Spin Again Sunday: The Muppet Show Game (1977)

muppet show 1977 box

Almost two years ago,  I featured a 1979 Muppet Show game. Today’s version, from 1977, is special to me because I actually owned it as a child. (I probably received it as a gift for my ninth birthday.)

Today’s Game: The Muppet Show Game

Copyright Date: 1977.

Manufacturer: Parker Brothers.

Box: A colorful photographic array of Muppets and a large Muppet Show logo must have made this eye-catching in the toy aisle.

Recommended Ages: 7 to 14.

muppet show 1977 board

Board: It is meant to resemble a stage, with dressing rooms at the bottom and footlights at the top. Most squares are blank floor spaces, but others identify starting and stopping points for various “sets.”

This is a "set" for Veterinarian Hospital.

This is a “set” for Veterinarian Hospital.

Various Muppets (including my daughter’s favorite, Janice)  show up in illustrated form at the very top of the game board. This illustration is similar to the one on the 1979 game box.

muppet show 1977 pawns

Pawns: These feature double-sided photographs of eight characters. They make up color-coded teams, and each player manipulates both members of his or her team.

Object: Getting your two pawns, plus the color-coded set associated with them, from their starting spots on the board to their ending spots near the footlights.

muppet show 1977 board closeup

Here you can see dressing rooms, where characters start the game, as well as two starting points for sets.

This close-up shows ending spots for several characters and sets.

The photo above shows ending points for several characters and sets.

Game Play: A Muppet Show “script” guides players on their journey.

muppet show 1977 spinner

First, they use this double spinner to determine their act and scene numbers.

muppet show 1977 script

Then, they look that combination up in this script, which tells them how many spaces they can move either their set or one of their Muppets. They can move forward, backwards, sideways, and–if specifically told to do so–diagonally. Occasionally, they get a chance to move another player’s Muppet. They can also try to block other players with their own Muppets.

My Thoughts: This is a simple game, but the character pawns and unique way of moving them makes it fun to play.

Other Spin Again Sunday posts you might enjoy:

Bewitched

Family Affair

The Bride Game

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 13, “Family Plan,” 12/30/1968

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Written by: Austin and Irma Kalish. Directed by: Charles Barton.

To set the scene for this episode, we open with ample ski resort footage.

Winter has finally arrived somewhere in the vicinity of New York I guess.

Winter has finally arrived somewhere in the vicinity of New York, I guess.

Inside the ski lodge, Bill is sipping cocoa with his latest squeeze.

Michelle is apparently quite a snow bunny. She honed her skills, she says, while living in Norway.

Michelle is quite a snow bunny. She honed her skills, she says, while spending time in Norway.

Before committing to a man, she adds, she has to “see how he slaloms.” That sounds like a euphemism to me.

Bill’s a less experienced skier, but he’s game.

They head back out onto the slopes like this.

They head back out onto the slopes like this.

Unfortunately, they return like this.

Unfortunately, they return like this.

Michelle blames herself for Bill’s accident. “It was the worst moment of my life when I saw you heading for that tree,” she says.

"It wasn't so good for me either," Bill replies.

“It wasn’t so good for me either,” Bill replies.

It’s nice to see he can handle a broken leg without losing his trademark laconic wit.

Back at home, the Davis family gathers around Bill.

He invites them to sign his cast, a practice he explains is an old American custom.

He invites the kids to sign his cast, a practice he explains is an old American custom.

Is it really just an American thing? And how does Bill know that? And why does he feel the need to explain it to Buffy and Jody, as if they are visitors to these shores? Anyway, I think it’s cute that French signs, too.

The kids are a bit surprised to see that someone else got to sign first.

The kids are a bit surprised to see that someone else got to sign first.

I wonder if that is really Brian Keith’s foot. Considering Keith’s abbreviated shooting schedule, it is probably a stand-in foot.

The kids are eager to nurse Bill back to health and pledge that they will drop all their other activities to do so.

Jody makes a valiant attempt to include school in the activities they sacrifice, but Bill doesn’t go for that. The kids promise, though, that they will spend every free minute at home.

French is delighted by this turn of events.

French is delighted by this turn of events.

Later, Michelle stops by to check on Bill.

Her flower arrangement is garish, but I love her whole ensemble: the coat, the gloves, the purse and the dress underneath.

Her flower arrangement is garish, but I love her whole ensemble: the coat, the gloves, the purse, and the dress underneath.

Wait…why is she carrying that suitcase?

We learn why when she announces that she's moving in to care for Bill.

We learn why when she announces that she’s moving in to care for Bill.

Well, that’s a bit pushy, isn’t it?

The kids don't react well to this idea.

The kids don’t react well to her idea.

Neither does Bill, for that matter.

Neither does Bill, for that matter.

It takes quite a bit of convincing on his part to dissuade Michelle from her plan. She’s unfazed as he enumerates the logistical problems, but she reluctantly accepts the idea that her taking over Bill’s care might hurt the kids’ feelings.

In the following days, the kids devote themselves to Bill.

Jody reads him a "Dick and Jane" level story about a boy and his duck.

Jody reads him a “Dick and Jane”-level story about a boy and his duck.

This is a bit of a struggle for Jody, even though he’s in third grade.

It's also a struggle for Bill to listen to without dozing off.

It’s also a struggle for Bill to listen to without dozing off.

When French stops by to check on him, Bill insists he stay and listen to the story, too.

French couldn't be happier. He supplies the answer to "What did the duck say?" with a delightfully deadpan, "Quack, quack."

French couldn’t be happier. He supplies the answer to “What did the duck say?” with a delightfully deadpan, “Quack, quack.”

Meanwhile, Buffy wakes Bill every 15 minutes to give him his "pills"--actually candy.

Meanwhile, Buffy wakes Bill every 15 minutes to give him his “pills”–actually candy.

When Bill says he’s getting a stomachache from all the candy, Buffy cheerfully announces that she will give him candy stomachache pills.

We don't find out where Buffy got this adorable nurse outfit. Halloween costume? I would have loved to have one like it.

We don’t find out where Buffy got this adorable nurse outfit. Halloween costume? I would have loved to have one like it.

Cissy gets her own chance for some role-play, as she assumes secretarial duties.

While Buffy plays nurse, Cissy plays secretary. Bill dictates an important letter to a prospective client.

To her, Bill dictates an important letter to a prospective client.

If you are wondering why Bill didn’t just dictate the letter to Miss Lee over the phone…well, Bill will soon be wondering that himself.

Meanwhile, Buffy gives Bill a manicure, which involves stabbing him in the knuckles with her scissors.

Meanwhile, Buffy gives Bill a manicure, which involves stabbing him in the knuckles with her scissors.

Frighteningly, she promises to help him shave later.

Bill also gets to hear Jody read another literary masterpiece, "There's a Mouse in My House."

Bill also gets to hear Jody read another literary masterpiece, “There’s a Mouse in My House.”

Later, French brings him a telegram from his prospective client.

The client has accepted Bill's bid of $350,000.

The client has accepted Bill’s bid of $350,000.

In response to this seemingly good news, he bellows for Cissy.

In response to this seemingly good news, he bellows for Cissy.

He makes her get her notes and double-check his bid. It was actually $530,000, which she transposed in typing the letter.

Oopsy.

Oopsy.

At least Bill admits that he should have checked over the letter before he signed it. Ya think?

For fans of Brian Keith's head rubs, this episode is epic.

For fans of Brian Keith’s head rubs, this episode is epic.

The next day, the kids return from school to see that French has taken matters into his own hands.

He's posted visiting hours of 6-8 p.m.

He’s posted visiting hours of 6-8 p.m.

Pulling the kids aside for a private chat, he convinces them that leaving Bill alone is what's best for him.

Pulling the kids aside for a private chat, he convinces them that leaving Bill alone is what’s best for him.

When Bill hears about French’s plan, however, he seems disappointed that the kids gave up caring for him without a fight.

A surprisingly needy Bill decides to move Michelle in for full-time care after all.

A surprisingly needy Bill decides to move Michelle in for full-time care after all.

Meeting his need for round-the-clock attention soon wears on Michelle, however.

She can't fulfill his request for more pillows because she's just done her nails.

She doesn’t want to read him engineering journals, and she can’t fulfill his request for more pillows because she’s just done her nails.

She can, however, dial the phone to make dinner plans with a certain Carl.

She can, however, dial the phone to make dinner plans with a certain Carl.

Later, Michelle returns from shopping to find that the doctor has moved Bill into the living room.

There, they have a talk about how relationships sometimes falter when people spend more time together.

There, they have a talk about how relationships sometimes falter when people spend more time together.

“It’s easy to live with the things you like about somebody, but I guess it’s getting to live with those things you don’t like that makes for those happy marriages,” Bill observes.

Both Bill and Michelle are happy to have dodged a bullet. She says she wouldn’t have wanted to spend her whole life catering to him, and he says he would expect more from a wife than doing her nails and shopping all the time.

Michelle also says that being around the kids convinced her that she isn’t ready for parenthood. I wish we could have seen their encounters!

Soon, Bill is on the mend and wearing a "walking cast."

Soon, Bill is on the mend and wearing a “walking cast.”

He tells French to let the kids start caring for him again.

"A man can always use a little tender loving care," he says.

“A man can always use a little tender loving care,” he says.

Commentary

An episode that involves the whole Davis family is always welcome. This one has a lot of amusing non-verbal reactions from Bill and French. I also like that Michelle isn’t portrayed as a villain. She and Bill simply have different temperaments, and they are both okay with that.

Guest Cast

Michelle Reid: Nancy Kovack.

Kovack’s mini-bio on IMDb.com is interesting: “A native of Flint, Michigan, Nancy Kovack was a student at the University of Michigan at 15, a radio deejay at 16, a college graduate at 19 and the holder of eight beauty titles by 20.” She made five appearances on Bewitched, including three as Darrin’s first fiancee, Sheila Sommers. A 1969 guest appearance on Mannix earned her an Emmy nomination. That same year, she married conductor Zubin Mehta, and they are still together today. I guess they have one of those happy marriages Bill was talking about.

 

Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 12, “A Nanny for All Seasons,” 12-23-1968

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Written by: John McGreevey. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Although it aired just before Christmas, this episode opens on a beautiful day in Central Park. Accompanying the twins, Mr. French encounters his fellow servants.

The nannies...

The nannies…

and the other gentlemen's gentlemen.

and the other gentlemen’s gentlemen.

French’s discomfort around the latter group is obvious. Withers tweaks him about his role as a “children’s supervisor” and then expresses surprise that French still considers himself primarily a gentleman’s gentleman.

It's doesn't help that he's stuck holding Jody's ice cream cone.

It’s especially hard for French to maintain his dignity while he’s stuck holding Jody’s ice cream cone.

The awkwardness continues after he sits down, as he fulfills his function as keeper of jump-ropes, baseball gloves, and other kid paraphernalia.

Mr. Hardcastle observes that children require a great deal of equipment nowadays.

Mr. Hardcastle observes that children require a great deal of equipment nowadays.

“That’s why the other nannies carry enormous handbags,” Withers quips.

Ouch.

Just then, Buffy falls down, and French has to rush to her rescue.

Just then, Buffy falls down, and French has to rush to her rescue.

Miss Faversham gives him some advice about treating skinned knees, and French gets Buffy back on her feet.

Unfortunately, he's left holding Mrs. Beasley.

Unfortunately, he’s left holding Mrs. Beasley when Buffy returns to her game.

French isn’t amused.

His frenemies find it all quite amusing.

His frenemies are, however.

Back at home, Cissy has emptied her whole closet in search of a perfect date dress.

When Buffy and Jody return, they tell her that French made them walk 10 paces ahead of him all the way home.

When Buffy and Jody return, they tell her that French made them walk 10 paces ahead of him all the way home.

They also give Cissy some advice about her dress, encouraging her to pick a blue one since blue is her favorite color. Cissy notes that her date’s favorite color is yellow. “Let him wear yellow,” Buffy replies.

French, on the other hand, refuses to offer any advice. Choosing a teenager’s clothes is neither his forte nor his responsibility, he announces coldly.

The kids are left wondering what they did to make him mad.

 

When Bill comes home, Cissy describes how French growled at her "like an old bear."

When Bill comes home, Cissy describes how French growled at her “like an old bear.”

Bill doesn’t know what’s wrong with French, but he does make a quick decision on the clothing front, choosing a green suit for Cissy.

That night, the twins present themselves to French for a bedtime story.

That night, the twins present themselves to French for a bedtime story.

French has news for them–he doesn’t read bedtime stories anymore. He suggests that the twins read to each other.

Apparently, he's never noticed that these kids have some limitations when it comes to reading.

Apparently, he’s never noticed that these kids have some limitations when it comes to reading.

After Jody makes a few attempts to sound out “abductors,” the twins agree to forgo a bedtime story completely. They ask French to tuck them in, but he’s not doing that anymore, either.

Buffy tucks Jody in herself, which is sweet.

Buffy tucks Jody in herself, which is sweet.

Then Jody realizes that Buffy has no one to tuck her in.

He feels it's his duty as a gentleman to get back up and do it himself.

He feels it’s his duty as a gentleman to get back up and do it himself.

Later, when Bill gets home, he tells French that the kids are wondering about his behavior.

Here's a conversational tip from Uncle Bill: Defuse any tension in a conversation by vigorously scratching at your ear the whole time.

Here’s a social tip from Uncle Bill: Defuse any tension in a conversation by vigorously scratching at your ear the whole time.

French says he is proud of his profession as a gentleman’s gentleman, which his father and grandfather also held. He’s “exceedingly unhappy as a nanny,” however. (I wonder if French would have liked the term “manny.” Probably not.)

He feels he has to adopt a different approach to his work, even if the kids don’t like it. Bill agrees that French should do his job in whatever way that makes him comfortable.

When we next see French, he’s entertaining a visitor–Miss Faversham.

She's bowing out of the weekly poetry reading they usually attend--her employers are letting her go and she needs to devote her time to finding a new position.

She’s bowing out of the weekly poetry reading they usually attend–her employers are letting her go and she needs to devote her time to finding a new position.

French is shocked about her dismissal, but she accepts it as the lot of a nanny–the better she does her job, the sooner the children are able to function without her. She points out that French is more fortunate–when the Davis children grow up, he will still have a place with Uncle Bill.

In the park the next day, French’s peers tease him about which bench he will choose–the one with the nannies or the one with the “good lads.”

French asserts that he's merely taking a walk in the park, and the fact that Buffy and Jody have accompanied him is a matter of "supreme indifference" to him.

French asserts that he’s merely taking a walk in the park, and the fact that Buffy and Jody have accompanied him is a matter of “supreme indifference” to him.

Withers welcomes him back into the fold.

When the twins get home (winded from walking 10 paces ahead of French again), they tell Bill that French made an abrupt decision to visit Miss Faversham.

When the twins get home (winded from walking 10 paces ahead again), they tell Bill that French made an abrupt decision to visit Miss Faversham.

French finds the nanny packing her things.

She lays it on a bit thick here: "Photos of so many children...letters from the few who remember..."

“Photos of so many children…letters from the few who remember…”

He says he was worried that he wouldn’t see her again and invites her out to dinner. She says that getting to know him has been one of the greatest pleasures of her current situation.

Get a room, you two!

Before leaving for dinner, he feels Bill out about Miss Faversham and whether his employer finds her as agreeable as French himself does.

Before leaving for dinner, French feels Bill out about Miss Faversham and whether his employer finds her as agreeable as French himself does.

It’s nice to see French going out and Bill staying home with the kids for a change. (He’s reading to the twins because another book has defeated them. I’m almost 100 percent sure it’s this Whitman Tell-a-Tale book, which should be easy for third-graders.)

At dinner, French tells Miss Faversham how much he will miss her. She reveals that she’s interviewed with a new family with young children. The mother has “queer ideas about discipline” that she’s picked up from magazines, but Miss F is prepared to set her right.

He's shocked that she's willing to start over with another family and set herself up for another heartbreak.

He’s shocked that she’s willing to start over with another family and set herself up for another heartbreak.

She should have her own home and someone to look after her, he says, pointedly. And she calls him Giles. Whoa.

Miss Faversham says that it’s too late for her to change. She’s already raised more than 20 children, and someday she may raise some of their children. She obviously believes taking care of children is a special calling, and she notes that it’s one she and French share.

Returning home, French “tucks in” the sleeping twins.

 

These scenes feature the Violins of Emotional Resonance, which are usually only deployed for Uncle Bill.

These scenes feature the Violins of Emotional Resonance, which are usually only deployed for Uncle Bill.

In the park the next day, French is back to holding the twins’ things.

Showing a new appreciation for his role as caregiver, he even chooses to sit with the nannies.

Showing a new appreciation for his role as caregiver, he even chooses to sit with the nannies.

(And don’t worry, Miss F fans: We learn that she has secured a new job in the same neighborhood.)

Commentary

I like the way this episode doesn’t spell everything out for the viewer. Thoughts and motivations are murky at times. Was French thinking of proposing to Miss Faversham? Or, as a commenter on IMDB.com suggests, giving up his job so that she could have it? Did she sense what he had in mind and purposely deflect it? In any case, it’s a sweet episode, and it gives Sebastian Cabot many good Frenchisms to utter and a chance to show some range.

This episode is a little jarring after the previous one, in which French was prepared to take total responsibility for the kids. But I can fanwank that his embarrassment about taking such a demonstrative stand made him want to distance himself from the children a little bit.

Guest Cast

Miss Faversham: Heather Angel. Mr. Hardcastle: Noel Drayton. Miss Talmadge: Nora Marlowe. Mr. Withers: Richard Peel.  Miss Alcott: Merri Wood-Taylor.

We’ve seen all the members of this British brigade before. We won’t see them all again, though: This was the final Family Affair appearance for Marlowe, Peel, and Wood-Taylor.

Fun Facts

Miss Faversham’s favorite poet is Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

 

Random fashion observation: When she's not wearing it, Miss Faversham's hat could function as a toilet paper roll cover.

Random fashion observation: When she’s not wearing it, Miss Faversham’s hat could function as a toilet paper roll cover.

 

 

 

 

Spin Again Sunday: Apple’s Way (1974)

apple box

Remember the TV show Apple’s Way? I do, just barely. Earl Hamner created it as a modern take on the family themes that The Waltons explored so successfully.Wikipedia tells me that the Apple family followed that 1970s dream of ditching the urban rat race and retreating to the country.

The set is the main thing that impressed me as a child: The Apples’ house had a cool interior and a working mill outside. Also, I remember one episode in which the little boy got hit by a car. At least, I think I remember that–my memory for TV details is notoriously unreliable.

The show lasted two short seasons, which was enough to launch a board game. The box seems to overstate things a bit, though, when it says, “From the popular TV show.”

Today’s Game: Apple’s Way.

Copyright Date: 1974.

Manufacturer: Milton Bradley.

Box: A photo of the cast–including Ronny Cox as the dad and Vince Van Patten as the older son–superimposed on an attention-getting hot-pink background. Kristy McNichol played the younger daughter in the second season, replacing actress Frannie Michel. A Van Patten and Kristy McNichol…yep, this is a 1970s family drama. (Thanks to commenter Matt for pointing out my mistake in the first version of this posting.)

Recommended Ages: 7 to 15.

Object: Be the first to match all your cards.

apple board

Game Board: Old-timey drawings of the mill alternate with color photos from the series.

This close-up from the board shows that the Apples had a lamb.

This close-up from the board shows that the Apples had a lamb.

They also had a dog, apparently.

They also had a dog, apparently.

And dinnerware that resembles Corelle.

And dinnerware that resembles Corelle.

Game Pieces: Players move standard plastic pawns. Green and yellow cards show the Apple family engaging in typical activities at home and in the community.

Life for the Apples was a never-ending whirlwind of excitement.

Life for the Apples was a never-ending whirlwind of excitement.

Game Play: Players get four yellow cards at the start. They move around the board and try to land on the picture spaces, where they can pick up green cards. The goal is to get green cards that match the numbers and activities on the yellow cards. Manufacturers add a few wrinkles to make things more interesting. For example, a player must announce whether he’s looking for a “Home” or “Away” card before he chooses a green card. If he gets the type of card wrong, he has to show the card to all the other players before putting it back in its pile.

My Thoughts: On the plus side, I always like a TV game that includes color photos from the show.

This isn’t the most exciting game in the world, but it does seem to match the excitement level on the show, judging from this–the most boring TV opening imaginable:

Other Spin Again Sunday posts you might enjoy:

The Waltons

The Patty Duke Game

Happy Days

 

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 11, “Ciao, Uncle Bill,” 12-16-1968

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Written by: Austin and Irma Kalish. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Our episode opens with Buffy and Jody waiting in the lobby for the mailman.

They are waiting for a letter from Uncle Bill, who is on Rome in business.

They are expecting a letter from Uncle Bill, who is on Rome in business.

When the letter arrives, however, it seems that Bill has more than business on his mind.

Cissy reads to them about Lucianna, whose father is Bill's prospective client. Lucianna, who lives in a villa, has been showing Bill the Roman sights.

Cissy reads to them about Lucianna, whose father is Bill’s prospective client. Lucianna, who lives in a villa, has been showing Bill the Roman sights.

Cissy explains to the kids that a villa is “better than a house but not as good as a palace.” She also has to explain that Bill’s closing,  “Ciao,” means goodbye.

The twins are more worried about what Bill didn't say--anything about when he would be returning.

The twins are more worried about what Bill didn’t say–anything about when he would be returning.

Soon we get to see what’s keeping Bill in Rome.

Lucianna is one of Bill's prettier love interests, but that pile of hair on her head looks as unstable as the leaning tower of Pisa.

Lucianna is one of Bill’s prettier love interests, but that pile of hair on her head looks as unstable as the leaning tower of Pisa.

She and Bill engage in some flirty back-and-forth about whether he really has to leave Italy so soon.

It's enough to disgust the beleaguered waiter, and I don't enjoy it much, either.

It’s enough to disgust the beleaguered waiter, and I don’t enjoy it much, either.

Back at home, the twins overhear French making inquiries about a valet job in another household.

In typical Davis fashion, they assume the worst instead of sticking around to ask questions.

In typical Davis fashion, they assume the worst instead of sticking around to ask questions.

This is the episode's Retreat of Sadness number one.

This is the episode’s first Retreat of Sadness.

They try to tell Cissy their concerns that Bill will decide to marry and stay in Rome.

Cissy's head is full of her new boyfriend, Ken, and she can only blather on about how romantic a double wedding in Rome would be.

Cissy’s head is full of her new boyfriend, Ken, and she can only blather on about how romantic a double wedding in Rome would be.

Jody raises that possibility that Ken won’t propose, especially if he ever sees Cissy in curlers. He also points out that Cissy is very young.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” Cissy responds.

Retreat of Sadness number two.

Retreat of Sadness number two.

Back in Rome, Bill and Lucianna are getting closer.

He worries about their age difference and their short acquaintance, but she assures him that she knows what she wants.

He worries about their age difference and their short acquaintance, but she assures him that she knows what she wants.

That night, both Buffy and Jody are kept awake by fear–fear that Bill will stay in Rome and leave them behind. While Cissy is marrying and picking rosebuds, they will be split up again and parceled out to other relatives–this time for good.

Jody promises to take care of Buffy, a theme that always tugs at my heartstrings.

Jody promises to take care of Buffy, a theme that always tugs at my heartstrings.

Buffy is more realistic, saying that the adults won’t let him.

Luckily, Cissy comes along and sees how upset the kids are.

Luckily, Cissy comes along and sees how upset the kids are.

She assures them that Bill will be coming back in a few days.

"If you don't believe me, ask Mr. French," she adds.

“If you don’t believe me, ask Mr. French,” she adds.

Of course, the kids run off to ask him right away.

He's just a little startled

He’s delighted to see them.

French, too, tries to reassure the kids. The job he was inquiring about was for a friend, he tells them.

When the twins bring up Cissy's impending marriage, she asks where they ever got such an idea.

When the twins bring up Cissy’s impending marriage, she asks where they ever got such an idea.

Yes, Cissy, I wonder.

The next morning, everyone is excited when a cable from Bill arrives.

The next morning, everyone is excited when a cable from Bill arrives.

They expect him to announce when he’s coming home, but instead their fears are realized: Bill is getting married and planning to live in Rome.

Retreat of Sadness number three.

Retreat of Sadness number three.

That afternoon, before the twins get home from school, Bill reaches Cissy by phone.

Heading off to a party with Lucianna's friends, he's a bit short with her.

Heading off to a party with Lucianna’s friends, he’s a bit short with her.

He urges French to start learning Italian so he can manage Lucianna’s household staff.

He doesn't say anything about the kids coming to Italy, however.

He doesn’t say anything about the kids coming to Italy, however.

French and the twins return to find a despondent Cissy, who is convinced Bill is really abandoning them.

French does his best to convince the kids that Bill meant for all of them to go.

French does his best to convince the kids that Bill meant for all of them to go.

He even offers to–gasp!–call Bill and ask him a direct question about the situation. Cissy, however, advises against it.

Eventually, the kids get French to consider the possibility that Bill’s new wife won’t want them around.

French say, in that case, he won’t be going either.

“You mean right away?” Buffy asks.

“I mean at all,” he says, firmly.

He is prepared to take full responsibility for the children himself.

“I won’t see you divided among relatives like so many pieces of Yorkshire pudding!” he cries.

Realizing that he is prepared to take responsibility for them, Buffy cries, “Hooray!” (I do, too. This is a great moment, one of the best in the series.)

 

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Jody immediately starts calling his bemused would-be guardian by a new name: “Uncle French.”

Meanwhile, in Rome, Lucianna is pressing Bill to set a date and start planning the wedding.

In Rome, Lucianna is pressing Bill to set a date and start planning the wedding.

She’s delighted that he plans to bring the kids over for the ceremony.

It will be lovely to get to know them, she says, even if it will only be for a short time.

Uh-oh.

Uh-oh.

Bill says he thought it went without saying that the kids would live with them.

When Bill won't back down, Lucianna says that she will probably regret this moment in the future.

Soon, it’s clear that neither one of them will budge on this issue.

Back at home, French is making practical plans for supporting the children. The rent is paid on their apartment until the end of the year, he notes. He decides to investigate the valet job opening for himself.

His inability to live in with his potential employer is a deal-breaker, however.

His inability to live in with his potential employer is a deal-breaker, however.

While French looks for work, Cissy and the kids take over some of his domestic duties.

"I'm glad Uncle French is still part of the family," Buffy notes, "but it was nice when he was the clean-up part."

“I’m glad Uncle French is still part of the family,” Buffy notes, “but it was nice when he was the clean-up part.”

French won’t let Cissy quit school to take a job selling hosiery, but Jody does take on a new responsibility.

He takes up dog-sitting, while Buffy tries to help French economize by making her own cupcakes.

He takes up dog-sitting, while Buffy tries to help French economize by making her own cupcakes.

A knock at the door soon changes everything.

Uncle Bill is back!

Uncle Bill is back!

That night, the twins express how worried they were about the family splitting up.

Bill reassures them that it will never happen.

Bill reassures them that it will never happen.

“Well, ciao, everybody,” Bill says, sending the twins back into a panic that he’s saying goodbye again.

French and Cissy explain that ciao, like aloha, can mean hello as well as goodbye.

"Well, say aloha, or say ciao, but don't ever say goodbye," Buffy says.

“Well, say aloha, or say ciao, but don’t ever say goodbye,” Buffy says.

Aww.

Commentary

Episodes that threaten the Davis family unit are always moving, and this is no exception. The commitment that “Uncle French” shows for the children is especially sweet.

It’s interesting to realize that this episode had some parallels to Brian Keith’s own life. In 1969, he would divorce his long-time wife Judith Landon and marry a much younger woman. Victoria Young was, in fact, five years younger than the actress who played Lucianna here.

Parts of this episode also remind of The Parent Trap, with Lucianna in the role of Vicky.

Fun coincidence: Bill and Lucianna eat at Cafe Martinelli. Martinelli's was the parents' special restaurant in The Parent Trap.

Fun coincidence: Bill and Lucianna eat at Caffe Martinelli. Martinelli’s was the parents’ special restaurant in The Parent Trap.

Maybe Lucianna should have tried Vicky’s “Swiss boarding school” plan.

This episode also foreshadows Executive Producer Don Fedderson’s next series. To Rome with Love, which would premier in 1969, starred John Forsythe as a single father raising three girls in Rome. Anissa Jones, Johnnie Whitaker, and Sebastian Cabot would all appear as their Family Affair characters in one 1970 episode of that series. Brioni Farrell, who plays Lucianna here, also appeared in one episode of To Rome with Love.

Inconsistency Alert

This episode’s big dog scares Cissy, but Oliver didn’t. Maybe all the other tension this week increased her anxiety.

Notable Quotes

“Jody, when you’re in love, curlers don’t matter.”–Cissy

“Sometimes I get the feeling that Italy is just one big sidewalk cafe.”–Bill

Guest Cast

Lucianna: Brioni Farrell. Mr. Foster: Gus Edwards. Waiter: Ralph Lanza.

Greek actress Brioni Farrell had a low-key but steady television career through the 1990s.

Edwards would appear once more on Family Affair as the mailman.

Alice: An Appreciation

“They gave me funny things to do, and I did them funny. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”—Ann B. Davis
(May 3, 1926-June 1, 2014)

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This review is part of the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Click here to check out this blogathon's complete schedule.

This review is part of the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Click here to check out this blogathon’s complete schedule.

As a mental exercise, try to imagine someone other than Robert Reed and Florence Henderson playing The Brady Bunch’s parents. As important as those actors were to the show’s success, many others could have probably managed a respectable “wise father” or “concerned mother” role.

Now, picture other children replacing the familiar Brady kids. As appealing as the entire juvenile cast was, 1970s casting agents could surely have supplied other hunky teen boys and All-American girls with “hair of gold” to play what were basically average kids.

It is much harder to envision anyone other than Ann B. Davis wearing Alice Nelson’s blue uniform. She was as central to The Brady Bunch as she was on the show’s opening-titles grid.

Ann B. Davis was irreplaceable.

That’s what made her passing such sad news, even though she had lived a full and seemingly happy, spiritually fulfilled 88 years.

Overnight Success

Few actors have kept their private lives as private as Davis did. All her obituaries outline the same basic facts: She was born in Schenectady, New York, and raised in Erie, Pa. As a child, she caught the performing bug while putting on shows with her twin sister Harriet. Her mother was an amateur actor, and her older brother was a professional dancer who would appear on Broadway. Ann enrolled at the University of Michigan with plans to be a doctor, but soon switched her focus to acting. After graduating and heading to California in 1948, she did theater and nightclub work until getting her big break.

That was her supporting role as Schultzy on The Bob Cummings Show (Love That Bob), for which she would win two Emmys. The show ran from 1955 to 1959 and was a major ratings success, and Davis’ role as Cummings’ lovelorn, plain-Jane assistant brought her fame.

“I was an overnight success at 28,” she said in a 1989 interview. “I began to understand the power of TV. Within five weeks–and I was playing a small part, a supporting part–after the series went on the air I was recognized on the street wherever I went. Very scary!”

The show was never widely syndicated, so it is unfamiliar to most people my age and younger.

As you can see from this clip, Schultzy shares certain qualities with Alice Nelson and other classic TV “old maids,” such as Sally Rogers and Jane Hathaway—a lack of feminine graces combined with desperate, unfulfilled man-hungriness.

All About Alice

As Alice, Davis delivered many self-deprecating punchlines. As a kid, I saw Alice as she presented herself to the audience—plain, overweight, old. Having reached Alice’s age myself, I see things differently, of course, and wonder how Davis felt about her portrayal.

She claimed to take it in stride.

“I know at least a couple hundred glamour gals who are starving in this town. I’d rather be myself and eating,” she said.

Her Brady Bunch role combined a poor self-image and an unflattering costume with corny jokes and broad physical humor. If everyone was doing the hula, Alice would be throwing her back out. If a bucket of paint appeared, Alice would be stepping in it. If someone built a dunk tank in the back yard, Alice was getting wet.

It all added up to a role many actors would have hated. Indeed, Davis’ co-star Robert Reed, went nearly mad with disgust over the show’s scripts. He would fire off multi-page memos to producers about the show’s implausibilities, many of which involved Alice. “Even a laugh machine would balk,” he wrote about typical tag scene.

Davis was different. Like Alice delighting in the dunk tank, she threw herself into her role and made the best of it.

In Growing Up Brady, Barry Williams quotes Producer Lloyd Schwartz on the difference between Davis and Reed: “She’d say, ‘A lot of people worked very hard on this, and maybe it isn’t great, but if that’s the case, they really need me to make it work.’ Opposite attitudes.”

In fact, Davis saw Alice’s wacky predicaments as opportunities for her to shine comedically.

And while she didn’t take herself too seriously, she cared enough about her role to create a mental backstory for her character that explains Alice’s single-minded devotion to the Brady family.

In the post-Brady years, the show wasn’t a millstone around Davis’ neck as it was for so many of her co-stars. Shortly after it ended, she became a born-again Christian and curtailed her show business career.

“It’s amazing, but at the age of 47 my life suddenly got to the good part,” she told Australia’s Courier-Mail in 1989. “I thought I had had the good part, but it’s as if the Lord had said, ‘Let’s give this kid everything the world has to offer, then make her a better offer and see what happens.’ Am I happy? Oh, boy!”

She spent many years living in an Episcopalian religious community, first in Denver and then in Ambridge. Pa. She worked with a mission helping homeless people and traveled the country talking to church groups. Eventually, she settled in San Antonio, Texas, with retired Episcopal bishop William Frey and his family.

A born trouper, she never completely gave up acting; she did a great deal of regional theater and showed up for almost every Brady reunion. (One critic, panning A Very Brady Christmas, called Alice “the only real-looking character in the whole fairy story.”)

She also compiled a Brady Bunch cookbook in 1994, while admitting that cooking and child care were not really part of her skill set.

She looked back on her Brady experience with fondness.

“Wouldn’t we all love to have belonged to a perfect family, with brothers and sisters to lean on and where every problem is solved in 23 minutes?” she said.

(And it’s not as though she were incapable of looking back on past work with a critical eye. Speaking of the Cummings show, she once told The Times of London: “Comedy like that gets dated pretty fast, especially since it’s anti-feminist.”)

Lovable

In the early 1990s, when Brady nostalgia was at its height, many experts advanced theories about the show’s appeal to Generation X. My college sociology textbook even explored the subject.

To me, the answer has always been simple: Creator Sherwood Schwartz created a world as a child would wish it to be—a world of good-natured siblings, goofy fun, and people who rally around to solve your every problem.

Blogger Hank Stuever summed it up beautifully in The Washington Post this week, but I disagree with his assertion about Alice’s role in this child-centered utopia: “The entire premise of the show seemed to acknowledge, at least in subtext, that Alice was filling the need that Carol Brady could not fill. It’s the great unspoken truth of The Brady Bunch, particularly in retrospect: Ann B. Davis was the better mother.”

From my perspective, Mike and Carol were definitely the parents, but Alice was something even better: A cross between an adult and a friend. She would join in your sack race, bake your cookies, dress up as a pilgrim for your home movie, and clean your room—and she would do it all with a smile.

Everyone has parents, but a child can only dream of having an Alice.

And no one but Ann B. Davis could have brought this dream to life in such an endearing way.

“I think I’m lovable,” she once said. “That’s the gift God gave me.”

Lovable. And irreplaceable.

Some Alice Favorites

I must admit that the Alice-centric episodes of The Brady Bunch don’t rank among my favorites. Playing tough “Sergeant Emma” was probably fun for Davis, but none of the Brady double-role episodes work for me. And “Alice’s September Song,” about Alice’s shady old flame Mark Millard, bored me as a child and saddens me now.

I much prefer Alice as a cheerful supporting presence in a typical episode. Here are two quintessential Alice moments, when she gets involved with the kids and pays the price with her dignity.

Alice could be supportive as well as silly. My favorite Alice moment, by far, is her scene with Jan in “Lost Locket, Found Locket.”

I do like getting to see a different side of Alice now and then, such as when she turns on the charm for a surprisingly lascivious Jackie Coogan.

Other Ann B. Davis Sightings

In the late 1970s, Davis did some commercials that played on her Brady image (although, in the second example, they use the name of her Bob Cummings Show character).

Davis had a few small film roles in the 1960s. You can catch a glimpse of her here in the Rock Hudson-Doris Day film Lover Come Back.

Did any single 1960s TV stars NOT appear on The Dating Game? This is cringe-worthy viewing, but Davis is a good sport.

You can see more of Ann B. Davis in action during MeTV’s 3-hour tribute marathon this Sunday, June 8, at 12 p.m. EDT.

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 10, “A Matter of Choice,” 12/9/1968

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Written by: John McGreevey. Directed by: Charles Barton.

I apologize for the delay in posting this installment. Because I have a terrible cold today, this post is shorter than most. I promise to have a new Family Affair post ready for you June 6. Also, please visit Thursday, June 5, when I’ll be taking part in the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon. My entry, called “In Praise of Peter,” will focus on The Brady Bunch. (Update, June 3: With the passing of Ann B. Davis, I have changed the focus of my blogathon entry, which will now be called “Alice: An Appreciation.”)

In the Davis household this week, Bill comes home to find Buffy and Jody in the closet.

Jody is playing cowboys with some of his friends, and he's using schoolmarm Buffy as a shield.

Jody is playing cowboys with some of his friends, and he’s using schoolmarm Buffy as a shield.

Strange behavior, since he’s supposed to be the good guy in this game.

Soon, everyone except the schoolmarm is dead.

Soon, everyone except the schoolmarm is dead.

I love how blase Bill looks amid this carnage. He does ask French where Jody got the toy guns and learns that he traded other items for them.

Meanwhile, Cissy brings home a new friend with the most annoying faux-sophisticated manner ever.

Meanwhile, Cissy brings home a new friend with the most annoying faux-sophisticated manner imaginable.

Her friend’s name is Gwen–a different Gwen than the one usually played by Diane Mountford. This Gwen is bragging about how she put a teacher in her place. When Gwen leaves, Bill observes that she comes on rather strong. Cissy says Gwen is her only friend who really “knows what it’s all about.”

That statement should probably worry Bill, but he is more pre-occupied with Buffy and Jody’s TV-watching habits.

They have apparently abandoned Captain Hippopotamus for  black-and-white war dramas.

They have apparently abandoned Captain Hippopotamus for black-and-white war dramas.

Bill tries to get them to play a game instead of watching TV.

Bill tries to get them to play a game instead of watching TV.

He has checkers or tiddly-winks in mind, but their favorite games have names like Demolition Squad and Sabotage.

Bill talks to French about how they can protect the kids from violence. French's idea is to have them spend more time reading "the enchantments of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm."

Bill talks to French about how they can protect the kids from violence. French’s idea is to have them spend more time reading “the enchantments of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.”

Hmm, substituting fairy tales for violent entertainment…What could possibly be the flaw in that plan?

That night, Bill notices that Gwen has borrowed Cissy's dress and is going out on a date, while telling her mother she's with Cissy.

That night, Bill notices that Gwen has borrowed Cissy’s dress and is going out on a date, while telling her mother she’s with Cissy.

He suggests to Cissy that Gwen is using her, but Cissy doesn’t want to hear it.

Meanwhile, the twins don't want to hear the bedtime story French is telling them--Hansel and Gretel.

Meanwhile, the twins don’t want to hear the bedtime story French is telling them–Hansel and Gretel.

French, who screeches the witch’s lines dramatically, is taken aback over how violent the story is, although he tries to “etcetera, etcetera” over the worst of it.

Bill only appears long enough to hear the happy ending, so he thinks his plan is successful.

Bill only appears long enough to hear the happy ending, so he thinks his plan is successful.

He misses the kids reaction to the next story.

He misses the kids’ reaction to the next story, about a troll that lures people over the side of a bridge.

Surprisingly, the kids don’t know what a troll is.

It seems like a 1960s child should have some mental image of a troll.

It seems like a 1960s child should have some idea.

French shows them the book illustration.

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They would be so much better off picturing a troll doll.

Bedtime doesn't go well that night.

Bedtime doesn’t go well that night.

Soon, Buffy is seeking refuge in Bill’s room.

She tells him about the horrible dream she had--French was a witch trying to fatten up Buffy and Jody before eating them.

She tells him about the horrible dream she had–French was a witch trying to fatten up Buffy and Jody before eating them.

We actually get to see Jody’s nightmare, which is by far the best part of this episode.

Here's French as the troll.

Here’s French as the troll…

Buffy as his intended victim.

…Buffy as his intended victim…

And Jody screaming a vain warning to his sister.

…and Jody screaming a vain warning to his sister.

Creepy!

Creepy!

Jody ends up in Bill’s room, too.

Jody ends up in Bill's room, too.

Their uncle is chagrined to realize that his fairy tale plan backfired so badly.

Cissy’s evening isn’t any better. She becomes disgusted with Gwen, who stays out much later than Cissy expected.

"Don't come on like Big Mama," Gwen replies--a line that cracks me up.

“Don’t come on like Big Mama,” Gwen replies.

That line cracks me up.

The next morning, Cissy confides in Bill that she has learned her lesson about Gwen's character.

The next morning, Cissy confides in Bill that she has learned her lesson about Gwen’s character.

Bill has learned his lesson, too–banning TV in favor of stories doesn’t work. He will have to take the time to evaluate each entertainment on its merits.

The twins get permission to watch Story Land and are excited to get some TV time again.

The twins get permission to watch Story Land and are excited to get some TV time again.

Their excitement fades when the hostess announces that week's story.

Their excitement fades when the hostess announces that week’s story: Hansel and Gretel.

Oh, snap.

Oh, snap.

Commentary

This episode lends itself to a quick summary because both of its plots are shallow. We don’t even get to learn about the undoubtedly horrible home life that makes Gwen so insufferable. The nightmare sequence is great, though. If only we got to see Buffy’s vision of Mr. French as a witch.

Guest Cast

Gwen: Susan Abbott. Pete: Sundown J. Spencer. Story Lady: Jane Webb. Herbie: Randy Whipple.

Just as Cissy usually has a friend named Gwen, Jody usually has a friend named Pete or Peter. Randy Whipple has played Peter in several previous episodes.

Most of Jane Webb’s credits are for performing cartoon voices, particularly female voices on various Archies animated series.