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 Show, The Brady Bunch became one of my “must-see” shows every evening.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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).
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.
Picture it: Salem, Oregon, 1995. A beautiful peasant girl turns on her parents’ 15″ black and white tube TV. She comes across a show on something called Nick at Nite. She is instantly transfixed by the action on the screen. A redhead (we’ll have to take the characters’ word for it, it’s black and white after all), her Cuban bandleader husband, and their two friends were involved in some wacky scheme. The next day, the girl tuned into Nick-at-Nite again and watched another episode of this hilarious show about a woman whose only dream in life, it seems, is to be in show business, much to her husband’s chagrin. The show was I Love Lucy, and the beautiful peasant girl, was me, minus the peasant part–just tapping into my inner Sophia Petrillo.
I Love Lucy is rightfully considered one of the best, if not the best (which “best” is obviously subjective) television show in history. The show was groundbreaking, almost literally, and created the blueprint for all situational comedies to come. Every show, from The Dick Van Dyke Show, to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, to Cheers to Friends are indebted to I Love Lucy for inventing the situation comedy and engineering the way in which to perform in front of a live audience.
In 1950, CBS approached Lucille Ball with an offer to move her popular radio show, My Favorite Husband, to the new burgeoning medium of television. CBS wanted Ball, her co-star Richard Denning and the other cast members to make the move with her. However, Ball had other ideas. At this time, Ball had been married to her husband, bandleader Desi Arnaz for ten years. The couple’s marriage was faltering. Much of the strain on their marriage was caused by their differing schedules. Ball was in Hollywood filming her radio show and Arnaz was on the road, touring with his band. Ball, seeing an opportunity to work with her husband and keep him home, told CBS that she was interested in the offer, but only if Arnaz could star as her husband. CBS balked, thinking that the American public would not accept that their star, Lucille Ball, was married to a Cuban. Of course, CBS was completely wrong, but to prove it, Ball and Arnaz concocted a vaudeville routine and took their act on the road. People across the country loved them and soon CBS had to relent and give Ball and Arnaz the go-ahead.
In March of 1951, Ball and Arnaz filmed their pilot. It was filmed in kineoscope. Kineoscope was a method of filming a live performance. A camera lens would be focused on a video screen, which would record the performance as it was being recorded. This footage would later be re-broadcast to other markets. Typically shows were filmed in New York, as this is where a majority of the population lived in the late 1940s-early 1950s. If you have ever seen a YouTube video where someone has made a video of a movie, show, concert, etc. playing on their TV, you know that the sound is muffled and tinny and the picture is blurry. This is exactly what it was like to watch a kineoscope show if you didn’t live near New York.
To see a couple examples of Kineoscope, go to You Tube and search for: “I Love Lucy Pilot,” and “Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on The Ed Wynn Show.”
Above is a screenshot from the I Love Lucy pilot episode. Ball wears a housecoat and big baggy pants for much of the episode because she was pregnant with Lucie Arnaz. The Ricardos live in a completely different apartment and the Mertzes haven’t been created yet. I Love Lucy episode #6, “The Audition” is essentially a re-do of the pilot. In the pilot episode, Ricky schemes with his agent, Jerry. In the I Love Lucy episode, Jerry’s lines are given to Fred Mertz. The pilot episode was a success and Ball and Arnaz were given the green light to start their series.
To produce their series, Ball and Arnaz formed Desilu Productions. Arnaz was president and Ball was vice-president. They hired the writers from Ball’s radio show, My Favorite Husband. Many of the crew members they hired were acquaintances from Ball’s radio program and from Ball and Arnaz’ movie and music careers, respectively. For the Mertzes, they originally wanted Bea Benederet (Betty Rubble in The Flintstones and Kate Bradley in Petticoat Junction) and Gale Gordon (Mr. Mooney in The Lucy Show and Harry Carter in Here’s Lucy). However, Benederet was under contract to The Burns and Allen Show and Gordon was on Our Miss Brooks.
One day, William Frawley, an old acquaintance of Ball’s from her movie days, called Ball and asked if there was room for him on her show. Leery of his reputation as a hard-drinker, Arnaz and Ball met with him and decided he was perfect. Ball later said: “William Frawley was ‘Fred Mertz,’ period.” Frawley was cast on the condition that he always show up to work sober. He would be fired on the spot if he ever showed up to work intoxicated. During all six seasons of I Love Lucy and the three seasons of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, Frawley kept his promise.
Casting Ethel Mertz turned out to be more of a chore. Ball originally wanted to throw the job to her old friend, Barbara Pepper (Mrs. Ziffel on Green Acres), but CBS said no. Much like Frawley, Pepper had a drinking problem too, but hers was much more severe. Then I Love Lucy director Marc Daniels (who directed the first season) suggested an actress he worked with in New York, Vivian Vance. Vance had a successful Broadway career and had spent twenty years on stage acting in various plays until re-locating to Hollywood in the late-1940s. She appeared in a couple films, but by 1951, she was still relatively unknown outside of the Broadway circle. She just happened to be appearing in a revival of Voice of a Turtle in La Jolla, California. Arnaz and head writer, Jess Oppenheimer, drove down to see Vance and hired her on the spot. Vance was reluctant to give up her stage career for the unknown medium of television, but friend Daniels convinced her it’d be her big break–and it was.
With all the pieces put in place, it was time to start producing I Love Lucy. Desilu purchased two soundstages and tore down the dividing wall to create one large room that could hold four separate stages. The Ricardos’ living room was the larger, permanent stage. The Ricardos’ bedroom was typically in the smaller stage to the left and the kitchen was the small stage to the right. The other stage would often be the Tropicana. The walls of the small stages had wheels that allowed them to move around. Oftentimes, when a scene with a large amount of action was filmed, the walls of the set would be rolled in front of the Ricardos’ living room set. Case in point, there is a blooper in the famous Vitameatavegamin episode (#30 “Lucy Does a TV Commercial”). When Lucy comes staggering out of her dressing room (plastered on Vitameatavegamin, alcohol 23%) and the stage hands are searching for Ricky, you can see the Ricardos’ living room between the Vitameatavegamin set and Ricky’s set where he performs.
CBS wanted Arnaz and Ball to use the cheaper kineoscope and to film their show in New York. Arnaz and Ball informed CBS that not only did they plan on remaining in Los Angeles, but they also wanted to film their program on 35mm film, the same film used by the motion picture studios. They wanted the whole country to see their program clearly, not just the East Coast and they wanted to have copies of their program–figuring that if it bombed, at least they’d come away with some “home movies” for their children. CBS complained initially about the increased cost of the film, but Arnaz, the shrewd negotiator he was, offered to deduct $1000/week from his and Lucy’s salaries in exchange for the right to use film and the rights to their show. CBS, figuring that this whole thing will never work, agreed.
Arnaz knew that Ball performed best in front of a live audience. To accommodate a live audience, Arnaz had to equip his soundstage with bleachers. He was also required by the fire marshall to bring the building up to code by adding bathrooms and other modifications required of a facility that is going to hold large groups of people. In order to ensure that the cameras didn’t block the audience’s view of the action, Arnaz, along with Academy Award winning cinematographer, Karl Freund, devised the three camera technique. This camera, nicknamed “the three-headed monster,” would film the action from three angles. Then after production, the editors would splice together the footage to create the final show. This technique is still in use today.
The very first episode of I Love Lucy, that aired, was actually the second episode filmed. Episode #2, “The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub” is the first of many “versus” episodes. In this case, it’s the men versus the women. Lucy and Ethel want to go to a nightclub for the Mertzes’ anniversary and Fred and Ricky want to go to the fights. Lucy and Ethel declare that they will find their own dates who will take them to the club. Ricky informs Lucy that he and Fred will do the same. Enlisting the help of an old friend, Lucy gets herself and Ethel set up as Ricky and Fred’s blind dates. Except, the girls aren’t just coming as themselves, they show up dressed as hillbillies. This is the first of many episodes where Lucy tries to pull a fast one on Ricky. Arnaz made it clear to the writers from day one that while Lucy can play tricks on Ricky, he didn’t want Ricky to look like an idiot. Ricky either needed to be in on the joke from the beginning or figure it out before Lucy succeeded. In the case of this episode, Lucy blows her cover by offering to go grab cigarettes for everyone, stating that she knew where they were. Ricky tells Lucy he knows it’s her and Ethel, they make up and all is well–except that the men end up at the fights with the ladies dressed to the nines. Let’s just hope that a compromise was reached and maybe they went to the fights and the nightclub that evening.
I Love Lucy was a success and was at the top of the ratings 4/6 years it was on television. In 1953, Ball found out she was pregnant (with Desi Arnaz Jr.) and she, along with Arnaz, thought it was the end of the program. However, it was decided that Lucy Ricardo would be pregnant too. Desilu hired a priest, rabbi and minister to read the scripts and highlight any objectionable content. All three religious leaders could not find any issues. CBS allowed Ball and Arnaz to go ahead with their plan and Lucy Ricardo was set to have a baby. The only stipulation being that the word “pregnant” could not be used on the show. They had to opt for the funnier ‘spectin coming from Ricky. Words and phrases like “infanticipating” and “having a baby” were used instead. The episode where Lucy gives birth to Little Ricky was the highest rated episode of any television show (at that point) and even got a higher rating than Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration that took place the following day after Little Ricky was born. During this time, Arnaz invented the re-run by re-airing old episodes of I Love Lucy. He wanted to give Lucy time to recover. To make the episodes “fresh,” he and Frawley and Vance filmed new flashback scenes to introduce the episodes. When these repeats garnered the same or higher ratings than the original airing, it was decided to forgo the new flashback footage and just re-air the episodes as-is.
I Love Lucy enjoyed huge success during its original six year run, winning multiple Emmy Awards and achieving high ratings. It ended its run #1 in the ratings. However, I Love Lucy has achieved even greater success in the decades since. It is estimated that I Love Lucy has never been off the air since its debut in 1951. Ball’s face is one of the most widely recognized faces in the world. There are new generations of fans discovering I Love Lucy each and every day. It is truly an indelible part of pop culture and television history.
My Top 5 Favorite Episodes of I Love Lucy:
1) Episode #114, “L.A. at Last!”
The Ricardos and Mertzes finally make it to Hollywood. After checking into their hotel at the Beverly Palms Hotel, Lucy and the Mertzes are on the prowl for movie stars. They decide to go to “the watering hole,” aka The Brown Derby for lunch and celebrity spotting. Ethel manages to embarrass herself in front of Eve Arden and Lucy ends up embarrassing herself in front of William Holden. The true gem of this episode is later, when Ricky, newly employed at MGM, meets Holden. Holden offers to give him a ride to his hotel. Ricky, unknowing about what transpired at the Brown Derby earlier that day, asks Holden if he’d mind coming in to meet Lucy. Lucy, understandably freaked out, but forced into meeting Holden, tries to disguise herself with a scarf, glasses and fake putty nose. The funniest part of the entire episode is the look on William Holden and Desi Arnaz’ faces when Lucy turns around after having re-shaped her nose.
2) Episode #147, “Lucy Gets a Paris Gown”
In Paris, Lucy makes it known to Ricky that she wants a Jacques Marcell dress. Ricky, not wanting to pay the huge price tag, says no. Lucy, not willing to give up, stages a convincing hunger strike in protest of Ricky’s decision. Ricky, feeling bad for Lucy, buys her the dress, but then discovers that Ethel has been sneaking food to her. The dress is returned and Lucy is fuming. To appease Lucy and “cure” her of her desire for high-end French fashion (which Ricky and Fred think is ridiculous), they find some potato sacks, a horse’s feedbag and a champagne bucket and have two Parisian original gowns designed and created: one for Lucy and one for Ethel. The funniest part of this episode is when Lucy and Ethel realize that they’ve been duped and attempt to hide under a tablecloth, that they apparently steal from the restaurant as they run away.
3) Episode #81, “The Charm School”
After an upsetting party where Lucy and Ethel feel ignored by their husbands, especially when the date of another guest attracts all their attention, Lucy and Ethel decide that their husbands are bored with them. Lucy finds out that the woman who came to her party the night prior had just finished a course at “Phoebe Emerson’s Charm School.” Lucy and Ethel sign up and are put through a charm regiment that involves learning to walk, speak and dress like a charming lady. The time comes for the big reveal and Ricky and Fred are speechless. The funniest part of this episode is when Lucy opens the door to let glammed-up Ethel in. As she opens the door, there’s Ethel leaning against the door frame, dressed in a one-strapped, skintight, leopard print dress with a cool snake-like thing around her arm.
4) Episode #23, “Fred and Ethel Fight”
The Mertzes are fighting (because Ethel said that Fred’s mother “looked like a weasel,” to which I say: “Fred’s mother is still alive?”) and Lucy decides to invite each one over for dinner without the other one knowing. She lets Ricky in on the plan. Ricky works with Lucy trying to get Fred and Ethel back together, but during course of conversation, he and Lucy end up getting in a fight. Now it’s Ethel and Fred’s turn to try and get Ricky and Lucy back together! The climax of the episode is when Ricky stages a fake fire in the apartment, so that he can “save” Lucy and be a hero. The funniest part of this episode is when Lucy wants to pretend like she was hit by a bus and has Ethel help her put on casts and a metal arm brace thing and then Ricky stages the fake fire which Lucy doesn’t know is fake. Lucy freaks out trying to grab things, casually tossing them out her 4th story window. She grabs some dresses and her huge jug of henna rinse. Then she makes a rope with a bedsheet and ties it around herself, but neglects to tie the other end to anything.
5) Episode #122 “The Star Upstairs”
Lucy discovers that she has met 99 movie stars and wants to meet one more so she can have an even hundred. She reads a blind item in the paper that a big star is staying in the penthouse of a local hotel for some rest and relaxation. Lucy instantly jumps to the conclusion that the star is in her hotel, and after pressing the bellboy for details, her assumption is confirmed–Cornel Wilde is staying in the penthouse right above the Ricardos’ hotel room! Lucy blackmails the bellboy into letting her borrow his outfit so she can deliver the paper. That scheme fails wholeheartedly. In the next attempt, Lucy hides under the bellboy’s cart. Through the course of events, Wilde ends up thinking that Bobby is a really talented ventriloquist who can throw his voice across the room. The scheme comes off well, but Lucy ends up being left behind in Wilde’s room. Desperate to get out, she attempts to climb down the balcony using a makeshift rope that she crafts out of a beach towel. The funniest part of the entire episode is Ethel trying to distract Ricky from seeing Lucy’s legs dangling from the balcony.
I Love Lucy, Ep. 79 “The Million Dollar Idea” January 11, 1954
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Beloved television icon Mary Tyler Moore passed away today at the age of 80. While I knew that Mary had been in poor health for the last few years and I’m not entirely surprised by her passing, I am still very sad. I absolutely love Mary Tyler Moore. Along with I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was my “must see” show during my Nick at Nite years. I also loved The Dick Van Dyke Show, the show that put Mary on the map, but The Mary Tyler Moore Show will always have a special place in my heart.
While I Love Lucy is my #1 favorite television show of all time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show comes in a close second. While Lucy Ricardo got the best of her husband Ricky often and for the most part, always got her way, she was still expected to live up to the expectations of women in the 1950s. Lucy was expected to keep house, take care of children (or in her case, child) and attend to her husband’s needs. Husband Ricky was the breadwinner. She took care of all domestic chores. To Lucy, this life was mundane and she wanted the excitement of show business, something that Ricky experienced on a daily basis. Ricky didn’t want his wife having a career. Even when Lucy got her way and made her way onto the stage, she was still expected to return to her domestic duties. In the only two-three cringe-worthy moments in I Love Lucy, Ricky actually spanks Lucy when she does something he doesn’t like. Ricky keeps Lucy in her place and she usually always returns to domestic life even though it is apparent that she wants more.
In 1961, 24-year old Mary Tyler Moore was cast in The Dick Van Dyke Show. She landed the star-making role of Laura Petrie, wife of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke). This role allowed Moore to showcase her talent for dancing and also her comedic skills. In addition to her excellent chemistry with Van Dyke, the role of Laura Petrie allowed Mary to establish one of her great comic shticks. Where Lucille Ball’s comedy came from situations she got herself into, much of Mary’s comedy came from being embarrassed. In the episode “My Blonde-Haired Brunette,” Laura decides that Rob has become uninterested in her. Knowing that blondes like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield are currently in vogue, Laura decides to make herself blonde. She looks horrible as a blonde and Rob tells her over the phone that he loves her brown hair and he’s taking her out to dinner. Desperate to change her hair before he comes home, she enlists friend Millie to help her. Unfortunately, Rob arrives home when Laura’s hair is only half dyed. She comes out with her half and half hair and collapses into a blubbering mess. Mary Tyler Moore became one of the all-time best criers on television. Even though Rob encouraged his wife to explore her talents, Laura Petrie ultimately was still a housewife and was expected to take care of son Ritchie and their home. Laura somewhat bridges the gap between Lucy Ricardo and Mary Richards.
Which brings us to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The Dick Van Dyke Show ended in 1966 after a very successful five-year run on television. Between 1966-1970, Mary was having trouble finding her next project. She tried movies. Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) was successful, but did not lead to any big projects. In 1969, Mary and Dick reunited for a special called, Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman. In this variety special, Mary and Dick portray themselves and through a variety of song and dance routines, it shows off the various sides of Mary and Dick’s musical comedy talents. This special paved the way for Mary to get her own show. In 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered.
In The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary portrayed Mary Richards, a newly single 30-year old woman who moves to Minneapolis to start a new life and career after her long-term relationship fizzles out. Mary moves into a fantastic studio apartment managed by longtime friend, Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman). Soon to be BFF, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), lives upstairs. Applying for a secretarial position at WJM News, Mary lands the job of Associate Producer. WJM’s news is the lowest rated news program in the city. Mary’s new co-workers include the brash, but secretly a softie, Lou Grant (Ed Asner), sarcastic and disillusioned writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin McLeod) and the buffoonish, arrogant anchorman, Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). Later, Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) who hosts “The Happy Homemaker” program at WJM and Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel) join the gang. Georgette ends up becoming Mrs. Ted Baxter.
Mary Richards in many ways is the ideal woman of the 1970s (and maybe even now). She’s gainfully employed and makes enough money to live independently. She has many friends and even a close-knit group of co-workers who in many ways serve as a surrogate family for Mary. While she would like to be married and have children, she isn’t desperate to have them. She goes on dates and it is even implied that she spends the night with some of them. She’s on The Pill! Prior to 1970, were there any female television characters that even had sex, let alone were on The Pill? Mother characters don’t count. Mary lived her own life according to her own terms. There were times when Mary was a bit of a pushover and naive, but this is where the Rhoda and Lou characters came in handy–they were able to express their concerns to Mary in hopes that she’d make the right decision. Throughout the 1970s, Mary Richards approached uncharted territory. In an early episode, she discovers that the man who had her job before her made $50 more a week than she does. She confronts Lou and demands to know why; In the fifth season, Mary faces the possibility of jail time for not revealing her news source; In the seventh season, Mary becomes hooked on sleeping pills. These are just a few examples.
Without further ado, my top 10 favorite episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
(This definitely isn’t meant to imply that I am not a fan of the other 158 episodes of the show)
1. Put On a Happy Face (Season 3, Ep. 23)
Mary Richards is having a really bad week. She’s late to work after her alarm fails to go off; She drips coffee on her new sweater before a meeting; she gets a flat tire; her paper bags fail causing her to drop her groceries all over the floor; she slips on the freshly waxed floor and sprains her ankle after trying to walk to the ladies’ room to fix her “hair bump”; she catches a cold from soaking her sprained foot; her date to the Teddy Awards bails; she ends up going to the award show with a “Robert Redford-type” (aka Ted Baxter); the dry cleaner ruins her dress; her hair dryer breaks; she gets a run in her stocking; it starts raining… This all culminates with Mary showing up at the Teddy Awards in a tacky dress, one wet slipper and one shoe, wearing a yellow rain slicker and haphazard hair. Her false eyelash falls off. She of course wins the Teddy Award she was nominated for and ends up a blubbering mess on the podium, only managing to apologize for her appearance. She gets her award, and Mary is spelled wrong. Of course it is.
*This is my favorite episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
2. The Dinner Party (Season 4, Ep. 10)
It’s time for another of Mary’s disastrous parties. For someone who is so pleasant and well-liked by her co-workers and friends, it becomes a running gag in the series that she can’t seem to give a good party to save her life. Nothing that happens at her parties is ever her fault, it just seems like everyone likes to bring their troubles to her parties. In this party, Mary has invited Congresswoman Geddes as her guest of honor. Her table only seats six. The guests will be: Congresswoman Geddes, Mary, Lou, Rhoda, Murray and Sue Ann (who is cooking the dinner). Sue Ann cooks exactly six portions of “Veal Prince Orloff.” Rhoda shows up with a date (Henry Winkler) who has just been fired from Hempels and she feels bad. Lou ends up taking 3 portions of Veal Prince Orloff and has to return two portions to the platter. Ted, who was not invited to the dinner party, shows up to dessert.
3. The Lars Affair (Season 4, Ep. 1)
This is the funniest Phyllis episode. This episode also introduces the Sue Ann Nivens character. In this episode, Phyllis learns that husband Lars and Sue Ann are having an affair after meeting at Mary’s party. Phyllis agonizes over the fact that her husband is cheating on her and even bakes a pie in an attempt to compete with Sue Ann. The episode culminates with a confrontation on the set of “The Happy Homemaker” where Sue Ann refuses to give Lars up even after Phyllis points out all of his faults. Sue Ann finally relents when Mary gives her an ultimatum, stating that being a homewrecker wouldn’t be a great image for “The Happy Homemaker,” it’s either Lars or her show.
4. Rhoda the Beautiful (Season 3, Ep. 6)
Perpetual dieter Rhoda has finally reached her goal. Mary, Phyllis and the WJM staff give her praise but Rhoda cannot accept any of the compliments and meets each kind statement with a self-deprecating remark. She ends up entering her department store’s “Miss Hempel Beauty Pageant.” After a hilarious scene where Mary and Phyllis help Rhoda find something to wear (and Phyllis sings “10 Cents a Dance” from Love Me or Leave Me), Rhoda leaves for the pageant. She looks fantastic and wins the contest. Rhoda is finally able to admit that she looks good.
5. You Try to Be a Nice Guy (Season 5, Ep. 21)
Mary ends up becoming reacquainted with Sherry, a prostitute she met in jail while she was incarcerated for not revealing her news source. Sherry got out of jail but was arrested again. She recruits Mary to be a character witness at her court appearance. Sherry is relying on a good character witness like Mary to keep her out of jail. Mary agrees but unwittingly becomes responsible for Sherry’s behavior after having to give an oath promising to help Sherry look for legitimate work. Mary, taking her oath seriously, is determined to find a decent job for Sherry but struggles since Sherry doesn’t have any marketable skills. Finally, Sherry tells Mary that she wants to be a fashion designer. Mary encourages her to pursue her dream. To thank her, Sherry makes Mary a custom gown. It ends up being a ridiculous, green colored concoction with lots of cutouts across Mary’s stomach and legs. Only Mary Tyler Moore could wear this dress and not look atrocious, but it is so tacky and so completely not Mary Richards, that she looks ridiculous. Ted and Georgette happen to show up at the same time Mary is wearing this dress and Ted can’t keep it together. His reaction is the funniest part of the episode.
6. The Last Show (Season 7, Ep. 24)
All good things must come to an end and The Mary Tyler Moore Show unfortunately reached that point in 1977. I personally think they could have continued a couple more years, but it’s good that the show ended before the episodes started diminishing in quality. In what is perhaps one of the best (if not the best) series finales of all time, the WJM crew (with the exception of Ted) learn that they are going to be fired. Though they’re trying to repress their emotions, they finally let it all out after the end of their last newscast. It’s hard to watch this scene without getting at least a little teary-eyed. Lou and Mary emotionally give speeches to everyone. This culminates with the group sobbing in a large group hug. Ted (or maybe Lou?) says he needs Kleenex and they move in one big glob toward the Kleenex box. To lighten the mood, they sing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” and leave the room. Mary is left to turn off the lights. Thus ending The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
7. Sue Ann’s Sister (Season 7, Ep. 3)
Sue Ann’s sister Lila is in town. Sue Ann is deeply jealous of Lila as it seems that every time Sue Ann gets something, Lila comes around and steals it from her. Upon arrival, Lila and Lou immediately become chummy, which infuriates Sue Ann. Lila then announces that she is interviewing for a “Happy Homemaker” type show on a rival network. This latest news is just too much for Sue Ann and she retreats to her bedroom. The scene in Sue Ann’s bedroom is the funniest part of the entire episode. Her bedroom is frilly gaudy. She sleeps in a round bed, which we learn also vibrates. She’s also got Tchaikovsky’s “Love Theme” from “Romeo and Juliet” queued up to play whenever I imagine she’s got something hot and heavy going on. The best scene is when Ted walks in, looks up, and straightens his hat and tie–telling the audience about Sue Ann’s mirrored ceiling.
8. I Was a Single for WJM (Season 4, Ep. 24)
Inspired by the popularity of a local singles bar, WJM News decides to do a feature on the singles scene in Minneapolis. The crew spends time at the bar each evening looking to find an “angle” for their story. By Friday, Mary has become acquainted with many of the regulars and hopes to use them in WJM’s story. When the singles become aware of the plan for cameras to enter their hangout and interview them, they become camera shy and leave in droves. By the time the news starts, the bar is empty and Mary and co. are forced to improvise.
9. Edie Gets Married (Season 6, Ep. 1)
In this very emotional episode, Lou finds out that ex-wife Edie is planning on remarrying. While he knows there isn’t a chance of them getting back together, Lou is still having trouble admitting that that aspect of his life (he & Edie) is over. In a goodwill gesture, Edie invites Lou to her wedding. Lou doesn’t know if he wants to attend, but ultimately does. With Mary as his date, Lou very graciously and stoically watches his ex-wife tie the knot with someone else. Originally Mary was supposed to provide moral support, but by the end of the ceremony, she’s a blubbery mess. Lou then wishes Edie the best of luck in her marriage and Mary loses it completely. Lou ends up taking her to the bar to console her.
10. The Square-Shaped Room (Season 2, Ep. 13)
Lou wants to surprise wife Edie with a makeover of their living room. He plans to hire an old “designer” friend who currently decorates bus stations. Mary suggests Rhoda, whose vocation is window decorator. Lou hires Rhoda. Rhoda agonizes over the right details for the room and finally settles for an all white motif with modern design. The bookshelves appear to be made of white PVC piping. There’s lots of white, shag, PVC and glass and a big number “5” on the wall. This room is not Lou’s style at all and Rhoda has to return the room to its original state–however, there’s one change that Lou and Edie liked–the white walls.
The great thing about The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was that despite the show being named after its star, it was truly an ensemble show. While Mary was in every episode, not every episode centered around Mary. Every character had their own story lines and chances in the spotlight. This is one of the few shows where the main characters were fleshed out. We knew each character’s backstory, frustrations, successes, etc. What I also loved about this show is how effortlessly they blended drama with comedy. Lou had many very emotional moments (especially when dealing with Edie) and the show was able to easily add levity to a situation without undermining the scene.
In the famous “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode, Chuckles the Clown dies. Not funny stuff. Chuckles was dressed as a peanut and a rogue elephant tried to shell him. His death is absurd and tragic. Lou, Murray and Sue Ann get all the jokes out of the way in the first half of the episode. Mary is mortified at her co-workers’ lack of sensitivity. At the funeral, the co-workers are able to provide the somberness required for the occasion. Mary, on the other hand, finally realizes the absurdity of the situation and can’t stop laughing during the pastor’s eulogy. However, laughing at a funeral would be a very un-Mary Richards like thing to do–her laughter quickly turns to loud sobs. It is a testament to Mary Tyler Moore’s talent that she was able to switch from laughter to crying so quickly and realistically.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.