“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” 1970-1977: A Tribute

The original 1970 cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Front (left to right): Gavin MacLeod, Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Knight. Back (left to right): Valerie Harper, Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman

Ed Asner passed away this morning at the age of 91. He was the last surviving cast member of the original cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (My #2 favorite show). 2021 has been a particularly tough year for fans of ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ as we lost Cloris Leachman in January and Gavin MacLeod in May. 2019 marked the loss of Valerie Harper. 2017 was particularly heartbreaking, in that we lost Mary Tyler Moore. Ted Knight sadly passed away from cancer in 1986. During the fourth season of the series, we were introduced to Georgia Engel and Betty White who played Georgette Franklin and Sue Ann Nivens, respectively. Ms. Engel passed away in 2019. Betty White and John Amos (who played Gordy the Weatherman in a few episodes throughout the series, but was never a regular) are the only surviving cast members of the series. Betty White is also the only surviving cast member of “The Golden Girls” (my #3 favorite show).

Lou Grant hates Mary Richards’ spunk in the first episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

The characters of Georgette and Sue Ann were intended to serve as replacements to Rhoda (Harper) and Phyllis (Leachman) whose characters were spun-off into their own series. With the departure of Mary Richards’ (Moore) two best friends, the focus of the show switched from Mary’s home life to her work. Georgette’s role as Ted Baxter’s (Knight) girlfriend and later wife, and Sue Ann’s job as “The Happy Homemaker” made sense to shift the show’s attention to life at WJM. With this increased focus on WJM, Mary’s relationship with her co-workers deepened. Much like a real job where co-workers have spent a lot of time (and years) together, you become like a family. Mary regularly went to Lou Grant (Asner) for advice or solace. She also had touching moments confiding in her work BFF Murray (MacLeod). Mary even had some wonderful moments consoling Ted and Sue Ann. WJM was a family. The real heart of the show though was the relationship between Mary and Lou Grant.

Mary and Lou Grant’s relationship was very much like a father/daughter relationship, even though I believe that Lou was really only like 15 years older than Mary. We’ll ignore the episode toward the end of the series where they tried going out on a date, that was just awkward. Thank goodness that Mary and Lou did not become an item at the end of the show. A romantic relationship was not what Mary and Lou were about. Mary was able to confide in Lou about her deepest insecurities, her toughest problems. Lou was there to give her advice and his opinion, whether she wanted it or not. At the same time, Mary was a source of comfort for Lou. When he separated from wife Edie and later when Edie remarries, Mary is there as a shoulder to cry on–though she’s the one who ends up crying. Even after WJM fires Mary and Lou, and the two of them presumably go their own ways, we know that they’ll remain friends to the end.

As a tribute to my second favorite show with one of the all-time greatest ensemble casts ever assembled, my top five favorite episodes:

#1 Put on a Happy Face. Season 3, Episode 23. Originally aired February 24, 1973.

Mary’s look for the Teddy Awards. This is “ready,” Ted.

Summary: Poor Mary is having the worst week ever. It starts off with her coffee cup having a crack and dribbling coffee all over her new sweater. She then learns that her date, Dan, has made plans to attend a basketball game instead of being her plus-one to the annual “Teddy Awards.” Needing a date, Ted promises to hook her up with a “good-looking version of Robert Redford.” At first, Mary turns down his request, but relents after she’s unable to secure a date on her own (it seems that every man in her address book is unavailable or married). The next day or so, Mary’s hair is being unruly and she has a big “hair bump.” While trying to walk to the bathroom to fix her hair bump, Mary slips and sprains her ankle on the newly waxed floors. Now at home, Mary ends up catching a cold from having to soak her ankle in water. Throughout the week, it’s one thing after another for Mary: she drops her phone in her foot water, the dry cleaner ruins her Teddy Awards gown, her hairdryer breaks, and she has a run in her stocking while getting ready for the Teddy Awards. Then of course, it’s raining when Mary has to leave for the award show. And, if things aren’t bad enough, her “good-looking version of Robert Redford” ends up being none other than Ted!

Why I Like This Episode: I love this episode because it finally shows Mary having some bad luck. I very much identify with Rhoda while watching this series and it seems that everything works out in Mary’s favor. To see Mary having a bad week, with one minute thing happening after another, it makes it so much fun to watch. And of course, Mary Tyler Moore delivers a tour de force performance, culminating with her having to go on stage in front of everyone to accept her Teddy Award. Mary Richards’ comedy very much stems from the fact that she hates embarrassment and hates making a scene. At the Teddy Awards, this is probably the one time that Mary hopes that she doesn’t win. But of course, nothing else that week is going right, so why should it now? Poor Mary has to go on stage with one wet slipper, her hair a mess, her fake eyelashes all askew, sniffling and sneezing because of her foot-water cold… all leading up to her starting off her acceptance speech with, “I usually look so much better than this.”

Favorite Quote:

RHODA (to MARY): You’re having a lousy streak. I happen to be having a terrific streak. Soon the world will be back to normal again. Tomorrow you will meet a crown head of Europe and marry. I will have a fat attack, eat 300 peanut butter cups and die.

#2 Angels in the Snow. Season 4, Episode 2. Originally aired September 22, 1973.

Mary and Rhoda feel horribly out of place at Stephen’s party with other 20-somethings. My favorite person is the girl on the end who says, “Why do you ask that now?” When Mary asks her how she is.

Summary: Mary meets and picks up (!) a young man, Stephen, from the market. They end up spending the day together, cavorting in the snow. When Rhoda meets Stephen, she’s instantly concerned about the age difference between Mary and Stephen. It turns out that Stephen is 25 to Mary’s 33. From the way that Mary and the rest of the gang talk about her age, you would have thought Mary was 70 dating an 18-year old. Anyway, Mary is unconcerned about the age difference. When Lou, Murray and Ted meet Stephen, they are also concerned about the age difference. Lou says to Mary, “Your young man, he’s a YOUNG man.” And of course, Ted babbles on about how he and Mary are both carrying on “Autumn/Spring” relationships. Anyway, Mary is determined to prove all the naysayers wrong. Stephen invites her to a party at his place. Wanting to fit in and look younger, Mary and Rhoda go shopping in this ridiculous store, “Shot Down in Ecuador Jr.” She puts on a hideous pair of pants with patches on them, that would look terrible on a 5-year old. Thankfully, Mary gives up on the clothes and wears her own wardrobe. When Mary and Rhoda go to Stephen’s party, they discover that they are completely out of place and it becomes apparent to Mary that she and Stephen are not compatible.

Why I Like This Episode: I like this episode purely for the “Shot down in Ecuador Jr” scene and the ridiculous party where Mary and Rhoda talk about “hitching to Europe” and “staying in one of the funkier rooms” in Amsterdam. There’s just something about this episode that I find it fun to watch–even the awkward voice-over in one scene where Mary obviously re-records her line, “Maybe I’ll see if Rhoda wants to come to the party.”

Favorite Quote:

BECK (Stephen’s friend at the party): Hey Rhoda, don’t go yet. We could go downtown and goof on people.”
RHODA: Goof on people? What’s that?
BECK: You know. Walk around, act weird, hope somebody notices.
RHODA: That’s my life, kid.

#3 The Lars Affair. Season 4. Episode 1. Originally aired September 15, 1973.

Sue Ann chews out Phyllis for ruining her chocolate souffle who “never did [her] any harm.” In response, Phyllis tells Sue Ann that she’s “bananas.”

Summary: Mary is throwing a party, which surprisingly isn’t terrible–except that Lou and Edie have an offscreen argument. But that doesn’t matter. The real story is Sue Ann and Phyllis’ never-seen husband, Lars. This episode introduces the hilarious Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) who hosts “The Happy Homemaker Show” at WJM. Sue Ann regularly gives unsolicited household tips and can be very catty while continually keeping a smile plastered on her dimpled face. It seems that Lars has offered to give Sue Ann a ride home. Hours later, Lars still hasn’t returned home and calls Phyllis with the absurd story that their car broke down and he has taken it to an all-night body shop for repairs. In the days following, Phyllis reports that Lars and Sue Ann are continuing to see each other. Ted even sees them having lunch together. Upset, Phyllis goes down to the studio to confront Sue Ann. Mary gets pulled into the middle.

Why I Like This Episode: This episode is absolutely hilarious. From Phyllis’ monologue about the mating rituals of bees and trying to compete with Sue Ann and bake a pie, to Sue Ann’s collapsed chocolate soufflé, this episode has everything. Mary’s speech telling off Sue Ann is hilarious. Phyllis trying to talk Sue Ann out of an affair with her husband, by discussing his irrational fear of swallowing hair is hilarious. This entire episode is a riot from beginning to end. The funniest moment of the entire episode though might be when the supposedly prim and proper Sue Ann shuts the oven door with her knee after removing the collapsed chocolate soufflé from the oven.

Favorite Quotes:

PHYLLIS: “Do you know how hard it is to make an apple pie? My beautiful hands, hands that once touched the notes of Chopin. This is what that woman has driven me to to save my marriage! Cooking a damn pie!”

PHYLLIS: “I was reading this wonderful book called ‘The Life of the Bee.’ Maybe you’ve read it. Did you know that the male bee is nothing but the slave of the queen? And once the male bee… uh, how should I say… um, has serviced the queen, the male dies. All in all, not a bad system.”

#4 I Was a Single For WJM. Season 4, Episode 24. Originally aired, March 2, 1974.

The WJM gang scares everyone out of the singles bar

Summary: Lou wants to do a location feature as something different on WJM. Murray suggests covering the new singles’ bar, Valentino’s. However, Murray’s wife isn’t keen on Murray covering the goings on in a singles bar and he’s unable to cover the story. Being single and wanting to prove that she can handle the assignment, Mary offers to perform the reconnaissance work at the bar solo. Wanting to make sure that Mary is okay (not that she can’t handle the assignment), Lou also goes to the bar, but mostly to make sure Mary doesn’t get into trouble. Mary is irritated but continues to talk to the regulars and find out some information for their story. However, when it comes time to film, the bar-goers find out about Mary and WJM and their cameras, and flee for a neighboring bar. On camera, Lou, Murray and Mary have to report the story from an empty bar. The funniest part of the entire episode is when Ted asks Mary the reporter how she found about about Valentino’s. Mary points at Murray and says, “he told me.” And Murray has a deer in headlights look on camera.

Why I Like This Episode: I love the entire scene at the singles bar, with Big Dino, and Penny Marshall and Arlene Golonka (who just passed this year as well). But the funniest part is the part at the end with the WJM staff reporting from an empty bar, trying to salvage their story. From Mary’s discussion of “remnants of people,” and Murray’s hilarious “deer in headlights” face, to Lou’s very poignant, stoic speech that falls four minutes short, to Ted’s four minutes of silence for the closing of the Auto show, it’s very funny.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE:

LOU (on camera, trying to salvage the story by giving it a poignant closing): “There’s nobody here tonight. Our camera crew scared them off. Uh…we…uh…we wanted to tell you, something new about a singles bar. We didn’t find anything new. Uh, the people here, got what they came for. They met each other. Maybe that’s all we found out. I guess, it’s our blessing, and our affliction, that people, need people. My name is Lou Grant.

CAMERAMAN: Lou, we still have four minutes to fill.

LOU: And back to you, Ted.

#5 The Square-Shaped Room. Season 2. Episode 13. Originally aired, December 11, 1971.

Lou’s newly redesigned living room in “one burst.”

Summary: While Edie’s away, Lou wants to redecorate their living room as a surprise. He plans to get his buddy who designs bus stations to help with the design, because he doesn’t want to spend a lot of money doing so. Mary, not liking the idea of Lou’s living room being decorated by someone who decorates bus stations, helps to find him an inexpensive (but not cheap) decorator. Mary decides that the perfect candidate for this job would be Rhoda, who makes her living designing window displays at Hemple’s. Rhoda is excited about the opportunity, feeling that this might help her break out of the window decorating business and get into something more prestigious. To secure the job, Rhoda even offers to let Lou pay her after the job is done, so he can decide a fair price. Lou agrees and Rhoda has the job. However, Lou is a tough client, as he has no ideas about how he wants the room to look, only that it has to include his crappy chair, a doorknob, and he doesn’t want antiques. Rhoda goes to town collecting catalogues and re-doing his room. When it is finally revealed in one burst, we see an all white, blinding contemporary room that is very clean and minimalist but is not Lou’s style whatsoever.

Why I Like This Episode: Rhoda’s redesigned living room is everything. It is so bright and blinding and does not take into account Lou’s character at all. It’s so 1970s that it’s amazing. Parts of it are actually kind of cool, but all together, it’s completely unusable. It looks like a showroom rather than someone’s actual living space. But Lou’s tirade about the living room is hilarious as his is flip-flopping and saying “I love it” when he obviously hates it. And seeing the room in one burst, is really what makes the entire episode.

Favorite Quote:

LOU: “Mary, you may not have noticed, but I don’t live in a window.”

I DEMAND THAT NICK AT NITE CIRCA 1994-1998 COME BACK!

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was my second favorite show to watch back in the day on Nick at Nite (I Love Lucy was #1). Nick at Nite is where I discovered this show and it was one of my must-see programs. Even if I didn’t get all the jokes initially as a 10-11 year old, there was something endearing about the program and its characters. Mary Richards was and still is one of my role models and I was truly devastated when Mary Tyler Moore passed away. Now everyone is gone, and slowly as the years pass, so many of my Nick at Nite favorites are gone. Thank goodness for ME-TV and other channels devoted to classic television, streaming services, and physical media. In some form or another, all the classic shows from my childhood (albeit, I wasn’t old enough to have seen them during their first run) will live on.

Who’s up for petitioning Viacom to bring back the 1990s iteration of Nick at Nite? Surely the graphics and jingles must live on somewhere and obviously, they can be re-created with today’s computers.

Van Johnson Blogathon- I Love Lucy “The Dancing Star”

Van Johnson isn’t a name that often comes up when people think about figures from the Golden Age of Hollywood. However, that isn’t to say that he wasn’t a star. He co-starred alongside many of Hollywood’s more legendary actors; but he never got that one film that would catapult him into the echelon of “legend.” Some of the “legendary” actors Van co-starred with: Gene Kelly (Brigadoon), Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (State of the Union), Judy Garland (In the Good Old Summertime), Humphrey Bogart (The Caine Mutiny), and Elizabeth Taylor (The Last Time I Saw Paris). However, despite not ever making “the film” to propel him to legend status, Van was a big enough star to appear as himself alongside two of television’s biggest legends: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, on an episode of I Love Lucy.

A young Van Johnson watches on as Frances Langford serenades the crowd in Too Many Girls.

The I Love Lucy episode, “The Dancing Star,” was not Van’s first experience working with Ball and Arnaz. In 1939, while trying to make it as a young actor in New York, Van scored a gig as understudy to the three male leads of George Abbot’s hit Broadway play (featuring the music of Rodgers and Hart), “Too Many Girls.” One of the main cast members (whom I’m going to assume that Van did not understudy) was the young 23-year old Cuban musician, Desi Arnaz. The play was a smash hit and Arnaz along with co-star Eddie Bracken were brought out to Hollywood to reprise their roles in the RKO film adaptation of the play.

In Hollywood, Van joined the cast as an uncredited part of the chorus. He can be seen in the background of a few scenes, but most prominently in the front of the crowd dancing during Desi Arnaz’ big conga number. Another new member of the cast of the RKO production was Lucille Ball. Ball was the star of the film and would play the role of the ingenue college student, Connie. Ball and Arnaz were introduced prior to the start of filming. However, their first meeting did not go well as Ball was still wearing the makeup and costume from her current film, Dance, Girl, Dance, which co-starred Maureen O’Hara. Ball’s makeup and costume was a black eye and a torn gold lamé dress that she wore while shooting a catfight scene with O’Hara. Looking at Ball’s black eye and torn gown, Arnaz could hardly envision her as the virginal ingenue of Too Many Girls. Later that evening, Arnaz and Ball were re-introduced. During this meeting, Ball had cleaned herself up and sported her own clothing and makeup. It was love at first sight for Ball and Arnaz and the rest, as they say, was history.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met during the filming of “Too Many Girls”

Anyway, back to Van. After Too Many Girls, he got more understudy work, including as Gene Kelly’s understudy in the Broadway play, Pal Joey. Kelly would soon be starring in his first Hollywood film, For Me and My Gal, with Judy Garland. Discouraged, Van was about to quit Hollywood when friend Lucille Ball took him to the famous Chasen’s restaurant to meet an MGM casting director. This meeting led to Van getting a screen test at Columbia and Warner Brothers. Columbia didn’t pan out, but Van scored a few roles with Warner Brothers. After his contract with Warner Brothers ended, Van was signed to MGM. MGM is where Van finally got a break and soon was appearing in films. In 1943, Van got his big break when he appeared in A Guy Named Joe with Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne. He continued to appear in many quality films throughout the 1940s.

Van and Esther Williams in Easy to Wed.

In 1946, Van was re-teamed with friend Ball in Easy to Wed which also co-starred Esther Williams and Keenan Wynn. Through the remainder of the 1940s, Van continued to appear in many great MGM films. By 1950, Van was freelancing, which freed him up to appear in films in other studios. During the 1950s, Van also started appearing in shows on the burgeoning medium known as television. In 1955, Van was invited to appear in a guest spot as himself on his friends’ (Arnaz and Ball) sitcom, I Love Lucy. By 1955, I Love Lucy was a massive hit and big stars were willing to appear on their show for free just to get the chance to be part of the program.

Van appears during the Hollywood story-arc of I Love Lucy in the episode, “The Dancing Star.” Ricky Ricardo (Arnaz) has been offered a role as Don Juan in Hollywood. He along with wife, Lucy (Ball), and their best friends Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance) all head to California. While in California, wacky Lucy has various run-ins with stars (William Holden, Hedda Hopper, John Wayne, Harpo Marx, Rock Hudson, Sheila MacRae, Eve Arden, and CORNEL WILDE IN THE PENTHOUSE), often with disastrous results. One such star who did not suffer at the hands of Lucy however, was Van Johnson.

In “The Dancing Star,” Lucy’s old frenemy, Carolyn Appleby (Doris Singleton) shows up unexpectedly to pay Lucy and Ethel a visit while she’s on her way to Hawaii to meet-up with husband Charlie. Carolyn says that she’s going to stop over for a couple days so that she can meet all the stars Lucy’s been hobnobbing with per the postcards Lucy’s been sending out to her friends in Hollywood. Obviously, Lucy didn’t expect her friends to show up wanting to be part of the action. As Lucy is panicking, Ethel tells her that Van Johnson is appearing in a show at their hotel, The Beverly Palms. Ethel spots Van sleeping next to the pool and tells Lucy to go down there and pretend that she’s talking to him. Ethel will then casually bring Carolyn up to the window, point out Lucy and Van and all will be well.

Lucy Ricardo begs Van Johnson to dance with her in “I Love Lucy”

The plan goes off, somewhat, except that Carolyn has forgotten her glasses. Apparently Carolyn Appleby must wear contact lenses and has lost them, because in her previous appearances on the series, she’s had no issues with her eyesight. However, when Carolyn is in California, she’s blind as a bat. Carolyn can only make out two red-headed blurs and just has to assume that that is Lucy and Van. Of course, Lucy can’t leave well enough alone and brags to Carolyn about all the other stars that were also down at the pool. She then further ups the ante by telling Carolyn that she’s throwing a big soiree tomorrow evening where tons of stars will be in attendance. Conveniently, Carolyn’s flight to Hawaii is supposed to depart tomorrow evening. Aw shucks.

And because it’s Lucy and she has to be the object of envy of The Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League (who usually meets on Tuesdays, never on Thursdays, but occasionally on Fridays), she tells Carolyn that she’s “chummy” with Van. Lucy’s fib is based on the fact that Carolyn can’t see and that Van’s partner is a tall red-headed woman. With Carolyn’s blurred vision, she won’t be able to tell that Van’s partner is not Lucy. However, Lucy’s “great” plan is foiled when Carolyn’s airline finds her glasses and returns them to Carolyn at the hotel. Desperate, Lucy approaches Van and begs him to dance with her. She finally gets him to agree when she flatters him by saying that she’s seen his show 14 times and knows it backwards and forwards. Ethel and Carolyn see Lucy dancing with Van and all is well.

(VAN JOHNSON in response to LUCY RICARDO’S constant proclamations of not having much time and that “she’s” going to be here any minute)

VAN JOHNSON: “Who’s going to be here any minute?”

LUCY RICARDO: “Carolyn Appleby! Who do you think?!”

Van Johnson and Lucille Ball (Lucy Ricardo) in “The Dancing Star,” I Love Lucy
Lucy Ricardo finally gets her chance to be in the show. Screenshot from CBS’ colorized version of “The Dancing Star”

Later that evening, Lucy gets her big chance: Van’s partner is sick and he needs someone to replace her last minute. Seeing that Lucy knows the routine, Van thinks that she’s the perfect choice. And with this set-up, we finally get to see Lucy Ricardo in one of her rare performances where she’s allowed to perform a dance number without purposeful or accidental mishaps. In the “How About You?” number, Lucy and Van perform a beautiful, simple song and dance number. Lucy looks beautiful in her feather-covered gown. She and Van are a sensation. Ricky watches his wife dance this wonderful number with a deep adoration. Ethel and Fred watch their friend, proudly. And Carolyn is overjoyed.

Wait? Carolyn?! Wasn’t she going to Hawaii?

Apparently, Carolyn has decided to put off her flight to Hawaii one more day to attend Lucy’s big Hollywood party. Yikes.

Cue the famous “Lucy Meets Harpo Marx” episode, the unofficial second part of “The Dancing Star.”

“Gotta little laryngitis, baby!”

Classic Favorite TV Episode Blogathon- “Don’t Bug the Mosquitos” Gilligan’s Island

I know that I’m a couple weeks late with this one and missed the event. I also missed the Buster Keaton event. This was a very busy week/weekend for me and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the time to write this article. I had to prioritize some writing for my job (I write work procedures and other technical documentation) over my hobby writing. But I wanted to get caught up on this and my other blogathons–including finishing my Doris Day article on-time. I also have an article I want to write about an event going on amongst the Classic Film community on Twitter–PreCode April.

Rest in Peace Dawn Wells (1938-2020)

For the Favorite TV Show episode blogathon, I wanted to pay tribute to the late Dawn Wells. Wells passed away on December 30, 2020 from complications from COVID-19 (curse you COVID!) at the age of 82. Wells is best known as Mary Ann Summers, the young, perky Kansas farm girl castaway on Gilligan’s Island. Mary Ann was also my favorite castaway. At the beginning of the series, Mary Ann (along with The Professor) was relegated to the “And the Rest” part of the credits. Fortunately, at the behest of star, Bob Denver (Gilligan), Mary Ann and The Professor were added to the credits sequence in season two, where they remained until the end of the series. AUTHOR SIDENOTE: Seriously Gilligan’s Island theme song writers? You named 5/7 castaways by name, what’s two more castaways?

Anyway, as everyone recalls, almost every episode of Gilligan’s Island involved the castaways tying to get off the island. They often got their hopes up when a random celebrity/lookalike/character would show up on the allegedly uncharted island. Seriously, for an uncharted island, EVERYONE seemed to know where it was. I would imagine that the news of the SS Minnow’s passengers failing to return from their three-hour tour would have been Hawaiian news, if not national United States news. The passenger list includes a movie star, two multi-millionaires, and a prominent college professor. And if anything, the Skipper and Gilligan’s employer would be looking for them. And presumably, Mary Ann’s family and boyfriend, Horace Higgenbotham, would be looking for her. With all these random people coming across the uncharted island, why didn’t word get back to Hawaii?

But I digress. It’s Gilligan’s Island. It’s not supposed to make any sense. And don’t even get me started on that radio!

Mary Ann (Dawn Wells), Ginger (Tina Louise), and Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schaefer) are “The Honeybees.”

One such random visitor to find the uncharted island, were the Beatles-esque rock band, The Mosquitos. Apparently The Mosquitos traveled to the uncharted island to escape their fans and get some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, the island isn’t deserted like they’d hoped and they find more fans in the form of Gilligan and Mary Ann. The castaways then learn that The Mosquitos aren’t planning on leaving the island for a month. To try and force the band to leave sooner, the castaways work to make life stressful for the band, so that they’ll want to leave. The Mosquitos do leave… but merely move to the other side of the island. They’re quickly discovered by the castaways. The band then informs the gang that they’re not planning on leaving for two months.

In order to make sure that The Mosquitos don’t depart without them, the male castaways form their own band, The Gnats. They are terrible. Then, the women make their own band, The Honeybees. As is to be expected, a band featuring Ginger is much better, and Mary Ann and even Mrs. Howell (!) are adorable. The Mosquitos are charmed by the ladies. However, this plan backfires as The Mosquitos leave in a hurry and without the castaways, because they don’t want competition from The Honeybees.

Does this plot make sense? No not really. But it doesn’t matter. The Honeybees’ song, “You Need Us” is completely charming, from beginning to end. The girls look great. Ginger looks gorgeous and shows off her dancing ability. Mary Ann is adorable. Mrs. Howell is a great sport and is much better than Mr. Howell at dancing and singing.

We just won’t think about how the record player is powered, why the castaways have a record player, and why do they have so many records to play? Why do they have three matching Honeybees’ costumes? Or Mrs. Howell’s wig?

Home Sweet Home Blogathon- The Brady Bunch and Their Home at 4222 Clinton Way

Here’s the story of a lovely lady. Who was bringing up three very lovely girls. All of them had hair of gold, like their mother. The youngest one in curls.

It’s the story of a man named Brady, who was busy with three boys of his own. They were four men, living all together. Yet they were all alone.

Till the one day, when the lady met this fellow and they knew it was much more than a hunch. That this group must somehow form a family.

And that’s the way [they] became:

So goes the iconic opening theme song and credits sequence that not only introduces the characters, but also provides the audience with all the information they need to enjoy the show. I love The Brady Bunch. Yes, it can be corny at times and overly sappy, but for me, it treads the fine line between being charmingly sappy and obnoxiously saccharine (looking at you Full House) that purposely manipulates its audience. Yes, episodes of the Brady Bunch can have lessons, but more often than not, there are repeating motifs that “kids” of all ages (yes, adults too) can identify with. Some common motifs are: boys/men against girls/women, younger versus older, big-head syndrome, and puppy love. Despite what setbacks and challenges the characters may face, the audience knows that all will be resolved by the end of the episode.

The iconic Brady home–the second most photographed private residence in the country after the White House

Much of the action of the series unfolds inside the Brady residence at 4222 Clinton Way in an unnamed city. However, based on references made throughout the series, we can safely assume that the Bradys live somewhere in the sprawling Los Angeles area. It is also established that the oldest son, Greg Brady, is the “Casanova of Clinton Avenue.” The Brady Bunch’s house is a character in and of itself. Their house, both the exterior and interior is iconic. Even the layman Brady Bunch fan, even someone only remotely aware of the Brady Bunch’s existence, knows what the house looks like.

Mike Brady, the patriarch of the Brady clan, and an architect, designed the Brady’s home. Despite popular belief, they have more than one bathroom in the house. Aside from the kids’ famous Jack-and-Jill bathroom, Mike and Carol also have a bathroom in their master bedroom. Where else would Carol hang her purple shower curtain that Greg and “Raquel,” Coolidge High School’s goat mascot, rip down? Finally, I think it is safe to assume that Alice has her own bathroom attached to her bedroom. Based on the amount of Brady Bunch that I’ve watched (and it’s a lot), I believe that Alice’s room is behind the kitchen nearby the service porch.

The Brady house is well-designed and decorated. The multi-level home has a small foyer that brings guests into the Brady’s living room and dining room. The living room seems to be a more formal space as this is frequently where Mike entertains his clients, like Senor and Senorita Calderon, who later see Peter aka “Phil Packer” and Greg entertaining some girlfriends in a supposed X-rated manner at Marioni’s Pizza. This room is where Marcia entertains Davy Jones who stops by to bring Marcia a copy of his new album after he overhears her lamenting to his manager that she promised to get Davy to appear at her prom. The living room is also where Marcia meets her “dream of dreams,” Desi Arnaz Jr. The living room is not without its drama however, this is also the room where Peter accidentally breaks “mom’s favorite vase” with a basketball, despite mom having said: “don’t play ball in the house.” The living room is also where Marcia holds slumber parties until they’re disrupted by itching powder, and where kids hold their parties. It is at one of these parties when Peter learns that he does have a personality after all, and that personality is “lady killer.” This room is not without heartbreak however, aside from the sad demise of “mom’s favorite vase,” this is the room where Marcia starts bawling after the boys completely ignore her speech when she runs for Class President (against Greg).

The dining room: the scene of the infamous broken vase incident

Later, in the dining room, mom’s favorite vase endures yet another humiliation when it starts leaking all over the table after having been filled with water for some flowers. It seems that the kids’ glue job wasn’t up to snuff. The dining room also serves as the location for the kids’ house of cards contest that would determine whether the boys or the girls would receive Alice’s bounty of trading stamps. The boys wanted to use their stamps to buy a rowboat, and the girls wanted a sewing machine. In the end, Tiger runs into Greg, causing him to fall into the house of cards. The girls make good though and use the stamps to get a color television set. Presumably, this is the set that goes into the family room. Poor Alice, despite doting on the family day in and day out, never gets to eat dinner with the family. She finally gets to eat dinner with them when Mike announces that he will be making a gourmet dinner for the family. The dining room also features an entrance to the Brady’s backyard with the famous, low-maintenance (though we see Marcia cutting it with scissors in an episode) Astro-Turf lawn.

“The Man” aka Greg Brady eats breakfast in the kitchen while Carol and Mike chastise him for calling them by their first names.

The dining room is adjacent to the Brady’s kitchen. The Brady kitchen is iconic with its orange formica countertops and avocado green appliances. There is also an awesome double oven built into a brick column. There’s also a stovetop built into the counter. Over the years, much cooking goes on in the Brady kitchen, including, but not limited to: meatloaf, the girls’ horrible breakfast, pork chops and applesauce, strawberry preserves, Mike’s gourmet dinner, Marcia’s merit badge meal, spaghetti that tastes like metal when eaten with Marcia’s one-episode braces, Brady Kid lunch assembly line, Peter’s “Straw Split Fudge Short,” and countless other meals. This room is where Alice has the last apple, the last peach, and the last banana hidden. The tulip table and chairs (that I love, by the way) is where Marcia and Greg fight over Marcia’s date with Warren Mulaney and where Jan pretends to be an only child. This is where Mike, Carol and Alice sit over coffee at the table and discuss issues regarding the children. The kitchen also features an entrance to the backyard.

Greg, Marcia and Jan relax in the family room

Through the saloon doors and passthrough of the kitchen is the Brady den. The den is where the family watch the latest sports game, movie, or family member(s) on television. This is where the kids “Can make the World A Whole Lot Brighter” with their Brady Six act. This is the room where Alice irons and listens to her soap opera. This is also the room where the kids, seated on the plaid couches, sometimes receive lectures. One such lecture they received involved the high phone bills they were racking up. To remedy the situation (or so he thought), Mike installed a payphone in the family room. This somewhat worked until Mike found himself without a phone and without a dime needing to take a call from an important client. In the den, Marcia practices her yoga for one of the dozen clubs she joins when she starts at Westdale High. The den has the most-used entrance to the Brady’s backyard.

Greg and Marcia do “yard work” on the Astro Turf in the backyard.

The backyard is where Bobby and Cindy try to break the record for longest time teeter-tottering. This is where the kids, sans Jan, practice for the potato sack race. This is where Mike and the kids refurbish and paint the “S.S. Brady” a row-boat too small for the whole family to enjoy. The backyard provides room for all the kids’ school pursuits, such as a working full-size dunking booth (you can’t say Mike and Carol don’t go all-in for their kids and their kids’ educations. Money and time are no object, apparently) Greg’s re-creation of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, and where the family puts on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” as a benefit to pay for a gift for Mrs. Whitfield, a beloved teacher who is retiring. Later, in The Brady Bunch Movie, we will again see Mrs. Whitfield who has returned to teaching, but has apparently fallen on hard times in the 1990s and is busted for stealing school supplies. The backyard is where Bobby receives his first kiss, courtesy of the potentially mumps-infested Millicent. The backyard is not completely full of mirth and whimsy however, It is also the where Jan, not wearing her glasses (they make her look “positively goofy” she says), crashes into Mike’s anniversary gift for Carol, Peter risks potential murder (via Alice) for getting mud all over the patio, Greg brings home his lemon of a car, Peter is nearly killed by a falling ladder, but pushed out of the way by Bobby (who is covered in green paint in the process), Greg loses the pull-up contest to Bobby and has to become his slave, Greg announces to his parents that he will not attend college and will instead focus on becoming “Johnny Bravo,” and finally, poor Tiger’s vacant dog-house still stands as a reminder that Tiger hasn’t been seen since Season 2.

My favorite iteration of the girls’ room. I love the wallpaper!

Above the backyard are the bedrooms. The girls’ room is the room that had the shutter Greg was painting before he dangerously climbs through the window from the ladder (that comes crashing down towards Peter’s head, before Bobby pushes him out of the way and is doused with green paint) to answer the phone. The girls’ room is where a lot of tears were shed: Marcia when she was removed as Juliet from her school’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet,” Marcia when she has to get braces, Jan when she thinks she’s ugly, and poor Cindy when she endures frequent bullying by Buddy Hinton who mocks her for having a lisp. Buddy Hinton was such a loser, aside from being a bully, he’s obviously at least a 5th-6th grader picking on a 1st grader. But looking at his parents, especially his doormat of a mother, it’s no wonder. However, the girls’ room is also one of much happiness, this is where Marcia displays all her awards, where Jan finds her lost locket after looking for “The Little Bear” and where Cindy keeps her life savings (inside her doll’s head of course) that she happily contributes when the kids decide to form a singing group.

The most contentious room in the Brady home.

Adjacent to the girls’ bedroom, is the famous blue Jack-and-Jill bathroom. This room causes a lot of tension between the children, definitely fueling the misconception that it is the only bathroom in the house. The girls scatter their hair ribbons all over the place, much to the boys’ chagrin. Jan locks herself in the bathroom to scrub her freckles off with a lemon. Marcia tries to impress Cindy with her beauty routine only to have Cindy inquire about brushing her teeth with braces. Jan locks herself in the bathroom to try out the wig she purchased when she decides to change her whole look–“The New Jan Brady.” The drama over the bathroom reaches a boiling point in one episode, when Mike and Carol actually consider moving to a larger house with additional bathrooms. Thankfully, they reconsider after the kids proclaim their love for the house (and haunt it for good measure) when a potential buyer comes to look at the home.

The boys’ room. Bobby and Peter in the bunk beds, Greg in the single. Personally, I could do without the clown picture.

On the other side of the bathroom is the boys’ room. Peter and Bobby share a bunk bed with Greg in a single bed on the other side of the room. Unlike the girls’ room which was re-decorated at least three times, the boys’ room stayed pretty much the same (can’t lose those scary clown paintings), except when Greg moves into the attic. The boys’ room is pretty basic however. This is where Peter locks Bobby in the closet after he tires of being his slave. Greg croons “Clowns never laughed before, beanstalks never grew,” lyrics from a song he’d written during happier times before he was busted for smoking. Greg has a reality-check when he realizes that he may never be as great a pitcher as baseball great, Don Dysdale, whom he’d met earlier in the backyard. This is also where Bobby meets Joe Namath, who comes to visit the “ailing” Bobby after Cindy writes him a letter talking about her brother’s illness. This is the room where Greg wants to talk to Mike “man-to-man, not kid-to-man man-to-man but man-to-man man-to man.” This is where both Greg and Peter start shaving their one whisker.

Raquel and Alice in the hallway. Why is that chair there? It serves no purpose except to be in Raquel’s way!

The hallway isn’t that exciting except that it features Carol’s favorite feature: a walk-in linen closet, that she shows off briefly when giving an impromptu tour of her home to her fellow Westdale High PTA members. This closet is also located directly below Greg’s attic bedroom and the kids can hear all his secrets: such as him stashing “Raquel” in his bedroom. The hallway also has two random chairs that I don’t understand. Who is going to just sit in the hallway randomly? Get these out of here, Carol! These are taking up precious walking room.

Mike and Carol’s love nest. I really like their screen.

At another end of the hall, we have Mike and Carol’s master bedroom. This room was supposedly redecorated, when a decision was being made between striped or floral wallpaper. In the end though, they painted the room teal and it seemingly looked the same as it did before? I loved the floral architectural piece behind Mike and Carol’s bed. I also loved that this show actually featured parents who seemingly had a life and some romance outside of their six children. The more “romantic” side of their relationship is hinted to when the kids make Mike and Carol a “Do Not Disturb” sign for their bedroom. Mike and Carol’s closet, supposedly divided 50/50, but probably more 70/30 in Carol’s favor, is full of Carol’s frilly nightgowns, bags to match her shoes, and the different outfits she buys (skiing outfit for the mountains, bikini for the beach, cowboy outfit for the dude ranch, red flapper dress for the Charleston contest, country dress for the square dance). Nobody can accuse this woman for not dressing appropriately for the occasion.

Greg’s swingin’ bachelor pad in the attic. Personally, I think he should have incorporated some of the things from his first pad.
I mean, surely some of these things would work perfectly in Greg’s attic room? I think he needs some of the mood lighting and tapestries.

Upstairs, in the attic (that Mike must have somehow retrofitted from its 2′ height clearance in season 2 to being at least 7′ if not 9′ at the end of season 4), is Greg’s bedroom. Greg’s moving into the room was a contentious affair, with Marcia wanting the room as well, but ultimately Greg won out. His “bachelor pad” so to speak, is pretty sweet. Greg has a patchwork carpet, a larger bed, an old-time radio, a coat rack, a dartboard, a beaded curtain that separated a sink from his bedroom, and a globe! Greg’s room looks like what a kid might decorate his own room with if he had unlimited access to random stuff in his parents’ attic. I only wish Greg had incorporated some of the things from his previous bachelor’s pad in Mike’s den, such as the plastic flowers, the lava lamps and the mattress on the floor. The most exciting thing to happen in Greg’s attic room is when he stole Raquel the goat mascot from his rival, Coolidge High. Greg then tried to keep Raquel a secret, but everyone quickly found out.

The famous stairs served as the optimal space for promotional photos. From left to right: Cindy (Susan Olsen), Bobby (Mike Lookinland), Jan (Eve Plumb), Peter (Christopher Knight), Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Greg (Barry Williams), Alice (Ann B. Davis), Carol (Florence Henderson), and Mike (Robert Reed)

The famous Brady stairs were the focal point for many scenes. There are many moments with kids rushing excitedly up or down the stairs. Kids hid at the top of the stairs to spy, such as the kids spying on Marcia when she meets both Davy Jones and Desi Arnaz Jr. The Kids used the stairs to scare Alice when they send a “ghost” down a zipline to scare her when she walks in the door. Bobby slides down the stair railing in an episode. The Brady cast members regularly posed on the stairs, the kids in order by age, then the adults at the end. Then, of course, lest we forget, the stairs served as the vehicle in which Peter’s basketball traveled to take out mom’s favorite vase.

Oops! Marcia is about to spill correction fluid all over Mike’s architecture plans

At the base of the stairwell is Mike’s den. For the most part, this room remained quiet and professional (except when Greg redecorated it) as this is where Mike often worked when a deadline was looming, or when he had to re-create plans, such as when delivery boy, Greg, lost Mike’s plans after setting them down to peruse a car magazine. This room was strictly forboden to the kids, as Marcia learned when she spilled correction fluid all over the plans, during some horseplay with Jan and Cindy. Marcia was in the office writing her article for “Father of the Year.” Carol was really the only other person Mike allowed to be in the den while he was working. Alice came into the den to clean and talk to Mike and Carol. The kids only seemed to come into the den to seek some advice, like Jan did when she was stressed out about Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Mike’s den is very classic in its decoration and lacks some of the more dated decor of the 1970s.

Ooh look at Alice’s luxurious view of the mop and bucket!

Behind the stairwell, I believe is Alice’s room. Her room isn’t seen often in the series, but she is seen emerging from somewhere behind the kitchen. As a live-in maid, and someone whom the Brady’s value enough to take to the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Cincinnati, and camping at Mount Claymore, it seems reasonable that she would have her own bedroom and bathroom. In the episode where Alice sprains her ankle tripping on Bobby’s Chinese Checkers (lying on the floor of the dining room), we see her in bed reading a book, All My Loves. Alice’s bedroom seems to be off-limits to the kids, except when they see her packing up her bedroom. After Mike and Carol’s marriage, Alice feels that her job is redundant, because Mike won’t need her after marrying Carol. The family puts on an elaborate ruse to show Alice how much she is needed.

Carol is about to find her mangled earring at the bottom of the washing machine in the service porch.

Just off of Alice’s bedroom is the laundry room, or service porch. No doubt Alice’s room suffered water damage when Bobby decided to wash his suit (dirty after rescuing “Pandora,” a cat owned by the world’s worst child actress) with an entire box of Safe detergent. Speaking of Safe, the service porch must be where Carol is storing the 2000 boxes of Safe they received as payment for the commercial they filmed. The service porch isn’t seen much, but it does serve as the opulent entrance to Alice’s bedroom!

The Brady home is iconic. For fans like me, every room of the house featured some memorable moment. We experience these moments as if we also lived in the home with the family. As an oldest child (though definitely not of six), I always identified with Marcia and Greg. They were my favorite of the kids. I also could identify with the third oldest, Peter, to an extent. I loved that the kids weren’t overly goody goody like Wally and Beaver in Leave it to Beaver, and I liked that the parents were portrayed as intelligent people with lives independent of their children. Carol, while she didn’t work outside the home (though she’s a relator in A Very Brady Christmas made-for-TV movie), was shown as being part of different clubs and charities. She also had hobbies like embroidery and sculpture. I felt like the kids were well-rounded and realistic. They didn’t have annoying catchphrases like kids on 90s sitcoms had. Even if their problems were solved in 30 minutes, so what? Who wants to watch Marcia’s over-inflated ego over playing Juliet play out over multiple episodes? I would welcome an extension of the Family Night Frolics. Or any of the episodes where the kids sing. “Good Time Music,” indeed.

The Brady Bunch has always been one of my absolute favorite shows. It’s right up there with I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I have seen every episode, multiple times. I own the entire series on DVD and I have the two satire films: The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel. It’s quotable, I can recognize the episodes within seconds, I love their clothes (well most of them), and I really love their house. I would live in that house today, orange formica and all. Long live The Brady Bunch!

And remember: “Mom always said, don’t play ball in the house!”

Reel Infatuation Blogathon- Greg Brady, “The Brady Bunch”

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I’ve been on a bit of a ‘Brady Bunch’ kick lately.  I don’t know why I’m saying “lately,” I’ve been on a ‘Brady Bunch’ kick for probably 20-25 years now.  I used to watch it back in the day when it aired on TBS.  I remember when it moved to Nick at Nite back in 1998, I was so excited.  Along with I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore ShowThe Brady Bunch became one of my “must-see” shows every evening.

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Greg in the beginning of the series.

I always thought that Greg Brady (and to some extent, Peter as well) was kind of cute which is why I selected him for this year’s “Reel Infatuation” Blogathon. The Greg and Marcia-centric episodes were always my favorite, mainly because as the oldest child, they’re the characters who I identified with the most.  The episodes centered around Greg are some of the funniest ones in the series, especially one of my favorites, “Getting Greg’s Goat.”

Greg has always been my favorite Brady.  He’s attractive (nice eyes!), a great singer, an athlete, a photographer and he “fits the suit.” He’s a bit of a ladies’ man (he isn’t called “The Casanova of Clinton Avenue” for nothing) even though he can be a bit blinded by the opposite sex.  When he was the head of the committee to select the head cheerleader, contender Jennifer Nichols attempted to use “Greggy” for his vote.  In this instance, Greg demonstrated that he had character by not being swayed by his hormones or by nepotism (sister Marcia was a contender as well).  He selected Pat Conway, the contestant whom he felt did the best.  In another demonstration of character, when he finds himself running against sister Marcia for Student Body President, Greg fires his campaign manager when he announces his intent to spread false rumors about Marcia.

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Greg in the final season.

I find Greg’s self-confidence attractive, such as when he thinks he’ll be the next Don Drysdale or when he thinks he’s written the next hit song (“We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter”).  He’s musically inclined and has performed on local television multiple times.  His talent did not go unnoticed.  While singing “You’ve Got to be in Love (to Love a Love Song),” Greg was discovered by music agent Tammy Cutler.  She was planning to groom him into the next pop star, under the moniker “Johnny Bravo.”  After hearing his sweetened up vocals, Greg demonstrated that he had pride when he declined the offer of a contract, as he did not want to be a sell-out.  However, he showed a questionable understanding of the legalities of a contract, as merely ripping up a contract does NOT relieve you of legal obligation.

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Greg’s groovy threads

Greg also demonstrates a great sense of fashion.  I loved his “man” outfit which consisted of a fringe vest, a blue shirt with a floral print, glasses with green-tinted lenses, headband, and striped pants.  He also sports a great suede fringe jacket when they record “Time to Change” at Mr. Dimsdale’s record studio.  I even loved his plaid pants in “Adios, Johnny Bravo.”

Greg did have some questionable hairstyles at times.  As an 8th-9th grader, he wore his hair short on the sides and back, longer on top.  Frankly, this is the style I prefer, but Greg was a bit young.  As he matured, his hair took on a questionable look and texture.  There is a period where he is decidedly older, his hair longer, but it is this weird straight-ish mop on his head.  I read that Greg’s portrayer, Barry Williams, experimented with a chemical straightener and it did not go well.  I’ll assume that this is the period of Greg’s awful hair.  I don’t know what happened in Hawaii, but the Brady men’s hair did not fare well.  The men went over to the Island State with straight hair and returned with permed hair.  There was also a period where Greg seemed to be attempting to grow a ‘fro.  I was not into this era either.  By the end of the series, he’s got his hair under control and is rocking some great sideburns.  This is the Greg I like the best.

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One of Greg’s faults is his sometimes sexist attitudes.

Since nobody is infallible, Greg did have his faults.  He seemed to regress into “men are superior than women” attitude on occasion.  Such as when the Brady men took their new female family members on their first camping trip.  The gang fails to catch fish for dinner.  Greg and his brothers attribute the lack of fish to their sisters’ lack of fishing ability.  Thankfully, the women thought ahead and packed fried chicken and cold cuts.  Who can forget Greg’s immortal words, “That’s sissy food!” He also gets into a battle of the sexes when the boys and girls argue over the use of the trading stamps and the clubhouse.  Then there was the time when Marcia wanted to be in Greg’s Frontier Scout troop.  Despite his efforts to prove that men were superior in the wild than women, he failed.  Finally, in a last ditch attempt to assert men’s dominance, he resorted to challenging Marcia in a driving contest.  Perhaps he’ll reconsider his stance as he irons Marcia’s clothes for the next year.

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Despite having questionable hair at times, I still think Greg Brady is pretty hip! *Yes, I know that the orange hair was an accident in the last episode of the series.

Despite his bravado, I still find Greg to be pretty groovy.  He sings, he plays guitar, he surfs, he plays football, baseball and basketball.  I love that he sticks up for his siblings while also providing guidance and advice.  Finally, Greg was able to escape from Vincent Price’s clutches while imprisoned.  If that doesn’t make someone great, I don’t know what does!

If anyone doesn’t like Greg Brady or The Brady Bunch for that matter, all I can do is quote the great Greg Brady: “Kids.  What do they know about life?”

Favorite TV Show Blogathon-“Adios, Johnny Bravo” The Brady Bunch

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By 1970, television shows were starting to move away from the family comedies like Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons and The Donna Reed Show to name a few.  The “rural comedies” like Petticoat Junction, Green Acres (my personal favorite) and The Beverly Hillbillies had been canceled.  The fantasy shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie had been canceled or would be ending soon.  Even the “Queen of Television,” Lucille Ball’s brand of slapstick comedy was beginning to wane in popularity.  Her last sitcom, Here’s Lucy, debuted a year before The Brady Bunch.  It also ended, along with The Brady Bunch, in 1974.  Lucille Ball was old fashioned by the time the 1970s rolled around.  The new “hot” shows were issue driven and were challenging societal norms.  The most popular shows during this era were The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son to name a few.  Compared to these shows, The Brady Bunch was in its own little fantasy world.

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The iconic opening credits of “The Brady Bunch”

The Brady Bunch debuted on September 26, 1969 and aired Friday nights on ABC until its cancellation on March 8, 1974.  During its five-year run, the beloved family sitcom never ranked high in the ratings (never even reaching near the Top 30).  It faced much critical snark, ranging from criticizing the simple (and sometimes saccharine) storylines, the unrealistic situations and resolutions, corny dialogue, just to name a few examples.  After the show ended, it was sold into syndication.  It was in syndication where The Brady Bunch achieved its iconic status and became firmly entrenched in pop culture. While critics disliked the show, children loved it because creator Sherwood Schwartz specifically geared the show to portray situations from the children’s point of view. Just like during its original run, opinions on The Brady Bunch fall into two camps: love it or loathe it.  I happen to fall into the former.  I love The Brady Bunch.  Some people like to refer to this show as a “guilty pleasure.”  I don’t.  I don’t believe in guilty pleasures as I don’t experience any guilt while indulging in things I love.  I unapologetically love The Brady Bunch.  I can watch this show non-stop all day and never tire of it.

The plot of The Brady Bunch is very simple:

Here’s the story, of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother
The youngest one in curls.
Here’s the story of a man named Brady
Who was busy with three boys of his own.
They were four men living all together.
Yet, they were all alone. 
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew that it was much more than a hunch
That this group, must somehow form a family
That’s the way we all became ‘The Brady Bunch’ …

Yes, the show is saccharine at times.  Yes, many of the plots are simplistic.  Yes, it can be unrealistic in how polite the children are to each other and their parents.  But, I say, what’s wrong with that?  There are some other saccharine shows that are too sticky sweet for me, Full House for example (which believe me, I watched EVERY episode back in the day.  But the show doesn’t hold up as well as Brady Bunch.  I place the blame solely on the irritating Olsen Twins).  7th Heaven was unwatchable because it seemed fake and preachy.  With The Brady Bunch however, the show is just so charming, that I cannot get enough.  It’s corniness is part of its charm.  And what’s wrong with characters being nice to one another? There is so much hate in this world these days, watching The Brady Bunch is a nice way to go back to a time where people respected one another.  The Brady Bunch is also a nice way to escape all the awful things that happen these days and visit a world where the biggest thing that happens that day is that Cindy needs help deciding which parent to invite to watch her perform as “The Fairy Princess” in the school play. I don’t need to be confronted with issues like racism and domestic violence all the time.

Now, to get to the point of this blogathon entry: to discuss a favorite episode of a TV Show.  For this entry, I selected an episode of The Brady Bunch, “Adios, Johnny Bravo.”  This episode opens the fifth and final season and is a pop culture icon in its own right.  Many avid viewers of The Brady Bunch, will remember this episode as the time when Greg is told “you fit the suit” when he challenges the image a hotshot record company agent creates for him.

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The Brady Six (from left to right: Cindy, Marcia, Peter, Greg, Jan, and Bobby) audition for “Hal Barton TV Talent Review” television station.  I actually genuinely love Marcia and Greg’s outfits.

Many of my favorite ‘Brady Bunch’ episodes involve the episodes with “The Brady Six,” the singing group that the kids form.  I believe they only sing in maybe three episodes, but I love their songs.  They’re so cheerful and upbeat, it’s hard to feel miserable watching the kids belt out “It’s a Sunshine Day.”  “Adios, Johnny Bravo” opens with The Brady Six auditioning for “Hal Barton’s TV Talent Review,” a local television show.  Oldest kid Greg is crooning “You’ve Got to Be in Love (To Love a Love Song).”  The other kids, ranked from next oldest to youngest: Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby, and Cindy serve as the back-up singers and dancers.  They of course win the television audition, but Greg also catches the eye of Tami Cutler, portrayed by 1970 Playboy Playmate, Claudia Jennings.

Tami, along with her hilarious partner Buddy Berkman, work as talent scouts for a local record label.  Tami is in the audience at the auditions and approaches Greg about a possible record deal.  She gives Greg her card and asks him to call her at 10AM the next morning.  The kids, thinking that they’ve been “discovered,” are overwhelmed with excitement.  Back at the Brady house, the kids are overjoyed about the possible record deal and eagerly wait for 10AM the next morning to roll around. The next morning, Greg calls Tami as the kids anxiously wait to hear about the deal.  Tami asks Greg to come down to her office, alone.  Greg assumes that Tami thinks that he is “the leader” of the group.

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Tami and Buddy present Greg with his amazing new Johnny Bravo costume

Greg, now in Tami and Buddy’s office, plays some guitar as Tami and Buddy marvel at their new “find.”  Buddy presents Greg with his new suit, an amazing glittery matador outfit complete with epaulettes.  Greg will also be known as “Johnny Bravo.”  This is also the point when Greg discovers that Tami and Buddy only want to sign him and not the other five kids.  When Greg informs the kids of this new development, they are understandably upset and disappointed.  The girls stew in their room for about five minutes until maid Alice walks in and very astutely tells the girls that they just have sour grapes.  If they were in Greg’s shoes, they probably would have accepted the deal as well.  Of course, in true ‘Brady Bunch’ fashion, when a few of the kids have made amends, all the kids make amends.  There are never any holdouts.

Throughout the episode, mom and dad Carol and Mike playfully banter back and forth about which college Greg will attend when he graduates from high school at the end of the year.  Carol wants Greg to attend her alma mater, State University, and Mike wants Greg to go to his alma mater, Norton College.  It seems a given that Greg will go to college.  However, with the new record deal, Greg’s collegiate future appears to be in jeopardy.  Carol, Mike and Alice sit around the kitchen table, sipping hot cocoa, worried that Greg will decide against college.  The next day, while Carol and Mike plant flowers, Greg informs them that he will not be attending college.  They are understandably upset and disappointed.  Carol reminds Greg that fame is fleeting, but college will last a lifetime.

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“Adios, Johnny Bravo!” Greg rips up his contract after discovering Tami and Buddy’s intention to use him as a prop for their manufactured pop music.

At the studio, Greg informs Tami and Buddy of his decision.  Tami and Buddy go to work transforming Greg into “Johnny Bravo.”  Greg is informed of his new team of PR representatives, record label contacts and everyone else associated.  He even meets the group of girls hired to be Johnny Bravo’s groupies who mob him and tear off his shirt.  Greg then records his first Johnny Bravo song, “High Up on the Mountains.” After hearing the finished product, Greg is upset.  It sounds nothing like him.  It is so over manufactured, so sweetened up in the studio, that it doesn’t sound like anyone.  Greg’s voice is barely audible under the distorted guitar track.  When Buddy doesn’t seem to care and mentions the amount of “work” that went into creating “Johnny Bravo,” Greg realizes that he’s been taken in by Tami and Buddy.  To Greg, Tami utters those immortal words: “You fit the suit.”  Greg figures out that all Tami and Buddy really wanted was a naive guy whom they could use to pose as a singer while they created potential hit pop songs in the studio.  Greg is upset about being used as a stooge and rips up his contract and walks out.  (Side note: Greg already signed the contract.  Does ripping it up really nullify it?  I doubt it, unless Tami and Buddy didn’t make carbon paper copies or something).

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The amazing costumes from “Good Time Music”

The episode concludes with the kids performing “Good Time Music” on Hal Barton’s television program.   The Brady Six wear these amazing outfits.  The outfits aren’t as good as the ones they wear when they perform as “The Silver Platters,” but they’re pretty awesome.  The outfit comes in three colors: orange, goldenrod and pale yellow.  The boys and girls are paired off with their respective counterpart and are decked out in matching outfits.  Greg and Marcia are in orange.  Jan and Peter don the goldenrod.  Bobby and Cindy rock the pale yellow.  The boys’ outfits are pretty simple: white pants with a stripe of “their color” down the leg with a matching button down shirt and white patent leather shoes.  The girls wear these ugly, but fantastic, long dresses with ruffled collars and sleeves.  Cindy’s outfit is obviously a jumpsuit.  I cannot figure out if Marcia and Jan’s outfit are dresses or jumpsuits.  The best part of this whole performance is when Peter screws up the intricate Brady choreography (it happens toward the end of the performance.)

I love “Adios, Johnny Bravo.”  It has two awesome songs, hilarious and legitimately great clothes and “you fit the suit.”  This episode is only the tip of the iceberg as to what The Brady Bunch has to offer in terms of entertainment.

More Brady Bunch posts to come!

Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon!

I Love Lucy, Ep. 79 “The Million Dollar Idea” January 11, 1954

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This weekend, “A Shroud of Thoughts” is hosting a blogathon.  The theme is “Favorite TV Show Episode.”  I knew that I would have to write about an episode from my favorite television show of all time–“I Love Lucy.”  But which episode?! They’re all so great.  It was difficult to narrow it down.  I didn’t want to write about “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” (aka “The Vitameatavegamin Episode”) or “Job Switching” (Lucy & Ethel work in the chocolate factory) or “Lucy’s Italian Movie” (Lucy stomps grapes) because I feel like those are the episodes that are always trotted out when someone discusses the best “I Love Lucy” episodes.  While I adore these episodes, there are many other great episodes that deserve recognition.  I settled on “The Million Dollar Idea.”  A hilarious episode that features one of my favorite quotes.  On paper, it’s not really that funny, but Lucy’s delivery of the line makes it.

“The Million Dollar Idea” opens with the Ricardos and Mertzes having dinner in the living room.

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Ethel (Vivian Vance) and Fred (William Frawley) rave about Lucy’s (Lucille Ball) homemade salad dressing.  Lucy admits that it is her Aunt Martha’s recipe.  Fred tells Lucy that she should consider bottling and selling it.  Ricky (Desi Arnaz) on the other hand, takes this opportunity to remind Lucy that her bank account is overdrawn…again.  They have an off-screen battle over the household accounts.

The next morning, Lucy decides that she’s going to take Fred’s idea and bottle and sell her Aunt Martha’s Salad Dressing.  She enlists Ethel’s help and the ladies are in business.  They come up with a product name: Aunt Martha’s Old Fashioned Salad Dressing.  To market their product, Lucy decides to take advantage of her friendship with “frenemy” Carolyn Appleby (not seen in the episode) since she remembered that Carolyn’s husband Charlie works at a television station.  “[We’ll] cut her in, to the tune of, say, three cents a bottle,” Lucy tells Ethel.  “Yeah. She likes that kind of music,” Ethel agrees.  They decide to go on The Dickie Davis Show.

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On the show, Ethel appears as “Mary Margaret McMertz,” a parody of popular radio show host Mary Margaret McBride who dispensed household advice to women for over 40 years. Ethel touts the salad dressing and asks an “average housewife, picked at random, from [the] audience” to come up on stage.  Of course, this wasn’t a random selection at all.  It is Lucy, disguised as average housewife Isabella Klump.  Ms. Klump raves about the salad dressing, to the point where she’s literally drinking it from the jar!  Ethel asks her viewers to write (623 E. 68th Street) or call (CIrcle 7-2099) to place their orders.  Of course, Ethel holds the cards backwards and then upside down, but that doesn’t hurt orders.  By the end of the show, Lucy and Ethel have 23 orders–at the bargain price of 40 cents a quart!

Back at home, Lucy and Ethel get to salad dressing production.  As far as I can tell, the ingredients in the salad dressing are: oil, salt and onions.  One has to assume there must be some vinegar in there? But the dressing isn’t a vinaigrette–it looks more like mayonnaise.  Perhaps the dressing has eggs in it and when emulsified, it becomes more of mayonnaise type dressing? Then there are the onions.  Big pieces of onion only cut into quarters.  Maybe it goes into the blender next? Not sure.  Regardless, Lucy and Ethel have horribly under-priced their  product.  Ricky, who obviously has more business acumen than Lucy (he does manage the Tropicana Club, after all), decides to calculate Lucy and Ethel’s profit.  After calculating the cost of the ingredients, the cost of the jars and the cost of the labels and dividing it by their 23 orders, Ricky determines that they’ll churn out a 3 cent per jar profit–the same profit that was promised to Carolyn Appleby.  He tells Lucy that that figure doesn’t even include shipping, mailing, insurance, taxes or overhead.  “Oh. Well. If you’re going to figure all that stuff,” Lucy tells him.  Ricky urges Lucy and Ethel to get out of the salad dressing business.  Fred then enters the kitchen carrying an enormous bag of mail, one of three bags that were delivered. “We must be terrific television salesmen!” Ethel declares.

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Dismayed at the thought of having to produce so many jars of non-profit salad dressing, Lucy and Ethel decide to return to The Dickie Davis Show.   They figure if they’re so good at selling the dressing, that they’ll be good at “un-selling it.” The next day, Mary Margaret McMertz is back.  She once again advertises Aunt Martha’s Old Fashioned Salad Dressing and invites “an average housewife, picked at random, from [the] audience.”  Of course, Lucy comes up on stage, this time as country bumpkin, “Lucille McGillicuddy.”  Mrs. McGillicuddy smells the dressing and is immediately disgusted.  “Smell it” she tells McMertz.  McMertz smells it and is taken with the same bad smell.  “How about that? Looks like Aunt Martha had too many old-fashioneds” Mrs. McGillicuddy says. McMertz asks Mrs. McGillicuddy to taste the dressing.  After getting over her initial repulsion and the promise of a new jar, Mrs. McGillicuddy takes a swig.  She’s overcome with disgust and looks for a place to spit it out.  “What’s Aunt Martha trying to do? Poison me?” she asks.

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Under great duress, Mary Margaret McMertz says, “Friends, I can no longer endorse this product.  If you have ordered it, send in your cancellations.”

Which brings me to my favorite part of the episode. Falling to the floor after drinking the vile salad dressing, Mrs. McGillicuddy pops up and says:

“CANCEL! CANCEL!”

McMertz once again shares the cancellation phone number and address.

Mrs. McGillicuddy reappears.  “AND DO IT NOW!” she pleads.

After the show, the girls are sure that they’ve succeeded in getting out of making all the salad dressing.  Fred brings in more sacks of mail.  Lucy and Ethel excitedly start reading the postcards.  “Cancellations!” they think.  Except they’re not.  They’re more orders! 1133 more orders to be exact.  Lucy and Ethel decide to purchase salad dressing from the store, remove the labels and attach their own labels.  It’s not entirely honest and costs 50 cents a quart (10 cents more than their product), but they can get their scheme over and done with in the shortest amount of time.  Lucy and Ethel, decked out in matching outfits, some sort of apron vest like thing (looks like something that a newspaper delivery boy would wear), roller skates and shopping carts (that they got from somewhere.  I doubt that people with minimal storage, like in an apartment, would have shopping carts lying around) get ready to deliver their wares.  “You take the east side, I’ll take the west side and I’ll be in Jersey a-fore ya!” Lucy tells Ethel.

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I Love Lucy, “L.A. at Last!” Ep. #114

I wanted to incorporate one of my other loves into this website–classic television.  My love of classic television was born after I discovered Nick-at-Nite one evening, circa 1995 when I was in the sixth grade.  The first show I watched on Nick-at-Nite was I Love Lucy.  This ignited my love of Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy.  From then on, I had to see every episode of ‘Lucy.’  Later, my love of Lucille Ball led me to TCM to see her films.  From watching films with Ball, I ended up discovering a variety of other favorite actors including (but not limited to): Gene Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Ann Miller and Maureen O’Hara, just to name a few.  I Love Lucy also featured a lot of great classic movie stars whom I loved on the show and discovered their films later on TCM.  One of the all-time best I Love Lucy guest stars was William Holden.  Holden guest starred in my favorite episode– “L.A. at Last!”

After spending two weeks driving across country and making stops at a run-down cafe/hotel near Cincinnati, OH, a brief detour/jail stint in Bent Fork, TN, and a visit with Ethel’s father in Albuquerque, NM, the Ricardos and Mertzes finally make it to Los Angeles, CA.  After scoping out their hotel suite in the heart of Hollywood (courtesy of MGM), Ricky makes plans to have lunch alone (i.e. without Lucy) at the studio commissary.  To soothe Lucy and the Mertzes’ disappointment, he gives them full use of their car and some money for lunch.

Since they set foot in Hollywood, Lucy and Ethel have been on the hunt for movie stars.  Lucy wonders out loud if there’s any place where [the stars] gather in a big herd.  Fred jokingly says, “maybe they all gather at the same watering hole.”  This gives Lucy an idea and soon they’re off to “the watering hole,” aka The Brown Derby.  While in the restaurant, Lucy and Ethel immediately begin gawking and rubbernecking at every celebrity in sight.  We hear the restaurant page various unseen celebrities that they have a telephone call: Cary Grant, Walter Pidgeon and Gregory Peck.  Fred reminds Ethel that “they’re (the stars) just people like you and me.” “Telephone for Ava Gardner!” says the overhead page at the restaurant.  Fred jumps up and Ethel reminds him: “Remember? She’s (Ava Gardner) just people like you and me.” “She may be people, but she’s not like you and me!” Fred hilariously replies.

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“Look [Gregory Peck] is smiling…awwwwww!” 
After an embarrassing interaction with Eve Arden where Ethel asks her if she’s Judy Holliday or Shelley Winters, William Holden is seated into the next booth on the other side of Lucy.  Ethel gets Lucy’s attention and soon Lucy is gawking at Holden and making him uncomfortable.  He decides to turn the tables on Lucy and stare back.  Lucy is very uncomfortable and after a hilarious scene where Ethel cuts Lucy’s spaghetti with her manicuring scissors, Lucy and the Mertzes make a hasty exit–but not before Lucy trips the waiter and the pie on his tray falls on Holden.

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Ethel comes to Lucy’s rescue

Later, we see Ricky trying on costumes, a knight costume, for his new Don Juan picture.  He just so happens to meet Holden at the studio and Holden offers to give him a ride home.  Knowing Lucy’s love of movie stars and Holden in particular, Ricky asks Holden if he’d be willing to come in and meet Lucy.  Holden is only too happy to oblige. Lucy, fearful of being exposed as the one who threw a pie at Holden, tries to disguise her appearance.

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I wish I could find a better shot of William Holden and Desi Arnaz’ faces during this scene, they are really what makes it.

The funniest scene of the entire episode is the scene between Lucy with her fake putty nose, Holden and Ricky.  Lucy’s nose constantly needs re-shaped and she ends up lighting it on fire.  The looks on the men’s faces when Lucy is monkeying around with her nose is the absolute funniest part of the episode.  After the jig is up, Holden doesn’t let Ricky know about the shenanigans at the restaurant and tells him that he wanted to ask the waiter “who the beautiful redhead was,” but Lucy ran out before he had a chance.  Overwhelmed at Holden’s kind gesture, Lucy plants a kiss on him.  “I kissed Bill Holden!” she exclaims.

What I love about this episode, besides the episode itself is how it sets up William Holden for being a big blabbermouth.  In multiple episodes, other celebrities mention having heard from Bill Holden about Lucy.  I like the idea that Holden is going around town telling everyone about Lucy and how ridiculous she is.

Welcome to My New Blog!

There are so many blogs out there.  A person cannot “Google” a subject without finding someone’s blog on the topic.  There are many great blogs, ones that are regularly maintained and always evolving.  There are also a ton of blogs that an enthusiastic fan started and no sooner than they click “publish” on their free blog, they’ve abandoned it.  It’s a regular ghost town of deserted blogs on the internet–Here’s hoping my blog doesn’t end up a statistic.

My intention with this blog is to share my enthusiasm and opinions of classic film and television.  I may slip in some more recent films here and there, because I’m wacky like that.  I do not intend to provide any serious technical analysis of film or television.  I am not trying to win the Pulitzer Prize for greatest written article about Casablanca.  I am not auditioning for anything.  This is purely a not for profit fan blog written by someone who watches way too many movies and way too much television.  I feel all this couch potato time is worthwhile, however.  Someday, all this information (trivial or not) gleaned from these films and programs will assist in my quest to completely dominate trivia night. Everyone needs to know the name of the bully who relentlessly picked on Cindy Brady right? (Answer: It’s Buddy Hinton).

I am a former Nick-at-Nite junkie.  I discovered it one night in the sixth grade in 1995 and watched it religiously until it went downhill (circa 2002).  Nick-at-Nite, back in the day, had such a fun aesthetic.  Retro-inspired graphics, jingles, funny advertisements for their programming (Look up “The Pants That Ate Fred Mertz” on You Tube.  You won’t regret it), and on-screen placards before each episode which provided some basic information (episode name, number, original air date, etc.) with a fun trivia fact.  Their annual Block Party Summer (each evening featured a 3-hour block of a specific show) was one of my favorite times of the year.  It was always a downer when one day was a dud (e.g. one year, Mondays were “Monkee Mondays”).  I always thought: “Now what am I going to do [insert day of the week] nights?”

The first show I watched on Nick-at-Nite was I Love Lucy starring the inimitable Lucille Ball (aka “Lucy”). Even now, after 21 years, I Love Lucy is still my favorite television show of all time.  My other favorite shows that I discovered on Nick-at-Nite and continue to watch up until this day are: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Green Acres and The Brady Bunch.  There are so many fantastic shows that Nick-at-Nite introduced (or re-introduced) me to over the years, and thanks to Hulu and DVDs, I can enjoy them again and again.  I have been known to use a combination of You Tube, DVDs and Hulu to try and re-create at least something that kind of resembles my beloved night-time block of programming.  Until my demands are met, and Nick-at-Nite in all its 90s retro-inspired “graphic-ed” glory are reinstated, my makeshift block of classic programming will have to make do.

In conjunction with my Nick-at-Nite and Lucy obsessions, I branched out into classic movies, via Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and American Movie Classics (AMC).  TCM debuted in 1994.  I only had the channel for a few years before it moved to a higher tiered cable package (don’t worry, I have since gotten it back and have had the channel for the last ten years or so).   AMC used to show classic movies and shorts from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  They closer resembled TCM in that they played a variety of films with Nick Clooney introducing them (a la Robert Osborne on TCM), I used to watch a lot of Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges.

TCM (not so much AMC) provided the perfect venue to get to know more about my favorite classic television actor.  Knowing that Lucille Ball had a movie career before I Love Lucy, it was my intention to see her appearances in these films, whether she had a walk on role (e.g. 1935’s Roberta.  Ball appears in the fashion show sequence.  Her lines were deleted from the final cut) or a small bit part (e.g. 1935’s Top Hat, she appears as the flower shop clerk and has  couple lines), or was the star.  I had to see all her films.  I would set the VCR up for these recordings and cross my fingers that the tape didn’t run out or that I didn’t mess up the recording somehow.

During this time, I also watched the annual televised viewing of The Wizard of Oz, which was a tradition.  I love this movie and enjoyed watching it each and every year.  We eventually got the VHS, but there was just something about watching it on network television.  It was an event.  My favorite character in ‘Oz’ was Judy Garland’s character, Dorothy.  From my love of Judy, I started seeking her films out on TCM in addition to Lucy’s.

My love of Lucy and Judy has led me into an inescapable vortex of classic film.  Each film I watch has the possibility to join my running list of favorite films and introduce me to new favorite performers.  Thanks to Nick-at-Nite and TCM, I have discovered so many great stars that have become my new favorites: Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, Gene Kelly, Humphrey Bogart,  Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Betty Grable, just to name a few.  I have one cardinal rule that I try to follow when going into a “new” film: Go into it hoping that it’ll become my new favorite film.  I never look for what’s wrong with a film until the end, when I discover that nothing “clicked” for me when I watched it.  I’m always willing to give films a second chance, unless I hated it so much that I don’t intend to ever watch it again (Apocalypse Now, I’m looking at you).

I hope to share my enthusiasm (and perhaps disappointment) about film and television.  Some of the films I may discuss, I have seen a billion times, others I just watched for the first time and am sharing my initial thoughts and opinions about the film.  I do not claim to be a film historian or expert, I am just a fan.  I’m constantly amazed how many films there are in the world and every day, I am finding out about more and more films I’ve never even heard of, let alone seen.  My DVR is always on the verge of being full.  I can’t help it, everything sounds so interesting.

Remember, this is all opinion, my opinion.  Please don’t beat up on me because you disagree with my opinion.  I’m open to conversation and trying to understand another point of view or perhaps giving a film a second (or third or more) chance, but if someone flat out disagrees that my favorite road movie is The Long, Long Trailer, then I really don’t care.  I love what I love.