Reed himself told the kids to talk to Coogan and learn as much as they can from him.

    Excellent review, a great end to season three!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tweety! The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) is among my top five all time favorite shows. Jackie Coogan was also in an episode of TAGS and it ranks among my favorites of the series. I would be curious to know what Robert Reed thought of Coogan as his signature role was that of Uncle Fester. I hope your imagining of things is how it played out.


      1. Good point about what Reed might have thought of Coogan. I know that Reed understood that there were many different types of comedy, not sure what he would have made of the Addams Family. As for Coogan, he was certainly a survivor.

        Not sure how many people know this, but the Addams Family was based on a series of cartoons drawn by a man named Charles Addams. His cartoons could be somewhat macabre and dark, but I’ve seen quite a bit of his work and thought they were pretty funny. The “New Yorker” magazine regularly ran his comics, and a girl I knew in college introduced me to them. I think my older brother purchased a book that had a collection of Addams’ work.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Solid episode with some good acting and believable situations! Good catch that Cindy was not wearing a dress at the time of the accident, she was wearing pants. Yes, the scene about Woman Drivers with Greg talking on the phone with Eddie was cut in syndication. Does METV leave it intact?

    I really hated Mike’s Charlie Chan impressions in this episode. Especially in the court. “Honorable father use honorable noodle.” Carol, “Honorable Mother most grateful.” Some normal dialog could have been used here.

    I forgot how intense Jan and Peter’s candy bar fight was! LOL!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. The phone call from Eddie was definitely left intact when the reruns appeared in Chicago in the late 70s. Jan was also in the living room with Marcia, constantly trying to find out what was going on with the call (“Who’s Eddie, and why did you hang up on him when you told him to listen?”)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I just found your site and really like it. I have watched the Brady Bunch for years and still do. It’s comforting to find a show that makes you feel like watching a home movie or picking up your favorite book.
    I also never caught that blooper in the beginning. However, I caught a different blooper in the courtroom scenes. When Carol is explaining her side of the story Mr. Duggan is constantly interrupting her. Watch the close-ups and pulled away shots. The red car on the board keeps changing positions. In one shot the car is crooked and in another it is in line with the others. The car should stay crooked as Mr. Duggan moved it during his earlier statement. I get a laugh every time I see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice catch Mark. You are so right! This was obviously shot over several different scenes / days and edited just a tiny bit sloppy. Looking forward to your comments in the future. We are now in season 5 and the review for the Snow White episode just appeared today.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow. I found this site last night and I might have stayed up pretty late reading a lot of your reviews! Love it. I started watching these reruns when I was about three years old. My brother and I used to play a game where we had to yell out the the episode before the credits stopped.

    I think the briefcase toss is a precursor to such courtroom classic moments as “Did you order the code red?”. We have come to expect those moments because we grew up on moments like this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What I found interesting watching this episode later was that while the car was able to be driven home from the store after the fender bender, Greg was on the phone later that evening telling his friend Eddie that he couldn’t drive the car due to the accident. It appeared that the damage was only cosmetic, so why wouldn’t Greg have been able to use the car as he’d originally planned? Perhaps it was the best way the writers knew of to lead into the exchange between Marcia and Eddie over his insult of female drivers. It just seems like the writers could’ve come up with something more believable than that since the car was obviously still driveable.

    Liked by 1 person

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