Monday, November 3, 2014

Doris Day(s) #29: “Doris Gets a Job” (09/22/69, prod. no #0401)


After a brief hiatus of a few weeks, Doris Day(s) returns in all its Monday glory…but this is no ordinary Doris Day(s), friends and neighbors.  It is a sadder, wiser Doris Day(s)—a Doris that has hit upon hard times, having to face the cold economic realities of its time and forced to send its heroine out into an uncaring world to seek employment, that she might stave off the hungry wolf at the door of Rancho Webb.

Okay, it would do these things…if The Doris Day Show were a mature sitcom.  (Personally, I’d settle for funny.)  The Widder Martin (Dodo) is preparing to go out and get a job, but for whatever reason goes unexplained.  The absence of two of the series’ regulars—hired hand Leroy B. Semple Simpson (James Hampton) and loyal domestic Juanita No-Last-Name (Naomi Stevens)—is also not addressed…though we will meet up again with Mr. Simpson later this season, he said, with a pit of dread in his stomach.  As to Juanita—quien sabe?  She is simply discarded like an old umbrella, and is never referred to again.  This situation offers a subtle commentary on the family’s financial fortunes—they had to downsize and look for new revenue streams…but in cheery Doris fashion, this is but merely a temporary setback.


Because this is a new season, we get new credits (Doris sings the theme song solo this time)…which feature Doris getting into a brand new car—which seems a little irresponsible if the family is struggling financially—and driving off.


Doris, of course, is still with the organization…


As is her father, Buckley Webb (Denver Pyle), the Laird and Master of Webb Estates…


And her two idiot chillun, Billy (Philip Brown) and Toby (Tod Starke), who are safe in the knowledge that what happened to Leroy and Juanita could never happen to them.  (If you’re familiar with the format changes that begin with the fourth season, then you will have a good chuckle at the irony in my statement.)  There are also two new faces in the cast credits—which I will get to as they are introduced—but I just wanted to share this with you…


This unknown person, who does a sort of hop-step across the screen as she exits the streetcar, is apparently Doris, I suppose—but you’ll note that even though she’s wearing the outfit she’s adopted for her job interviews in this opener you never see her face…suggesting that Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff had a stunt hopper on this one.  (This bit will continue in the credits in each remaining season.)  Even the outfit is a point of controversy, as we learn with the introduction of Act One:


DORIS: I just think it’s too long
BUCK: I think it’s just right…
DORIS: Then I know it’s too long…you know, to go job hunting—I should look ladylike…
BUCK: Well, I couldn’t agree more…
DORIS: On the other hand—I don’t want to look like Whistler’s Mother…

While Doris beseeches her sons to sit down and tuck into a hearty breakfast of pecan ice cream and plum tart, she goes through several wardrobe changes…one…


…two…


…and back to what she had on originally...


Doris frets about not having anything to wear: “Everything is too long or too short or too loose or too tight,” she laments.  She even remarks that she’s lost weight.  “Sure,” cracks Buck.  “From going up and down them stairs changin’ clothes!”

She’s as “nervous as a turkey on Thanksgiving,” observes Buck, but that might have something to do with Doris revealing that “I haven’t been job hunting in 12 years.”  Despite her responsibilities to nail down gainful employment, Doris continues to maintain dominance in the household by reminding her eldest son that he has a piannah lesson later that afternoon.  Buck assures her he will supervise it.  She’s out the door…and before you can say ‘Lover Come Back’ she returns inside.

BUCK: Not again…
DORIS: I forgot my keys!


Doris eventually gets to San Francisco, which opens up its Golden Gate to welcome the newest member of the state’s work force.  Her first stop is at this law office…


…which is in desperate need of a secretary.  Her interview is with senior partner Willoughby, played by actor Eldon Quick—whose movie resume includes In the Heat of the Night (1967) and Viva Max (1968), and who did many guest roles in programs on the small screen, including several appearances on MASH as “Captain Sloan.”  This is the first of three Doris Day Show stints for our man Eldon, who informs Dor that her duties are as follows: “From 9 to 10:30, you’ll be at Mr. Kales’ disposal…from 10:30 to 12, you’ll be with Mr. Reinis…1 to 2:30, Jenkins…2:30 to 4, Ellis…4 to 5:30, myself…”  Mr. W is also generous enough to inform our heroine that “from 5:30 to 6 you can clean up any little bits of typing and filing.”


As you can see, Doris’ gast has been flabbered.  Only when Willoughby answers the phone and tells the person on the other end “We can always use another lawyer in the firm” and “I just hired a brand-new secretary” does Doris sneak out the way she came in.  This is not the career for her.

The Widder Martin’s next stop is an interview with a “Mr. Levalle,” in what can only be described (according to the always reliable IMDb) as actor Joel Mell’s solo performance in any broadcast medium.

DORIS: You mean all I have to do is make phone calls?
LEVALLE: That’s right…you merely tell each person they’re the lucky winner of a free introductory lesson at our dance studio…
DORIS: Oh!
LEVALLE: And when they come in…you put on the personality and sell them our five-year plan or our ten-year plan…or better still, our lifetime membership which guarantees them two tickets to our New Year’s ball every year…for that—you get 50 percent commission…
DORIS: Fifty percent?  Mr. Levalle—how can you afford that?
LEVALLE (conspiratorially with a wink): We don’t have a dance studio!

I kind of chuckled at this, because Levalle seems like the kind of guy who’d turn up in an episode of Gomer Pyle, USMC…and I don’t think it’s any coinky-dink that this episode was helmed by frequent Gomer director Coby Ruskin.

Doris’ next job prospect?  Well, this is mostly a bit of visual comedy as she’s chased around a desk by an all-too-obviously horny boss.  (Doris: “Mister…you don’t need a secretary—you need a cold shower!”)  But check out who her prospective employer is:


Yes, it’s character actor Larry Gelman—who you’ve seen as Vinnie Barella on The Odd Couple, Dr. Bernie Tupperman on The Bob Newhart Show, and Hubie Binder on Maude.  In another coinky-dink that might possibly convince me the Internet is haunted, today is Gelman’s birthday—he turns 84.

Doris continues to expend shoe leather while searching the want ads…until she arrives at a building that houses this bidness…


…yes, it’s Today’s World—The Now Magazine.  (It’s really happening, baby.)  It is here that Doris meets the first of three new regulars on the show, beginning with nosy secretary Myrna Gibbons.


At Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, we have placed Rose Marie on a specially-built pedestal because of her immortal contribution to TV sitcom comedy as endearing man-chaser Sally Rogers from The Dick Van Dyke Show.  It wasn’t Rose Marie’s first TV gig; she made the occasional appearance on The Bob Cummings Show (a.k.a. Love That Bob) as Martha Randolph, and co-starred as Bertha for one season on a TV version of My Sister Eileen from 1960 to 1961.  She had come a long way from her earlier career as child singing sensation Baby Rose Marie, when she had her own starring radio program and appeared in various shorts and films such as International House (1933); after two seasons on Doris, she continued to appear regularly on The Hollywood Squares and on TV series like S.W.A.T. and Hardball.


The magazine is in need of a new executive secretary, and Myrna is helping the process along even though the gentleman conducting the interviews is not technically her boss—we’ll meet him in a sec.  She informs the interviewer that there is one more individual waiting to be interviewed, a “Miss Bennington”; who’s played by Amazonian actress Carol Worthington.  (A joke is made with reference to Worthington’s stature—when Myrna is asked if the prospective hire is a “roller derby type” Myrna cracks “No…more field hockey.”)  I mention Carol only because we will be seeing her on the show in future in a different role—she’ll play a character named “Ethel Weber” in Season 3 who functions as a frequent babysitter for Doris’ kids.  (Carol later turned up in a few Room 222 episodes as “Miss Portnoy.”)  Miss Bennington is sent in, and about that time Doris shows up in the office.

DORIS: I’m here in answer to the ad for an executive secretary…
MYRNA: Yes, well…Mr. Nicholson is interviewing someone right now…but I have a feeling it won’t be too long now…

What, because Nicholson won’t hire the lesbian you just sent in there?  To be perfectly honest, I think Myrna is a little suspect; she gives Doris the once-over and tells her that she thinks she’s “it” (funny—Dodo looks nothing like Clara Bow)—she knows Mr. Nicholson, and thinks Doris is the type of girl he’d hire.

But there’s just one teensy snag, which crops up when Doris, having spilled the contents of her purse on the floor of the office in her nervousness, chats with Myrna about her Cotina family.

MYRNA: Are you single?
DORIS: No, I’m a widow…
MYRNA: Oh…any children?
DORIS: Yes, I have two boys…
MYRNA (approvingly): Oh…

“Well, for the time being, anyway.”  Doris shows Myrna a snapshot of her offspring, pointing out “that little one is Toby, and the big one is Billy.”

MYRNA: Uh-huh…and the one with the beard?
DORIS: That’s Grandpa…

So here’s the dilemma: because Nicholson is the managing editor of the magazine, being his executive secretary is a demanding job.  “You might have to work nights,” explains Myrna, “and just when he might need you…you might have to go home with a problem with the kids.”

DORIS: A problem? (Myrna nods) Like what?
MYRNA: Well…I don’t know…one of your boys falling off his bike and breaking his front tooth…
DORIS: Oh—that would be Billy… (Laughs) Why, he’s so reckless on that bicycle—he’s just flipping everywhere…but Toby, you know, the little one…he’s the careful one…

“He’s also quite fond of cheese.”  According to Myrna, Nicholson is a bachelor—and he might not understand Doris’ need to hurry home when there’s a family emergency.  Doris interprets this to believe that Nicholson doesn’t like children, and she’s not so sure she can work for a man like that.  She’s ready to try elsewhere, but the intercom buzzes and Nicholson asks Myrna if there are any more candidates for the position.  Myrna, despite having scared Dor off a fabulous secretarial career, really wants her newfound friend to work at Today’s World and so she insists Doris go in for an interview.  “I’m not going to lie about my children,” vows Doris.

“Well, maybe he won’t even mention it,” returns Myrna as she pushes Doris into Nicholson’s office.  “And if he does, try to change the subject.”


Yes, in the role of Michael “Nick” Nicholson we find Golden Globe-winning actor McLean Stevenson in one of his first important television roles.  Like Rose Marie, McLean was with the Day outfit for two seasons before moving onto what most people of my generation remember him for—his three-year stint as Lt. Colonel Henry Blake on the TV adaptation of MASH.  Convinced he was destined for greater things, Stevenson left MASH (a most memorable exit, to be sure) to headline an endless series of failed sitcoms: The McLean Stevenson Show, In the Beginning, Condo, Dirty Dancing, etc.  The closest he came was a moderately successful hit in Hello, Larry…which would get my vote for one of the small screen’s worst sitcoms (seriously, there was nothing funny about it at all—I’ve laughed more at Mayberry R.F.D. than that turkey) were it not for the saving grace of Scott C. object of desire Kim Richards as one of McLean’s daughters.

Nicholson is looking for “sort of a girl Friday,” and describes the position as needing “someone who is personable—and who can make a good impression.”  (That’s our Dor!)  There’ll be some light dictation and typing—to which Doris says “No sweat, Nick”—and the two discuss the salary listed in the want ad, which Doris believes to be “very generous.”

NICK: Well, I…can’t think of anything further to ask, Miss Martin…it is Miss?
DORIS (long pause): Uh…no…it’s…it’s Mrs.…
NICK: Uh-huh…
DORIS: I’m a widow…
NICK: Well, uh…tell me, Mrs. Martin…do you…
DORIS (interrupting): Oh!  What a lovely plaque!  May I see that?

Doris dodges the question she thinks Nicholson is going to ask her a second time (looking out his office window she asks “Isn’t that Alcatraz Island?”) by getting him on the subject on what Frisco plans to eventually do with Alcatraz (“I think it would make a beautiful park—don’t you?”).  Finally, Nick gets down to brass tasks: “Do you think you can start work immediately?”

DORIS: I beg your pardon?
NICK: I said, do you think you can start work immediately?
DORIS: Is that what you wanted to ask me?
NICK: Yes…
DORIS: Oh…well…I don’t see why not…

Doris got a job in eleven minutes, thirty seconds flat!  Hooray for her!  Nicholson suggests that she have Myrna show her around…and because Doris is so good and kind and a much better person than you or I could ever hope to be, she starts to feel guilty about accepting the job.  (She must be Catholic.)

DORIS: Oh…Mr. Nicholson…
NICK: Yes?
DORIS: There’s something that you should know…
NICK: What is it?
DORIS: You see…I… (Sighing) I really think that’s a lovely plaque…

The curtain falls on the first act of our Doris Day Show story.  Before the next exciting scenes, please permit us to pause for just a few moments for a commercial interruption.

The Doris Day Show, Part the Second.  Myrna has just finished showing her new BFF the sights and sounds of Today’s World, but she can see that Dor is fraught with concern.

MYRNA: Doris, will you stop worrying?
DORIS: Oh, I can’t help it, Myrna…I feel like I’ve gotten this job under false pretenses, I really do…look, I’m a mother…

The biggest mother of them all…no, wait…that’s someone else.

DORIS: …and I just don’t like hiding it…
MYRNA: Well, it hasn’t come up so there’s no problem…so will you just play it loose and relax and…

Myrna is interrupted by the arrival of a man who informs us that he’s Myrna’s boss—“Can I have the pleasure of your company for a little while?”  But then he notices the new fish, and that’s when we get reacquainted with actor Paul Smith, in the role of the magazine’s assistant editor Ron Harvey.


Smith is no stranger to The Doris Day Show—he appeared as a father-to-be in the first season episode “The Baby Sitter,” and apparently that paved the way for his recurring role as Harvey beginning in Season 2…though despite his prominence, he didn’t make the opening credits until Season 3.  I don’t say this as a reflection on Smith—who I’m sure is probably a fine fellow—but the Ron Harvey character was kind of a creepy bastard (he starts to hit on Doris from the get-go—“I am to the secretaries what the Auto Club is to the motorists”), and even after they toned him down somewhat with subsequent shows (he interacts with Doris’ family, and I guess that is what transformed him into a harmless boob) I still expected a storyline where he would be responsible for…well, let’s say Doris’ expecting.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch—Buck answers a ringing telephone and finds Doris on the other end.  She tells her pop of her good fortune, and explains that because she has to start right away she won’t be home until dinner.  She nags Buck about getting Billy to that piano lesson, but before she can continue the intercom buzzes…and Nick needs her because he wants to dictate a letter.  Flustered, she sharpens a pencil to the size of a golf pencil…while leaving her father hanging on the other end.  Heading toward Nicholson’s office, she remembers that Buck is still on the line and she asks him if she can call him back.

In Nick’s office, Doris tries to take dictation—Nick is asking a NYC writer named Charlie Wakefield about the possibility of his doing an article on California’s changing ecology for Today’s World, blah blah blah.  Doris furiously tries to take down Nicholson’s words but her inexperience in doing so—coupled with her worry that he’s going to find out about her family—keeps her from getting it all down; once she’s back at her desk she tries to put the letter together from memory but she keeps getting distracted.  One of these distractions is on-the-make Ron, who notices Doris’ nervousness (“That’s an electric typewriter—you have to plug it in”) and announces that he just dropped by to invite Dor out to lunch at Pepino’s tomorrow.  Doris ignores him because she’s trying to remember Nicholson’s letter in her head.  Ron departs, and then further complications arise when Buck calls her back because he’s concerned that she blew him off so abruptly.

NICK: This is a very nice letter…
DORIS: Thank you, sir…
NICK: It’s even better than the one I dictated…don’t worry, Mrs. Martin…you got down everything I wanted to say and improved on it…except his Siamese cat isn’t named Joan…
DORIS: Oh, it isn’t?
NICK: No…that’s his wife’s name…

Sensing that his new administrative assistant is a little tense, Nicholson assures Doris it’s all good.  “Just relax—you’ll be fine.”  But back in her office, Doris is obsessed with her big honkin’ white lie even though Myrna, too, tells her to forget all about it.  Vexed, Doris places a call to her father.

BUCK: Billy’s a bit cantankerous…he doesn’t want to go to his piano lesson…
DORIS: Oh…put him on, will you?  I’ll take care of him…

Buck then hands the phone to his eldest grandson, informing him that his ma wants to have a chinwag.

BILLY: Hi, Mom!  You got a job, huh?
DORIS: Yeah, I got a job…listen, you—don’t start giving your Grandpa any trouble while I’m not there, you hear?  You go to the…no…you go to that piano lesson, Billy Martin…and if you don’t, there’s really going to be trouble…

And that’s when Mr. Nicholson strolls in.  “No, sir,” Doris continues.  “No…no…you have the wrong number, sir…this is not Candlestick Park…”

DORIS (hanging up the phone, laughing): He wanted two tickets to the Giant game…
NICK: That’s funny…they’re playing in Philadelphia…

Actually, what’s funny is that Doris leaves off the “s” in “Giants”—I had a mental picture of enormously large individuals playing nine innings of sandlot ball.

BUCK (to the boys): Your mama hasn’t made sense on that phone all day long…are you sure she said ‘Candlestick Park?’
BILLY: Yes, Grandpa—and she even called me ‘sir’…
TOBY: Mom must be sick
BUCK: Nah…she’s probably just nervous—being on her first day on the job and all…you know, I might have a wonderful idea…

“Then again…it could just be me passing gas.”  No, Buck suggests to his grandsons that they “go into town” and take Doris out for a Chinese food feast in celebration of her landing a job on TV in record time.  The trouble is—Billy’s got that piano lesson, and there’s no take-out in Cotina.  But Buck’s jones (Buck Jones!) for some moo goo gai pan is so strong he’s willing to look the other way and Billy signals his approval with “Oh, I’m willing to give that up.”  Mighty thoughty of you, Bill.

BILLY: Boy, Chinese food—I love it!
TOBY: Me, too…it doesn’t hurt my teeth…

Far be it from me to challenge your dental situation, Tobias…but I think those breakfasts of raspberry dacquoise might be the source of your problems.  So back at the magazine, Nicholson asks Doris to just file a few things and she can call it quits for the day.

NICK: I think we’re going to get along very well…
DORIS: Thank you…thank you very much…

Doris walks out of his office on Cloud Nine…and is greeted by this startling family photo:


DORIS: What are you doing here?
BUCK: Aren’t you surprised?
DORIS: That’s putting it mildly…
BILLY: We’re gonna take you out to dinner, Mom…
TOBY: Yeah!  To a Chinese restaurant!

Terror stricken, Doris runs back over to the door Nicholson’s office and opens it—only to find him ready to go home.  So Doris throws her body up against the door a number of times to keep Nick from seeing her relatives.

DORIS: You go ahead—I’ll meet you there…
BUCK: You don’t even know where we’re going yet!
DORIS: Wherever it is, I’ll meet you!

Nick continues to try and get out of his office, and he finally gives the door a hard push…sending Doris into the arms of her father.  Naturally, he’d like to know what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on.

NICK: Who’s the group?
DORIS: Well…I think that’s rather obvious, Mr. Nicholson…
NICK: Oh?
DORIS: That’s a little boy…that’s another little boy… (To Buck) And that looks to me like a grandpa…

The jig is up.  Doris asks Nicholson if they could have a powwow in his office.

DORIS: Mr. Nicholson…I think you should know the truth…that man’s my father…and those two little boys happen to be my two little boys…

“Though, again—it all depends on which season this is.”

DORIS: …and I love them…and I’m proud of them…and I’m ashamed of myself for trying to pretend that they didn’t exist…

You do know this speech is going to come back to haunt you when I start in on the Season 4 shows…right, Dor?

NICK: Mrs. Martin…
DORIS: Oh, I’m not through yet, Mr. Nicholson…I just want you to know that I like this job…and I think it could have been very nice…but I could never work for a boss who hates children the way you do…the only reason a mother works is for her children…and if you won’t let mothers work because they have children, then you’re not a very nice man…so I quit…I mean…that’s it…

Down off her soapbox, Doris goes back to the outer office where Buck and the kids have been waiting…and Nicholson follows on her heels.  “What makes you think I wouldn’t hire you because you have children?” he asks impatiently.  Doris explains that this is what she was told (taking special care not to rat out Myrna), but Nicholson isn’t stupid:  “Myrna, the office know-it-all—she knows absolutely nothing!”  (Then why isn’t her last name ‘Schultz’?)

No, Nicholson reputation for kid revulsion is all in Myrna’s silly little ladybrain:  “Some of my friends were even children once,” he explains.  “In fact, my mother told me that I even started out that way.”  To atone for all of the strife Doris has endured in this episode Nick asks her if it would be an imposition if he went along with them to dinner so that they can all get better acquainted.  “Great!” chirps Doris.  “With five you get egg roll!”  (Yeah, I did guffaw at this reference to Doris’ cinematic swan song.)  I’ll bet Nicholson thought differently after they got to the restaurant and Toby got a wonton stuck in his ear.

In the coda, Nicholson arrives at work and gushes to Doris about a swell time he had with the family at dinner the previous night—Doris is also pleased, particularly since her kids took an immediate like to her boss.

DORIS: You really do like children, don’t you?
NICK: Of course…
DORIS: Well…how do you feel about dogs?
NICK: Dogs? Dogs…why do you ask?

Well, Buck is in Oakland on business…and with the kids in school (and Juanita apparently awaiting deportation or whatever) Doris has to bring our favorite big-ass sheepdog Nelson to work.  I think this is the first time Dodo refers to the mutt by his official title (Lord Nelson) but she also calls him “Nellie” as the enthusiastic dog pins Nick to the door by leaping on top of him.  (Perhaps the footage of Nick being eaten was snipped for syndication.)

In its first season, The Doris Day Show was ranked #26 in the Nielsens with a rating of 20.7…but because it was moved to a plum timeslot following the most popular sitcom in the country in the 1969-70 season—we know it as Mayberry R.F.D.—the series would finish among the top ten shows later that year (#10), its highest ranking in the history of the series.  Next time, however, we’ll present an episode that will make you do some soul searching as to how Doris Day managed to be in the Top Ten for any season.  I do not exaggerate when I say “A Frog Called Harold” is one of the program’s worst…and not even appearances from one of TDOY’s favorite OTR actors and the brother of another TDOY thespic fave what starred in the great television private eye show of all time can save it.  So now that I’ve whetted your appetite for this awfulness, join us here for “A Frog Called Harold” on the next Doris Day(s).

4 comments:

Net, the Movie Blogger said...

I love the Doris a Day show! This was such a good one, too, as a transition to the city and away from the farm. Glad they didn't change too much. It's good they kept grandpa & the boys. I adore Doris a Day! Thanks for the look back on this episode!

Scott said...

Strangely, I read this post just two hours after learning from my wife that Kim Richards is now on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I don't think a love affair has ended this badly since Abelard and Heloise.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Strangely, I read this post just two hours after learning from my wife that Kim Richards is now on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

Well, I guess I'm wearing black for the rest of the day...

Stacia said...

Personally, I’d settle for funny.

It's not so much a sitcom as it is a sitdull. Wait, that doesn't rhyme...


I’ll bet Nicholson thought differently after they got to the restaurant and Toby got a wonton stuck in his ear.

HA!


I love Eldon Quick! He was one of my favorite MASH guest stars, though favorite has to go to Edward Winter, who was divoon.

I heard about Kim Richards on a gossip site I go to, and it made me really sad. The Witch Mountain movies were a staple for me when I was a kid.

So a little birdie has told me that Leroy shows up again in the show, and all I can say is he better have a bucket over his head so I can stand him.