Hello again! I hope you have all had a good week. Today, we review “Father of the Year”. It originally aired on January 2nd, 1970. Folks, we have entered the 1970s now, the decade that would become synonymous with The Brady Bunch. Despite being in the new decade, this episode still as the 1950s sitcom feel to it. So let us see if Mike is deemed top-pop by the local newspaper in our review of “Father of the Year”.
The episode starts with Mike leaving for an evening business meeting and Carol brings him his notes for the speech he will be giving that night. Just as he is heading out the door, Marcia enters needing help with homework. Carol offers to help, but is turned down as she is apparently no good at math. Mike tries to delay his own assistance until early the next morning, the most logical and convenient solution, but Marcia guilts him into helping her that night. Why Marcia couldn’t wait until then is not made clear, but Mike decides to arrive late at his business meeting and help Marcia that night. At least he didn’t just blow it off entirely like he did for the bicycle shop. I also recall in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” where Alice was chomping at the bit to help Greg with his math homework and he turned her down so Carol could help.
In the next scene, Marcia is finishing up her homework in the family room when Carol enters. Marcia praises Mike for keeping all those important men waiting so he could help her with her homework. She thanks Carol for marrying such a fine man. She then volunteers to toss out some newspapers Carol was gathering for the trash. Marcia scans the headlines and flips over the newspaper’s front page to see the notice that paper’s annual Father of the Year contest is underway. She rips out the notice from the front page.
One thing the wonder of DVDs and DVR has afforded us is the pause button. One thing I often find myself doing when a newspaper or other listing is shown on TV is pausing on the shot and scanning the surrounding information. Upon doing this for this shot, it was revealed that the rest of the father of the year contest announcement concerned itself with building codes. The surrounding articles are complete sentences, but not in any kind of order. One day while watching another TV favorite, King of the Hill, I paused on a shot of the phone book. The other visible listing on the page of the phonebook listed the address as Trivial Knowledge Blvd.
The episode continues with Cindy waking from her slumber and noticing Marcia not in bed. She wakes up Jan and they both commence to searching for Marcia. In the kitchen, Alice and Carol are working on laundry when Jan and Cindy enter. One must wonder why they didn’t just tell Carol and Alice that Marcia was missing from her bed. Instead, Jan creates a ruse of needing a glass of water and looking in the family room for the heck of it. It seems Carol and Alice would have been more suspicious than they were. Carol does question Jan’s prompt abandonment of her glass of water, but allows the girls to leave without further questioning. Jan and Cindy find the door to Mike’s den cracked and the lights on. Upon discovering Marcia writing a letter, they question her actions. In a callback to “Vote For Brady”, Jan asks if Marcia is writing a letter to Felix Brown. Felix Brown was mentioned in “Vote For Brady”; he was the kid Greg’s campaign manager wanted to start a rumor that Marcia was seen at the movies with.
Back in the kitchen, Mike comes home and touts the success of his speech. So successful was this speech that Mike has been asked to deliver it again to the CIA. As any person would, Alice assumes he means the Central Intelligence Agency. Mike says the CIA he will be addressing is the Creative Institute of Architects. I bet Robert Reed cringed at having to deliver this line as a sensible person would have said Creative Institute of Architects instead of CIA to begin with and avoid such confusion. A joke from Alice or Carol about the Creative Institute of Architects being the CIA seems more fitting. As I typed this out, I questioned what kind of organization is the Creative Institute of Architects? Is this a school just for creative architects? Well, whoever they are, Mike is proud to be speaking to them and goes to store his notes for safekeeping.
Upon entering his den, Mike finds the girls screaming and laughing as the nature of Marcia’s letter is being sought. How he, Carol and Alice didn’t hear this commotion in the kitchen remains a mystery. Once caught, Jan and Cindy are sent back to bed. Marcia is in some serious trouble for being up past bedtime and hanging out in Mike’s den. Jan and Cindy get off scot-free However, Mike reminds Marcia that they have a saying around their house: a wise man forgets his anger, before he lays down to sleep. Just as Mike is forgetting his anger, he is reminded of it when he spills a bottle of correction fluid on his drafting table. To prevent it from spilling on the carpet, he uses his speech notes to stop the flow of the spill. He repeats the saying, but has trouble believing it this time around. While it will later be stated the notes were ruined, it looked to me that only a card and half were lost. I guess if Marcia could bawl over two sheets of notebook paper being trashed in “Vote For Brady”, Mike can be chapped over a notecard and a half.
The next morning, Marcia visits Mike as he prepares for work and feels horrible about the spill in the office from the night before. Mike is very forgiving saying he can write an even better speech and those weren’t the only set of blueprints he had. After telling her all is well and asking her to smile for him, he does a complete about face in his demeanor and tells her it’s punishing time. It was a strange exchange between the two of them. In a mock court session, Marcia pleads guilty and is sentenced to an afternoon’s hard labor that will include extra chores. Marcia says “Thanks judge, you’re outta sight” and he tells her she is late for school.
That afternoon, Mike comes home and finds at least one of the chores assigned to Marcia was not completed, only to find another one undone as Jan walks through with a wastebasket full of papers. Jan questions “Marcia who?” when Mike states that was another of Marcia’s extra chores. Was Jan just voluntarily emptying wastebaskets that afternoon? Greg comes downstairs and asking about Marcia’s whereabouts. He states she was supposed to have fed Tiger two hours before and knows she did not because Tiger was chewing on one of his shoes. Was the dog so starved that he was eating shoe leather?
The next scene begins with Marcia in her room working on her essay for the contest. Why did Greg walk all the way downstairs in search of Marcia before checking one of the most obvious places in the house? Mike enters and questions why the extra chores were left undone. Marcia claims she was working on something, but can’t tell him what it was.
For shucking off the extra chores, she is grounded for an entire week. There will be no playground or friends’ houses after school. As he leaves the room, Marcia wads up the essay and trashes it. He’s no longer her candidate for father of the year!
Marcia remembered her anger after she laid down to sleep, but chose to forget it once in bed. She gets out of bed and retrieves the trashed essay. She adds a line about how with her dad, the punishment fits the crime. She prepares the letter for mailing and notices the deadline to mail them is almost due! The entire essay is contained on one sheet of paper. Even if she used both the front and back to complete it, that took her over two hours? We know she had started it the night before and spent an entire afternoon working on it instead of doing chores. Each word must have been labored over intensely! Much like I do with this blog.
Down in the family room, Mike is ignoring Carol as he reads the paper. She is discussing the longevity of the boys’ clothing and questions if there isn’t a thing they can’t wear out. Mike answers with “Snow!” to which Carol answers that boys can and it becomes slush. After this weak attempt at humor, Mike explains he just saw in the newspaper that there will be snow in the mountains that weekend. A ski trip is planned and it is agreed that Marcia’s grounding can be suspended to allow her to join the family.
Just as Marcia is catching another break, she is blowing it at the same time. She has climbed down the trellis in order to sneak out and mail the letter. A later season would
have seen her crawling and down the trellis and sneaking past the window as Mike and Carol discuss the suspension of her sentence. That would have been a funny scene. Instead, we see Mike and Carol checking on all the kids. We get our first glimpse of the fourth wall of the boys’ room. Upon checking on the girls, Mike and Carol discover Marcia missing. Just as they start to worry, she comes climbing in the window. Sneaking out the window is a serious infraction that costs Marcia her suspended sentence.
The next scene reveals that Marcia’s outlaw ways have paid off. Hamilton Samuels, publisher of the Daily Chronicle, declares Marcia’s essay to be one of the three finalists for the contest. In the wide shot of the office, Marcia’s essay still appears crumpled, but in the close up of Mr. Samuels, it’s flat and smooth. Mr. Samuels and Mr. Fields discuss the challenges surrounding the year’s selection.
Hamilton Samuels was played by Oliver McGowan. While he had a long and busy career, his longest recurring role was that of Harvey Welk on a short lived western program titled “Empire” that began in 1962. He also played a doctor in a number of one-off roles through the years. His final role was on “My Three Sons”. He died in 1971. Mr. Fields (who is only identified by this name in the credits) was played by Bob Golden. He played several bit parts through the years, usually as a policeman. His final role was a noncredited part in Clint Eastwood’s “Every Which Way But Loose”. He died in 1979.
In the next scene, Marcia punishes herself by watching all her siblings and Alice have a great time down in the yard. A ramp covered in hay is the training ground for Alice’s ski lesson. Peter states they built it so Alice could practice. That’s a lot of cost and effort just so Alice can practice skiing down a short ramp. Alice is all about the lesson as she has donned skiing attire, to include the stocking cap, for backyard practice. The comedic montage of Alice’s practice ends with her falling on her rear and commenting how the snow has splinters. The joke is just too much for Marcia who flops on the bed in tears as the scene ends.
In the kitchen, Marcia’s punishment is discussed again by Mike and Carol who enjoy a cup of coffee at the table. Mike suggests that Marcia be allowed to go, but Carol states that would not be fair to all the other kids who did not break the rules. Upstairs, Jan and Cindy enter the bedroom and try to cheer Marcia up. Jan has given strict orders that the ski trip not be mentioned, but Cindy fouls this up in no time. Jan asks Cindy who has the biggest mouth next to her and the answer is “nobody.” This was the episode’s laugh out loud moment for me.
The next scene opens with Marcia reading the paper and noticing that the winner of the Father of the Year contest will be announced soon. This gave another opportunity to view the paper. Again, the Father of the Year Contest article abruptly changes into one about housing. This contest must be huge event in town as the pending announcement of the winner is among the banner headlines of the day. One can also see here that the daily newspaper cost only ten cents in 1970. That equates to about sixty-two cents in 2016. The daily paper around here costs $1.00. Marcia must tell somebody about the contest and decides to tell Jan. Jan is dying to know what
the secret is and even “fourple” swears she will keep the secret. This is the line from this episode I’ve always remembered. Just as Marcia is about to share the news, Cindy enters. Marcia knows Cindy has a big mouth, as evidenced in the earlier scene, and makes up a reason for sneaking out to send the letter. She claims she wanted Felix Brown to ask her to a dance, so she wrote him a letter that had to be sent in time before the dance. It seems Jan would have asked, “Why not just give him the letter at school? Why on earth mail it?” Greg enters the room searching for Peter. Cindy, true to form, blabs the subject matter of the secret. It’s a good thing Marcia had made one up!
The following scene begins in the living room with Carol answering the door. Carol opens the door to and meets Lance Pierce from KTRY. He can’t tell Carol the reason for his being there. She suspects it is related to Mike’s off camera speech that impressed the Creative Institute Of Architects. Despite not knowing his purpose for being there, Carol allows him and his camera crew to enter her home. As they entered, I noticed a brass plate on the wall outside the door. Is this a mail slot? It sure is a strange place for one, unless all mail dropped into the slot falls into Mike’s den.
As the crew sets up for the big reveal of the award, Alice approaches a cameraman for a suggestion on her good side. The rude crew member says it doesn’t make a difference. Alice looks nice all dolled up. The rude cameraman was played by Lee Corrigan. This was his first ever television role and not too many would follow. His biggest role was in “Twice
In A Lifetime” starring Gene Hackman. His last appearance in front of the camera was in the TV film “Dark Mansions”. He died in 1997. Lance Pierce was played by Bill Mullikin. His most notable role was as Private Cumberly in the 1962 feature film, “Hell Is For Heroes”. His final role was that of “poor man” in 1988’s “The Arrogant”. The IMDB summary for the film is as follows: A waitress hitchhiking in Nevada is picked up by a man on a motorcycle. Unbeknownst to her, the man is a psycho killer who thinks he’s God. Bill Mullikin died in 2010.
In typical Brady fashion, Mike comes in the back door while the entire film crew awaits his entrance through the front. Lance laments that things like this always happen to him and he shifts the entire shot to accommodate Mike’s backdoor entrance. Hamilton Samuels then presents Mike with the Father of the Year award and shares that the letter Marcia wrote about him was the best they’d ever gotten. Earlier he could not decide on which was the best, but subsequent readings must have led him to this conclusion. Mike realizes that Marcia’s misbehaving ways were not to be rebellious or mischievous, but to express her love for him. Mike and Marcia hug and the scene ends.
The epilogue is Mike and Carol in bed reading the newspaper. They are delighting in the photo of Marcia and Mike’s embrace and Carol states how proud she is of Marcia. Mike says she should be proud as Marcia is her daughter. Carol queries Mike on Marcia’s parentage and he corrects himself and declares Marcia both his and Carol’s daughter. They hug and the credits roll. I was expecting the epilogue to show the entire Brady clan coming home from skiing, but we got this instead. The episode leaves it up to the viewer if Marcia was allowed to go skiing or if the punishment stood.
“Father Of The Year” is unique for an early Brady episode as the boys are not at odds with the girls for any reason, Mike and Carol’s only disagreement is about Marcia going skiing and the only “woe is me” moment is Marcia’s crying after watching Alice practice skiing. The episode is definitely short on laughs. The joke about snow being slush and snow with splinters failed to even garner a chuckle from me. Cindy and Jan’s attempt to cheer up Marcia was the only laugh out loud moment. I never remember Cindy delivering so many funny lines in the early episodes, but she has. The conclusion is very predictable, but still heartwarming for those who enjoy the family values the Brady Bunch touted. Next week’s episode offers all the conflict and absurdity we’ve come to expect from The Brady Bunch. “54-40 And Fight” was one that I never cared much for growing up, but I am sure I will enjoy seeing it again and reviewing it with you all. Have a great weekend!