Monday, September 29, 2014

Doris Day(s) #26: “The Tiger” (04/15/69, prod. no #8518)

Here’s the tragedy that is this week’s Doris Day(s): with a little tweaking of a script written by Norman Katkov (a Ben Casey veteran who probably got the gig because he penned Doris’ It Happened to Jane [1959]), this could have easily been the best Doris Day Show episode ever.  I think you can figure out why within the first few minutes of the show, so let’s get down to brass tasks.  Act One begins with Doris Martin’s (Doris) beloved progeny, Billy (Philip Brown) and Toby (Tod Starke), having a chinwag with the only individual on the Webb Estate that they can match on an intellectual level: cherished farmhand Leroy B. Semple Simpson (James Hampton).

LEROY: Hey, men—what’s goin’ on?
TOBY: We’re working, Leroy…

The cheese-loving rugrat puts just enough condescension into that line to remind viewers Leroy is all thumbs when it comes to his chosen occupation.

BILLY: We have to guard this gate ‘til Grandpa fixes it…
TOBY: The lock is broke…
LEROY: It is?  Well, let me take a look at it here…
BILLY: Better not fool with it, Leroy…
TOBY: You don’t want to make Grandpa mad again…
BILLY: We have to get a new one…Grandpa already fired you twice this week…
LEROY: Well, this will make up for it…

Yes, it’s a stock sitcom situation that we can see for miles and miles and miles, as an English rock group might point out.  Before you can say “Hannibal Dobbs,” Leroy’s let the pigs escape and created complete pandemonium in the barnyard—que lastima!

As you can see in the above screen caps, the Widder Doris and Nelson the Stolen Sheepdog (Lord Nelson) soon join in the round-up; finally, after all of the swine have been collected, Leroy and the kids find themselves standing tall before The Man…represented here by the Laird and Master, Buck Webb (Denver Pyle).

BUCK: All right…what happened?
BILLY: Grandpa…um…
BUCK: Not you… (Indicating Leroy) Him!
LEROY: Well, uh…I hate to see wastin’ money on a new latch…
BUCK: And you decided to fix it…?
LEROY: Yes, sir…and I will, too—just as soon as I get my tools…
BUCK: Don’t bother
LEROY: Oh—it’s no bother, Mr. Webb…
BUCK: Leroy…don’t touch that lock…and you know why…
LEROY: Because I’m fired?

“That’s right,” Buck confirms, “you’re fired.”  And he means it, too, despite young Toby’s reminder that “that’s three times this week!”

Four,” returns his grandfather.  “I fired him once this morning!”  But he’s not kidding around this 4,739th time he’s informed Leroy that Archer-Midland-Webb will no longer require his services.  Naturally, the news does not take long to reach the real boss of Webb Farms: Doris is in the kitchen with ever-helpful domestic Juanita (Naomi Stevens), and she’ll need to do some devious thinking to help Leroy keep such an obviously fulfilling job.

LEROY: I just come in to say goodbye…
DORIS: Oh, Leroy…not again?

“I’m beginning to think my father is right—you are a complete f**k-up…”

DORIS: That’s three times this week already…
LEROY: Four…he fired me yesterday, too…

Maybe I’m talking out of turn here, Simpson old man—but you really ought to look into the idea of joining Local 576, The United Federation of Farmhands and Hirelings.

JUANITA: That’s a new record, isn’t it?
LEROY: Yeah, but this time he says it’s forever…
DORIS: Forever?
LEROY: Them was his exact words…


“He’s already taken my name off my parking space—so I don’t think he’s just blowing sunshine up my skirt.”  The conversation is interrupted by some heated disagreement outside: Buck is hollering at his grandsons that there will be no more discussion—he’s given Leroy his pink slip and that is that.  Doris tells Leroy to run along; she’s fix this situation (and she will, too, because she’s Doris Freaking Day).  When Buck enters the kitchen, Doris and Juanita nonchalantly continue what they were doing before Leroy came in (they were putting together a shopping list); Juanita asks Doris to put “chocolate chips” on the list—I’m guessing she’s mapping out the menu for supper.

BUCK: Now there’s no use in carrying on about it—he’s done, finished, kaput…and that’s final… (Indicating Juanita) And that goes for you, too…

Since Juanita rarely does anything to incur the Master’s wrath—and on the off-chance she has, she quickly pacifies him with pie—perhaps this is a foreshadowing of events to come in the second season of the show.

DORIS: Now what on earth are you talking about?
BUCK: I’m talkin’ about Leroy B. Simpson…”B” for bumbler…this ranch has been in this family for three generations and I’m not gonna let him destroy it in three months

Doris and Juanita shrug collectively and return to their grocery list—but Buck is on to their sneaky feminine ways.  “You’re not gonna talk me out of it this time,” he assures her.

DORIS: We haven’t said one word!
BUCK: I know—but you’re bein’ funny about it…just like those two grandchildren…

Buck…if anything on this show was funny this space would be blank week after week.

DORIS: Speaking of your two grandchildren…maybe you should start thinking about them a bit…
BUCK (eating a cookie and drinking milk): What about ‘em?
DORIS: About Leroy…you know how Leroy loves those boys…
BUCK: So do I—that’s why I’m firin’ him!  So that they’ll inherit somethin’ besides a disaster area!
DORIS: You know how the boys love Leroy…and if you fire Leroy, it’s really going to break their hearts…
BUCK: Well…I’ll buy them another dog to make up for it…
DORIS: That’ll break Nelson’s heart…

I just got a mental picture of Doris sneaking into the Douglas home on My Three Sons and scooping up Tramp…then hauling ass and elbows to her station wagon.  Buck then complains that’s it’s not fair for Doris to use the kids to save Leroy’s job…which she interprets to mean that Leroy has been “un-fired,” and soon there is much merriment in the House of Webb despite Buck’s continued complaints.

Well, we’ve dwelt long enough on the employment woes of Mr. Simpson—we’ve got a lame plot to address, and a dissolve finds Doris at Cotina’s local Stop-and-Rob grabbing those groceries discussed earlier.  Director Gary Nelson pans across a truck with “Cooley’s Country Carnival” emblazoned on the side before we see Doris’ truck…

…and you may be asking yourself “Say…I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the Webb Family truck with a canopy before—for what possible reason could that be?”  I shall not disappoint you with the answer.

Danger!  Wild animals!  And what’s worse, it’s a danger-wild-animals vehicle with a lock that a four-year-old could easily break off and wave around like a trophy…

Good Lord!  It's Rajah, the famous Bengal man-eater!  The tiger leaps out of the carny wagon and into the bed of Doris’ truck.  Wacky!  Now—the reason for the canopy is clearly so Doris won’t notice there’s a freaking tiger in the back of her truck…but look at this screen cap:

If Doris can’t see that, she might pose a greater danger being on the highway because of her poor eyesight.  Well, she drives home with El Tigre in the truck bed (can she not smell the tiger?) and arrives at Rancho Webb…where Juanita, having dished up some Zagnut bars for the boys’ lunch, rushes outside to greet her mistress.  And then this is a thing that happens:

Yes, Juanita drops to the ground like a sack of flour…and Doris tells the boys to slowly head for the house, seemingly aware of Rajah’s renowned man-gobbling prowess.  Billy at first wants to play the hero, but Doris insists that he take young Toby to safety.

Awwww…the tiger is licking Doris’ hand!  Isn’t that precious!  “You’re just a big pussycat,” she trills with Doris-like optimism, and a scene dissolve finds the puddy tat having a nice bowl of milk…though it’s more like a bucket of milk.  As Buck watches with fascination, he yells at Doris in the other room as to the progress she’s making contacting the sheriff; Doris replies “It’s still busy!”—and while I’m not a mind reader or anything, the phone tie-up might have something to do with the fact that there’s a freaking Panthera tigris roaming loose in Cotina.

“How’s Juanita?” asks Doris.  “Oh, she’s fine,” is Buck’s answer, “she’s still locked in her room—says she won’t come out until this tiger is out of the house.”  Or when the tequila runs out…whichever comes first.  Now—I don’t want regular visitors of this space to get the impression that I’m starting to warm up to Doris’ idiot children…but I kind of enjoyed this next bit with Gran’pa Buck:

TOBY: He sure likes our milk!
BUCK: Sure does…drank the total output of every cow on this ranch…

“And then asked me to throw a couple on the grill…”

BUCK: He’s got to go!
(Rajah growls at Buck)
BILLY: I think you made him mad, Grandpa…
BUCK: Nah…he’s just gotta burp…finish your milk…
BILLY: Boy, he sure is hungry!
TOBY: Probably starving
BILLY: If I had a tiger…I wouldn’t let him starve
TOBY: Me neither…
BILLY: I wonder if he belongs to anybody?
TOBY: Probably an orphan…
BUCK: The answer to the next question is no

I did laugh out loud at that.  (“You kids don’t mind if Gran’pa looks at his driver license and…well, whaddya know?  I wasn’t born yesterday…”) “You don’t even know what we’re going to say,” Billy protests.

BUCK: You wanna bet?
TOBY: Well…can we?
BUCK: Nope!  This tiger has got to belong to some circus or carnival or somethin’…
BILLY: But you’re not sure
BUCK: Well, I’m sure I can’t keep a tiger on this ranch…
BILLY: You won’t have to do anything!
TOBY: Yeah, we’ll take care of him!

“Well, that’s what you said about Leroy…and who ended up having to feed him and take him for walks?”  Sorry, kids—while we’ll give you an “A” for effort, Buckaroo ain’t buyin’ the B.S.  “I’m not feedin’ twenty-seven Holsteins grain and alfalfa just to support one tiger,” he explains.  With the chiming of a clock, Buck is reminded that the kids have a Cub Scout meeting to go to…but Billy and Toby want to stick around and play with the puddy tat.  “When you signed up with the cubs you made a deal,” Buck starts…and I didn’t hear the rest of what he said because I was too busy tee-heeing at the thought of both Martin boys in the outfield at Wrigley Field.  (Hey—the Cubs could do worse.)  The Cub Scout meeting is merely a writer’s device to get the kids out of harm’s way…one of many reasons why this episode loses its bid for greatness.

As you can see, Rajah has made a bit of a mess on the living room floor.  (I’ll bet Juanita is chomping at the bit to clean that up.)  Buck heads back into the kitchen, where Doris is still trying to contact the law enforcement that protects the bustling metropolis known as Cotina.

DORIS: How’s our friend doing?
BUCK: Well, he’s tame and all that…but…uh…he’s still a meat eater…and I don’t know how long this milk is gonna keep him happy…
DORIS: Well, we better put him in the barn—he’ll be safe there…
BUCK: He’ll be safe?  Listen, we’ve got pigs, chickens…all kinds of animals on this ranch—I’m worried about them!

Doris, tireless pro-animal crusader she may be, seems to have overlooked the fact that Webb Farms is like an S&S Cafeteria to a former inhabitant of the jungle wilds.  Finally, Doris gets hold of the cops—the deputy answers the phone; he’s later referred to as “Andy,” and is portrayed by Bard Stevens…making his third and last appearance on the program (Stevens played bit roles in the previous “The Relatives” and “The Con Man”).  The sheriff, on the other hand, is a return visitor—though we were first introduced to Ben Anders in “The Matchmakers” (where he was played by TV vet Frank Maxwell), TDOY fave Barney Phillips encores as Cotina’s long arm of the law in his second and last portrayal on the show (he was seen just a couple of weeks ago in “The Still”).

DORIS: Ben, I’ve been trying to get you for one solid hour
BEN: Well, I’m sorry, Doris—I’ve been rounding up a posse and dogs…we’ve got a tiger loose in the county!

Hey—I was right on that score!  (Makes hash mark) Doris explains to Ben that she knows all about the tiger—because “the big pussycat” is on her farm, in her very barn!  She also cautions him that he need not bring out a platoon of men or “the Canine Corps” since Rajah is perfectly tame.  “Well, until I can find out for myself,” Ben answers, “I’m sure you won’t mind if I bring along a little insurance?”  (Does Geico cover tigers?)

As Anders and his posse head out to the ranch, Leroy pulls up in the jeep accompanied by appropriate “bumpkin” music…because you people have watched as many sitcoms as I have, and you just know what’s going to happen next.

“Hmm…sure wish I had some book larnin’ so I could read what’s on that sign…”  Yes, Leroy B. Dipsh*t opens the barn door as wide as you please…and El Tigre decides to go out for a stroll.

Homina homina homina…okay, let’s hear from Ralston-Purina.

Act Two finds Ben, Andy and several eager volunteers pulling up in several cars, accompanied by a pack of barking bloodhounds.  Doris is trying to get everyone quieted down, because Juanita already has a bad case of the shakes after her encounter with Rajah, and loud noises make her even more nervous.

BUCK (angrily): Why didn’t you call out the National Guard while you’re at it?
BEN: Boys, can’t you quiet those dogs?
ANDY: I’m tryin’ my best, Sheriff…they got the smell of the big cat!

Doris keeps arguing that she believes the tiger to be tame, with Ben countering that he needs to find out for himself.  (“Let him sit on your lap and you’ll see!”)  Capturing the tiger really isn’t all that complicated, though; all they have to do is sing Beethoven's Ode to Joy from the famous Ninth Symphony in D minor.  Buck and Doris open the barn door, and out comes Leroy the Dumbass, who’s no doubt soiled himself in the encounter with Rajah.

DORIS: Where’s the tiger?
BEN: If this is some kind of a joke, Doris, I don’t think it’s very funny…
BUCK: It’s no joke and it’s not funny…
DORIS: Leroy, what did you do with him?
LEROY: I didn’t do anything with him, Miz Martin…
DORIS: Well, where is he?
LEROY: …it’s what he nearly did to me!
BEN: Oh…tame, huh?
DORIS: He is tame!  What did you do, Leroy—scare him?

“Scared him?  I’m the one with the soiled underwear!”  Both Doris and Buck are very disappointed with their hired hand, despite his protests that the animal was this close to leaping at his neck, pulling out a vein and killing him.  Sheriff Ben rounds up his men and makes plans to head elsewhere, because several of those guys aren’t going to be satisfied until they’ve killed themselves a predator.

DORIS: Ben, you just can’t hunt down this creature as if it were a wild animal!
BEN: Doris…as far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly what he is…
DORIS: Ben, won’t you listen to me?  I let my two sons…take that tiger into my very own kitchen…and give him a bowl of milk…now doesn’t that mean something to you?

“Yeah…it means I may have to swing back by with some commitment papers…”  Ben empathizes with Doris, but he keeps concentrating on the immutable fact that El Tigre is a man-eater, and once he gets hungry “he isn’t going to stick to being a vegetarian for very long.”

DORIS: Won’t you let me try to get him?
BEN: Doris…you had him…and he got away…now it’s my job to find him before he does any harm…

Saddle up, boys!  If we find this critter before dark there’ll be tiger steaks for ev’rybody!  Buck is going to go along and supervise because redneck, but before leaving he fires this volley: “Now, if you’d let me fire that nincompoop when this happened—we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

That’s the nincompoop, in case you’ve forgotten.  Buck promises to do what he can to save Doris’ tiger…but admonishes “See that he’s gone by the time I get back here!”  Leroy tries his best to console an upset Doris.

LEROY: I sure am sorry…
DORIS: I know you are…

“You’re the sorriest son of a…well, I need to watch my phraseology…”

LEROY: Once that tiger gets up to the hills…maybe the posse won’t find him…
DORIS: How do you know he’ll head for the hills?
LEROY: Oh, that’s where he’ll go, all right…up where there’s trees and caves where he can hide in…away from people and get him some food…the sheriff was right about that, you know—he’ll be needin’ some meat pretty soon…
DORIS: Hey, Leroy…you really know those hills, don’t you?

Now—if Leroy were a native Cotinian or whatever nomenclature they use to describe inhabitants of that jerkwater burg, this might be plausible plot-wise…but as we are well aware, Leroy was a simple country drifter who just happened by the Webb ranch one day, as told in “Leroy B. Simpson.”  The show’s producers have to sell this angle to make Leroy’s actions seem heroic later on, otherwise he’ll be just another doofus who gets lost in a cave.  Doris orders Leroy to fetch a lantern and a rope, because they have work to do.

LEROY: You mean we’re gonna try to find that tiger?
DORIS: You bet!
LEROY: On purpose?

“Look, Leroy,” Doris explains, “would you rather take a chance on meeting that tiger or my father when he gets back?”  “I’ll get the rope and the lantern,” Leroy says dejectedly.

The scene shifts to a cave…and don’t tell Andrew Leal this, but if Goober Pyle just happened to amble by, I’d never be so happy to see anyone in all my life.  Inside the cave, Buck, Sheriff Ben and the others are holding the barking dogs at bay while they discuss their stragedy on how to flush the tiger out.  Ben gets a little agitated at Buck during all this, and at one point tells him: “Buck, why don’t you get off my back—I don’t like this any better than you do…”  The plan is just to sit tight and wait for Rajah to become peckish, since the only exit is blocked by Cotina’s finest sharpshooters and the bloodhounds.

Doris and Leroy pull up in the Jeep not far from the cave entrance…and because they can hear the dogs, they know El Tigre is in trouble.

DORIS: That poor thing doesn’t have a chance
LEROY: Miz Martin…are you sure you got a good look at his teeth?
DORIS: Leroy, he’s so tame…believe me…
LEROY: Well…I believe you, Miz Martin…but I’m just glad I’m not in there with them…

“If there were only another entrance into that cave,” Doris wonders out loud…but she’s just being a big silly—of course there’s another entrance!  The events in the Andy Griffith Show episode “Barney and the Cave Rescue” so concerned lawmakers at the time that Congress passed the Omnibus Television Spelunking Act…which dictates that all caves on the small screen be fitted with both an entrance and an alternative entrance.

DORIS: Leroy?
DORIS: Is there another entrance into that cave?
LEROY: What cave?

Okay, I did chuckle slightly at Leroy’s reticence to impart information about the cave’s “back door” to his boss, because while he may be an idiot…he’s smart enough to know she’s going to insist on going there.  After some hemming and hawing, Leroy reveals that “it might have been a rumor” that there’s another way of getting in “up by Fisher’s Creek.”

As Buck and Sheriff Ben continue to spar over how to remove Rajah from his new home (“You might try some tear gas or a hand grenade, Ben,” Buck jokes), Leroy and Doris arrive at the Fisher Creek entrance and mosey on inside.

“Hewwo, you bad ol’ puddy tat!”  While Leroy soils his second pair of jeans, Doris waits until El Tigre comes over for another petting, and she gingerly slips the rope around his neck.

LEROY: Now…should I go tell your father you caught him?


DORIS: No, Leroy!
DORIS: Leroy…have you ever seen my father as mad at you as he was this afternoon when you let this tiger out of the barn?
LEROY: Yes, ma’am…this morning when I almost let the pigs out of the pen…

What Leroy’s feeble thought processes are having difficulty handling is that Doris is going to let him take the credit for the capture of Rajah.  This could be most beneficial; either Leroy will be eaten by the tiger—and our long national blogging nightmare will be over—or he can use the big kitty as a bargaining chip to get his pathetic handyman job back.  (Though I have to tell you, I’m kind of banking on the first scenario.)  And that’s just what happens…the tiger’s growls can be heard inside the cave as Leroy makes his way to where the others are.  Ben and the posse point their bang-bang guns toward the hole where the tiger will eventually emerge, and somehow Doris has managed to double back to meet her father at the main entrance.

BUCK: Doris…what are you doing here?  When he makes his run—it’s gonna break your heart!
DORIS: Isn’t there something we can do?
BUCK: I tried!
DORIS: I’m sure you did…knowing you, you’d forgive your worst enemy if he would save that tiger—wouldn’t you?
BUCK: I sure would…

Buck!  You were so close, amigo!  Because at that moment, Leroy leads the tiger out of the darkness…past the men with guns, and past Buck and Doris.

Oh, Buck—will you ever win?

I don’t know about you…but I’m done with this episode.  The coda is pretty forgettable; Buck has graciously allowed Leroy a 4,740th chance in exchange for a mouth-watering bribe.  “Is that pie done you promised me?” he asks Juanita, who has been predictably scarred by the whole tiger experience.  Doris assures him it is, and what’s more—there’s ice cream to make that slice o’pie “a la mode.”

As Doris lifts the pie up so that Buck can get a whiff of that heavenly baked goods aroma, Leroy comes crashing into the kitchen and in hitting Buck in the ass with the door, sends the pie to the ground.

LEROY: Never mind, Mr. Webb…it can wait…
BUCK: You know what you are, boy?
LEROY: Yes, sir…I know… (He runs out of the kitchen)
BUCK: You’re a nincompoop!  That’s what you are!

Poor Buckley.  And Doris’ only words of condolence?  “Scrape it up!”

Next time on Doris Day(s)—oh, if I can get through this one it will be recognized as a miracle by the Catholic Church.  While it features one of the greatest character actors from radio, movies and TV…it also shines a spotlight on Juanita, admittedly the weakest character in the entire sitcom.  You’ll need a hardy constitution to survive the perils of “The Date”…but if you’re up for it, I’ll be here in this same space next week.

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