Monday, March 9, 2015

Doris Day(s) #34: “The Health King” (11/10/69, prod. no #0411)

I thought, at first, that I would be a bit shame-faced returning to the regular Thrilling Days of Yesteryear feature Doris Day(s)…because since there’s been a noticeable lull between this entry and the last one (near the beginning of January), the TDOY faithful could make a persuasive case that the feature can hardly be called “regular.”  I take full responsibility for this; granted, I have had other outside assignments competing for my time but I also succumbed to the seductive charms of Netflix in the interim.  I signed up for a free trial period about that same time…and became so enamored of it that I subconsciously forgot to bail when the trial ended, inadvertently ponying up for another month.  Suffice it to say, I have nipped that foolishness in the bud.  I cancelled the membership Saturday, and from now on will make a concerted effort to provide you with the top-quality material you’ve come to expect at TDOY, he said, covering his face with his hand so that you won’t notice I cannot say that without laughing.

Oh, and let me also put to rest the whisper campaign on Facebook that I “misplaced” the Doris Day Show DVD in an effort to keep from having to continue our weekly trips to Dodo’s world.  (The quotes around “misplaced” are courtesy of Facebook chum Andrew “Grover” Leal, by the way.)  The DVDs are intact and in fact, I made sure I put them in a place where I’d least be likely to lose them.  (Okay, wisenheimers—whoever said “So they’re not in your room?” stays behind to clap erasers.)  Still, after watching this week’s episode, I could scarcely be blamed for entertaining such thoughts: “The Health King” is just plain horrible, as is the installment that’s next on the calendar, “Doris the Model.”  I will need to summon forth all my mockery powers to get through “King,” though I will warn you right now it will be a short entry because…well, I’m only human after all.

As the curtain rises on Act One, we find ourselves in the familiar environs of Doris’ office at Today’s World (The NOW Magazine), where she is engaged in the usual chitty-chat with her pal Myrna Gibbons (Rose Marie):

MYRNA: …oh, but then on the other hand—I guess Sidney isn’t so bad to go out with…I just wish he weren’t so stingy, that’s all…
DORIS: A little close with the buck, huh?
MYRNA: Close? Heh…every time he takes his mother out to dinner on Mother’s Day they go Dutch treat…

Yes, that’s one of the many comedic highlights of this episode.  (And there’s no escape now.)  The comedy think tank is broken up by Doris’ boss, Michael “Nick” Nicholson (McLean Stevenson), whose entry into her domain usually results in Myrna’s scattering back to her desk with a lame excuse: “Uh…I’ll make three copies and get this right back to you, Doris.”  Both Doris and Nick exchange knowing looks, realizing that if the Internet had been around at that time, Myrna would spend most of her workday monitoring eBay auctions.  Nick then summons his assistant into the Today’s World inner sanctum: his office.

NICK: Now, Doris—you know the problem I’m having making a deal with Bruce Sanders…
DORIS: Oh…yes, sir…I do know…he’s really playing hard to get, isn’t he?
NICK: Right…I can’t even get to meet the guy!
DORIS: The least he could do is answer your phone calls
NICK: Exactly—that’s why I think it needs direct, positive action…
DORIS: Oh, I do, too…are you going to see him personally, sir?
NICK: No…you are…

Yes, that’s right—Nick has decided to pimp his secretary out to ensure the content in next month’s issue of The NOW Magazine isn’t painfully thin.  Doris is naturally a bit flustered by all this, falling back on the “I’m just a secretary” defense (“I couldn’t possibly approach him and negotiate with him on account on my insignificant ladybrain!”)—forgetting, of course, that in the first season episode “The Job” she was chatting it up with U.S. Senators and writing articles by her lonesome.

NICK: You’re more than a secretary…why, I’ve often thought of you as executive material!  Let’s say this first assignment is your first step up the ladder…

Watch out for that glass ceiling, though, Dor.

DORIS: Oh…uh…I appreciate stepping up the ladder, sir…I really do…but I don’t think…
NICK: Doris…this is very important to the magazine…if we can get the rights to serialize his book it will be a feather in my cap… (Pause) And yours, too!

Doris is uncertain what she should say to Sanders, so Nick tells her to use plenty of the old soft soap.  Nick then gives her directions to Sanders’ apartment at the “Crestview Arms,” which causes our heroine even more consternation:

DORIS: I have to go to his apartment?!!
NICK: Don’t worry!  Look, this guy is probably too busy building up his own body to pay any attention to yours

And that’s the guy you were pretend-married to, kiddo.  But Nick isn’t too far off the mark on that observation.  There’s a dissolve between the author’s picture on the back of the book to this shot of same admiring himself in the mirror:

This week’s guest is actor Michael Forest, whose classic movie and TV resume is rather extensive; the former amateur boxer guest-starred on such western series as Have Gun—Will Travel, Maverick, Cheyenne, Laramie, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, The Virginian, Bonanza…and on and on and on.  You might recognize him as the actor who played “Apollo” in the classic Star Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonis?”…but here at Rancho Yesteryear, we’ve always enjoyed Michael’s turn in The Dick Van Dyke Show installment “The Life and Love of Joe Coogan.”  (“Where’s this tall, good-looking PRIEST you wanted me to meet?”)  We also revere Forest for the many times he worked with TDOY idol Roger Corman (The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent, Beast from Haunted Cave, Atlas); he’s still with us (he’ll turn 86 in April) and is known primarily these days as a vocal actor in many European animated films.

Sanders hollers at his houseboy Ling to answer the doorbell—Ling is played by character actor Ernest Harada, who’s fondly remembered around these parts as drug lord Chung Mee (“We must all do what we must do, for if we do not, then what we must do does not get done.”) in the 1985 Tom Hanks-John Candy comedy Volunteers.  (A film that, admittedly, is an acquired taste for some…but I truly think it’s one of the funniest things Hanks has done—“It's not that I can't help these people…It's just I don't want to.”)  Ling lets Doris in, and we’re subjected to several minutes of Dodo trying to run the whole Today’s World article up the flagpole to see if Bruce salutes…while he’s busy lifting weights, jumping rope, working out on the punching bag/parallel bars, etc.  You know—the sort of physical stuff that doesn’t lend itself to good screencaps.  So we’ll fast-forward on all this: Bruce invites Doris for a nosh at Daley’s Health Food Store and Restaurant, since he’ll be there to sign copies of his book.

At Daley’s Doris and Bruce are served two heaping portions of a “cabbage juice cocktail” by Mary, a waitress played by Lavina Dawson (it’s a little hard to tell from the above screencap).  Dawson, of course, appeared in two episodes of Mayberry R.F.D. that I covered previously on the blog: “Sensitivity Training” and “The Harp.”

BRUCE (hoisting his glass): To your health…
DORIS: Thank you…

Whoooooooaaaaaa…that’s good cabbage juice!  Then Mary brings the main course.

DORIS: What is that?
BRUCE: Kelp salads!
DORIS: Kelp?
BRUCE: Seaweed—it’s just bursting with vitamins!

As Doris picks at her salad, you can hear a slow, comical version of I’m Popeye the Sailor Man on the soundtrack that’s good for a snicker.  Any time I see “health food” used as a comic device in these old TV programs I always think of the two scientists in Woody Allen’s Sleeper (1973): “Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.”

BRUCE: Don’t you just feel the energy surging through your body?
DORIS: I definitely feel something surging…

Doris attempts to swing the topic of conversation back to Sanders’ giving the okay for his book to be published in Today’s World, but she’s interrupted by one of Bruce’s fans (Joan Lemmo), who asks if he would be so kind as to autograph her copy of his book.  This works out swell for Dor, since she’s able to dump half of her revolting salad onto a nearby busboy’s tray while Sanders signs his John Hancock (“To Gladys: may you and your vital organs fine true health and happiness through this book…affectionately, Bruce”).  A second Bruce groupie, Harriet (Bunny Summers), also asks for an autograph…and that allows Doris to “finish” her kelp.

HARRIET: Excuse me, Mr. Sanders…but may I ask you a very intimate question please?
BRUCE: For you…anything
HARRIET: Is an occasional touch of sherry permissible…if a body doesn’t overdo it?
BRUCE: Spirits of any kind are injurious to the liver…
HARRIET: Oh, dear…I was afraid of that…

“There go my Sunday afternoons!” Harriet laments to Doris as she takes her leave of both of them.  After she vamooses, Bruce posits that he and Doris aren’t getting anywhere discussing business at the health food joint, and so he invites her over to his place for dinner—presumably for a light repast of wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk.  Doris is hesitant…but when Sanders points out that it will present an excellent opportunity to discuss his book, she reluctantly agrees to take one for the Today’s World team.  Bruce also notices that Doris sucked down that salad awfully fast.

DORIS: Oh, I told you I loved it—I’m a kelp fan!
BRUCE: Oh!  Well, I shouldn’t have ordered you such a small one—Mary!  Another kelp salad for the lady!

Cue the sad trombone!  Back in the office, Doris is dealing with an oopsy tummy due to her kelp lunch.

MYRNA: Ugh…Jane…what happened to you and Tarzan?
DORIS: Tarzan took Jane to lunch… (Lucy-like gobloots sound)
MYRNA: Which tree?
DORIS: Daley’s Health Food Store and Restaurant… (Nodding toward a plant) See that?
DORIS: It’s better than what I ate…

Nick enters the office, and that’s Myrna’s cue to make herself scarce (“I’ll be changing the circulation reports just as soon as Mr. Harvey gets through with them!”).  Nick needs a status report, and Doris explains that talking to Bruce is simply one-sided conversation—“I talked and he flexed.”  But Nick is very pleased about Doris’ dinner plans with the client, even though Doris thinks Bruce “is a little bit crazy.”

The scene shifts to Doris’ arrival at Casa del Sanders.  She is dressed to the nines, and discovers to her delight that she’s not going to have to eat any of that health food crap; Bruce has struck up the soft lights and music, and he even offers her a martini.  (So much for injurious livers.)

The next morning, Nick arrives at work…and naturally, he expects to hear how horrible his assistant’s evening was—but with a signed contract for the rights to Sanders’ book.

NICK: Look—I know it must have been a pretty rotten evening…but what about the deal?
DORIS: The deal?
NICK: Yes!  (Pause) Is that a look of shock or indigestion? (Silence) Let me guess…he wore a sweat suit…and he offered you the juice of a freshly squeezed kumquat…and spent the rest of the evening showing you clippings from his muscle beach contests…
DORIS (sing-songy): No, he didn’t…Mr. Nicholson, I had a fabulous evening…I really did…

Doris goes on to gush that the two of them had the best dinner (French wine!), and that they danced under the stars on the terrace of his man-cave.  Awww! Dor’s in love!  Strangely, Nick seems a bit put-out by this (well, what do you expect when you want your secretary to be a whore, Michael?).

NICK: Well, then you must have made some real progress…
DORIS: Oh, we did… (Stammering) Oh…y-y-you mean the offer!  Oh…well…we never got around to talking business…

“We were too busy takin’ care of business…amirite?”  Doris has realized that Bruce may be a musclebound douchebag, but he’s also a guy what digs poetry and music and philosophy and all that romantic jazz.  She also wants to take a couple of hours off early from work—but to go jogging in the park with Brucie, and not that kind of thing the Starland Vocal Band had a big hit about.  “I mean—you did say I should follow through on the deal,” she explains.  As the first act of our cautionary drama comes to an end, please permit us to pause until the next paragraph.

The Health King—Part the Second.  Nick enters Doris’ office with a request…and finds her visiting with none other than Bruce.  Doris makes the necessary introductions.

NICK: Well…we finally meet…hi…
BRUCE: Hi!  (The two of them shake hands) Are you left-handed?
BRUCE: That’s funny…with a weak right-handed grip like that…you sure you’re not left-handed?

No…he’s just a girly man who desperately needs for you to pump (clap) him up.   “Mr. Nicholson’s the wiry type, Bruce,” alibis Doris.  But after giving Nicholson a quick frisk, Sanders observes that Nick “could use a little bodybuilding.”

NICK: Thank you…my body and I get along just fine…
DORIS: Mr. Nicholson’s in much better shape than he looks!

“Well—he’d almost have to be!”  You’ve already deduced where the rest of the episode is headed, and it should explain why I’ve put off writing about it for two months; discussing a big swinging dick contest is really not one of my favorite things when it comes to The Doris Day Show.  Nick invites himself along on Doris and Bruce’s afternoon jogging excursion…

…and demonstrates that fine physical condition that he’s in even if you can’t tell by looking at him.

NICK (panting): I’m just…waiting for my second wind…
NICK: Look, you…two run along and I’ll catch up…
BRUCE (while jogging in place): You know, you should really give up smoking…
NICK: I don’t smoke
BRUCE: Oh, you don’t?  That’s a shame…it might help if you had smoking to give up…

Doris tactfully suggests that Nicholson go back to the office, but Nick is insistent on maintaining this charade—noticing that they passed a bicycle rental place during their jog, he suggests they ride bikes instead!  That seems amenable to Doris, and Bruce does a nice bit of comic business where he lifts Nick off the bench on which he was sitting and starts carrying him in the direction of the bike rental.

Sadly, Nick is not any more proficient at pedaling than he is at trotting…but he does do a bit of that nice physical comedy that would later become his specialty on M*A*S*H:

A quick cut to Nicholson’s office, where Nick learns that Doris is seeing Bruce again…and he’s not happy, though it’s difficult to tell where it’s due to feelings for his secretary or whether he sees himself as a surrogate father (he often refers to Doris’ dad Buck [Denver Pyle] as “grandfather,” which is a bit of a tell).

NICK: Well, where are you going?
DORIS: To the theatre…and to a discotheque on the Bay…
NICK: Well, you’re going to be up awfully late—aren’t you?
DORIS: That’s all right…because I’m staying in town…
NICK: In town?
DORIS: At Myrna’s!  That way I don’t have to drive home…

Nick is not down with this at all—again, keep in mind he’s the one who originally wanted Doris to tempt Bruce with her feminine wiles—and he tells her he’ll give her one more chance to seal the publication deal.  (He also tells her to be “careful”…though he amends that to being careful not to get her feet wet, since rain is in the forecast.)  There’s then a cut to Myrna, as she prepares her beauty regimen before she goes to sleep…and her telephone rings—it’s Nick on the other end.

MYRNA: Anything wrong, Mr. Nicholson?
NICK: No…no…I was just wondering…is Doris back at your place?
MYRNA: No…not yet…I guess she’s still out with the body beautiful…any message?

Nick tells Myrna it’s nothing important…and asks her not to let Dor know he called.  Meanwhile, back at Casa del Bruce—Sanders and Doris enter his apartment soaked to their panties due to that rain Nicholson mentioned earlier.  Sanders suggests she get out of those wet clothes (and into a dry martini), and proffers the use of one of his many, many bathrobes while her clothes are drying.  Doris is concerned by this—it’s late, and she really needs to head back to Myrna’s—but he’s concerned about her “catching her death of cold.”  “In the meantime,” he tells her, “I’ll fix you something deliciously medicinal to save you from double pneumonia.”  (Unless it comes from a keg around a St. Bernard’s neck…I don’t want it.)

The phone rings again at Myrna’s.

NICK: This is Mr. Nicholson again…I hope I didn’t wake you…
MYRNA: No…no…I had to get up and answer the phone anyway…

If I had a nickel for every time I used that line, I could retire from the blogging business.   Doris still isn’t at Myrna’s, and it’s two-thirty in the a.m.—which makes even the jaded Myrna a bit concerned about her pal.  (“How do you like that—here I am acting like a mother and I ain’t even married yet!” she wails.)  Nicholson tries to put on the brave face that he’s not worried about Doris, but then he decides to call Bruce’s apartment…and Doris happens to pick up.

Nick slams the phone down, and heads over to Sanders’ bachelor pad with blood in his eye…unaware that it’s all so innocent between Dor and Brucie, and what’s more—Sanders is going to let the magazine publish his book in the form of serialized articles.  Nick bursts into the apartment (soaking wet), and starts ineffectually punching Bruce’s manly physique.  Doris tells her idiot boss that Bruce has agreed to let them use the book.  (Bruce: “Yes—if you just stop hitting me for a minute we’ll shake on it!”)  They do, and of course Bruce turns Nicholson’s right hand into a collection of broken bones from the handshake.

Which leads to the episode’s punchline: Myrna brings in a tray of soup and other lunch-like items, and Doris takes it from her into Nicholson’s office.  She then begins to spoon-feed him because this:

Oh, someone hand me a needle and thread…I think my sides have split.  Next time, on Doris Day(s): a most worthy nominee for one of the series’ worst episodes…and the insane thing is, they went to this well not once but twice during the program’s five-year-run.  It’s the too-execrable-for-words “Doris the Model,” and if I haven’t scared you away already I cordially invite you to join me.


Stacia said...

Ugh. What episodes like these remind me of is the fact that just a couple years later, The MTM Show would have Mary going out on dates and coming home early and not come up with something wacky to explain how it was innocent... because it wasn't. Sadly, Dor would never go for those sorts of shenanigans.

Paul said...

Actually in Season 4 and 5, the character played by Doris became involved with two men played by Peter Lawford and Patrick O' Neal. It became very apparent she and Lawford spent many nights together on the show and she and O' Neal went off for a romantic weekend together.

Paul E. Brogan, Concord, NH

Stacia said...

Oh, I don't doubt it, but unless the IMDb is lying to me, those episodes were over a year after MTM premiered.

That said, it does surprise me she eventually allowed such doin's and goin's on, because I never would have expected it.

(I want to say "That Girl" even did away with the wacky explanations but it's been so long since I've seen it that I wouldn't dare rely just on memory.)

Stacia said...

Okay, I need to clarify what I said because of a little pronoun trouble. (Protip: never comment on a blog after you've taken your nightly melatonin.)

What I meant by "I don't doubt it" was "I don't doubt that someone saw the direction TV shows were going in and figured TDDS needed a little sexying up."

Speaking of, I hope she stops wearing those bows in her hair pretty soon.

Anonymous said...

The problem with TDDS was the production team, not so much Doris. Being thrown to wolves more or less by her late husband Marty Melcher she didn't even know she was signed to do the show, she had no creative input for the first season and she has been quoted many times saying she "hated" the format of the first season.

Doris took more creative control before the second season, the production was moved from the original soundstage, which Doris described as a dump at the back of the lot. Doris had the production moved to a new soundstage for interiors and the farm was rebuilt outdoors on the backlot.

Doris insisted that she have a job in a urban setting so the commuting to the city and getting a job was written in and the opening credits and cast changes were made. The second season proved to be the highest rated out of the five and has some of the best episodes.

Season three moves Doris the kids and dog to the city, this was (I felt) a natural progression for the show as the commute was long and it was time for her and kids to be back on their own. Now the show focused far more on Doris and less on the kids and new cast members brought in.

I do have issues with season 4 and 5. I understand that CBS wanted to go MTM route but they could have done that without the abrubt and I think bad choice to drop the kids and dog and the original office cast. I think that the show could have stayed with the season 2 and 3 cast and just brought in a steady love interest for Doris and a promotion to a reporter position which would have created some adventure episodes. This could have continued through season five with her love interest proposing half way through the season and a wedding for the final episode.

There a good episodes that I really enjoy from each season, but I think the real trouble was CBS and the producers who just could not get their act together after season 3.