I have to tell you, cartooners…this week’s Doris Day(s) was a real chore to do—because of all the episodes of The Doris Day Show I’ve watched so far, this is one of the worst. As Leonard Pinth-Garnell (Dan Aykroyd) might say on Bad Playhouse: “Stunningly bad!”
The episode opens with Webb Farms handyman Leroy B.
LEROY: Country Music Jubilee…listen to this…”Country songwriters, attention…we need your lyrics! Last year, Pee-Wee Harwood made more than $250,000 with his country-and-western hits… (Whistles)
Sure indication that you’re talking to an old person: anyone who refers to the music as “country-and-western.” Case in point: my parents, who continue to call it that despite the fact that it ceased being “western” eons ago.
Sure you do! His biggest hit was “She Broke My Heart, So I Broke Her Neck.”
LEROY: He’s only been one of the biggest country-and-western songwriters for the last ten years…you must have heard his biggest hit…
“You Used to Be the Cream in My Coffee—But Now You’re Just Grounds for Divorce.”
LEROY: “I’m Just a Caboose in Your Train of Thought”…
Leroy sings a snatch of Harwood’s multi-platinum selling song, and puts enough twang into it so the audience realizes it’s country-and-western. When he finishes the part about “travelin’ through the tunnel of despair”
adds a “Woo woo!” train effect, indicating she may have come across the tune at
one time. “Well, it was on every jukebox
in town anyway,” offers Leroy.
The two of them then do a little comedy bit where Doris attempts to talk to Leroy but the two of them keep “missing” each other as they poke their heads under and above the table. This isn’t funny, but Leroy bumping his fool head on the underside of the table when Buck (Denver Pyle) walks in, calling his name, did make me snicker.
LEROY: Unfinished business?
LEROY: Oh…yes, sir…I’ll get right to it… (He downs the rest of his milk and gets up from the table)
Jesus, Mary and Joseph—that coffee cup is huge. No wonder Buck’s always a crankypants, what with his caffeine intake and all. “That was a little joke,”
“It sure was,” acknowledges Buck. Okay, I did laugh at this only because my Mom and I do a similar routine where, after making a joke, I say in a ridiculous accent: “I make leetle joke.”
“Very leetle,” is usually her response. But back to
scene fades out with her singing “I’m Just a Caboose in Your Train of Thought”
with Buck smiling in approval. The scene
shifts to the barn, where Leroy sits up in the hayloft with a pad of paper and
pencil, working on becoming a country-and-western songwriter. “They buried her under the silo/White the
cows and horses cried,” he says to himself.
(Don’t quit that day job, Dobbs.)
A scene outside the barn finds Buck walking around and bellowing “Leroy!”
LEROY: Yes, ma’am…it’s empty…
LEROY: Thank you!
This next bit with the postman made me misty with nostalgia…for two reasons. First, “Henry the Mailman” is played by
But what also made me sentimental about this was…well, contrary to what you may think—I was not always a dazzling urbanite; I grew up in a rural part of West Virginia (at that time 98% of the Mountain State was rural) where we got our mail in the same fashion—a guy delivered it from a station wagon. I don’t remember when I saw my first actual mail truck—it might have been the same time I saw someone actually delivering the mail by walking, which was on my first trip to Savannah, GA.
In this screen cap, you can see the family’s mailbox and just make out the zip code: 91405. That’s a
HENRY: Nice day, isn’t it?
HENRY: No…no…nothing for Leroy…
Leroy arrives at the wagon, and is disappointed to find no mail for him. He even badgers Henry if he “looked in the back seat real good” and offers that something might have fallen out of the sack. Or it’s possible that it got mixed up in another bag, because personal experience has proven that the USPS never makes a mistake, he said, choking on his orange juice.
LEROY: Henry…would you mind if I looked for myself?
HENRY: Well, I don’t mind, Leroy…but Uncle Sam would…
A dejected Leroy walks away, and the only words of consolation that the coffee-crazed Buck can offer him are “Maybe tomorrow, Leroy…”
HENRY: You know—I ain’t seen so much fuss over the mail since Armand Turner lost that chain letter…
Aw…you’re, like, a real human being, big guy. So a dissolve finds Doris—and I know you’re going to be positively gobsmacked by this—in the kitchen, finishing frosting a cake…and offering her hopped-up-on-sugar kids Billy (Philip Brown) and Toby (Tod Starke) a chance to sample said frosting. “Here…just a lick,” she tells Billy…and then she admonishes him with “finger,” indicating that he’s to take some of the frosting on his finger in case he and his brother have typhoid or something. When Toby asks if he can have a piece now, his mom tells him “That’s for supper, honey”—and this made me laugh out loud because with the frequency of sugar-laced treats baked on this show I can actually believe that’s the only item on the menu. (Well, there’d also be milk.)
Incidentally, although Fran Ryan—who plays housekeeper Aggie Thompson—is seen in the credits of this week’s episode, she does not actually appear in “The Songwriter.” I say this in case you Aggie fans were concerned that
Leroy comes charging into the house, with Lord Nelson—formerly of the Nash family in
—barking at his heels. The letter he has been waiting for has
finally arrived. Larchmont,
TOBY: Yeah, Leroy…open it!
There’s a bit of additional business in which Leroy admits that he’s too nervous to open the letter…but he finally does, and then cries out “I did it!” This prompts the family to join in the chorus (“Leroy did it!”)…
LEROY: I sold my song!
LEROY (holding it up): See?
BILLY: “Weeds in the Garden of My Heart?”
LEROY: Well…yes, sir…
“Get the hell off my property, you dipstick! You’re fired!”
LEROY: Well, not the whole song…just the words…the company I sold it to put the tune to it…don’t it look real professional? Yeah… (Pointing to the music sheet) What’s that one there?
LEROY: An E-flat…how about that! I got an E-flat in my song!
Leroy asks the family if they want to hear what the company had to say, so he starts to read the letter…humorously, Buck puts his reading glasses on (which have been hanging off one ear the whole time) I guess in order to hear better.
LEROY (reading): “Dear Leroy…” How ‘bout that—startin’ off real friendly-like…”Congratulations on the start of a new and profitable career…our panel of judges considers your lyrics the finest they’ve read since Ernest Tubb…” Ernest Tubb?
And somewhere out in The Great Beyond, The Texas Troubadour is weeping.
LEROY (still reading): “If you could compose four or five more songs in the style of ‘Weeds in the
,’ we would like to put out a Leroy B. Simpson country album…which we intend to enter in the National Country Music Contest in Nashville!” Garden of My Heart
LEROY (again with the reading): “We are sure such an album stands an excellent chance of winning…which would rocket you to stardom…however, since time is of the essence, don’t procras…procras…”
Leroy has trouble making out the word “procrastinate” (a word with which I am all too familiar) and even Buck doesn’t offer much help. Finally
LEROY (finishing the letter): “Get those country gems to us in a hurry…sincerely…” (Slightly flustered) Country gems…hey, Mrs. Martin—do you think you could sing it from that?
So everyone gathers around the piano (even Nelson!) to hear
sing that Leroy B. Simpson standard, “Weeds in the .” Garden
of My Heart
But they’re watered with tears from my eyes
You planted those weeds in my heart
When you said those words “You I despise”
You choked out the flowers
With hardly no thought
You stomped on my garden
Which you shouldn’t have done
There are weeds in the garden in my heart
But there’s one thought I got consoling me
Though I got weeds in the garden of my heart
I’m still living in the land of the free
Cut to The Great Beyond, and E.T. is laughing his ass off…joined by Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran and a few others.
LEROY: Oh, yeah—that patriotic stuff is good…and you know, it gives a song a happy ending…
BILLY: That’s great, Leroy!
TOBY: Yeah…that’s great, Leroy!
Oh, what do you know, you little turd—you couldn’t even get into the school choir. Leroy asks Doris what she thinks of the song and she replies: “Well, Leroy—I don’t know what to say” then repeats the phrase, changing the emphasis to the word “say” in order to spare his feelings.
LEROY: Everybody come on in here now and sit down…
Leroy reveals that he has another surprise—which prompts a laugh-out-loud reaction from Buck: “Isn’t this one here enough?” No, Leroy tells the family that when the royalty checks start a-pourin’ in, he’s going to lavish them with expensive gifts: a mink coat for
Doris (“Where would I wear it?”);
a new hay-baler for Buck (“Where would I wear it?”); a canoe for Billy and
admonishes him that he really doesn’t have to do this…but Leroy counters that
they’re the only family he’s got, and he wants to do something nice.
LEROY: Anyway, I’d better get to work on my songs…it ain’t gonna be easy to measure up to “Weeds in the
,” you know… Garden of My Heart
LEROY: Well…they don’t pay me anything…I pay them fifty dollars for puttin’ my words to music…
LEROY: I pay them fifty dollars to put music to my words…
“It can’t be from what I’m payin’ you…”
LEROY: Oh…I’ve been savin’ for a long time…of course, it’ll take all I got…but this is somethin’ really worthwhile…I got to go now… (He heads out the door)
This just in…the music industry is populated with unscrupulous dirtbags. And in other news…sugar is sweet! Back with more of The Doris Day Show after this message from her sponsor…
The news that the family’s beloved (if unbelievably stupid) handyman Leroy has been swindled by a fly-by-night music publishing company has given Doris a major sad…so much so that the next scene finds her scarfing down bacon, while Buck pours coffee into his tremendous mug. Buck is all for telling Leroy the truth: that those songs of his are purely awful, but
Leroy comes into the kitchen, wishing all a good morning and lamenting that he was up all night practicing his songwriting craft—he was stuck for a word to rhyme with “meander.”
Doris suggests “oleander,” and a pleased Leroy recommends
that she take up songwriting, too—she might have a knack for it. And thus…a fiendishly clever idea takes root
in the Widow Martin’s brain.
The scene then shifts to the living room; it is night, and Leroy rushes in to tell the family he’s finished his last song. He asks Buck if he’d like to hear it, and Buck responds: “Well…as a matter of fact, Leroy, I was…” Before he can complete this with “thinking about walking the parapet,”
Your love is like butter gone rancid
It’s no good now; it’s started to turn
I pray that it’s just like the man said
You can’t put it back in the churn
Can’t put it back in the churn
LEROY: Oh, yeah…durn…it rhymes with churn…
You watch your phraseology, young lady.
BILLY: Hey—that’s great, Mom!
The kids clap their approval, and the audience starts to think that maybe the dropping of art and music classes from school curriculums isn’t such a hot idea after all. But
wants the opinion of the real songwriter in the household.
LEROY: Ah…uh…well…it’s… (Clears his throat) It’s different…
LEROY: Did you ever want to tell somebody something for their own good…and you just couldn’t?
LEROY: When she asked me how I liked her song I just couldn’t tell her! I hate to say this, but…when it comes to songwriting…your daughter just don’t have no talent!
The scene shifts to
LEROY: Well…I’m afraid she just don’t have it…but how do you tell somebody they don’t know how to write songs?
Leroy is certain the company is going to turn down
“rotten song”: “It’s all full of rancid butter and wormy apples.” So when Doris is
turned down and Leroy’s money starts rolling in, he’s going to get her a
“silver fox with a tail in its mouth to go around her neck” along with the fur
coat…”just to make up for it.”
LEROY: That’s it! I mean…you being an amateur and all, you might have to keep on trying for a while before they’ll take one of your songs…
LEROY: Well…what if they did? Songwriting ain’t everything! You’re a good mother and a good friend…and we all love you…
It’s true, Dodo. We do all love you.
Doris asks Leroy if
he’ll read the company’s response…and in doing so, he learns that they’ve not
only accepted her song—it’s the exact same letter he received, right down to
the Ernest Tubb comparison.
LEROY: And your song was…
Now it’s Leroy’s turn to have a sad. He shuffles out of the barn, depressed…
goes after him, and finds him in the miserable room he calls home, crumpling up
pieces of paper he’s torn off his pad.
Well, let’s cut to the quick on this one.
Doris, her kids, her pop and Leroy are gathered around the piano, singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in round fashion. The song ends in a tremendous flourish, and even Nelson punctuates it with a bark (which I found cute).
You think I’m kidding about this? Well, after Leroy conveniently finds an excuse to be anywhere but there, Doris and the kids strike up a chorus of “Your Love is Like Butter Gone Rancid”…and suddenly Buck has a reason to mosey, too.
improvises another chorus of lyrics:
You’re gonna be sorry you’re leaving
‘Cause we’re having cake and ice cream
You’re gonna be sorry dear Grandpa
Now that you’re splitting the scene
We’re having cake and ice cream
And fade out…as once again,
shamelessly bribes the kids. Ye gods,
that was painful. (Cut to Gob: “I’ve
made a huge mistake.”) If you’re wondering why that was painful,
it’s because it sprang from the prolific pen of Joseph Bonaduce (Danny’s pop),
who wrote “Miss Farmerette” for Mayberry R.F.D. (In Joe’s defense, he also wrote “The Panel Show”—proving that even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.) Joe will return later this season with
another horrible contribution in “The Clock.”