Monday, June 21, 2010

Mayberry Mondays #6: “The Panel Show” (10/28/68, prod. no. 0112)

In the past two installments of our weekly Mayberry Mondays feature, we as viewers have been “Goober-less”—that is to say, Mayberry’s favorite idiot grease monkey, Goober Pyle (George Lindsey), has been nowhere to be found. Well, Goob fans can rejoice— as this episode gets underway, he’s returned from exile, driving up in his truck and hurriedly racing over to town council head/farmer Sam Jones (Ken Berry)…who appears to be working on some sort of farm-type equipment:

GOOBER: Guess what…you’ll never guess…
SAM: If I’ll never guess, there’s not much point in trying, is there?
GOOBER: Oh, come on, Sam—one guess…please
SAM: Uh…uh, you brought out an air mail special registered letter for me from New York… (Goober looks positively crestfallen as Sam has got it in one—Sam laughs) No, the post office called and said you were bringing it out…

“Some folks can’t keep their mouth shut,” whines Goober as he hands over the letter to Sam. He then peers over Sam’s shoulder as Sam looks over the envelope, prompting Sam to remark: “Uh, this…just might be personal, Goob…”

“We’ll never know if we don’t open it,” Goober replies stupidly, grinning and clapping Sam on the back. Sam then opens up the envelope and begins to pore over its contents:

SAM: Huh…from Jackson Television Productions…
GOOBER: Well, I never heard of them…
SAM: They…they put on a program called Talk It Up—it’s sort of a panel show, I guess…
GOOBER: Oh… (Sudden realization kicks in) Hey, yeah! Yeah, I seen that once when I couldn’t get Rudolph Rabbit…they spent a whole hour talkin’ about corruption in government…they was against it…
SAM (continuing to read): Well, what do you know? They want to put Mayberry on television!
GOOBER: They think we’re corrupt?
SAM: No…no, no, no—they want to have a debate on which is better…life in a small town or life in the big city…listen…listen to this…”We’d appreciate your appointing two of your most articulate citizens as panel members for the debate…all expenses to New York will be paid, of course…”
GOOBER (clearing his throat): Um…what’s “articulate”?
SAM: Oh, somebody who can talk—somebody who can put their thoughts into words…
GOOBER: Oh… (Laughing idiotically) What d’ya know—I’ve been articulate all my life and didn’t know it…

There’s my argument—let’s keep kids in school the entire year round. Naturally, such an event will require a special meeting of the Mayberry town council…

Cyrus Tankersley (George Cisar), Mayberry’s resident capitalist banker swine, asks: “What points do you think they’ll bring up in the debate, Sam?” “Well, they’re bound to touch on young people…and why so many of them are leaving the small towns for the big cities,” is Sam’s reply.

“I know why Elmer Dawes left town,” pipes up Goober. “He got caught cheating at cards.” (Apparently they’ll let anybody attend these council meetings.)

Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman), Mayberry’s own fix-it savant, wants to know who’ll be representing New York—and Sam replies that the distinguished author, Harding Capehart (Byron Webster), and none other than social doyenne Pamela Mason herownself will be on the pro-NYC side. “Pamela Mason—the jet-setter…oh my!” gushes Clara Edwatds (Hope Summers), Mayberry’s resident blue-blooded snob. So it looks like the town is going to have to bring forth its big guns. Cyrus suggests that Sam be on the panel but he begs off, explaining that he has too much to do on the farm. (Though not too busy that he can’t piss away most of an afternoon at Emmett’s.)

Tankersley then throws Clara’s hat into the ring: “You’ve always been able to hold your own when the subject of Mayberry comes up.” (Usually around “last call.”) “Because I believe in it,” is Clara’s reply…but she, too, will have to sit this one out—she’s entertaining a Mrs. Chambers…”of the Grand Rapids Chambers,” she adds, looking to score a few brownie points.

In a demonstration of how Mayberry is going to have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a couple of representatives for the program, it’s then suggested by Sam that Emmett sign on to Team Mayberry…since he’s actually been to the Big Apple…for the 1939 World’s Fair. The council seems amenable to Emmett making the trip…as long as he’s not licking the plug of some electrical appliance doodad he’s trying to repair while the show is on the air. But suggestions on someone to accompany the distinguished Mr. Clark seemed to have dried up.

“Hey, I know the right fella,” Sam interjects suddenly. “Of course! Howard Sprague…” (I guess Sam is thinking: “This clambake is going to be the most boring program in the history of television—so Howard will fit right in.”)

Everyone at the table is all for Howard’s inclusion—with the exception of Clara, who declares: “I have some reservations about Howard.” Sam can’t figure out why, in light of a poem Howard once wrote entitled “Mayberry the Beautiful.” “It’s the best poem ever written about this town,” argues Emmett, with Goober agreeing. (It’s also the only poem ever written about the town…but that’s not quite the point.)

Pressed further, Clara continues to trash Howard—particularly since he’s running late for the meeting and isn't there to defend himself. “He’s not a fighter,” she says firmly, and Cyrus is in agreement despite stating seconds earlier that Howard is “a real town booster.” (He’s a fence-sitter…what are you going to do?) “We’re facing a scrap in New York,” Tankersley further points out. (Um…you do realize that New York is home to the Jets and the Sharks, don’t you? You people don’t stand a chance.)

Clara brings up the uncomfortable but incontrovertible fact that it was Howard who “lost the reservoir rights to Mt. Pilot.” “He’s…too easily swayed,” she disputes. But Sam disagrees, and is convinced that Howard is the man for the moment—and he gets an “Amen” from Emmett and Goober, who observes, “Yeah, he’s tall,” thereby demolishing the carefully constructed arguments of a slightly ticked-off Clara.

As if it were scripted, Howard (Jack Dodson) enters the room and apologizes for being late, noting that “Sara,” Mayberry’s somewhat snoopy phone operator has briefed him on the developments regarding the New York matter. What he doesn’t know—and what Sam is only too eager to tell him—is that he’s been tabbed for the NYC jaunt to represent Mayberry on the TV show. “I’m floored!” he exclaims jubilantly. “Absolutely knocked off my pin, gang.” As Goober vigorously shakes his hand, Howard is told by Goob: “They asked me but I had to turn ‘em down.” (In your dreams, carburetor boy.)

Of course, Clara is still smarting from the selection of Howard: “It’s not to be taken lightly,” she grouses when Goober points out that Howard and Emmett are getting a free trip to New York. “Oh, I’m well aware of that, Clara,” Howard returns. “And in the words of the Spartan warrior going off to battle—I’ll return with my shield or upon it.”

“Articulate,” gushes Goober. (And to think, three minutes ago he had no idea what that word meant.) “New York, here we come!” exclaims Howard, as he extends his hand towards Emmett for a shake. (I’m surprised Emmett didn’t lick it.)

Ah, New York, New York—it’s a wonderful town. The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down. The people ride in a hole in the ground. And stepping out of a cab, looking like the proverbial fish out of water, are Howard and Emmett, rubes on the loose. The cab driver (Joseph V. Perry) informs Emmett that the fare is $1.90.

“One dollar and ninety cents?” asks Emmett incredulously. “Just from the Empire State Building to here? We can get a round trip ride from Mayberry to Mt. Pilot for that.”

Now, if this were really New York, the driver would be telling Emmett that he personally doesn’t give a f**k, while grabbing a certain part of his anatomy in the process. But since that sort of thing was frowned upon in TV shows in the late 1960s, he simply restates his request for $1.90. Howard, on the other hand, gets distracted at the sight of a skyscraper, musing: “Boy, would I like to have the window-washing concession in this town.”

Emmett coughs up the money and hands it to the driver, and Howard asks the cabbie if he wouldn’t mind taking a snapshot of the two of them with his camera. The cabbie glares at him and grumbles, “You’re out of your tree, Mac.” (Again, a real-life NYC hack would have responded with more profanity and crotch-grabbing. No wonder CBS would cancel this show in another three years—if the language had been a bit earthier it might have settled in for a longer spell.)

Emmett tells Howard in the politest way possible to stop acting like such a rube, and Howard counters that all he wants is a few mementos of their “knickerbocker holiday.” Howard doesn’t need any steenkin’ photos—he purchased a small replica of the Empire State Building while on the tour:

EMMETT: Hey, we’ve still got a little time before our meeting up at that TV place…maybe we’ll grab a bite and then wander around here a little…
HOWARD: Okay…I wonder where there’s a good place to eat…
EMMETT: We’ll ask somebody… (Emmett turns around and confronts the first person walking toward him—in his hand is his Empire State Building statue) Hey neighbor…
PASSERBY: Oh, uh…forget it, pal…I already got one…
(He continues to walk past Howard and Emmett)
EMMETT: They sure don’t bend over backwards around here…
HOWARD: Well, Emmett…these folks here march to a different drummer…you just gotta get used to the tempo, that’s all…

“Baghdad on the Hudson—that’s what O. Henry called it,” Howard continues to pontificate. Of course, Emmett, having been around Howard for longer than he would care to remember, has learned to walk away once the county clerk starts a love affair with the sound of his own voice—and has strolled over to an individual hawking newspapers and magazines in a newsstand on the corner. Emmett is trying to get recommendations for a place to nosh, and the newsman is telling him there’s a million places to choose from, “twenty-three on this block alone.”

“We just want some clean, wholesome food,” explains Howard. “This is our first time in New York.”

“I won’t tell a soul,” the man responds, clearly not impressed with Howard’s charming small-town manner. Emmett asks the man if he carries The Mayberry Gazette, and when he’s told no he responds: “Well, it says you sell out-of-town papers.” “Not that far out of town,” the newsman replies, continuing to make Emmett to look stupider…if indeed such a thing is possible. By this time, shutterbug Howard has been distracted by the sight of a woman walking an unusual-looking dog. He snaps a photo and then tells the woman, “I’ll be glad to send you a copy.” When she walks away without saying word one, Howard alibis: “She’s probably loaded with pictures.” (I was expecting her to knee Howard in the Mayberrys, to be honest.)

I’m sort of ashamed to admit this, but when I saw this guy in the next scene I said out loud: “It’s Christopher Reeve…and he can walk!” “He’s probably from the U.N.,” observes Emmett—but Howard tells him that the man’s attire is “the vogue now.” Turning back toward their newsstand pal, Howard bids him a fond farewell: “So long now—we’ll see you again.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” is the man’s sarcastic reply, free from profanity and crotch grabbing. “See? Just folks,” Howard assures Emmett, as they toddle off in search of foodage.

Back in Mayberry, Sam and Goober are in Sam’s office, with Sam stamping addresses on envelopes and Goober licking and attaching the stamps. Sam mentions that he’s going to bring his TV set by the office so that the town council can watch the show, and Goober reiterates that despite what Clara says, “Howard’s a man who can hold his own.” The ringing of the telephone interrupts their work, and Sam picks up the receiver to find Emmett on the other end.

Sam and Emmett talk for a bit, with Emmett reassuring him that he and Howard have the talking points down and that they won’t do anything to embarrass Mayberry. “We’re all primed, Sam—don’t you worry about a thing” he tells him. Well, there’s just one other thing—revealed when Sam asks Emmett to put Howard on the phone…

Hokey smoke. What a hell of a time to find out that Howard’s gay. “Hi, Sam—what’s shakin’, baby?” Howard emotes over the phone. (In retrospect, I don’t see how Sam or anybody in that town couldn’t have possibly seen this development over the horizon.) Okay, I’m kidding (slightly)—it’s just that Howard has adopted the age-old “when in Rome” method of tourism…which is not going to put him in good standing come the telecast.

“Well, this could be a big night for Mayberry,” observes banker Cyrus as Sam sets up the TV set for those in attendance. But Clara is still pissing and moaning about Howard’s participation as she arrives for the screening. “I still feel Howard is our weak link,” she states firmly (wait until she finds out about Howard’s new “lifestyle”—the suspense is killing me). “I can’t help it, but I do.”

“Clara…right here,” Cyrus motions for her to sit down beside him—and the way he says it would seem to suggest that he’s been spending time in the bank after hours with Mayberry’s resident spinster…and the discussion hasn’t been the return rate on certificates of deposit, if you know what I mean. “Clara…I don’t see no reason to keep bad-mouthin’ Howard,” Goober rises to defend his pal. “He’s the best speaker in town, and he knows more words than anybody, too.” “That is not the issue,” Clara returns snippily…but Goober just turns his back and takes a swig of his root beer.

In the television studio, preparations are being made to go on the air (the call signs on that camera are a bit hard to read but the station is apparently KSOK—which seems to suggest that it’s about as close to New York as I am to the moon)—and it soon gets underway, hosted by a Mr. Jackson (Oliver McGowan), who not only doesn’t introduce himself in his opening statement but apparently has no first name:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen…welcome to Talk It Up, the program which openly debates the controversial problems of the day…tonight, our subject is the small town versus the big city, and we’re here to examine carefully the advantages and disadvantages of each…our panelists are all well qualified to shed some light on this subject…on my right—representing the big cities—are the noted writer, Mr. Harding Capehart…

…and the well-known and very beautiful Miss Pamela Mason…who has probably graced more social functions than anybody in this city…

“I’ll bet that’s a wig,” snaps Clara upon seeing Ms. Mason on the tube. (Meowwwr!)

And on my left are two gentlemen from Mayberry, North Carolina who are here to defend the advantages of the small town…Mr. Emmett Clark…

…and Mr. Howard Sprague…

Howard gives the camera a great big wink as if to say “I’m out of the closet and there’s nothing anybody can do about it!” “Look at the way Howard’s dressed,” Cyrus points out.

“That’s a dentist’s jacket,” offers up Goober, “though I didn’t know they made ‘em in colors…”

JACKSON: Historically, the small town predates the big city by several centuries…the…small town is, and always has been, the center of an agricultural community…this, however, would hardly explain the exodus which is now taking place…uh, Mr. Capehart…have you an explanation for this…flight…to the large urban centers such as New York here?
CAPEHART: Well, it’s very simple…this is where it’s at…
EMMETT: Where what’s at?
CAPEHART: Everything…whatever it is you want…the arts, commerce, entertainment…it’s all right here, this is the now scene

It’s my happening, baby…and it freaks me out!

HOWARD: Oh, I question that…I mean, I question the fact that these are the exclusive property of the big cities…after all, we have our own cultural riches in the smaller towns…
CAPEHART (chuckling): Such as?

Howard fumbles for an answer to this…but fortunately Emmett is there in the clinch. “The high school has put on The Student Prince every year for fourteen consecutive years…it’s always a smash.” Well, there you have it—I mean, once you’ve treated yourself to Prince, Hair and The Boys in the Band pale in comparison.

Of course, it’s Pamela—the former Mrs. James Mason—who initiates the successful line of attack by addressing the issue of Howard’s wardrobe…she politely avoids the fact that’s decked out like a hairdresser and instead comments that he purchased his fag threads in the Big Apple (“Cy Sandler’s, I think the name was,” Howard puts in helpfully) rather than the remainder racks at Weaver’s Department Store in beautiful downtown Mayberry. Howard concedes that the societal doyenne has a point, much to Emmett’s mounting irritation:

EMMETT: I’d like to ask Mr. Capehart something…have you ever spent any time in a small town?
CAPEHART (disdainfully): No, not really…
EMMETT: Well…we’ve got some advantages there that don’t necessarily come under the heading of culture…what about peacefulness…friendship…being able to say “Howdy” to everybody who walks down Main Street…
CAPEHART: But is this sufficient to give a person a full, well-rounded, zestful life? I think not

I should point out that the only other person on that panel gayer than Howard is the effete Mr. Capehart, who exhibits his stereotypical homo behavior by smoking a cigarette with—gasp!—a cigarette holder. Nevertheless, Howard again concedes that Capehart has a point…which doesn’t sit too well with the Mayberry folks watching back home.

“He’s arguing with his own teammate!” exclaims Clara in disgust. “All he’s done up to now is concede—he ain’t said one good thing yet,” Goober kicks in…apparently having been won over to Clara’s point-of-view. Pamela then administers the coup de Gracie by rhapsodizing over the heady social life available in the Big Apple, with a hypnotized Howard hanging on to her every word. “Turn it off,” a dejected Clara orders Goober, who dutifully complies with her request.

“Well, maybe they slipped somethin’ in his coffee…or…or he’s been brainwashed,” Goober chimes in. “I wouldn’t put nothin’ past them New Yorkers.” (And lo and behold, a Tea Partier is born.) “Mayberry…for the first time in her glorious history now knows the meaning of defeat,” wails Cyrus. (Oh…I’ll bet it’s not the only time.) The writing is on the wall—this crowd has turned ugly…and that’s really not much of a turn…

GOOBER: You was the one who pushed Howard, Sam…
SAM: Now look, Goob…
CLARA: And his poem…”Mayberry the Beautiful”…a sham, a shallow offering…it certainly never came from the heart
(The others murmur agreement)
SAM: All right, all right, all right everybody—just hold it a minute…now what happened to Howard could have happened to any one of us here…yeah, any one of us…a person can’t just go to New York for the first time and say it’s nothing…it’s got to be an exciting city with all those things going on all over the place…I’m sure it’s not for me or for any one of us here but that doesn’t mean it can’t get a grip on you…which is exactly what happened to Howard—now what do you want me to do, shoot him?

You know, I was joking about Howard being gay—but after this outburst, I’m not so certain I wasn’t right to begin with. This episode gives us a clear picture of the tolerance to be found in small-town communities…

“He had a mission…and he failed,” trumpets Clara.

“And it was a nationwide broadcast,” adds Cyrus.

“In color,” interjects Goober…for no other reason except that…well, he’s Goober, ferchrissake…

The scene shifts to the cultural hub of Mayberry, Emmett’s Fix-It Shop, where Howard bemoans his new pariah status in the sleepy little town. Emmett reassures him that this will all blow over soon, but Howard remains unconvinced. “I did a terrible thing, I know, but…well, I just got carried away with the glamour, and Pamela, and…uh, I mean, Miss Mason…and all the things that go on up there.” “You were like a kid with a lollipop,” observes Emmett, once again displaying that odd oral fixation of his.

“Sounds crazy, but…looks like I’m through in this town,” a dejected Howard decides…as if he’d ever actually “made it” in the first place. And with that, Goober enters Emmett’s with a decidedly icy wind blowing in after him. Goob asks Emmett if he’s planning on going bowling that evening, and when Howard points out that he bowls, too, his once vociferous defender gets a bit snippy: “Oh, you do, do you? Well, I didn’t know you folks from the Gay White Way went in for bowlin’…you’re all so busy with openin’ nights and El Morocca and all that stuff…”

“Goober,” Howard calls after him…but Goob’s got one more shiv for Howard’s back: “I thought bowlin’ was just for us hicks,” he says pissily, as he turns to go out the door. (Well, he said it…I didn’t.)

The scene then shifts to Howard doodling on a legal pad inside the county clerk’s office, with Sam coming in to interrupt Howard’s leisure activity. Howard thanks Sam for at least acknowledging his presence with a “Hi, Howard.” Sam gives him the same bullpuckey that Emmett was trying to peddle…and Howard seems uncomfortable that Sam is looking idly at his legal pad scratchings, to the point where he tears off the top sheet from the pad in Sam’s hands and hurriedly tosses it into a wastebasket. He then makes a lame excuse about having to mail out some reports…and once Howard departs, Sam finds the wadded-up document and begins to read what’s written on the paper…

Sam has called for another meeting at the council office, and the attendees are curious as to the reason why. “If it has anything to do with Howard Sprague, I’m not interested,” Clara sniffs haughtily. Howard then enters, and finds himself as popular as an outbreak of anthrax. Sam insists that Howard have a seat, which he does at the other end of the table. Sam then reveals that he has in his hands an edition of The Manhattan Times, which contains a column in the television section concerning an item that Sam passed along to its editor:

SAM: “We received a letter from Mr. Sam Jones, head of the city council in Mayberry, North Carolina, who felt that we’d be interested in a poem recently written by a visitor to our city, Howard Sprague…Mr. Sprague was the Mayberry representative who came off sounding like the New York Chamber of Commerce when he appeared on the Talk It Up show…apparently Mr. Sprague’s had a change of heart…he’s written a poem about Mayberry, which Mr. Jones has kindly sent along to us…”
HOWARD: Sam, how did you…
SAM (raising his hand to interrupt Howard): “I’m sure the verses will strike a chord with anyone whoever left a small town for the big city…Paradise Lost…by Howard Sprague…”

Um…it’s been a while since I sat inside a classroom…but I’m pretty certain that was written by John Milton, Sam…

I think I know how Adam felt
When paradise he left behind
For I, too, tossed an Eden away
That many others would like to find
O golden town of Mayberry
Your every vista I recall
I cherish every sight and sound
Especially since I’ve lost them all
I’m lost; forlorn; a homeless ghost
I seem to walk in endless rain
I find no smiles to meet my gaze
It’s true; you can’t go home again
I’d shout it from the rooftop
Friends, although my sin was black
I am repentant; all I ask is
One day—you will take me back

No one says a word…because if that isn’t proof that Howard is a flamer, nothing more will convince you. Finally, Goober breaks the tension by clapping enthusiastically and shouting, “Author! Author!” as though he knew what it meant.

“Gee…I don’t know what to say,” replies Howard, on the verge of tears. “I think we’re the ones who probably should be saying something, Howard,” Clara observes ruefully. “My deepest apologies…we were just…unthinking…”

Naturally, Cyrus has to kick in his pair of copper pennies, too. “It’s like Sam was always sayin’…it could have happened to any one of us…”

Goober announces that he’s buying root beers for everybody—so I guess that means someone needs to alert Sheriff Andy (who’s not mentioned in this episode, by the way) to call in the state militia in case this party gets out of hand. Doing everything but lifting him on their shoulders, Howard is escorted out of the town council office by the assembled throng to the strains of that ol’ familiar “Mayberry March”…but he stops at the doorway to confront Sam. “Diggin’ into my wastebasket, huh?” he asks.

“Can I help it if I’m nosy?” Sam responds with a smile.

There’s not much of a coda to this one—Sam (and I know this will come as a shock) is once again at Emmett’s, observing that things are back to normal and that the Mayberry community has finally accepted Howard for what he is. However, another problem appears to be looming over the horizon…

I’m beginning to think these religious right-wing types may be right about homosexuality being contagious. No, all seriousness aside, Goober’s borrowed Howard’s outfit (“These coats are good…you don’t have to wear a shirt under ‘em”) because he wants to impress a date (is Dorothy still dating this moron?) …and he also asks Emmett if he can borrow Emmett’s Empire State Building souvenir so that he’ll be able to show her that he “knows a lot of what’s going on outside of Mayberry.” (Oh, I’ll bet the hours will just whiz on by,)

Aunt Bee is absent from this episode, so Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Mayberry R.F.D. Bee-o-Meter™ is stalled at four show-ups this week. Actor George Cisar makes what is his second of four appearances as town banker Cyrus Tankersley on the series—he racked up an equal number of showcases on The Andy Griffith Show (according to the oh-so-accurate IMDb) with “The Lodge” (09/19/66), “Floyd’s Barbershop” (02/13/67), “The Statue” (02/2067) and “Goober the Executive” (12/25/67). The IMDb also states that Cisar played Tankersley in last week’s R.F.D., “The Copy Machine”—I didn’t see him in it, but that doesn’t mean that the IMDb is necessarily wrong…it’s pretty obvious from the running times on these shows that they were edited for syndication (“Panel” runs 21:54, and most of the R.F.D.’s had a running time of 25-26 minutes) and it’s possible Cyrus ended up on the cutting room floor (if I had to hazard a guess, he was probably approached by Sam’s idiot son Mike and his boxing sidekick Harold about purchasing some copies.) Anyway, Cyrus will be back in next week’s Mayberry Mondays installment…as well as a certain town sheriff whose identity I’ll protect as a surprise.

Bookmark and Share


Andrew Leal said...

I was hoping that wasn't *the* Pamela Mason and it was all a naming coincidence...

I'm a big "Andy Griffith Show" fan, but even then, forget the jokes folks make about the lack of black people and Andy being to blame: one Miss Clara would be the obvious leader of any Mayberry lynch mob. Though one of the few color episodes I like is the one where the church needs a new organ, and when everybody fails to pony up, she winds up charming a widowed older farmer with the way she plays his instrument (no, not that way, Ivan).

Of course, Howard was prissy and did have mother issues... but a guest appearance by Jack Dodson on "Barney Miller" (some time *after* one in which he'd played a prostitute's john) suggested that this was in fact what had become of Howard, and he wasn't gay, just psychopathic! Dodson's character (presumably Howard moved back to NY) is arrested for the murder of his barber. He's a natty dresser driven to a rage when the barber failed to clip his sideburns evenly (if it weren't for the gap in broadcast years, I'd suggest we finally found out what happened to Floyd!) Actually, in all seriousness, while the two-part Barney Miller ep "Homicide" is kind of bizarre and an uneven mix of comedy and tragedy, it features the best performance I'd ever seen Jack Dodson give, and makes up a lot for Howard. It felt to me more like, post Barney's departure, the writing staff just couldn't create interesting new characters, as witness not just Howard but Emmett, bland Sam, Jack Burns' Warren Ferguson, Cyrus Tankersley [compared to Ben Weaver in the early TAGS days, brilliantly played by Will Wright], etc. Writing team Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell left when Knotts did, scripting his first three solo films at Universal (and Andy's Angel in my Pocket), Harvey Bullock left not long after, and so on. The show just didn't have the prime writers by then, and this carried over into "RFD" (which also, like the much later but shorter lived "AfterMASH," also just had that whole "hey, we don't want to waste good leftovers" feel, accomodating a few lingerers).

"Yojimbo_5" said...

Ya ever seen the Mayberry RFD that's a knock-off of "Twelve Andry men" with Aunt Bee the only jury hold-out not wanting to convict an accused thief...played by Jack Nicholson. He has one line that always makes me smile: "Thenk you, Aunt Bee...fer...believin' in me."

It's a hoot.

Andrew Leal said...

That's not actually an RFD, but from the final season of "Andy Griffith Show." But it says a lot that, by that point and with the Bee-centric plotting, there's not a lot to distinguish one from the other, outside of Jack Nicholson popping up of course.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

I suppose I should state for the record that even if Howard were gay it would matter very little to me personally. My motto is live and let live--or as Stephen Stills once musically opined: "If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with." It's just that I couldn't let Howard's Nehru jacket go without comment--and though I'm sure it was purely intentional, he does look a little "light in the loafers," as my father often observes.

I haven't seen the Barney Miller you referenced, Andrew (or if I have, it's locked in my mental file cabinet somewhere) but I do remember seeing Dodson reprise the Sprague role in a particularly uproarious segment of It's Garry Shandling's Show.