Monday, July 12, 2010

Mayberry Mondays #9: “Mike’s Losing Streak” (12/02/68, prod. no. 0103)

I left a name off the daily Thrilling Days of Yesteryear birthday list because I just couldn’t believe the coincidence of that individual being the focal point of today’s Mayberry Mondays installment. Fifty-three years ago on this date, Buddy Foster—renegade brother of Academy Award-winning actress Jodie—was born.

Serendipity…thy name is Internet.

Honestly, what are the odds of the child actor who played town councilman/farmer Sam Jones’ cretinous progeny Mike celebrating his birthday on the same day of the week that we lampoon his shining hour on television, Mayberry R.F.D.? If by some odd chance Buddy is reading this—and I sort of hope he isn’t, because he could have a lawsuit on his hands—I wish him good wishes and victory laps on his 53rd natal anniversary. (Just don’t sue me.)

But before we delve into this week’s episode, let’s borrow a feature from TDOY chum Toby “His Toobness” O’Brien and pay a “Hat Squad”-type tribute to Buddy’s extensive show bidness resume (courtesy of the always reliable IMDb*):

Foxes (1980) .... Boy in Car**
"The Rockford Files" .... Terry (1 episode, 1976)
... aka "Jim Rockford, Private Investigator" - USA (syndication title)
- Drought at Indianhead River (1976) TV episode .... Terry
"Isis" .... Billie (1 episode, 1975)
- How to Find a Friend (1975) TV episode .... Billie
"The Six Million Dollar Man" .... Wolf Boy (1 episode, 1975)
- The Wolf Boy (1975) TV episode .... Wolf Boy
Sixteen (1973) .... J.C. Irtley
... aka "The Young Prey" - USA (alternative title)
"Alias Smith and Jones" .... Alonzo Taylor (1 episode, 1972)
- Bushwack! (1972) TV episode .... Alonzo Taylor
"Emergency!" .... Frankie Pierce (1 episode, 1972)
... aka "Emergencia" - USA (Spanish title)
... aka "Emergency One" - USA (syndication title)
- Dealer's Wild (1972) TV episode .... Frankie Pierce
"Adam-12" .... Rusty Cobb / ... (2 episodes, 1970-1971)
- Pick-up (1971) TV episode .... Rusty Cobb
- Log 85: Sign of the Twins (1970) TV episode .... Terry Pendleton
Black Noon (1971) (TV) .... Ethan
The Point (1971) (TV) (voice) .... Count's Son
"Dragnet 1967" .... James Chambers (1 episode, 1969)
... aka "Dragnet" - USA (syndication title)
... aka "Dragnet 1968" - USA (second season title)
... aka "Dragnet 1969" - USA (third season title)
... aka "Dragnet 1970" - USA (fourth season title)
- Burglary Auto: Juvenile Genius (1969) TV episode .... James Chambers
Angel in My Pocket (1969) .... Sammy
"Land of the Giants" .... Tedar (1 episode, 1969)
- Rescue (1969) TV episode .... Tedar
"The Andy Griffith Show" .... Mike Jones (2 episodes, 1968)
... aka "Andy of Mayberry" - USA (rerun title)
... aka "T.A.G.S." - International (English title) (informal short title)
- Mayberry R.F.D. (1968) TV episode .... Mike Jones
- Opie and Mike (1968) TV episode .... Mike Jones
"Hondo" .... Johnny Dow (16 episodes, 1967)
- Hondo and the Rebel Hat (1967) TV episode .... Johnny Dow
- Hondo and the Gladiators (1967) TV episode .... Johnny Dow
- Hondo and the Hanging Town (1967) TV episode .... Johnny Dow
- Hondo and the Death Drive (1967) TV episode .... Johnny Dow
- Hondo and the Ghost of Ed Dow (1967) TV episode .... Johnny Dow
(11 more)
"Green Acres" .... Boy / ... (2 episodes, 1966-1967)
- The Saucer Season (1967) TV episode .... Boy
- Culture (1966) TV episode .... Emory Durkin
"Petticoat Junction" .... Clint Priddy (1 episode, 1967)
- Temperance! Temperance! (1967) TV episode .... Clint Priddy

Very impressive, Mr. Kotter! Clearly somebody in the Foster household was working hard to make sure that the family had groceries on the table. Now, being only a poor, corrupt blogger I don’t have anything resembling large reserves of spending money to get Buddy a nice gift—so I guess this will have to do…

Yes! This always means that our old buddy and Mayberry’s resident folksy sage, Sheriff Andy Taylor, will be paying us a visit in this week’s episode. (But it’s his last one this season…so make the most of it.)

As our episode begins, we find village idiot Goober Pyle (George Lindsey) trotting jauntily down Mayberry’s main street, passing by a building on which a banner has been unfurled. It reads:

Goober passes by Mayberry’s resident fix-it savant, Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman), who’s passing the time by sitting on the bus stop bench and casually tossing a baseball into the air:

GOOBER: Well, hey, Emmett—got your ticket?
EMMETT: Yeah…all set…
GOOBER: I’m going to get mine now…
EMMETT: Hey, Goob…ever show you this? (He holds up the baseball) Signed by Ty Cobb in person
GOOBER: No foolin’!
(He reaches for the ball but Emmett pulls it away quickly in annoyance…)
EMMETT: The ink’s a little faded…see the “Y” right there…and there’s part of the “C”, too…
GOOBER (grinning): Ty Cobb, huh?
EMMETT: Yep…got this in 1924…game between the Yanks and Detroit…I had a box seat…when ol’ Ty walked by, I leaned out and said, “Will you autograph this ball for me?”
GOOBER: And he would?
EMMETT: Signed it right there and then…I said, “Thanks, Ty…”
GOOBER: What’d he say?
EMMETT: He said, “Not at all”…
GOOBER: Ty Cobb said that?
GOOBER: Wow…what do ya know…the bigger they are…Ty Cobb said “Not at all”…whew!

Tune in next week for another edition of “Brush with Greatness!” Actually, I don’t want to rain on Emmett’s parade…but from what I know about “The Georgia Peach” I suspect he wouldn’t have been that accommodating with an autograph. Then again, Emmett wasn’t in a wheelchair at the time, so who knows…

Inside City Hall, we find Mayberry residents eagerly buying tickets to the exhibition game, being sold by Sam (Ken Berry) and Sheriff Andy. The purchase of a ticket to the game guarantees admission, bus transportation….and a box lunch…

GOOBER: What are they puttin’ in the box lunch?
SAM: Gee, I don’t know, Goob… (Turning to Andy) Whatever they usually put in there, huh?
ANDY: Yeah…sandwich…
SAM: Yeah…piece of chicken…pickle…probably a cupcake…
ANDY: Hard-boiled egg…carrot salad…
GOOBER: I don’t like hard-boiled eggs and carrot salad…
SAM: There’s nothin’ we can do about that, Goob…
GOOBER: Gee whiz…wanna trade half a sandwich for a hard-boiled egg?
ANDY: Just forget it, Goob…

Dude, unless you distract him with something shiny, he’s not likely to forget it…in fact, he starts pestering a young boy named Freddie (Jimmy Miller), who’s just come in to buy a ticket. “I don’t see why I have to eat somethin’ I don’t like,” Goober whines.

Well, the saga of Goober’s nutritional intake is no doubt causing many of you reading this to become a bit bored, so let’s go back outside and see what’s up with Emmett. He spots young Arnold (Sheldon Collins), the poor kid from “Youth Takes Over” who’s been held back in school because of his inattentive father. (Plus, I hear he drinks.) Arnold has a bit of a limp, and explains to Emmett that he injured it sliding into third base. “Just like ol’ Ty Cobb,” Emmett muses—which means Arnold’s going to have to hear the Cobb story again…a tale I’m guessing he’s heard too many times before…

EMMETT (throwing the ball up in the air): Hey, Arnold…ever show you this?
ARNOLD: Yes, Mr. Clark…a couple of times

Smartass kid. Arnold goes inside the building to make his ticket purchases…and Goober’s still going on about that goddamn carrot salad. “I never liked carrot salad ever since I was a kid,” he pisses and moans. “You never, ever once seen me eat carrot salad.”

Goober. Let. It. Go.

After trying to cadge a half-sandwich from Arnold in return for his despised carrot salad (Arnold’s response is quick and to the point: “No”), Goober storms out of City Hall. Whizzing past Emmett, the fix-it man asks his friend what the problem is and Goober replies snippily: “You just would not believe it.” Freddie files out of the building, too, and before Emmett can show off that damn baseball he tells Emmett: “I’ve already seen it.”

There’s only a few more tickets left to sell, so Andy decides to call it a day (he’s probably got a still to bust up somewhere) and he passes our birthday boy on the way out. Mike asks his father if he’s made the arrangements for the ballgame, and Sam assures him that everything is hunky-dunky. But a crisis of epic proportions is peering over the horizon…

SAM: Hey, didn’t you wear your jacket to school this morning?
MIKE: My jacket? Yeah, I think so…
SAM: Yeah, I know you did…where is it?
MIKE: I…guess it’s in school someplace…Pa, can I buy a pennant at the game?
SAM: No, no…wait a minute…wait a minute…we’re talking about your jacket…boy, if you’ve lost another one, Mike—that one was practically brand-new
MIKE: I think it’s in school someplace…
SAM: Well, where in school?
MIKE: Well, I had it at lunchtime…I think somebody stole it…

Mike seems to be changing his story, which is never a good thing in Mayberry…because you sure don’t want be standing tall before the Man (who, in this case, is Sheriff Andy Taylor). As Sam continues his lecture, we learn that Mike is a careless little twerp—it’s the second jacket he’s lost in ten days, not to mention his roller skates, his history book, his left sneaker. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that…well, damn it, he can’t have nice things.

Mike makes a mealy-mouthed apology…and then quickly changes the subject, asking Sam for permission to go to the park with Arnold and Freddie because they plan to practice catching fly balls in case one is hit their way during the exhibition game. But Sam is laying down the law—if Mike loses one more possession, he’s not going to any game. (And he’ll spend the rest of the day in his room, listening to Emmett’s boring baseball stories and Goober’s incessant whining about carrot salad. Okay, I may have made that last part up.)

Mike and Arnold are at Casa Del Jones, where Mike is taking a watch out of its box and he explains to Arnold that he got it for his birthday. (Whoa…talk about art imitating life…) Arnold asks his younger friend if he should be playing baseball while wearing the watch but because Sam’s told his son to be home by 5:30: “I don’t want to take any chances. I’m in enough trouble already.”

Boy, you don’t know what trouble is. Because I don’t have to tell you people what happens, you’ve doped it out from the episode title. The little mook takes off his watch when it’s his turn to bat…and doesn’t realize he’s lost the instrument until he and Arnold ride up to Goober’s on their bikes (they’ve stopped off for some liquid refreshment…and some gay banter with two of the biggest numbnuts in Mayberry)…

GOOBER: Hey, Arnold…thought any more about the box lunch?
ARNOLD: No, not really…
GOOBER: Well, I’ve been doing a little investigatin’…and you wanna know what I found out?
GOOBER: I found out there’s gonna be cole slaw in there, too… (Deadly serious) I’ll trade you my carrot salad and hard-boiled egg for your cole slaw
ARNOLD: Why don’t we wait till the game?
GOOBER: I just hate to leave anything til’ the last minute

No, it’s because you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder…and I’ll bet dollars to donuts you’re sitting by yourself on the bus trip up and back. Arnold reminds Mike that he needs to get home, and when Mike looks at his wrist to check out the time…a sound like a muted trombone can be heard as far as Siler City…realizing that unless he finds that watch he’ll be grounded till he’s thirty, Mike and Arnold head back to the sandlot to retrace Mike’s steps, with Goober offering to drive them there. (Goober tells Emmett to keep an eye on the gas station—and don’t think the cold drink I was sipping didn’t come out my nose upon hearing that.)

We then cut to the Sheriff’s office, where Andy, having rifled through a lost-and-found box, informs Sam that no one has turned in a kids’ jacket. Sam is once again lamenting the fact that his idiot son would lose his head if it wasn’t attached, and Andy sympathizes, remarking: “I went through the same thing with Opie.” (And he probably did, too.) Sam asks Andy for advice on how to handle the situation and Andy says he needed to implement a little discipline—so Sam fills him in on Mike’s potential punishment should he lose another personal possession. “Well, you have to take a stand some place, don’t you?” is Andy’s observation.

At the same time on the playground, Mike, Arnold and Goober are frantically searching for the missing timepiece. Mike complains that they’ve been over and over the same plot of ground but Goober explains that he’s using a scientific approach, “like the state police.” Oh, brother…

ARNOLD: This is the place that you think you laid it when you came up to bat?
MIKE: I think it was around here…you remember, I took off my watch…and I put it over here someplace with my mitt…
GOOBER: Well, it’s too bad you didn’t think about it before you left the field…
(Mike looks crestfallen)
ARNOLD: Somebody must have come along and swiped it…it’s the only thing I can figure…

Somebody’s filched his watch. Somebody’s made off with his jacket. It’s like there was a freakin’ crime wave taking place in that burg!

MIKE: Pa gave me the watch because he said I was big enough to take care of one…
ARNOLD: Yeah…grownups put you on the spot like that…
GOOBER: Yeah…they just don’t understand

Asked by Arnold if Sam will carry out his threat to throw him out of the game, it’s all Mike can do to keep from saying “You bet your ass he will.” Mike has no other choice but to face the music—and Goober’s enough of a pal to offer him a lift in his truck so that Mike can listen to the inevitable tune…Goober and Mike pull up to the barn in time to see Sam carrying feed sacks inside, and Mike announces he’d better put his bike up because it looks like rain…

GOOBER: He’s a fine boy… (He leaps back slightly to avoid a sack Sam is carrying) I say, he’s a fine boy…
SAM: Oh, yeah…he sure is…
GOOBER: Almost perfect…of course, there ain’t nobody a hunnerd percent perfect…
SAM: No…no, of course not…
GOOBER: But I’d say Mike’s 95% perfect…and the other five percent, well, you gotta… (Dodging another sack) I say, you gotta expect…you see what I mean, don’tcha?
SAM: Well, no…no, not completely…
GOOBER: Well, I mean…somethin’ could happen to any of us and it ain’t our fault…because that’s the five percent where we ain’t perfect…
SAM: Yeah…excuse me… (He drops a sack onto the pile)
GOOBER: I know some kids that ain’t more than 80% perfect, and a couple ain’t more than about that? (He slaps Sam on the shoulder)
SAM: Goob…if there’s something you’re trying to tell me…
GOOBER: No, no…I’m just talkin’ away…I’ll see ya… (He turns to leave…)
SAM: Yeah…
GOOBER (As an afterthought): He’s a fine boy…
SAM: Oh, yeah…

Sam’s not a complete idiot or otherwise he’s never have been elected to…well, forget I said that. He knows that something is up, and presses Mike for information—so Mike fesses up about the loss of the watch. (“That’s the five percent Goober was talking about,” he explains to his dad.) But Mike’s a fine boy, and he’s ready to accept the consequences of not going to the game. “You can tell me all about the game, Pa,” he says sadly. “I’ll probably get another chance to see another professional ballgame when I’m about thirty…or fifty…”

Kee-rist…this kid has been taking guilt lessons from my mother. Sam is upset about having to be the heavy in this situation, and when Mike heads into the house to wash up for supper he grumbles: “Why couldn’t you have waited until after the game to lose something.”

The next day downtown, Sam does what looks to me like a little jaywalking across a street…and when Andy pulls up in the squad car, beeping his horn, I thought for a second he was going to toss Samuel into Mayberry's pokey. But no such luck—Andy’s heard about how Sam has put the kibosh on Mike’s attending the game, so I’m guessing Sara the telephone operator’s been hard at work again…Sam tries to explain to Andy that he did warn the kid, and you have to set limits—and Andy, being the epitome of perfect television dads, doesn’t put up much of an argument. No, Sam’s troubles start when he runs into Emmett—who’s still sitting on that goddamn bus depot bench (what, is the fix-it shop closed that week?)…

EMMETT: Hey, is it true you’re not lettin’ Mike go to the ballgame?
SAM: Well, yeah…but there’s a little more to it than that…
EMMETT: Baseball’s an all-American heritage…
SAM: Well, I know…I know…but…
EMMETT: When a kid sees his first pro game, it’s all apart of growing up into a normal, healthy American boy…

Translation: if you don’t let Mike attend this game, he’ll turn queer.

EMMETT: Think of the young men like myself who had the fortune to see the great Ty Cobb…
SAM: Ty Cobb…
EMMETT: What did they learn? Sportsmanship…honesty…integrity…base-stealing…

Emmett, the guy went into the stands one time and beat the snot out of a handicapped guy… “Okay…okay…but the next time you want your vacuum cleaner fixed, I suggest you take it someplace else!” Emmett snaps at Sam. (Yeah, you’re sitting on your ass at a bus station bench. Clearly you’re not swamped with business at this present juncture.)

Sam continues down the street and passes by Goober, who gives him the royal snub. “I do not speak to tyrants,” is Goob’s frosty response. (Geez, when even the town’s mentally-challenged lug nut twister won’t give you the time of day you know you’ve sunk as low as you can possibly go…the only other solution is to talk with Howard Sprague [Jack Dodson]—who fortunately isn’t in this episode, as I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.)

No, Sam’s going to have to settle for a chinwag with Arnold, who’s waiting to see him in the city council office. Arnold laments that it’s too bad about Mike losing the watch and that those things used to happen to him all the time—but that they disappeared with the onset of maturity. (Again, is there a reason this kid associates with a younger crowd other than to feel better about his mediocre scholastic progress?)

ARNOLD: You know…I generally don’t play with kids Mike’s age…but he’s a fine boy…

Well, there’s the answer to the question that’s been bothering me for eight episodes now…apparently Arnold’s a pedophile in the making. Let’s face it, Sam—you’re not going to come to a solution conversing with these bit players…you have to sit down with the Man himself:

ANDY: Sam? I once knew, uh…this, uh…this fellow, see…and he had kind of a similar problem…his kid kept coming in…late all the time…and, uh…so this fellow told his kid, he said “If you come in late one more time…then you’re gonna have to stay inside this whole next weekend…”
SAM: Yeah? What happened?
ANDY (chuckling): Well, the fellow forgot that that weekend was the kid’s first scout campout
SAM: Oh…and the kid came in late, huh?
ANDY: Well…it looked like he was gonna come in late…but he just barely made it…that is, after the fellow turned the clock back twice

And that fellow…was famed television dad Jim Anderson (Robert Young) of Father Knows Best. No, I’m just kidding about that—but Andy’s folksy anecdote gives Sam an idea…and also demonstrates why this program is going to be on a runaway bobsled to hell once he leaves for good.

SAM: So if I was to work it like this, uh, fellow…I’d find some way to get around this whole thing, huh?
ANDY: Yeah… (Quickly correcting himself) Well, I…I don’t know…I just thought you’d might like to hear what this fellow did…

Sam puts his plan into action. He stops by the shop run by Mayberry’s resident tightwad Elmo (character great Vince Barnett, in a part he also played on The Andy Griffith Show) and purchases the exact same watch that he originally bought for Mike’s birthday. Elmo has just what Sam needs, and remarks: “Guaranteed for one year…if you don’t lose it.” Then Sam takes Mike back out to the sandlot where his kid originally lost the watch, urging him to look around one more time to see if the timepiece turns up. Sam plans the duplicate watch in an area of tall grass, and then instructs Mike to search for the watch in the area where he’s just dropped it.

MIKE: It’s just a waste of time, Pa…
SAM: Look…you want to go to the game, don’t you?
MIKE: How can I go to the game? I’ve already lost something…
SAM: Well, yeah, but…see, the rule I made was that if you lost something but then you found it…you could still go…
MIKE: That’s not what you said…
SAM: Well, I meant to…anyway, if you find a watch—it’s not lost, is it?

There’s an amusing bit of physical comedy that occurs as both father and son comb the area where Sam’s dropped the duplicate timepiece—every time Mike gets to the area where it is, he looks up at his dad and complains the search is hopeless...and thereby overlooking the duplicate. It’s not until the third pass that Sam literally pushes the kid down into the grass so that he can see the watch…Mike jubilantly finds it, and all is well in Mayberry. (Yes, I realize this is cheating—but Sam is a widower, after all, and unless he and Millie decide to tie the knot real soon he stands a good chance of dying a lonely old man inside an assisted living facility while his son never comes to visit, still harboring a grudge about the time he missed out on seeing the big ballgame because of a stupid lost watch. It’s a Harry Chapin song waiting to happen.)

Notice in the above picture that Opie is not attending the game with Andy, who sits next to slow Arnold instead. Some guy who looks strangely like Arnold’s old man is sitting next to Emmett. I can’t tell you how much this saddens me. It’s like the entire eight years of The Andy Griffith Show have been a lie.

Anyway, Emmett—who’s now chosen to tell the excruciatingly dull Ty Cobb story to the guy who looks like Arnold’s dad…he’s like Howard, except without the ten-dollar vocabulary—ends up losing his precious souvenir ball when it’s knocked out of his hands and into the bleacher area below. As several of the hometown Mayberryians reach for a pop-up, Mike feels something strange in his glove…and pulls out the watch he thought he lost. He informs his father of this embarrassing development by showing him the evidence…

…and all Sam can do is sheepishly tell his son to watch the game. As this episode calls it a wrap, Sam and Andy return to Sam’s office after the game—Andy asks if Mike said anything more about the two watches, and Sam assures him he hasn’t…probably knowing that Mike’s cranial capacity is simply incapable of fathoming how there could possibly be two timepieces. Goober follows them in, munching on carrot salad.

ANDY: Is that that carrot salad?
GOOBER (with his mouth full): Yeah…wouldn’t nobody trade with me…I just hate it, too…
SAM: Why do you eat it?
GOOBER: I paid for it, didn’t I?

Then Emmett interrupts this meeting of the Algonquin Round Table wits and Andy asks him if he found his Ty Cobb ball. “It must have rolled away someplace,” Emmett disappointedly answers in the negative. But not to worry—he secured a new ball, one from a player named “Joe Benson”:

EMMETT (jubilantly): He was the second baseman on the other team…he autographed it for me…
SAM: Well, he’s just an ordinary ballplayer…
ANDY: Yeah…isn’t he the one who struck out five times?
EMMETT: That’s right…that’s a record!

Emmett bounces the ball on the floor, and Andy manages to catch it—as he also says a silent prayer that his guest star purgatory on this sorry spin-off has finally come to an end.

Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor has been MIA for the third consecutive week, so the tally on Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Mayberry R.F.D. Bee-o-meter™ continues to stall at four appearances so far for the first season. (I’m starting to worry about the old girl—you don’t suppose it’s possible that she fell and broke a hip or something, do you?) No, have no fear—I have it on good authority that she’ll return to our R.F.D. shenanigans next Monday for a little opus entitled “Sam Gets a Ticket.” I do hope you’ll join me.

*I am, as always, being as sarcastic as I can possibly be. Also—I eliminated his Mayberry R.F.D. appearances because I quite naturally don’t want to spoil any future shows for the vast reader in the audience.

**I guess this was Jodie’s meager way of returning the favor for letting her appear in the R.F.D. episodes “Youth Takes Over” and “The Church Play.” Stay classy, Alicia C.!

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Linda said...

Caught George Lindsay last night on a BANACEK episode ("Ten Thousand Dollars a Page") in a totally straight role.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Caught George Lindsay last night on a BANACEK episode ("Ten Thousand Dollars a Page") in a totally straight role.

Ooh, I would have liked to see that. Despite my incessant lampooning of the Goober character (Andrew Leal e-mailed me the other day, calling me his "Goober-hating friend") I do respect Lindsay as an actor, having seen him in serious turns on The Twilight Zone and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

During our reunion respite, I managed to catch an episode or two of The Andy Griffith Show on TVLand and was surprised to hear Goob referred to as "Goober Beasley." Those people at TAGS really had problems with continuity at times (example: Millie Hutchins on TAGS became Millie Swanson on R.F.D.).

Chris Vosburg said...

Honestly, what are the odds of the child actor who played town councilman/farmer Sam Jones’ cretinous progeny Mike celebrating his birthday on the same day of the week that we lampoon his shining hour on television, Mayberry R.F.D.?

Uh, is it one in seven? [laughing] Cheers, Ivan, ChrisV visiting (from the future!).