Thursday, September 30, 2010

“We have the technology…”

I’m sure to a good many fans out there this is old news, but for those whose newsletter didn’t arrive in the mail or wound up stuck to the Domino’s Pizza coupon circular and is unreadable, one of the Holy Grails of television shows not released to DVD is finally getting the royal treatment from Time Life this coming November 23rd…according to this TVShowsOnDVD.com announcementThe Six Million Dollar Man, that Velveeta cult classic that attracted millions of viewers to ABC like flies to you-know-what from 1973-78.


Now, I could tell you that I never watched Man in an attempt to haughtily dismiss the plebeian tastes of those who did….but I’d be lying my ass off. Hell, every school kid worth his milk money watched every week as Steve Austin—an astronaut whose legs, right arm and left eye had been replaced by atomic-powered mechanical devices after cracking up an experimental space vehicle in the desert, making him a human cyborg—would kick ass and take names in “bionic” fashion against the bad guys…and doing those cool sound effects along with him (ay-yang-yang-yang…ay-yang-yang-yang…). Man was the show that started ABC’s meteoric rise to the position of number-one television network in the mid-70s under über president Fred Silverman, and during its five-season run produced a spin-off: The Bionic Woman, which chronicled the tales of lady cyborg Jamie Sommers (Lindsay Wagner), an old flame of Steve’s who was critically injured in a skydiving accident.

The Six Million Dollar Man’s delayed debut onto DVD was due apparently to that old bugaboo of copyright problems, but Time Life is apparently doing this up right with a honkin’ big box set crammed with bodacious extras. The only flaw in the set—and you can read further about it here—is that one of the episodes, “Welcome Home, Jamie – Part 1,” will appear on the set in its syndicated version because the original master couldn’t be located by the company…Universal didn’t have it, and even an inquiry to the Library of Congress turned up bupkiss. Still, you have to give Time Life credit for at least informing potential consumers of this beforehand…but it’s also sort of sad in that it casts a new light on how a lot of media that you just assumed would be around forever is in danger of disappearing through loss and neglect (this article, pointed out to me by Facebook compadre Doc Quatermass, is an essential read on how our old-time radio legacy is starting to shrink).

Time Life has released several classic TV series to DVD, notably Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and really know how to do these shows up right (I think the Smart set is one of the best TV-on-DVD collections ever put out) so I know Six Million Dollar devotees are going to enjoy this collection when it hits the streets in November. I can’t consider myself fan enough to make the investment (even though I watched it as a kid, I rolled my eyes like crazy whenever Lee Majors’ character would encounter individuals like Bigfoot), however…and besides, I’ve still got Thriller: The Complete Series to buy.

One TV-on-DVD release that I do think I’ll be purchasing is The Lucy Show: The Official Third Season, which according to TSOD will be out November 30th (I still have Season 2 to add to the voluminous and dusty TDOY archives, but I hope to rectify that situation soon) and will contain all twenty-six episodes from the classic sitcom’s season numero tres. This season would be the last one for Lucy’s longtime sidekick Vivian Vance; the season afterward they relocated Lucy to San Francisco (I always thought it peculiar that Gale Gordon’s Harrison J. Mooney ended up making the same move, and both of them wound up working at the same bank—it’s kismet!) and I think that was also about the time her daughter vanished (I can’t remember if she went to college or entered a convent). She had a new best friend in Mary Jane Lewis, played by OTR veteran Mary Jane Croft—and because Croft had previously played Lucy’s nemesis Audrey Simmons in the first two seasons of Lucy Show it always confused me…couldn’t Lucy figure out it was the same person only with a new identity? (Croft also played Connie Brooks’ rival, Daisy Enright, on Our Miss Brooks—that woman was pure dagnasty evil.) And to confuse things further, when Lucy started doing Here’s Lucy, the Mary Jane Lewis character turned up on that as well—so you’d think that Mary Jane would think: “Hey…this Lucy Carter person sure looks a lot like that Lucy Carmichael character I used to know. She’s changed her identity just as I changed mine. Mwha-ha-ha-ha-ha…” (They christened Croft’s character with the last name of “Lewis,” by the way, because that was in fact her married name—Croft wed “Mr. Radio,” Elliott Lewis, in 1959.)

Another TV-on-DVD collection that is looming on the horizon (and which will be released the same day as Lucy 3) is Have Gun – Will Travel: The Fifth Season, Volume 1. I’ll spare everybody my usual “split-season” rant but will mention that even though I recorded the bulk of the show’s fifth season episodes from my new BFF, Encore Westerns, I’ll still pony up to buy this set. I’ve always been a fan of the show but revisiting it through EW has just reinforced my admiration for a show that would get my vote as the dean of half-hour westerns (while I remain a Gunsmoke aficionado, I think the TV version worked better in its hour-long format). Since HGWT’s fifth season produced thirty-eight episodes, there’ll be nineteen on this set and nineteen on Volume 2; one of my favorites of the series, “The Hanging of Aaron Gibbs” (11/04/61) will be on the first volume—a ripping good yarn starring African-American actors Odetta and Rupert Crosse (from The Reivers)…and the baddest serial baddie of them all, Roy Barcroft, is in it, too.

Another Encore Westerns staple, The Virginian, will see its second season released on December 7th courtesy of Timeless Media Group; I know the show’s sophomore year has been available on DVD for quite some time (Timeless’ website offered it, and someone mentioned to me seeing it at a Sam’s Club store) but this is a bit more affordable collection and in one of those “collectible tins” to boot. You can usually find out what’s going to be playing on Encore Westerns in the coming months by checking out the schedule at the Starz.com site—and what I discovered that’s interesting is that the last of the eighth season episodes, “The Gift” (03/18/70), will be shown on EW on November 15th…and then they go right back to the inaugural season the following day with “The Executioners” (09/19/62). So for some odd reason, the last season (when Stewart Grainger owned the ranch as “Colonel Alan McKenzie”)—which is better-known as The Men from Shiloh—has been surgically removed from the syndication package. Whether or not it will eventually be released to DVD is a good question—my understanding when Timeless acquired the rights to the series for release was that all nine seasons of the show would eventually make it to disc. I was sorry to hear about the exclusion of Season Nine from Encore Westerns only because I’ve really been enjoying the show (I have very dim memories of the program, save for the opening theme and the shots of Lee J. Cobb striding majestically on his horse and Roberta Shore and Randy Boone pickin’ and grinnin’)…though I would remiss if I didn’t point out that The Virginian’s last season featured Doug McClure with that horrible mustache—the worst one since Gregory Peck’s duster in The Gunfighter (1950).

While I’m on the subject of boob tube oaters, CBS-Paramount is going to release the second season of Bonanza a week after the third season Lucy Show release (Bonanza: The Official Second Season, Volume 1 is scheduled for December 7th); the company released the show’s inaugural year on two split-season sets a little over a year ago so it’s nice to see them continuing on even though Bonanza was never a favorite of mine (I considered purchasing the first season set, and then talked myself out of it). I’d be a little more stoked if the company would start back up with Rawhide DVD releases, but I’ve heard word that those have been stalled and probably won’t come back to life barring a miracle.


But there’s good news on the crime drama front—Hawaii Five-O: The Tenth Season is apparently on CBS-Paramount’s drawing board; the details are still sketchy but this TSOD announcement says to expect it sometime around March of 2011. I’m a bit behind in collecting the Five-O’s but Barnes & Noble has currently got Season Eight at a good price so I may snap that up when my stipend comes. While I’m on this subject, TV.com will be awarding a copy of Five-O’s ninth season to some lucky winner in a giveaway you can enter here—I have my fingers crossed. Shout! Factory has announced that Ironside: Season 4 will be released to DVD on a more definite date of October 19th. While I’m glad to see the Factory continue with these releases I just wish they didn’t cost much wampum (the set is part of that infuriating Shout Select program.)

My blogging compadre Rick Brooks has frequently discussed at his Cultureshark weblog how much he’d like to see MPI re-release the “Lost Honeymooners” material they have the rights to in a much-improved set of collections…and it appears that the company takes perverse delight in ignoring him, because the only Gleason they currently have on tap is an upcoming release entitled The Honeymooners Christmas Special, originally telecast in 1978 and one that will be out just in time to stuff a loved one’s stocking on December 14th. Now, you folks know I’m not one to complain (stop that snickering)…but I’m starting to sympathize with Rick (not that I haven’t from the get-go)—how many more holiday Honeymooners shows can they put out? (“From MPI in June 2011: The Honeymooners Labor Day Special—the gut-busting classic where Ralph and Ed attempt to cook steaks inside the Kramdens’ apartment…and much hilarity ensues.”)

Frequent commenter/TDOY pal hobbyfan has a weblog devoted to those halcyon cold-cereal-and-footy-pajamas days entitled Saturday Morning Archives, and I bet he’ll be tickled to learn about a couple of animated shows being released to disc starting with The Addams Family: The Complete Series, an October 19th release of the 1973-75 NBC series that featured original cast members Jackie Coogan and Ted Cassidy voicing Uncle Fester and Lurch, and also included Lennie Weinrib (Gomez) and OTR goddess Janet Waldo (Morticia). Jodie Foster, when she wasn’t toiling in the Disney salt mines or exploiting her brother’s connections on Mayberry R.F.D., was one of the voice actors on this program as Pugsley—the Academy Award-winning actress also worked on one of my favorite Hanna-Barbera shows, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan.

There was an announcement from the Warner Archive on Twitter that an MOD release of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space was in the works but the date on that has been pushed back and now resides in that oh-so-familiar haze known as “indefinite.” I mentioned this only because when my niece Rachel (a.k.a. “Peanut”) was down this way in July she and I caught a few episodes of the series (along with the Josie and the Pussycats original) via Boomerang. (Rach thought it amusing that I liked Melody’s voice so much; she’s not old enough to understand that I’ve had a lifelong passion for actress Jackie Joseph.)

Another cartoon series that will making the MOD rounds is Thundarr the Barbarian…in fact; it was made available on Tuesday (September 28th), with all twenty-one episodes of the cult cartoon classic to be released on a 4-DVD set. Mark Evanier at newsfromme has a few recollections about his involvement with the show (I really liked Thundarr, and was floored when it got the heave-ho so quickly, which Mark covers rather nicely)—my favorite is how they were inspired to call Thundy’s hairy buddy Ookla after the California institute of higher learning (UCLA).

Finally, though it bowed out this year after a phenomenal run of thirty-seven years as the longest running sitcom in TV history, Last of the Summer Wine continues to make its presence known on DVD (though if you have a all-region DVD player you’d be better off buying the Region 2 releases). Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1987 will be released on January 18, 2011 by BBC/Warner Home Video, and will contain all twelve episodes from Series Nine and the 1986 New Year’s special “Uncle of the Bride.” (Again, I already have this one but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pick one up if you don’t own it.)

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We'll have a gay old time


A long, long time ago in front of a TV set far, far away, I was recuperating from the flu and I was sprawled out on the couch feeling somewhat feverish when I saw an episode of The Flintstones that had to have been the wackiest ever produced by Hanna-Barbera—and there are plenty of candidates for that honor, let me tell you. It was called “Samantha,” and it featured the Samantha and Darrin Stephens characters from Bewitched (in cartoon form) as next-door neighbors to the modern Stone Age family. What’s more, the voices were supplied by Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York, the stars of the fantasy sitcom.

Now, at the time I saw this…well, I wasn’t actually 100% positive that I did see it. I thought it was all some sort of whacked-out fever dream, so naturally I was relieved when I did a little research and learned that the episode did exist. It’s not too hard to figure out how this crossover happened—both shows were produced by Screen Gems, both were on the same network…with Bewitched just starting its second year after its phenomenally popular freshman season (ranked #2 among all TV programs, second only to Bonanza). Hanna-Barbera also did the animated credits of Bewitched’s memorable opening, so you can chalk this up as an early example of what would later be called “synergy.”

Fifty years ago on this date, The Flintstones premiered on ABC and became the first prime-time animated situation comedy in the history of the boob tube…and for six seasons would also be the longest-running until The Simpsons premiered nearly thirty years later and ran on…and on…and on… It’s a show I fondly remember from my youth although in taking a gander at a few episodes it’s lost a little bit of its luster—the only real pleasure I get out of watching it is listening to the wonderful voice work by OTR veterans Alan Reed, Mel Blanc, Jean VanderPyl, Bea Benaderet, etc. I talk a bit more long-windedly about the show with this post at Edward Copeland on Film.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I want my...I want my...I want my RTV

I watched the fifth season premiere of 30 Rock last week (it comes on after Community, whose second season debut I also watched) and I thought this bit of dialogue from one of the characters, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), was amusing:

I love you, Kenwood! Why don’t you come back to TGS? And pick the peas out of my fried rice? And the rice…I just want carrots…

My sister-in-law, knowing of my predilection for loathing peas and carrots in fried rice, has long tried to tell me that that is the way fried rice is really prepared, despite both my and Linda at Yet Another Journal’s firmly-held conviction that doing so is a sacrilege against Chinese food. So when I heard the above snatch of dialogue, I thought briefly for a moment: “Could Linda and I be mistaken? Is fried rice really supposed to be that way?”

But then I shook off such a notion, dismissing it as crazy talk.

Speaking of Linda, we traded a few messages via Facebook this weekend because the RTV affiliate in Atlanta is switching a bit of its programming around, and will be apparently offering Lassie reruns on Saturday mornings at 11:00am (an hour’s worth, meaning back-to-back episodes). This is majorly good news, as the RTV website doesn’t even mention the series among its list of shows—but we are curious as to what reruns will be shown. I’d love to be able to see the Tommy Rettig-Jan Clayton-George Cleveland segments (which were syndicated as Jeff’s Collie when I was a tad) but if they’re going to start with Timmy and Lassie include me out. No offense to my Facebook compadre June Lockhart, but I couldn’t stand that little Timmy kid…I’ll bet I was the only one who ever wished that Lassie wouldn’t be able to contact his folks every time the little mook tumbled down a well.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago I was channel surfing and ran across a documentary on Georgia Public Television entitled The Story of Lassie (which was produced at about the same time the 1994 feature film came out, and features grown-up versions of my sworn enemies, Jon Provost and Margaret O'Brien) that chronicled the history of the world’s most famous collie (in movies and the TV show) and when they showed a clip where Timmy skated perilously close to being mauled and eaten by a bear I was on the couch yelling “Goooo bruin!” (I know—I’m a terrible person. I’ve tried to seek help, but nothing seems to work.) Actually, whichever point in the series they start at is sort of moot because I’m generally watching the Bowery Boys movies on TCM at that time on Saturday anyway.

My interest in seeing what Atlanta’s RTV affiliate has on tap was sparked by this post from my esteemed blogging colleague Rick “Reading is fundamental” Brooks, whose own affiliate, D.C.’s WJLA seems to offer everything on RTV menu but his beloved Kojak. (Of course, he has access to Ironside and Quincy, M.E. so I don’t know what he’s crabbing about.) Anyway, as a public service to anyone in the Atlanta-Athens area who actually reads this blog, here’s the new schedule (which you can also download in PDF form):

Weekdays
10:00am Daniel Boone
11:00am The Rifleman
11:30am Bachelor Father
12:00pm Amen
12:30pm Kate & Allie
01:00pm Marcus Welby, MD
02:00pm I Spy
03:00pm The Bold Ones
04:00pm Kojak
05:00pm Adam-12
05:30pm Dragnet
06:00pm Magnum, PI
07:00pm Leave it to Beaver
07:30pm Leave it to Beaver
08:00pm Knight Rider
09:00pm Emergency!
10:00pm The Rockford Files
11:00pm The A-Team
12:00am Alfred Hitchcock Presents
12:30am The Adventures of Robin Hood
01:00am Peter Gunn
01:30am Peter Gunn


Saturdays
08:00am Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
08:30am Ghostbusters
09:00am The Archies
09:30am Bravestarr
10:00am She-Ra
10:30am He-Man
11:00am Lassie
11:30am Lassie
12:00pm Daniel Boone
01:00pm Alias Smith and Jones
02:00pm Laredo
03:00pm It Takes a Thief
04:00pm Run for Your Life
05:00pm Black Sheep Squadron
06:00pm The Bill Cosby Show
06:30pm The Bill Cosby Show
07:00pm Voyagers!
08:00pm Airwolf
09:00pm Mike Hammer
09:30pm Mike Hammer
10:00pm Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-In Theatre
12:00am Off Beat Cinema


Sundays
10:00am Operation Petticoat
10:30am Operation Petticoat
11:00am Peter Gunn
11:30am Peter Gunn
12:00pm Wagon Train
01:00pm Alias Smith and Jones
02:00pm Laredo
03:00pm It Takes a Thief
04:00pm Run for Your Life
05:00pm That’s Incredible
05:30pm Harry and the Hendersons
06:00pm Amen
06:30pm Amen
07:00pm Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries
08:00pm Airwolf
09:00pm Battlestar Galactica
10:00pm Black Sheep Squadron
11:00pm Alfred Hitchcock Hour
12:00am Suspense Theater

So they’ve yanked The Cisco Kid, The Jack Benny Show and McHale’s Navy off the schedule—but of these I’ll only miss Jack (I have all four seasons of Navy in the dusty TDOY TV-on-DVD archives); those Cisco episodes were in particularly bad shape and the color process they filmed them in had a tendency to make my eyes water. They’ve moved the Beaver reruns from their previous noon berth to a 7pm slot…maybe they’re hoping to catch the after dinner audience, I don’t know. I also didn’t know about RTV’s cartoon offerings until Rick mentioned it on his blog—but there’s nothing on there I’m dying to see (though it’s heartening to know that the Filmation people have found a home for some of their shows).

While I’m on the subject of Mr. Brooks, he made me laugh out loud the other day when I read a post at Cultureshark in which he discussed the newest NBC comedy, Outsourced:

*You're determined to watch NBC each Thursday at the same time until someone goes ahead and dumps this and returns "Parks and Recreation" to the schedule (if this is you, Ivan, I'm telling you, buddy, back away from the TV, and we'll let you know when it's back on).

Well, curiosity got the better of me and so I watched the first episode of Outsourced via the NBC On Demand function on my CharredHer cable service…and Judas H. Priest, is this show a huge stinking turd in TV’s punchbowl. (Honest to my grandma, how did this thing get on the air?) Suffice it to say, I’ll be checking in with Rick from time to time to see if there’s been any sign of Parks and Recreation on the horizon.

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“They got a dad/His name is Steve/He’s got a job/He’s really tough…”


As a young couch potato, My Three Sons was one of those shows that ran on our TV set like tap water—much in the same way as Gunsmoke, The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza, The Lucy Show, Hazel, etc. always seemed to be available with the flick of a switch. Because my viewing tastes hadn’t become as discriminating as they are today (don’t think I can’t hear you snickering out there) I watched the show, but there was always this kind of underlying…blandness to the series. I remember how a friend of mine from high school used to riff on the Douglas family because he thought they were completely unrealistic—“The only crazy thing those kids ever did was that one of them let his hair grow long and bleached it. They never took drugs…nothing!

But the show was as cozy and unthreatening as a pair of bedroom slippers, and I remember watching a television special in 1977 at Thanksgiving that reunited the cast members of the series (along with the Partridge Family, something that still makes me scratch my head in bewilderment)…but things were slightly amiss. They brought back some guy named “Mike,” who apparently was the oldest son of the family (played by a guy I recognized as “Spin” from the Mickey Mouse Club’s Spin & Marty "serials"). This sort of floored me—I had always thought it was Robbie, Chip and Ernie…who was this “Mike” character? And for that matter…what was the deal with the guy named…”Bub”?

Well, it was about that time I began to read voraciously about television shows from the past and my research not only turned up the inalienable fact that before Ernie and Uncle Charley there was Bub and Mike…but that the show had been on ABC before CBS (I caught the tail end of the series on CBS along with the endless reruns) and had even (heaven forfend!) once been telecast in black-and-white. (And I don’t mean “we-don’t-have-a-color-television-set” black-and-white, the way I watched the CBS shows until 1976.) Viacom, the company that syndicated Sons, had removed the monochromatic Bub/Mike years from the television package…and it wasn’t until Nick at Nite brought the show back in its full black-and-white glory in 1985 that I got the opportunity to see how engaging a comic creation the show really was.

Fifty years ago on this date, My Three Sons premiered on network television—and by the end of its run in 1972, would become the second-longest live-action family sitcom in TV history (The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is still the champ). In preparing a tribute over at Edward Copeland on Film, I rifled through a few episodes as a sort of “refresher” course (courtesy of the good people at Rootpegs R Us, because I’m boycotting the CBS DVD-Paramount releases) and found that it’s a lot funnier for which people give it credit. The early, black-and-white years are of course the best (it was Jaime Weinman who developed the since blogosphere-accepted theory that sitcoms are better in monochrome) and the first season in particular is ripe for rediscovery—all thirty-seven episodes were directed and produced by Father Knows Best veteran Peter Tewkesbury, who did some impressive things with what would otherwise be a run-of-a-mill sitcom (you should checkout the episode “Countdown,” one of Sons’ classic outings as an example; also written by Tewkesbury)—however, his deliberate way with the show’s material made him persona au gratin with the-powers-that-be and he was fired after the first season (he would later go on to direct 1963’s Sunday in New York and produced the short-lived but critically-lauded sitcom It’s a Man’s World). At the most—it’s an opportunity to remind yourself that William Frawley was one of the greatest comic actors that ever lived. So happy golden anniversary, My Three Sons!



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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happy birthday, Doris Singleton!


OTR-television-film actress Doris Singleton is celebrating her 91st natal anniversary today—having been born on this date in 1919 in New York City. The name might not immediately strike a bell but you’ve seen her face—and certainly heard her voice—in any number of movies, TV shows and radio programs from the past. Doris is probably best known among couch potatoes as Caroline Appleby, Lucy Ricardo’s rival and nemesis on the classic sitcom I Love Lucy. Star Lucille Ball tagged Doris’ character with the “Caroline” appellation because she supposedly knew someone by that name—though in the first episode Doris appeared in, “The Club Election,” the character’s first name is “Lillian.”

Singleton’s birth name was Dorothea Singleton, and early in her show business career she sang with the Art Jarrett Orchestra and danced (for three seasons) with the New York City Ballet. But it was her distinctive voice that made her a radio favorite, and she eked out an incredible career emoting over the ether, working alongside such greats as Alan Young, George Burns & Gracie Allen, Bob Hope, Jack Benny (she often played Mary Livingstone’s maid, Pauline), Ed Gardner (as one of the many “Miss Duffy’s” on Duffy’s Tavern) and (Bob) Sweeney & (Hal) March. Her other radio work includes appearances on The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator, Broadway's My Beat, The CBS Radio Workshop, December Bride (on which she played Ruth Henshaw, the role played by Francis Rafferty in the TV version), Let George Do It, The Lux Radio Theatre, Meet Millie, My Little Margie, The NBC University Theater, Rocky Jordan, Stars Over Hollywood, Suspense, That's Rich, The Whistler, Young Love and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Like so many other radio veterans, she also appeared occasionally on such programs as The Sears Radio Theater, the 1979 program that gamely attempted to bring back radio drama and comedy to a new generation of listeners.

It was while appearing on a broadcast of My Favorite Husband that Doris struck up a friendship with Lucille Ball, who kept her in mind when I Love Lucy came around—and she would also guest star on the comedienne’s The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. Singleton also landed regular roles on TV’s The Great Gildersleeve and My Three Sons—and played Susie, the sympathetic next-door neighbor to the Lucy-like Angel Smith in the short-lived sitcom Angel (1960-61), starring Annie Farge. Among the other TV series Doris guested on were such TDOY favorites as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Peoples’ Choice, Perry Mason, The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Pete and Gladys, Checkmate, The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive and Hogan’s Heroes.

As of this post, Doris is one of only three recurring cast members from I Love Lucy still living—the other two being OTR veteran Shirley Mitchell (best known as The Great Gildersleeve’s “Leila Ransom”—and who is scheduled to be at the Friends of Old-Time Radio convention in Newark, NJ this year Oct. 21-24) and Peggy Rea (The Waltons, The Dukes of Hazzard, Grace Under Fire). Singleton, who wed veteran OTR and TV comedy scribe Charlie Issacs in 1941 and was married to him until his death in 2002, is most deserving of a birthday shout-out from her friends at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Mayberry Mondays #20: “Sam the Expert Farmer” (02/17/69, prod. no. 0120)

It is important to remember that as we continue to examine and probe the fascinating Mayberry R.F.D. universe each week here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear that the series, while at first glance seeming to be an innocuous sitcom about small-town life in the South in the latter part of the 1960s, is actually teeming with metaphors and camouflaged messages about human sexuality. Case in point: six weeks ago, in an episode entitled “Aunt Bee’s Cruise,” a character was having difficulty with his African violets {{{wavy lines}}}

CAPTAIN: Just where did you raise African violets?
AUNT BEE: Well, I happen to be the president-elect of Mayberry Garden Club… (She places a hand on the violets) And your soil is a little too damp…
CAPTAIN: In my opinion, madam, my soil is not too damp…
AUNT BEE: And in my opinion, Captain, you’ve been at sea too long…

{{{wavy lines}}} It’s not until Captain Horticulture (played by guest star Will Geer) allows a woman—represented by Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Frances Bavier)—into his life that his “African violets” no longer droop, but are vibrant and the talk of the cruise ship. This week’s Mayberry Mondays spotlight, “Sam the Expert Farmer,” returns to this familiar ground with the hero of the show, city council head/poor dirt farmer Sam Jones (Ken Berry), discussing what I think are vegetables with Mayberry’s token black resident Ralph (Charles Lampkin).



SAM: Look how small these beans are, Ralph…I just don’t get it…and those are some of the bigger ones…
RALPH (examining the beans): I can’t understand it…
SAM: It’s lucky I only planted this experiment crop here…I was planning on planting three or four acres next year…
RALPH: Yeah…bean crop pays well
SAM (disgusted): I tell you, Ralph, it’s got me whipped…just whipped! They’re about a third of the size they should be…

Can’t you just feel the sexual tension? Can’t you feel the exhilaration of discussing then-taboo subjects on television in the subtext of tiny vegetables? Can’t you…oh, hell—who am I trying to kid. It’s all bullsh*t, people…Sam just has a problem growing big vegetables. That’s pretty much it.

SAM: You…you never planted beans, did you?
RALPH: No…no…I thought about it…but I’ve been doing pretty good with tomatoes and melons…

Ouch! I hope that was unintentional on the part of the gentleman who penned this little opus, veteran television scribe Elroy Schwartz…Ralph asks Sam if he added any potassium to the bean crop, prompting Sam to respond: “Potassium, potash, sulfur—the only thing I haven’t tried is penicillin.”

As the two gentlemen continue to talk shop, Sam is interrupted by the arrival of his son and heir to the vast Jones estate, Mike the Idiot Boy (Buddy Foster), who pulls up on his bike. Mike wants to ask his father a question, but Sam waves him off, explaining that he’s gabbing with Ralph.

MIKE: I’ll be right here when you finish talking...
SAM: Yes, I see you…
MIKE: Just thought I’d mention it…
SAM: Okay, Mike—what do you want?
MIKE: Can I go to the movies on Saturday with the guys? Richard’s mother is going to take us in…
SAM: I’ll think about it and let you know…

Sam, you moron—someone else has offered to take that idiot boy of yours “in”…jump on it before they stop to reconsider the repercussions! Anyway, Sam announces to Ralph that he’s going to stop by the supply store to chat up a gent named Harry, who might have some further ideas on why Sam’s garden does not grow. So Sam climbs into his truck and drives off for town, leaving idiot Mike and Ralph to bond:

MIKE: He’s in a bad mood, isn’t he?
RALPH: Well, his whole bean crop didn’t come in the way he hoped it would…
MIKE: Geez…he’s got acres of other stuff
RALPH: Yeah, but you see, Mike…we farmers like your dad and myself...we plant seeds in the ground and…we try to make the soil, and the weather, and the chemicals work for us…when they don’t, we get kind of upset—you know what I mean?


“Sure…you’re talking about sex.” Well, this “Sam-has-tiny-beans” scenario is getting a bit dull, so leave us journey across town to the humble domicile of bakery doyenne Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka), the cutest character on this show and current steady of Farmer Teeny Veg. A car pulls up in her driveway, one driven by gas pump jockey and village idiot Goober Pyle (George Lindsey).

GOOBER (strolling into the backyard): Got your car all fixed…
MILLIE: Oh, you didn’t have to bring it by, Goober—I was going to come by and pick it up…
GOOBER: Oh, that’s okay…I got ‘er tuned and she’s purrin’ like a kitten (makes howling cat noise)
MILLIE (laughing) So what did I get—the major tune-up for $29.95 or the minor one for $19.50?
GOOBER: The twelve-dollar one…wasn’t that much wrong…
MILLIE: Good…
GOOBER (noticing her garden): Hey—whatcha got goin’ on here?
MILLIE (giggling): String beans…and I grew them all by myself
GOOBER: No kiddin’! Well, I think they’s the biggest ones I ever seen…whadja you do, feed ‘em vitamins? (He laughs stupidly)
MILLIE (joining him): No…no, I didn’t do anything to them…
GOOBER: I tried growin’ artichokes once …they come up real fine but I didn’t think they was much good ‘cause when I eat ‘em I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to eat a whole leaf
MILLIE: Oh…
GOOBER: I was just a kid then…no more than nineteen or twenty…

Yeah, and I remember how proud you were, just starting fourth grade. Millie asks Goober to be honest with her, wondering if he thinks they’re good enough to show Sam. And with that, our plot for this week officially kicks in…

MILLIE: Well, about four or five months ago I told him I wanted to start my own little garden…he said not to bother, that I probably wouldn’t have any luck…
GOOBER: Oh…
MILLIE: But I insisted that I wanted to try it anyway, and…he gave me some seeds he was using, and…well… (Shrugging her shoulders) This is it!

“Well, I just think they’re great, Mill,” burbles Goober as he grabs a string bean at random and bites off a piece…and then continues to nibble on it as they continue their conversation. (Apparently Goober’s a fan of vegetables al dente.) Anyway, Millie’s planning on surprising Sam (believe me, he’s going to be floored) when he comes by—she explains that she didn’t say anything beforehand because she didn’t want him “poking fun at her.” Goober reassures her she has nothing to be ashamed of, and before getting back to the gas station reminds her that she and Sam will be double-dating with him and his new girlfriend this evening. “Hey, does she still have that police matron’s job in Siler City?” Millie asks.

“Yeah, they’d never fire her with them muscles,” replies Goober. As he goes out the way he came in, he meets Sam pulling into Millie’s driveway and mentions that Mill has a surprise in store for him. “I don’t like to say anything about surprises ‘cause if you tell anybody about the surprise it kinda spoils it for ‘em,” he tells Sam in a serious tone. Sam makes his way to the backyard, but Millie stops him before he can go any further and tells him to close his eyes. She then brings him over and places his hands on some of the string beans…



…and this is his reaction. Bean envy.

SAM: Beans…
MILLIE: Mm-hmm…I know they’re not as big as they should be, but…well… (Giggling) I’m kind of proud of them…
SAM: Yeah…nice…uh…these are the seeds I gave you…?
MILLIE (nodding her head): Mm-hmm…the very same…
SAM: They are…

Pauvre, pauvre Sam. He’s been bested in the growing of foodstuffs by his lovable airhead of a girlfriend, and his manhood will no doubt suffer as a result. Trying to salvage what is already an emasculating situation, Sam quizzes Millie on the steps she took in planting the beans…and she responds that all she did was press holes for the seeds with her thumb…and water them “when I could.” She’s very pleased with the results, and to demonstrate French-kisses the beans to show her appreciation.


Sorry you had to see that, by the way. Sam and Millie quickly go over their plans for this evening (they’re planning on taking in a Sophia Loren film—quel culture!) and before he can leave, Millie asks:

MILLIE: Sam, how did your beans do?
SAM: My beans? Oh, uh…fair…fair…
MILLIE: Oh—well, what’s fair for you is great for me…remember, this is the first time I’ve ever planted anything…

They both laugh, and Sam starts to wonder if maybe he should have took a few more accounting courses like his high school guidance counselor suggested. “You didn’t, uh…you didn’t drop anything in the soil by accident, did you?” he asks, still trying to comprehend why Millie’s bean crop is drinking his milkshake. No, Sam—Millie didn’t conduct any Wiccan rituals to grow gigantic produce…she’s just a better farmer than you are. As she walks him out to the truck, she spots a bucket in the back containing his “prize” bean crop.

MILLIE: Hey, Sam…Sam, what are these things?
SAM: Uh…
MILLIE: Some new kind of vegetable?
SAM: They’re beans…they’re beans…
MILLIE: Oh—what kind?
SAM: String beans…
MILLIE: Oh… (Looking into the bucket again) But that’s impossible…come on, you’re kidding—what are they?
SAM (noticeably testy): I said they were string beans… (He puts the bucket back into the truck)
MILLIE: Wh…well…what do you need them for…where did you get them?
SAM: I grew them…see you later…


Sam climbs into his truck and pulls out of the drive. Millie just stands there with an incredulous look on her face, as if she’s just found out there’s no Santa Claus. Dark clouds start to appear in the brisk, spring Mayberry sky. (Okay, I made that last part up.)

We then cut to a scene at the local soda shop, where our old friend Joe the soda jerk is wiping down a table as Sam, Millie, Goober and Marilyn come in. Joe is a world-weary cynic to whom we were introduced to in Episode #13, “Sam and the Teenager,” but because the part isn’t considered of major importance they’ve recast the role with character actor Jim Begg instead of “Teenager’s” Ralph J. Rose. (Then again, it’s possible that everyone working behind the soda fountain in that town is named “Joe.”)

Okay, I can tell this is kind of confusing for everyone, so here’s some photos to help out—Joe 1 (from “Teenager”):

…and Joe 2:


While we’re on the subject, let’s check out Goober’s date…


This is character actress Peg Shirley, and while I’ve seen a few of the things on her IMDb resume she’s not really ringing a bell right now—it’s one of those deals where I know I’ve seen the face, but I can’t quite come up with where I’ve seen it. Anyway, we’ve established that the character she’s playing, Marilyn, works as a matron—which is why she’s wearing a turtleneck and has a boyish coiffure. They’re telling us in that not-so-subtle sixties television way that Marilyn is a dyke, and that this is pretty much Goober’s only option, date-wise, because all of the other girls in the immediate area know him by reputation and wouldn’t go out with him even if he were heavily sedated and placed in a maximum security cage.

But back to our story—Joe, because he’s looking for more in life than counting maraschino cherries, asks the group how the Loren flick was…

MILLIE: It was beautiful—it was all about Venice…
GOOBER: Yeah, you know where they have them canals? I yelled out, “Don’t cross the street unless you can swim!” (Stupid laugh) Got a big laugh…

I just realized who the guy with the James Thurber-like wit is sitting behind me whenever I go to the movies.

SAM: Well, what are we going to have—Millie? Marilyn?
MARILYN: I’ll have a chocolate soda…
MILLIE: Me, too!
JOE (writing on his pad): Two chocolate sodas… (To Goober) Okay?
GOOBER: I’ll have the House Special, Joe…that’s strawberry hot fudge sundae with whipped cream, nuts and a cherry… (He grins stupidly)
JOE (back to the pad): Uh-huh…okay…
GOOBER: Ah…instead of strawberry, could you make that pistachio…and instead of hot fudge I’d like some of that marshmallow…and chocolate sprinkles instead of nuts…
JOE: What do you want instead of the whipped cream?
GOOBER (testy): I’m having the whipped cream…I said I’m having the house special

Did you find the continuity boo-boo in that dialogue exchange? No, it’s not that Goober feels he’s somehow superior to a guy jerking sodas for a living…it’s that he ordered pistachio ice cream…let’s flashback to Episode #7, “Youth Takes Over” {{{wavy lines}}}

GOOBER: I’m sorry I’m late, but there was a long line at the ice cream store…
SAM: That’s okay, Goob…sit down and we’ll get started…now…
GOOBER (as he sits): I wanted chocolate but they was out of it, so I had to take strawberry…
SAM: As I was saying…Andy and I have been giving some thought to the youth program…
GOOBER (interrupting): They had pistachio but that makes my mouth turn wrong side out…
ANDY: Goob…
GOOBER: You reckon that’s because “pistachio” sounds a lot like “persimmon”?

{{{wavy lines}}} Whoa…I gotta stop with these flashbacks…I’m getting a little dizzy. Okay, back to the awkward small-talk that the group is making because they don’t want to come right out and ask if Marilyn is a lesbian…

MILLIE: Well…we haven’t had a chance to talk, Marilyn…how are things at the prison?
MARILYN: Oh…same old thing…sometimes you get some nice ones, and…sometimes you get some rough ones
(They all laugh…except for Sam)
MILLIE: Doesn’t that sound like exciting work, Sam?
SAM: Oh…yeah…yeah…sure is…
GOOBER: Marilyn…there’s, um…something I’ve been meanin’ to ask you for a long time, but…uh…I always felt kinda funny about it…
MARILYN: What’s that, Goober?

Ladies and gentlemen and readers of this blog…we are about to make television history

GOOBER: Did you ever shoot anybody? In the line of duty, I mean…

Missed it by that much…

Millie keeps trying to bring Sam into this fascinating conversation but he’s being a little pissy…and it’s not too hard to figure out why…

MILLIE (looking at her nails): My nails…a mess…
GOOBER: It’s prob’ly from all that gardenin’… (To Sam) I meant to ask you, Sam—whadja think of them beans Millie grew? Real bigguns, wasn’t they?
SAM (frostily): Yeah…yeah, they sure were…really big…
MILLIE: Oh, Goober…that was just luck…
GOOBER: Luck nothing! I say when somebody does somethin’ good, it means they got talent for it…they know what they’re doin’—right, Sam?
SAM: Right…absolutely right…
GOOBER: Why, I bet a lot of them people planted the same seeds and didn’t do as good as you…because they didn’t know what they were doin’—right, Sam?
SAM (pissed): Right, Goob…
MILLIE: It was just luck, I tell you…you know, speaking about that movie tonight—I think that Sophia Loren…
GOOBER (interrupting): If you ever grow beans, Sam, you oughta let Millie help ya…she’s a whiz, all right…

Faithful Mayberry Mondays readers know, of course, that Goober the Manchild’s social skills are somewhat retarded and that he often has difficulty Letting. Things. Go. Fortunately, Providence has brought Joe the Soda Guy to the table with everybody’s order before Sam gives his buddy a lip so fat he’s going to have eat his vegetables pureed from now on. Even with Goober shoveling ice cream into his mouth, he’s wandered back to the subject of Millie’s bumper bean crop until she finally shouts at him: “Goober, will you shut up about those beans!” (If this was a three-camera show, the studio audience would be breaking out into spontaneous applause right now. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they picked Millie up and carried her around the studio on their shoulders.)

The scene shifts back to Millie’s crib, because even though Sam doesn’t have a green thumb he’s still gentleman enough to drive Millie home. (As for Goober and Marilyn—I’ve got five bucks that says they’re probably in some Mt. Pilot biker bar by now.) He escorts her to the door, and as we watch we’re concerned that this could get ugly.

MILLIE: Sam…I’m sorry…
SAM: Sorry about what?
MILLIE: Well…you know…for growing big beans

Well, we need no longer be concerned. It is going to get ugly.

SAM: Oh…don’t be silly…that’s ridiculous
MILLIE: Oh, please don’t be upset…
SAM: Who says I’m upset?
MILLIE: Well…you were so quiet all evening…
SAM: Well…I…just didn’t have anything particular to say, that’s all…
MILLIE: Well—why did you seem to be upset with me?
SAM: Mill…Millie…you said I was upset with you…I didn’t say I was upset with you…
MILLIE: Well, then you’re definitely not upset…
SAM: No, I am definitely not upset…I will sign an affidavit if you want me to…
MILLIE: Well, you don’t have to be sarcastic
SAM: I’m not sarcastic!
MILLIE: …and don’t be angry with Goober, either…

“I’m not angry with Goober…I’m just going to pin the friggin’ arm he uses to check the oil behind his back until he shrieks like a little girl…”

SAM: Goober?
MILLIE: Well, yeah…you know, back at the ice cream parlor…
SAM: Well, who said I’m angry with Goober?
MILLIE: Well…after some of the things he was saying about my beans—why, he didn’t even know you were growing any!

Yeah, I mean—how is he supposed to know you grow beans on a farm?

MILLIE: So don’t be angry with him...
SAM: Millie…first you tell me I’m angry with you, and then you tell me I’m angry with Goober…is it okay with you if I just…feel the way I want to feel? I mean, you don’t have to tell me how I should feel, you know?
MILLIE: I am not trying to tell you how to feel…I was just trying to help you understand
SAM: Understand what? Look, Millie…if you feel guilty about your…beans, then that’s your problem…
MILLIE: My problem? My problem? Why, the only problem I have is…standing here trying to help you!

And with that, she grabs the house key out of Sam’s hands (he’s been fiddling with it, trying to open the door during their conversation), opens the front door and shuts it firmly behind her. You know, we really could have used Millie’s old flame, pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) in this scene—he’s never around when you need him!

There’s a scene change as the front door of Boysinger’s opens, and Mike the Idiot Boy wanders in—he asks Millie if “broken donuts” are still two cents apiece. She confirms that they are, and that she’ll have to “break a couple” for him. Putting what appears to be whole crullers into a bag, Mike asks: “Are you supposed to do that?”

“Well, I’ll have to ask Mrs. Boysinger one of these days,” Millie says sadly. (I don’t suggest you kids should try this at home, but if I knew of a place where I could get “donut irregulars” for two cents apiece there wouldn’t be an unbroken donut left standing in that joint.)

MIKE: Did you have a fight with my father?
MILLIE: Well…uh…um…what makes you ask a question like that, Mike?
MIKE: He was kinda grumpy again this morning…

It’s called “not getting any,” kid. You’ll learn about this once you’re old enough to hang around the smoking area in high school.

MILLIE: Oh…um…no…n-no…no, of course not…grownups don’t fight

Uh, Millie—we covered this in last week’s episode…the one you weren’t in. So he’s not going to uybay any of your apolacray.

MIKE: I guess it’s still those beans then…I heard you grew some big ones

As big as your head, my little mental midget. Millie rings up the broken donut sale and asks Mike where he’s heard that fable…

MIKE: I heard my father talking to Aunt Bee…he said Millie grew the biggest darn beans he ever saw in his life…
MILLIE (closing the cash drawer and slightly depressed): I see…
MIKE: What did you do to make them grow so big?
MILLIE: I-I-I don’t know, Mike—they just did…
MIKE: You must have done something…
MILLIE: No, I didn’t! I really didn’t!

She’s a witch! Burn her!

How do you know she’s a witch?

Well…she turned Goober into a newt. And believe me, that was an improvement. (Audience applause) And…scene!

Okay, back to the shenanigans in Mayberry. Millie explains to Mike that all she did “was plant the seed and talk to them.”

MIKE: Talk to them?
MILLIE (waving her hand at him): Oh…well, I’m only kidding…you know, when I work in my garden I…sort of talk to everything…I’m…kinda nutty that way…

Girlfriend, if I were a string bean plant and you whispered sweet nothings into my plant ears I’d have a growth spurt that would put a run in your panty hose. Mike thanks her for breaking the donuts and runs off, leaving Millie somewhat dejected and depressed. Fortunately for her, however, she doesn’t have to be in the next scene—which finds Sam strolling along Mayberry’s main drag until he comes to a stop at the lowly establishment of Mayberry’s resident fix-it savant, Emmett “I wish I was collecting a pension” Clark (Paul Hartman).

Now, in all honesty—I should stop right here and not bother finishing this episode because, really, this is the reason why Sam’s vegetable yield is as puny as it is…he spends far too much friggin’ time at Emmett’s. But, we still have fifteen minutes left in this session, so let’s continue on—Emmett greets Sam sarcastically as “Happy,” and Goober’s salutation is a bit reserved, too.

SAM: Aw, look, I’m sorry, guys…I know I haven’t been too smiley lately…it’s just that this darn thing has been bugging me…if you were farmers you would understand…

And so would you, too, Sam.

EMMETT (struggling with a toaster): Look, Sam—every man whether he’s a farmer or a businessman has problems now and then…right, Goob?
GOOBER: Well, of course! You don’t think every motor job I work on goes smooth all the time…?
EMMETT (still wrestling with the toaster): Of course not…thing you gotta do is take it in your stride…
SAM: I know, it’s just that…this thing got to me, that’s all…
EMMETT (the toaster is winning on points): You can’t let it, Sam—you can’t let anything get under your skin like this…
GOOBER: Right…you gotta try and forget it…
SAM: Well, I’m trying…
EMMETT (the toaster has him on the ropes): Gotta learn to hold onto your cool…
SAM: I know, I know…
EMMETT (the toaster is getting ready for a victory lap): …or else you’re not worth anything to yourself…or anybody…the first thing you know you…OHHH!!! (He lifts the toaster up in frustration and brings it crashing down on the sidewalk, and then takes his hat off and throws that down as well)
SAM: I’ll remember your advice…

Sam takes his leave of Emmett and Goober, and Goober—seeing at how his friend has suffered defeat at the hands of a minor appliance—asks Emmett: “You wanna get a bottle of pop?”

We then are whisked by television magic to Jones Acres, where Sam is just pulling up in his truck. Mike the Idiot Boy, as faithful as any family dog, sits patiently by the barn awaiting his father’s arrival.


MIKE: I was just wondering if you thought any more about me going to the movies on Saturday…if you haven’t had the time, though—that’s okay…I just thought as long as I was sittin’ here I’d ask you…
SAM: Sure, Mike…you can go…
MIKE: Thanks, Pa…
SAM: Right…
MIKE: I found out something from Millie about growing beans…


Sam has just come to the painful realization that his own flesh-and-blood is a stool pigeon, a grimy little snitch who’d sell out anyone just for the opportunity to sit through a Saturday afternoon matinee with his “friends.” Desperate to save face among his fellow farmers, however, he asks his son to—oh, I’m so ashamed I resorted to using this—spill the beans.

SAM: You did?
MIKE: Yeah…you know, what she does to make them grow so big…
SAM: Yeah, uh…what…what?
MIKE: She talks to them…
SAM: Talks to them?
MIKE: That’s right…
SAM: Does she…does she say whether they talk back to her?
MIKE: Oh, Pa…
SAM: Come on, Mike…now Millie was just kidding you…talking to beans isn’t going to do any good…but…thanks a lot for trying to help anyway…

You know what’s coming…you can see it from a mile away…but I’m contractually bound to do this…wait for it



Yes, Sam does everything but sing You’re My First, You’re My Last, My Everything to the friggin’ beans…and if you’re wondering whose blue jeaned legs those are, I’ll give you three guesses…and the first two don’t count…

SAM: Oh…h-h-h-hi, Ralph…I…I-I-I…I was just…

RALPH: It’s all right, Sam…I’ve talked to my crops for years…it kind of gets it off your chest…

It’s interesting to see how far racial relations had progressed by the time this episode originally aired. If it had taken place twenty years ago, you’d have a bug-eyed Mantan Moreland reacting to Sam with “Mmm…mmm…mmm…you folks sure am crazy!” So while Ralph plays it super cool and is careful not to make any sudden moves around Sam until the men from Happy Acres arrive with the wagon, the two gentlemen farmers start to wax philosophical:

SAM: Darn it, Ralph—you and I both know there’s got to be a scientific explanation for why these things didn’t go anyplace!
RALPH: Oh, no—I disagree, Sam…I’ve been through this myself…
SAM: Well…what’s the answer?
RALPHL Well…look at that bunch of trees over there…and that field of wildflowers…

I see trees of green…red roses, too…I see ‘em bloom…for me and you. And I think to myself…what a wonderful world. (Ohhhhhhh yeahhhhhhhhhh…)

SAM: Yeah…what about it?
RALPH: Well…did you ever stop to wonder who’s taking care of them? (Shaking his head) Nobody…
SAM: Well…what’s the explanation?
RALPH: No explanation…Mother Nature just looked at those wildflowers and gave them whatever they need to grow and be beautiful…

And if there’s anything I’ve learned from years of watching margarine commercials, it’s that it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature…

RALPH: …she must have done the same thing in Millie’s backyard…whatever it takes to grow string beans, Mother Nature just slips it right there…
SAM (chuckling): She sure did…
RALPH: You know, I’ve been farming for about twice as long as you have, Sam…

"…and you’ll note that I generally stay the hell away from Emmett’s fix-it shop as a rule…"

RALPH: …so this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen…most of the time, we can help a crop along, eh? We put the right things in the soil, we plant it in the right spot…but there are times that no matter what we do, nothing happens…this is just one of those times, Sam…


Yeah, well, thanks for the freakin' enlightenment, Master Po. Ralph goes on to pontificate that, sure, Sam can’t grow a damn string bean to save his life…but his tomatoes sure are fat and sassy. “Oh, yeah,” agrees Sam, “kind of hit the jackpot there.”

Okay, I need to wrap this up because God forbid I should miss this week’s edition of the new Hawaii Five-0. Sam stops by Millie’s with a peace offering of his gargantuan tomatoes, and apologizes for being such a dink.

SAM: Millie…I came by to apologize for the way I acted…it was…really childish
MILLIE: Hmm…you’re…you’re forgiven…
SAM: Uh…good…
MILLIE: As a matter of fact, I’ll even invite you over for dinner…how’s that?

And don’t forget about the make-up sex…yowsah! He presents Millie the tomatoes, who fawns over them like they were the greatest produce in the world. “Well, at least I have a touch with tomatoes,” Sam philosophizes. He tells her he’ll see her later on for dinner, and then leaves and you’ve already figured out the ending to this one, haven’t you…wait for it...




You’d be amazed at what a little fertility dance for Mother Nature’s approval can do with your crop yield. And now for the coda…

We find Sam and Millie on the front porch at Casa del Swanson, with Sam strumming a guitar much in the same way that the guy who used to own this sitcom—what was his name again?—once did. (I kind of wonder if the producers of R.F.D. ever thought out loud: “Trust us—they’ll never know he’s gone!” And then the slower viewers at home were thinking: “Damn…Andy Griffith looks like he should really start working out!”) When Sam is finished crooning a few bars of Carolina Moon, Millie compliments him with “Nice.” (But she’s careful not to add: “…but you’re no Sheriff Taylor.”)

SAM: You know, that meal you cooked was just great…
MILLIE: Uh…thank you…those tomatoes you brought over helped, too…
SAM: Hmm…
MILLIE: They were delicious…simply delicious…
SAM: They do have a nice flavor, don’t they?
MILLIE: Mm-hmm…and they’re so big, too!
SAM: Yeah…well…you know…growing tomatoes is a lot different than growing beans…a person really has to know what they’re doing…
MILLIE: Mm…I’m sure…
SAM: An experienced farmer can really…bring ‘em along…well, I…kind of pride myself on knowing how to handle a tomato crop…
MILLIE: Oh, you certainly should…
SAM: Yep…when it comes to tomatoes…I don’t have to take my hat off to anybody
MILLIE: Unbelievable…absolutely unbelievable…

You serrit, kiddo. Let’s check Aunt Bee's stats and then blow this pop stand.

Although Aunt Bee is referenced briefly in this episode by Mike the Idiot Boy, she doesn’t physically appear in the show so Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Mayberry R.F.D. Bee-o-meter™ stands at nine appearances this week. In the closing credits of the show, actor Richard Collier receives acknowledgment as having played the part of Harry—but since no such character appears onscreen (except for being mentioned by Sam in the first part of the episode) it’s not hard to deduce that he fell victim to the trimming necessitated by this episode’s retirement in syndication. I previewed “Sam the Expert Farmer” last week at the same time I watched “The Camper,” and my first impression was that it was pretty lousy…and a second viewing didn’t improve on that at all, except that I was a bit more snark-inspired. So as to why “Farmer” ranks so highly among TV.com’s top fifty R.F.D. episodes (#5)…well, the individuals who make up the website’s devoted fan contingent are clearly smoking crack. Next Monday, we invite those of you who haven’t given up on this feature to spend another action-packed half-hour with the sitcom that’s the walking definition of “television mayonnaise” in a little opus entitled “The Pet Shop.” Be with us next week. Aloha.

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