Greetings once again! Thank you for joining me today to review “How To Succeed In Business?”! Peter Brady first entered the workforce on February 23, 1973. This is a fun episode with just the right balance of comedy and drama. It’s also unique in that Peter does not see a happy ending to the episode, save a few dollars of earned commission. The lesson or moral of the episode is not one that sees Peter’s issue resolved; it just shares that life can give a person some hard knocks. Many regular commenters on this blog have pointed out that Peter’s episodes seemed to be among the most enjoyable. As I have revisited the series each week, I have come to share that opinion. “How To Succeed In Business?” is no exception. Let’s get started with our review!
The story begins with Peter on location riding his bicycle. As a testament to the longevity and durability of the pickup trucks of old, I still see trucks like the one pictured behind Peter on the road and looking about the same today. The episode also starts with a reused and somewhat annoying Brady gag. Peter arrives home with exciting news, but will only share it is exciting news. He won’t share what has him all fired up. Despite Alice asking repeatedly what the excitement is about, Peter won’t share it. He receives a phone call that confirms he has reason to be excited. Instead of finally sharing with Alice the exciting news, he takes off to tell Mike and Carol. This routine might have been funny the first or second time it was used, but not anymore.
The next scene begins with a shot I never recall seeing before. When Peter rushes to share his good news with Mike and Carol, he speaks to them through the open interior window between the living room and den. Perhaps this was used before, but this was the first time it caught my eye. Peter shares the good news that he will no longer be a financial burden to Mike and Carol. He is now a working man who will no longer require an allowance. Will Peter also be buying his own clothes, toiletries and school supplies? When I started work as a teenager, I no longer got an allowance and was expected to pay my car insurance, maintain my car and pay for any amenities I wanted. I remained a financial burden for a few more years. Readers, please share your own experience with a first job and the expectations placed on you. Peter’s new place of employment is Martinelli’s Bicycle Shop. He will be working there after school and on weekends. Mike reminds him to be prompt, hardworking and loyal.
Peter’s brief employment at the bike shop offers some funny lines. Peter shows off his work on a bicycle to Mr. Martinelli. The gear Peter repaired works perfectly. With a proud smile, Peter states he has only 9 more to repair. Mr. Martinelli is aghast and shares it is almost quitting time. Peter thanks his boss for the reminder as he would have kept right on working. Peter’s being oblivious to Mr. Martinelli’s incredulous statement is the first of many humorous occurrences.
The next scene looks to be the makings of a b-plot but nothing comes of it. Bobby and Cindy have attempted to contract Peter out to repair their friends bicycles. They sure have a knack for finding customers as the driveway is lined with other kids’ bicycles! Maybe the climate of southern California is hard on kids’ two-wheelers as the youngest Bradys sure found a lot that need fixing. Peter says no way, he is loyal to his employer and won’t be moonlighting. This scene must not have made it to syndication as I had no recollection of it.
Peter’s second day on the job sees his sloth-like work continue. He continues to work to repair the same bike as the day before. Peter boasts his slow work is due to his commitment to top notch work and customer satisfaction. Mr. Martinelli states that they want both satisfaction and customers to satisfy. I could not help but wonder what kind of vetting Mr. Martinelli had for those applying for the job. Did he just ask, “Can you fix bicycles?” or did he have those applying demonstrate a repair? Unless Peter was the only applicant, it is hard to imagine why Mr. Martinelli would be surprised at Peter’s slow progress. Also, he stated that the bike owner was anxious to get his bicycle back. After Peter failed to finish it the first day, why did he not proceed with the repair himself?
That night, Peter shares with Mike and Carol the merits of bike riding and how it will help slow the hands of time for people their age. He tells Carol owning a bike would help her get back into shape. Her reply is funny as she did not find herself out of shape. Here, we get a little glimpse into Mike’s life outside the home as he states he golfs, plays tennis with the guys and swims at the club. It is nice to know Mike gets out of the house. However, Carol does none of those things and is all for owning a bike.
Peter’s third day as part of the workforce are as comical as the previous two. His cheery optimism coupled with Mr. Martinelli’s frustration is comedy gold. Peter continues to work on the same bicycle. He is proud to report the brakes are in fine working order. He found this out as he needlessly took them apart and reassembled them. Mr. Martinelli asks ruefully how Peter could work on the same bike for three days. Peter beams, “I guess I’ve got a lot of patience.” The bike’s owner calls the shop and is upset his two wheeler is still out of commission. Mr. Martinelli blames “the help” and promises the caller his bike by late in the day. Mr. Martinelli will finish the job himself. Mr. Martinelli should have done this two days ago! Peter is dismissed for lunch and told he and Mr. Martinelli will be having a talk at day’s end. Peter questions if he might someday be a seller of bicycles. Mr. Martinelli suggests he might be a better salesman than a repairman! Peter graciously shakes his employer’s hand with an oil squirting tool under his arm, spraying oil all over the beleaguered business owner. Readers, do any of you know what tool Peter was using? I would say it was just an oil can, but I’ve never seen one that squirts like that.
Peter arrives home completely oblivious to the employment fate that awaits him. He thinks a promotion is in his future and shares this with Alice and Carol. Poor Peter, he has a huge disappointment on the horizon. I’m sure many of us have experienced something very similar in our own lives and can really empathize. Peter shares that he is really going places in the bicycle business as Mr. Martinelli watches him work with a surprised look on his face, like he can’t believe it. Peter’s career as Mr. Martinelli’s bicycle repair boy ends that day in the man’s office. He shares with Peter that he is a nice boy, but is not mechanically inclined. Between Peter’s head and his hands, the knowledge of what to do is lost. Peter offers to try harder, but Mr. Martinelli says Peter all ready does that. Peter is dismissed and exits the office with the most mournful expressions as he realizes he just got fired. I really felt bad for Peter in this scene.
Readers, do you think Mr. Martinelli should have given Peter a few more days to learn the ropes? Maybe he could have coached Peter on being more organized while making repairs and avoiding unnecessary repairs? I always thought Peter got a raw deal here as he was given a complex technical job and very little time learn it. Yes, the Brady boys were known for working on their bicycles, but it is unlikely they pedaled about town on the higher end cycles Mr. Martinelli’s shop sold and repaired.
When Peter arrives home, he shares with Greg he was not promoted, he was outmoded. He hasn’t shared the news with Mike and Carol as he wants everyone to enjoy their dinner, himself included. Dinner’s conclusion only brings more angst for the middle Brady child. It was a change of pace to see the Bradys dine on their patio instead of at the dining table. Just as Peter is about to break the news of his firing, Alice and the girls emerge with a sparkler bearing cake celebrating his promotion. If Peter’s wounded pride wasn’t hurting him enough, the cake just added to some salt to the wound and made the pain a little worse. Barry Williams does a great job in this scene as it evident Greg senses what Peter is going through, but doesn’t want to make it known. Peter is handed a sparkler from the cake and watches it burn out, just like his career prospects have. It was a well done conclusion to the scene.
Peter seeks Greg’s advice on sharing the news with Mike and Carol. He suggests Peter ask Mr. Martinelli for another chance and if one is granted, Peter is off the hook. The scene transfers to Mr. Martinelli shaking his head. It was a nice transition and humorous too. He again affirms that Peter is a nice boy, but just wasn’t working out. He says some people make picture frames and some people paint the pictures that go inside of them. A humorous addition to this scene would have been the new repair boy emerging from the back saying, “I finished those two bikes Mr. Martinelli, do you have any more work I can do to get us caught up?” Mr. Martinelli would stammer, “That’s fine Johnny, why don’t you take a break?” “A break, I’m here to work sir!” the boy would reply. Some humor does take place as Peter sees his sisters approaching the store and hides in the back and urges Mr. Martinelli not to let on that he got fired. Mr. Martinelli is a good sport and obliges Peter. The girls are there so Cindy can buy a new bike horn and Peter can have the commission for the sale. Mr. Martinelli is a tad befuddled at the request, but does not spill the beans. Throughout the transaction, Cindy gives the horns some test honks, much to Mr. Martinelli’s chagrin. This was quite funny.
Mr. Martinelli was played by Jay Novello. He enjoyed a long career in Hollywood. He played different ethnicities as each role required. Despite being of Italian descent, he portrayed Spanish, Italian and Mexican characters. He once even played a Japanese spy! His career would see work in films, but most of his credits were on television. He made six appearances between I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show. He had recurring roles on Zorro and McHale’s Navy. His final acting credit was in the 1977 film “The Domino Killings”. Jay Novello passed away in 1982.
Peter conceals his unemployment from everyone by spending his afternoons in the park feeding pigeons. I can recall at least one other sitcom where a character hid his unemployment from his parents. There was an episode of Growing Pains where Mike Seaver did the same. I am sure this occurred other times in the TV universe, but at the moment, I can’t recall any. Readers, please let us know if you remember this occurring on another show. During the scenes where Peter hangs out with the pigeons, he twice picks one up and holds it. Yuck! Pigeons have been referred to as “rats of the sky”. I am sure these pigeons were show pigeons that were clean and disease free, but the visual of Peter holding those birds gives me shivers!
Mike and Carol share with Peter the news that they are going to purchase bicycles. Peter quickly discourages such for people their age. The look on Carol’s face as Peter does a 180 from before is quite funny. Mike and Carol are perplexed at his urging them not to buy bicycles.
As Peter spends another day with the birds, he declares them pigeons and himself chicken. With the dinging of bicycle bells, he sees Mike and Carol approaching on new bikes. He is startled to see them and carelessly tosses away the pigeon he was holding. He learns that his parents now know the truth about his losing his job. The episode’s talking to takes place here. Mike tells Peter there is no shame in being fired. Of all the things Mike has ever said, I think this might be the hardest advice for a person to swallow. While it is a wise thought, being fired from a job is not something easily shaken off. Mike says everybody loses jobs, himself included. I wish Peter would have asked his dad to share such experiences as I was curious as to what Mike was fired from doing. Maybe he wasn’t the right talent for a particular design job. After his parents know and assure him all is well, Peter says he feels much better. The scene ends with a happy note as Mr. Martinelli paid Peter a commission for selling Mike and Carol on purchasing bikes. One can wonder if it was awkward for Mike, Carol and Mr. Martinelli as the transaction took place “You fired our son?” “Uh, yes. He is a good boy, just was not working out.” “Well, ok. We’d like to buy two bicycles.”
The final scene before the epilogue has the entire Brady family and Alice out riding bicycles through their neighborhood. Greg has on a big white ivy style hat that I’ve always remembered him adorning in this scene. Alice brings up the rear of the bicycle caravan and it is revealed her two wheeler still has training wheels.
The epilogue is short and has little to do with the episode’s story. Bobby comes into Mike’s den and shares the news that he now has a paper route. Mike warns him of the hard work that will come with the job and the early hours. He also points out the territory Bobby must cover will require him to have a car. Here Mike realizes it will be his own responsibility to rise early and see that the papers are delivered. If I were Mike and this was the case, Bobby would be one disappointed boy as he would have to decline this job offer and seek something with more favorable working hours. Mike is the sole breadwinner for the Bradys and should not have to go into work everyday exhausted because Bobby delivers newspapers.
“How To Succeed In Business?” is a great episode. There is some real humor as Peter takes pride in a job poorly done. It is also pretty realistic that Peter remained fired and does not get his job back. A happier version of this story has him either getting a second chance at doing repairs or getting hired on as a salesman. As always readers, your own thoughts on this episode are most welcome! Next week will review “The Great Earring Caper”. See you then!