Hello again friends. Can you believe that today we review the final episode of the series ? I am finding it hard to believe. “The Hair-Brained Scheme” was the last episode of the original series to air. It is disliked by many fans for many reasons. Some hate that Robert Reed was not in it. Some find the plot just ludicrous. I myself have never hated it and found some parts really funny. At this point in the series, an orange-haired Greg seemed like a plot believable enough for the show. It could have been made a tad more realistic with a really bad haircut, outrageous perm or some other beauty mishap. As always, your own thoughts are most welcome! Let’s do it one last time as we review “The Hair-Brained Scheme”.
The episode begins with Greg arriving home with his cap and gown in tow. He is just a few days away from being a high school graduate. He brings in his graduation attire and models it for Carol and Alice. As he ponders his future as a student outside of law mandated schooling, Bobby enters with plans for his own future. He is seeking to be a millionaire by selling hair tonic. Carol is none too supportive and Greg just outright laughs at his youngest brother. Bobby found an ad in the magazine guaranteeing him a product that will double his investment. The Neat and Natural Hair Tonic company sends out 12 bottles of their product at a cost of $12 to an aspiring dealer with the promise of the bottle selling for $2. In today’s dollars, Bobby has invested right around $60 for a $120 return.
Check out the chalkboard in the kitchen. It reads “Jan call Eve.”
Magazine ads offering money making opportunities were before my time. My only recollection is the back pages of Boys Life magazine where Olympic Sales offered youngsters the chance to sell greeting cards in return for some fabulous prizes. An entertaining blog about a young man who went as far as ordering the sales kit can be read here. I myself looked to do so once, but my dad quickly shut it down saying the sales were not easily made. I am glad I listened to him as he was right. Another blog about a young man’s enterprising ways can be read here.
Bobby’s hair tonic millions are a fun glimpse at scams and opportunities of the past. However, Bobby knows that becoming a millionaire won’t come quickly. In a funny line he states it could take weeks or maybe even months. Cindy has business ideas of her own. She brings home two rabbits for breeding. Wow, two new living things in the house would certainly require parental approval. Carol’s actions suggest she knows nothing about this. Cindy’s original plan is to keep the rodents, Romeo and Juliet, in her room, but Carol nixes this and suggests the service porch.
Upstairs, Cindy is adding up the money she will make as her rabbits multiply. Marcia shares a funny line as she says the riches will add up until the health department condemns their house for having so many rabbits in it.
Bobby recruits Oliver to be his sales assistant. Oliver agrees to work for free as Bobby provides on the job training. The pair’s first attempt at pitching the product fails miserably as Greg boots them from his room. During this scene, I could not help but notice the contents of Greg’s desk. Was he taking apart motors up there?
The sales efforts that follow are some Brady Bunch scenes I never recall seeing before. Maybe it has just been too long since I watched this episode or maybe they fell victim to the “syndication knife” and were cut. The sales efforts here suffer the same fate as they did with Greg. To an angry looking woman, Bobby gives a pitch that suggests she has dry and brittle hair. She suggests he buzz off by slamming the door. The next stop initially appears to be Bobby and Oliver’s own home. At first I thought they were arriving home from their sales trip. However, the addition of a sign on the door that reads “No Peddlers or Agents” confirms for the viewer that this is not the same place. When the man comes to the door, we see the set dressers also took the time to use a backdrop other than the Brady living room. The exchange gave me a chuckle. At first, Bobby says he is not a peddler or agent, he is a salesman. After being told he is not welcome there, he suggests Oliver make the sale. The man asks if Oliver is not a peddler or an agent and he replies he is just a little boy. I found this really funny. The third effort at selling hair tonic is made to a toupee wearing night watchman who is none too interested in buying Bobby’s product.
The first and third adults the kids try to sell to, played by Brandy Carson and John Wheeler, had appeared on previous episodes of The Brady Bunch. The second man was played by Bern Hoffman. He worked for many years in Hollywood and had a recurring role on Bonanza as bartender Sam. He was also in the feature film “Li’l Abner”. He passed away in 1979.
Bobby comes home a broken and beaten boy. He is ready to give up his enterprising ways. As he goes upstairs, he and Carol sit down and have a talk. Carol encourages Bobby not to quit, citing the old adage, “Quitters never win and winners never quit”. She names off some successful people who never quit and then references Carl Mahakian. When Bobby questions who that is, she says he is somebody who quit, that’s why Bobby never heard of him. Feeling encouraged Bobby goes on his way.
Upstairs, Greg is giving Peter his old letterman’s sweater. The sweater is Peter’s, but the letter comes off. I could not help but imagine Peter strutting about campus with a well worn sweater with a bright yellow “W” shape where a letter should be. Bobby enters and interrupts this brotherly exchange. He is still down on himself at his lack of salesman skill. Greg makes a pity purchase of hair tonic from Bobby. Trying to state this is not so, he asks Bobby if he would be giving up his hard earned cash if he didn’t really want a bottle. Bobby replies that Greg must be right as he is pretty cheap. This was another laugh out loud line for me.
Bobby applies the hair tonic with disastrous results. He insists that he himself apply it to Greg’s hair. Still feeling sorry for the boy, Greg agrees to this. Bobby wants to use a lot of the stuff and does. He soon finds an orange headed Greg sitting in front of him. He puts a towel over his oldest brother’s head and vacates the room. Greg is understandably furious at his hair’s color. The next day is the biggest day of his academic career and his locks are orange. His younger brother and two older sisters are not sympathetic at all. They just laugh at his misery. Marcia even suggests the dress she is holding be worn by Greg to graduation since it matches his hair.
This episode got me curious about hair tonic. I’ve seen it referenced on old shows, but have never used it or knew anyone who has. I remember an episode of Dennis The Menace where the second Mr. Wilson was allergic to Dennis’s hair tonic. A google search stated hair tonic has fallen out of use for the most part today. Before mousse and hairspray, it was what people used to style and shape their hair. If one seeks a bottle today, a barber shop or beauty parlor would be the ideal place to find it.
Down on the service porch, Oliver is recruited to be Cindy’s assistant as Bobby’s business is not going anywhere. Oliver suggests to Carol that maybe both rabbits will have babies and they will make even more money. Carol tries to explain how this won’t work and says she and Oliver will have a talk after dinner. Oliver tells Cindy that her mom has trouble discussing sex. Some will say this was an iconic first for The Brady Bunch, but the word sex had been muttered in earlier seasons. Greg enters the room searching for Bobby. Cindy’s reaction to Greg’s orange hairdo was well acted and seems genuine. At least she did not laugh at him!
Greg finds Bobby hiding in Mike’s den. Fortunately, Carol is there to prevent the oldest brother from pouncing on the youngest. Carol tries to intervene and even calls the Neat and Natural Hair Tonic company; their line has been disconnected. Bobby tries to lessen Greg’s anger by suggesting things could be worse. His hair could have turned green. Carol suggests that maybe the tonic can be washed out and Greg’s hair turned brown again. This does not work and she has another idea.
The stock shot of the shopping center that follows included a wig shop. Carol and Greg going there might have been fun! Instead they visit a beauty parlor. 1974 was still a time when a man at a beauty parlor was not socially acceptable. Carol even says Greg won’t like the idea of going there. Greg asks if they might just get a dye kit and go home and do it, but Carol wisely suggests that this is a job for a pro. Greg is wearing a ski cap to hide his clownish colored hair. Carol inquires on having the dye job done privately. As she does, Greg encounters two classmates, Suzy and Gretchen. As another testament to the times, they are surprised to see Greg at a beauty parlor. Greg “explains” to them why he is there and this surprises Carol. He assures Carol that his two classmates can keep a secret. With Greg and Carol gone, the two girls lament Carol’s being completely bald. As a kid, I found Greg telling them this hilarious. As an adult it is still funny, but has been etched in my memory so long the laughs are not what they once were.
Suzy and Gretchen were played by two returning actresses. Barbara Bernstein and Hope Sherwood had appeared multiple times before.
Back at home, good fortunes abound for all. Well, initially not for Cindy. She found out that both her rabbits are males and won’t be having any babies. Mr. Kirby at the pet shop refuses to allow Cindy to return them as he has too many rabbits. I have to wonder if Mr. Kirby is a real jerk selling Cindy two male rabbits for breeding or if Cindy was just too shortsighted to question the rabbits’ gender when making the purchase. If nothing else, Mr. Kirby could have exchanged one of the boy rabbits for a girl one. Upon learning that Greg’s hair is back to a natural color, Bobby accidentally pours his hair tonic on Cindy’s rabbits. This produces orange rabbits that Mr. Kirby buys back along with Bobby’s hair tonic so he can produce more orange rodents. With the check from Mr. Kirby, the three youngest kids aspire to raise worms.
Also during the previous scene, it would appear the huge cache of Safe Laundry Soap was used up or discarded as the Bradys are back to using Best.
The epilogue has the family arriving home from Greg’s graduation. Carol laments that Mike was unable to attend as he was out of town. This point has irked fans many times over. Mike Brady would never miss his son’s graduation. Some well known trivia is that Robert Reed refused to take part in this crazy episode and left the set during filming. Maybe Carol’s line was just a dig at Robert Reed for skipping out on the episode. It was suggested in a forum that a line such as “Mike had to stop at the store to get the cake” or something like that would have allowed the character to save face. Another line would have been, “It was so nice of your father to fly home and surprise us” and Greg replying, “I just hate that he had to get right back on a plane and leave again”. Anyway, the epilogue ends with Oliver suggesting he get Greg’s attic room instead of Marcia or Peter. Why Peter feels entitled is not clear as an earlier episode made clear that Marcia was next.
Thank you friends for reviewing “The Hair Brained Scheme” with me. Thank you also for your loyal readership these past few years. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing each blog and reading your own thoughts and comments. Writing this blog and revisiting The Brady Bunch has been a real joy. Next week, we will revisit our five least favorite episodes and the week after our five favorite. Please share your thoughts on “The Hair Brained Scheme”!