Monday, July 19, 2010

Mayberry Mondays #10: “Sam Gets a Ticket” (12/09/68, prod. no. 0105)

As this week’s installment of Mayberry Mondays begins, we find ourselves flummoxed at the sight of town council head Sam Jones (Ken Berry) actually working on his farm instead of frittering away precious afternoons hanging out at the shop of Mayberry’s resident fix-it savant, Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman). A pickup truck pulls up, and from it emerges Sam’s idiot son Mike (Buddy Foster) and Mayberry’s token black resident, Ralph Barton (Charles Lampkin)—who gave Mike a hand by offering him a lift home and putting Mike’s ride (his bicycle) in the back:

SAM (to Mike): How come you were so late?
MIKE: The teacher made me stay after school and write on the board a hundred times “I will not peek”…I wrote it 62 times today…I have to do the rest tomorrow


Honest to my grandma, the first time I watched this I could have sworn the little mook said “I will not pee”—I thought that old bladder trouble of his had come back…

SAM: What were you peeking at?
MIKE: I wasn’t peeking…it’s just that we had an arithmetic test on the honor system…the teacher wasn’t in the room…
SAM: Oh…I see…
MIKE: I leaned over to borrow Sharon Pritchard’s eraser a couple of times and she told the teacher I was peeking…


Oh, I get it—he wasn’t looking at her paper, he was looking at her bodacious ta-tas. (Maybe the kid will grow up heterosexual after all.) Anyway, two other girls tell the teacher that Mike’s a little perv, and that’s how he ended up having to write on the blackboard. Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is—I had to “write sentences” a lot when I was a kid, and the only harmful effect on me was an innate distrust of authority and a propensity for being a smartass. But Sam is nothing if not always in his son’s corner:

SAM: You know, if you really weren’t peeking, Mike—and I believe you—well, it doesn’t seem right you should be punished for it…does it, Ralph?
RALPH: It sure doesn’t…


Way to kiss his ass there, Ralphie boy! Look, school punishment is essentially a demonstration of the concept behind yin and yang. Mike will probably do something he’ll get away with later on, so this is just a way of evening the score. But Sam is no philosopher—he tells Mike that he should let his teacher know he didn’t do it (speaking from experience, I know that this usually results in a doubling of the punishment) and imparts these words of wisdom: “When you’re wrong, admit it…but when you’re right, fight.” (Okay, maybe he is a philosopher. He just isn’t a very good one.)

Mike promises his dad he’ll speak to his teacher, and as he exits into the house Sam and Ralph meditate on how life is difficult for kids (the hell it is—they’re not required to have jobs or pay for food, clothing and shelter, among other things). Ralph wants to borrow a power saw from Sam and Sam gives him the okay, also mentioning that he needs to run Aunt Bee (Francis Bavier) over to Mt. Pilot. Ralph warns his friend to be careful because they’ve been issuing a lot of tickets lately in that burg—not every North Carolina town has a sheriff as honest as good ol’ Andy Taylor.

In Mt. Pilot, Sam walks down a busy city street with a large package under his arm—and makes his way to his car, which is parked on a side street with Aunt Bee seated shotgun. She gives him directions to a fabric shop she wants to patronize, and so he takes a right onto the main drag and then a left…all the while being followed by a black-and-white. Sam pulls over to the curb when the patrolman (Don Wilbanks) puts on his siren, and he asks Aunt Bee: “What did I do wrong?” “I can’t imagine,” she replies, “but let’s be very pleasant—I understand it can be quite effective sometimes.”

HOPKINS: May I see your driver’s license, please?
SAM: Oh…sure! Sure thing… (He reaches into his wallet for his license, but can’t seem to locate it) That’s funny…probably the last thing…
AUNT BEE: You know, I think men carry more in their wallets than ladies do in their purses
(They all laugh)
SAM (still chuckling): Oh, gosh…oh! Here it is…here it is…almost the last thing…
AUNT BEE: We’re visitors to your lovely city…
HOPKINS: Oh?
AUNT BEE: Mm-hmm…we just came over here to shop…we believe in sharing our business…
HOPKINS: Well, fine…thank you…
SAM: Um…may I ask why you stopped me?
HOPKINS: Oh, you failed to signal for the turn you made at the intersection…


Dum-de-dum-dum…Sam is positive he had his turn indicator on, and Aunt Bee backs him up—but the officer claims he didn’t see a flash, and he commences to write out Mistah Jones a nice fat traffic ticket. But Aunt Bee continues to argue the point: “Now, we are law-abiding citizens and if we had broken the law we’d be the very first ones to admit it…so you can just stop writing that ticket. You’re just going to take our word for it and I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

I’d like to be able to report that Officer McBacon then whips out his nightstick and repeatedly beats Aunt Bee about the face and shoulders with it…but that’s not likely to happen in a show as white bread and bland as this one. He hands Sam the ticket, and Sam thanks him unenthusiastically…with Aunt Bee admonishing him: “Well, you don’t have to be pleasant now, Sam…” Sam is certain he didn’t violate the law, and even checks out his signal light to see if the bulb is working.

SAM: Well, then why did he give me a ticket?
AUNT BEE: Oh, who knows…probably the policemen in this town have a daily quota or something…what date does it say you have to go to court?
SAM: Uh…the tenth…
AUNT BEE: Good…that’s Wednesday, I can go with you…
SAM: Oh, no…no, no…I’m not going to go to court, Aunt Bee…I’ll just mail the fine in…
AUNT BEE: Sam…the rightful course of American justice should never be ignored…


Aunt Bee’s been attending those Tea Party rallies again, I see. At the fabric shop, Aunt Bee asks the salesman (Clinton Sundberg) to see some dress material, while at the same time continuing to argue with Sam about appealing the traffic violation in court. Sam tries to explain to her that he doesn’t have time to argue the ticket in court, glossing over the fact that he always seems to be able to find enough hours in the day to piss around at Emmett’s. But Aunt Bee reminds him of what he told Mike about “when you’re right, fight”—and simultaneously rejecting each sample the salesman presents to her as “too blue” or not “blue enough.”

Sam suspects that there might be a short in the turn signal, and Aunt Bee suggests he have Goober Pyle (George Lindsey) check it out on their way back to Mayberry (provided Mayberry’s resident grease monkey isn’t too wrapped up in the latest issue of Captain Marvel, I’m guessing). As she continues to drive the sales clerk to distraction, she finally settles on choosing some material…the first bolt of cloth he showed her before her argument with Sam. The salesman reminds her of that fact, prompting Bee to respond: “I guess the light changed in here.” If this sounds funnier than it actually is…it is, believe me.

Back at Rancho Jones, Ralph has returned with Sam’s saw…and Aunt Bee needs to learn to Let. It. Go.

AUNT BEE: Now, Sam…this is my last word on the subject…there is nothing wrong with your electrical system, and if you pay for that ticket you’ll be a party to a miscarriage of justice
SAM: Look, Aunt Bee…
AUNT BEE: …and supper will be at six
(She storms off)
RALPH: Miscarriage of justice?
SAM: Yeah…like you said, Ralph—they were handing out tickets in Mt. Pilot…
RALPH: Speeding?
SAM: No, no, no…the officer said I didn’t turn on my turn indicator to signal for a left turn…
MIKE: Did you, Pa?
SAM: Well, I’m almost sure I did…Aunt Bee says I did, but…well, anyway, I got a ticket…but I haven’t got time to go to court…I’ve got too much work to do around here…
RALPH: Oh, well…I think that’s a five-dollar one…
SAM: Yeah…and it’s worth that to me, not having to kill what will probably be the better part of a day…
MIKE: Pa…you said it’s the principle of the thing that counts…
SAM: What?
MIKE: You know…when you were talking about to me about them saying I was peeking during the test…
SAM: Oh, well, uh…uh…well, that was different


You are so busted, Councilman. Sam tries the old “you’re-too-young-to-understand” bullsh*t defense, but Mike may not be as dumb as he looks. And no parent likes having their smartass kids repeat their exact words back to them—take it from someone who’s got the bruises to prove it. Ralph shakes his head, trying not to laugh: “Well, seems like to me you ought to go to court then…” (Ralph’s not too big on that whole loyalty thing, is he?)

Because the source of these R.F.D. reruns were from their original repeats run on TVLand…and because their running time has been shortened by about three minutes (the shows, on average, run about 21:50) I’m guessing there was probably a scene where Sam took his car by Goober’s to check and see if his turn signal was working properly—since there’s a dissolve to a sequence where Aunt Bee is talking to his Goobness about being a character witness at Sam’s court appearance…with Goober beaming that he’s wearing his best suit. (Oh, yes…I’m sure that will win the judge over to Sam’s side.) Sam comes downstairs and asks if everybody’s ready, and Aunt Bee trills: “Now, Sam, tell me…don’t you feel good about this?” His reaction is a bit muted, to say the least.

The scene shifts to a courtroom in Mt. Pilot, where Officer Hopkins enters and walks up to where Sam, Aunt Bee and Goober are seated. They exchange “good mornings” and other pleasantries, but Aunt Bee doesn’t play that. “I don’t see the need to be all that friendly,” she scolds Sam. The door to the judge’s chambers opens, and out steps a clerk with the unmistakable speaking tones of OTR veteran Sam Edwards:

Hiya Sam! Clerk Edwards announces the first case on the docket, “the People vs. Sam Jones.” “Gosh, Sam,” observes Goober in his lovably stupid fashion, “I didn’t know everybody was against you.” (Oh, yeah…Goob as character witness…a brilliant legal strategy right out of Clarence Darrow’s playbook…)

Hey, there’s another familiar face—character actor Bill Quinn, whom you probably remember as the blind Mr. Van Renseleer on Archie Bunker’s Place. (I’m still laughing about that anecdote concerning Quinn and the day his daughter married Bob Newhart, by the way.*) Judge Quinn then asks city attorney McComb (Don Keefer) to proceed with the case, and Officer McFuzz is called to the stand. The officer’s testimony is pretty cut-and-dried, and when the attorney is finished with him McComb throws it over to Sam for cross-examination. Yes, you read that right—the old adage about a lawyer who represents himself “has a fool for a client” is clearly going to be demonstrated in full force despite the fact that Sam is not technically an attorney. Actually, he's not much of a farmer, either. (And besides, when Goober gets on that stand there’s going to be little doubt about the “fool” part.)

But for the time being, it’s Aunt Bee’s turn:

SAM: Aunt Bee…were you… (He corrects himself) Uh, Miss Taylor…were you with me in the car when the officer issued the summons?
AUNT BEE: Why, yes, I was sitting right next to you…
SAM: Uh-huh…and were you aware of me turning on the turn indicator?
AUNT BEE: Yes, I recall it very clearly…and I further want to state that if Mr. Jones says that he turned on the indicator, there should be no doubt about it…I not only know Mr. Jones but I know of his family, and they’re some of the most highly-respected people in all of Mayberry…
JUDGE: Yes, Miss Taylor…but…
AUNT BEE: …I know nothing of Officer Hopkins’ family…
SAM: Thank you, Aunt Bee, that will be all…
AUNT BEE: …all I know of Officer Hopkins is that in spite of our efforts to be congenial he was absolutely determined to give us a ticket…
JUDGE: Yes, Miss Taylor…now…
AUNT BEE: He seemed to have his mind all made up
JUDGE: Yes…well…
AUNT BEE: …very strong-willed, if I may say so…
SAM: Aunt Bee, I think you’ve covered it…


As Aunt Bee steps down, she assures the judge that if there is any lingering doubt about whether or not the car’s electrical system is in working order, they’ve brought along an expert witness—she points to Goober, who grins in his inimitable Goober fashion. That’s pretty much Sam’s cue to “come on down” and illuminate His Honor with the nuts and bolts of automobile blinker systems…

SAM: Uh…Mr. Pyle…are you an expert on the electric systems in automobiles?
GOOBER (as if he’s rehearsed too many times): I am…I run my own gas station and when I was in training school I was the best one in my class on electricity… (Turning to the judge) I won a prize…twelve-volt battery…
JUDGE (nodding his head): Proceed, Mr. Jones…
SAM: Uh…your Honor…there was that possibility that I might have turned on my turn indicator but the light in the back of my car failed to flash…so I had Mr. Pyle here check it for me…uh…in checking over my car, did you find anything wrong with the bulbs…the wiring…or the turn indicators?
GOOBER: No…everything was in perfect order… (Again turning to the judge) I made up a little chart here to show just how the system works… (He shows off his display to the judge…but realizes he has the chart upside-down, so he turns it around) Now, Sam’s car has double-parallel indicators…which means, that when he’s making a left-hand signal…this little light on the inside of the car blinks like this… (He starts to wink with his left eye)


I have to admit, Goober’s continued demonstrations of how a turn signal works by eye-winking were very amusing, particularly since it looked as though he was flirting with the judge. The judge disappoints the audience by not having Goob committed, but instead concedes that Mayberry’s village idiot knows his stuff when it comes to cars. The city attorney then calls a surprise witness—Sam Jones to the stand!

McCOMB: Mr., Jones…flipping on the turn indicator is a rather automatic move, wouldn’t you say?
SAM: Well, yes…I suppose…
McCOMB: And do you…or your passenger…remember all the automatic things you do when you’re driving?
SAM: I…I’m not sure I know what you mean…
McCOMB: Well—did you drive here this morning?
SAM: Yes…
McCOMB: Did you park in the parking lot?
SAM: Yes…
McCOMB: Do you remember putting your foot on the brake when you came to a stop?
SAM: Well, I don’t…actually remember putting my foot on the brake…
McCOMB: Exactly—and that’s an honest answer…Mr. Jones, I believe you and your passenger, Miss Taylor, have made an honest mistake…you thought you flipped on the turn indicator…but what you were really remembering are the many other times when you did do it…isn’t that possible?
SAM: I…thought I turned it on…
McCOMB: You thought you turned it on…that’s all…


I’m surprised the way this guy got Sam to crumple on the stand that Sam also didn’t admit to being Cardinal Richelieu, who not only built up the centralized monarchy in France but also perpetuated the religious schism in Europe...persecuted the Huguenots…took even sterner measures against the great Catholic nobles who made common cause with foreign foes in defense of their feudal independence…and died in December 1642.** According to the judge, Sam offered up a solid defense…but because there was “only one trained observer” at the scene of the incident (he’s referring to Officer McFlatfoot) he finds Sam guilty and sentences him to twenty years hard labor. No, hang on a sec—he’s fined Sam half a sawbuck (five dollars). (The look Sam gives Aunt Bee is priceless.)

Aunt Bee, Sam and Goober return to the fabric shop where she purchased the material earlier—now she needs some braid to go with it. She’s also chastising Sam because he’s not planning to appeal the decision. “You know, I might have to take this to the Supreme Court,” Sam says incredulously to Goober. Aunt Bee hasn’t noticed that the braid is caught in her purse, and she runs off with it as she follows Sam out the front door. Wacky!

Back at Jones Farm, county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) has decided to punch a time clock for this week’s episode as he, Sam, Goober, Mike and Ralph discuss the “miscarriage of justice” in the landmark case of People v. Sam Jones. “At least you fought for what you thought is right, Pa,” Mike points out helpfully, and Ralph backs him up by adding, “A man can’t do anymore than that.” But Aunt Bee still has a (if you’ll pardon the pun) bee in her bonnet about Sam’s appeal, and the pedantic Howard points out that he’d need new evidence for that to take place. Quicker than you can say “deux ex machina,” Sam walks toward the back of his auto and notices something peculiar about the taillights…he excuses himself from his friends, explaining that he has to put in a call to Mt. Pilot.

Sam has assembled Aunt Bee, Officer Hopkins and the judge in the same spot his auto was before he made that fateful left turn down that busy Mt. Pilot street…and he notes that it’s the same time of day as when he was originally cited for not properly signaling (the patrolman backs him up on this). He announces that he will now turn on his signal blinker…

…and nothing happens. But his turn signal is on—it’s just washed out from the sun’s glare…

“By George…I certainly could have been mistaken, Judge…that sun really washes it out,” apologizes Officer Hopkins in a situation that in no way resembles anything that’s ever occurred in real life. (In a more plausible scenario, Hopkins would have once again reached for that nightstick and wore out the business end of it on Sam, while the judge would have thought up a new list of charges…felonious jaywalking, aggravated sassedness, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.) But back to Fantasyland—the judge informs Sam that his fire will be refunded, and Aunt Bee delivers a stirring speech: “Your Honor…my faith in the jurisprudence of the United States has been restored…our forefathers did not fight in vain.” (Don’t think Aunt Bee would have gotten off scot-free, either—they would have sent her punk ass to a maximum prison facility where some lifer would have ended up making her her bitch.)

Okay, let’s wrap this one up—notice how the producers of R.F.D. have chosen to close out this episode with a shot of Sam on the front porch, strumming on a guitar, while his idiot son whittles with a sharp instrument that’s surely going to take out a thumb…in a patently transparent attempt to evoke memories of The Andy Griffith Show. Sam admits that Aunt Bee was right in convincing him to fight city hall, and Mike tells his father that he told his teacher he wasn’t peeking “and she believed me!”

MIKE: You know…I think women are a lot smarter than men…
SAM: Well…
MIKE: Like all my teachers are women
SAM: Yeah…women are smart, all right…
MIKE: But you have to have men on the earth, too…
SAM: Oh, yeah…yeah…
MIKE: Otherwise, women wouldn’t have anybody to take charge of


Andy…Opie…please come back…all is forgiven…

After taking a sabbatical for three consecutive episodes, Aunt Bee returns to glorious sitcom triumphs in this episode, which means our patented Thrilling Days of Yesteryear Bee-o-Meter™ count stands at five installments. “Sam Gets a Ticket” was penned by comedy scribe Elroy Schwartz—younger brother of the well-known Sherwood Schwartz (and Al, their older brother and also a comedy writer) who started out in radio writing for Bob Hope, Danny Thomas, Alan Young, Ozzie & Harriet and Hattie McDaniel (Beulah). Sherwood and brother Al later got a foothold in television working for Red Skelton, but Sherwood is best remembered for two critically-lambasted sitcoms that ended up being champs in rerun syndication: Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Elroy was able to follow in his brother’s footsteps by being gainfully employed on both of these programs (in fact, he co-wrote Gilligan’s original pilot) but he also contributed to legendary sitcoms My Favorite Martian, McHale’s Navy, My Three Sons and Family Affair. Schwartz’s other R.F.D. script, “Sam the Expert Farmer,” isn’t due up in the rotation for a while—instead, next week we’re invited to a birthday party on behalf of one of Mayberry’s most solid citizens.

*From Stephen Bowie’s interview with character actor Jason Wingreen:

Another story: Bill Quinn’s daughter, Ginny, married Bob Newhart. It was a huge Hollywood wedding, in a Catholic church in Los Angeles. It was packed with top Hollywood names, big names. During the big moment when Bill Quinn leads his daughter down the aisle to give her away in marriage to Bob Newhart, as they passed a certain part of the house on their way down, there was an outburst of laughter from someone in the audience. Which certainly was not the customary thing to happen at this solemn occasion.

So after the wedding was over, there was a big reception. Everybody milling around. Bill Quinn’s there, and a friend of his, Joe Flynn, comes dashing up and says, “Oh, Billy, I’m so sorry. That was me who did that! I couldn’t help myself.”

Bill Quinn says, “What the hell! What happened?”

Joe Flynn says, “Well, I’ll tell ya. When you and Ginny started down the aisle and got past the row where we were sitting, this guy next to me said, ‘Look who they got for the father!’”

**Obligatory Monty Python joke.


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4 comments:

J.C. Loophole said...

Why is that everytime an episode mixes Aunt Bee with a car and/or the justice system there is always trouble?

Stephen Bowie said...

That is one very close reading of a MAYBERRY RFD episode, Ivan! You know, I thought about cutting that Bill Quinn story because I wasn't sure people would get the punchline ... so I'm glad you thought it was worth quoting.

One correction, though: Elroy Schwartz (born in 1923) is Sherwood's younger brother, not his son. I did an interview (as yet unpublished) with him a few years back. Elroy was a writer for THE $64,000 QUESTION in the fifties -- he testified during the Senate hearings on the quiz show scandals -- before he moved to L.A. and started writing for sitcoms, like his brothers.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

One correction, though: Elroy Schwartz (born in 1923) is Sherwood's younger brother, not his son.

Many thanks for the correction on this, Stephen. I'd love to read that interview, by the way.

You know, I thought about cutting that Bill Quinn story because I wasn't sure people would get the punchline ... so I'm glad you thought it was worth quoting.

I am so glad you didn't -- honest to my grandma, that story had me chuckling the rest of the day the first time I read it.

Stacia said...

Please, I can't even SEE Bill Quinn without thinking "Look who they got for the father!" CLASSIC.

You know, when I start making lists of who and what to blame in life, sitcoms like this which show a police officer saying "Golly, maybe I was wrong" are at the top of the list. Then again, my dad was a bitter man who would shout "HA!" at the TV if something like that went down, thus becoming the yin to the stupid sitcom's yang. Oh yeah, I'm a philosopher, baby.