Spin Again Sunday: The Six Million Dollar Man (1975)

6 million man box

Today’s Game: The Six Million Dollar Man.

Copyright Date: 1975.

Manufactured by: Parker Brothers.

Recommended Ages: 7 to 14.

6 million man box closeup

Game Box: In shades of blue, we see Steve Austin’s face, with circles radiating out from his zoom-lens left eye. The bold red game name makes a nice contrast with the background blue. Four inset drawings show Steve rescuing a stranded astronaut, preventing a nuclear background attempt, knocking out an international crime ring, and locating an underwater missile network. All in a day’s work when you’re part cyborg.

6 million man board

Game Board: The same four assignment drawings are featured here, along with some bright 1970s green and orange graphics. I like the “futuristic” font on the Power squares.

Computer spinner

Computer spinner

Game Pieces: I love the “computer spinner.” The pawns show Steve running (in slow motion, no doubt).

6 million man pawns

Nice track suit, Steve.

Object: “Each player controls a bionic man–but only one is the real Six Million Dollar Man. The first player to complete his 4 assignments wins the game, proving that he’s the Six Million Dollar Man.

Game Play: It’s basically a race through the four assignments on the board, with a few elements added to make it more interesting. Players get and lose Power cards throughout the game. Without at least one of these cards in their possession, players lose a turn. At the end of each assignment, you have to roll a certain number, or higher, to move forward. Each failure to move forward costs a player a Power card.

Random Oddity: At the bottom of the instructions are these words: “We will be glad to answer inquiries concerning these rules.” A mailing address in Salem, Massachusetts, is listed. In a game with a high-tech theme, it’s funny to see this reminder of how far we’ve come since the 1970s. Can you imagine using snail mail to ask a question about a game and having to wait days or weeks for a response?

My Thoughts: If you were going to a boy’s birthday party in the mid-1970s, this would have been an ideal gift. Personally, I was more of a Bionic Woman fan. I’ll review that show’s game next week.

Other Spin Again Sunday posts you might enjoy:

Charlie’s Angels

Dragnet

The Waltons

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Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 7, “Christmas Came a Little Early,” 11/11/1968

Written by: Elroy Schwartz. Directed by: Charles Barton.

On Easter weekend, it’s fitting that we have a holiday episode this week, even if that holiday is Christmas. As the title and air date indicate, however, this isn’t exactly a Christmas episode.

We open this episode in the classroom, where the twins are studying geography.

We begin in the classroom, where the twins are studying geography.

Buffy knows that Central America lies between Mexico and South America. (The twins’ IQ fluctuates wildly from episode to episode; she’s having a relatively smart week.)

Buffy can’t name the countries of Central America, though. Only one of Miss Cummings’ students can.

The disembodied voice of Jan Brady!

It’s the disembodied voice of Jan Brady!

Actually, the student is Eve, a sickly child who’s sort of teleconferencing in from home. I wonder if any real schools actually offered this service. When I was growing up, kids who couldn’t come to school got “home-bound instruction” from a tutor.

Later, Miss Cummings asks Buffy to stop by Eve's apartment after school to drop off a new textbook.

Later, Miss Cummings asks Buffy to stop by Eve’s apartment after school to drop off a new textbook.

None of the kids have ever seen Eve, and Buffy is a bit reluctant to make her acquaintance.

“It’s hard to like someone who knows all the answers,” she observes.

When she actually meets Eve, though, she hits it off with her immediately.

Eve's sick room has the same creepy clown artwork as the hospital children's ward we saw when Buffy had her tonsillectomy. Don't sick children have enough to worry about?!

Eve’s sick room has the same creepy clown artwork as the hospital children’s ward we saw when Buffy had her tonsillectomy. Don’t sick children have enough to worry about?!

Eve asks Buffy if she can stay for a while. Buffy says she can if she calls Mr. French to let him know. That leads to an amusing exchange:

Eve: Who’s he?

Buffy: Well, he’s not exactly our butler…and he’s not exactly our nanny… and he’s not exactly a relative.

 Eve: Oh.

Buffy: “Oh” what?

Eve: I don’t know who he is.

Buffy: Oh.

Eve: “Oh” what?

Buffy: I still have to call him, whoever he is.

The girls have fun playing word games, a favorite pastime for Eve. Though she looks fairly robust, she's apparently too weak to get out of bed.

The girls have fun playing word games, a favorite pastime for Eve. Though she looks fairly robust, she’s apparently too weak to get out of bed.

(Another creepy clown on the dresser–yikes!)

Eve says doctors haven’t been able to help her, but Buffy assures her that Uncle Bill can fix anything. Oh, dear.

That night at dinner, she tells Bill about Eve and re-states her confidence in his ability to fix the situation.

That night at dinner, she tells Bill about Eve and re-states her confidence in his ability to fix the situation.

That earns a big sigh from Bill, who tries unsuccessfully to explain that some problems are beyond his capabilities.

Some time later, Bill goes to the Bowers’ home to pick up Buffy and Jody, who have been playing with Eve.

It's an awkward moment when Mrs. Bowers describes how Buffy has been promising Eve that he could help.

It’s an awkward moment when Mrs. Bowers describes how Buffy has been promising Eve that he could help.

After meeting Eve, Bill goes above and beyond the call of duty by arranging for an eminent physician he knows to examine her. He even tells the doctor to bill him, while explaining to the Bowers family that a research foundation will pick up the cost.

Random fashion note: Nice tam, Buffy.

Random fashion note: Nice tam, Buffy.

Mr. and Mrs Bowers tell Bill that his efforts have given them renewed hope.

Mr. and Mrs Bowers tell Bill that his efforts have given them renewed hope.

“To have a little hope again is a wonderful thing,” Mr. Bowers says. Unfortunately, that hope doesn’t last long.

Dr. Flanders and a nurse bring Eve home.

Dr. Flanders returns with Eve. (Her blanket looks like Buffy’s tam outfit.)

Wait, Eve has been at the hospital having medical tests while her parents chat with Bill? And a doctor and a nurse brought her home? That’s odd.

As the nurse takes Eve to her room, a grim-faced Dr. Flanders delivers the bad news. “I wish you could tell you what you want to hear,” he says.

When Mr. Bowers asks, “How long?” the doctor has no real answer.

Eve’s decline from her unspecified illness is a rapid one, however.

One night, Mrs. Bowers drops by the Davis apartment to tell Bill that Buffy should probably stop visiting Eve.

One night, Mrs. Bowers drops by the Davis apartment to tell Bill that Buffy should probably stop visiting Eve.

Her daughter has grown “noticeably weaker,” Mrs. Bowers says, implying that the end is near. She thinks stopping the visits will make the situation less traumatic for Buffy.

Bill is moved that Mrs. Bowers is thinking about Buffy's feelings.

Bill is moved that Mrs. Bowers is thinking about Buffy’s feelings.

He tries to explain to Buffy that Eve may be too tired to play anymore.

Buffy argues that Eve needs a good friend now more than ever.

Buffy argues that Eve needs a good friend now more than ever.

“She would still come and visit me,” Buffy says.

Bill agrees that the friendship can continue.

One afternoon, when the kids return home from school, Bill makes a surprise announcement: They are going Christmas shopping.

One afternoon, when the kids return home from school, Bill makes a surprise announcement: They are going Christmas shopping.

The kids are, indeed, surprised, since it’s not particularly close to Christmas. Bill says an upcoming work project might take him to South America, and he won’t make it home in time for Christmas. He wants to celebrate early. He tells Buffy that they should include Eve in the party, and since Eve can’t leave her apartment, they will have the party there.

Cissy’s expression shows that she understands what’s really going on, but the twins seem to buy Bill’s story.

Soon the whole family is trimming a tree at the Bowers apartment.

Eve says it's the most beautiful tree she's ever seen.

Eve says it’s the most beautiful tree she’s ever seen.

She's seen some pretty ugly trees, I guess.

She’s seen some pretty ugly trees, I guess.

Jody thinks the tree look terrible–because it has no presents under it.

That's the cue for this strangely familiar Santa Claus to arrive.

That’s the cue for this strangely familiar Santa Claus to arrive.

He gives Eve a doll that delights her.

He gives Eve a doll that delights her.

The adults look on sadly, but the children seem oblivious.

The adults look on sadly, but the children seem oblivious.

When the Davises get home, and the kids are in bed, Bill helps French de-Santa-fy himself.

They express relief that Buffy and Jody were too young to understand the real reason for the early celebration.

They express relief that Buffy and Jody are too young to understand the real reason for the early celebration.

But when Bill goes out into the hallway, he hears sobs coming from the girls’ room.

The episode ends with Bill embracing Buffy, who obviously knew the truth all along.

The episode ends with Bill embracing Buffy, who obviously knew the truth all along.

Commentary

This episode is difficult for me to evaluate. The story idea is rather maudlin, and it is handled in a superficial way that doesn’t generate much real emotion in the viewer. On the other hand, it is so very Family Affair. Can you imagine any other sitcom from the same era telling this story? Especially in a (sort of) Christmas episode?!

I like the fact that the dialog is subtle; the episode conveys Eve’s fate through knowing glances and awkward pauses.

I can’t help wondering how Brian Keith, who had lost a young son, felt about this episode’s subject.

Guest Cast

Eve Bowers: Eve Plumb. Miss Cummings: Joan Vohs. Mrs. Bowers: Ann McCrea. Dr. Flanders: Ivan Bonar. Mr. Bowers: Paul Sorensen.

Eve Plumb, of course, would go on to play Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch, which debuted about 10 months after this episode aired. (“Christmas Came a Little Early” has another Brady connection–writer Elroy Schwartz was the brother of Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz. This is the third of six Family Affair episodes Elroy Schwartz wrote.)

All the other guest actors are Family Affair “repeat offenders,” except Paul Sorensen. Late in his career, he had a recurring role in Dallas as Andy Bradley.

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 6, “Oliver,” 11/5/1968

Written by: Joseph Hoffman. Directed by: Charles Barton.

We start this episode with a familiar set-up: The kids rushing in from the park and overwhelming a busy Uncle Bill. This time, they’re babbling about a new friend they made in the park–Oliver.

Nope, not that Oliver. But the results will be similarly unlucky.

No, not that Oliver. But the results will be similarly unlucky.

Oliver’s family is going away for the weekend, and the kids want to know if he can stay over. The last time his family went away, they note, Oliver got a broken heart.

Bill thinks the boy sounds 'a little sensitive."

Bill thinks the boy sounds “a little sensitive.”

Buffy, in a total non-sequitur,  replies that Oliver is not exactly little. A distracted Bill doesn’t pick up on this odd comment and gives his permission for Oliver to stay.

(He’ll learn an important lesson here–in the future, talk to the other parents directly before issuing an invitation.)

The kids rush off to Buffy’s room, where their excitement gives way to guilt. Oliver, it seems, is a dog. The kids purposely avoided telling Bill the truth, while stopping just short of telling any actual lies. They manipulated him into agreeing to Oliver’s visit because they know Bill believes, as Jody says, “When a man gives his word, he keeps it, no matter what.”

Hmmm. They are craftier--and smarter--than they look.

Hmmm. They are craftier–and smarter–than they look.

Meanwhile, Bill gives French a heads-up that Oliver will be arriving soon.

When French fails to remember a child named Oliver, Bill says the kid probably goes by a nickname, like Skinny or Curly.

When French fails to remember a child named Oliver, Bill says the kid probably goes by a nickname, like Skinny or Curly.

Soon, however, they get to meet the mysterious Oliver.

Yay--a Scotty sighting!

Yay–a Scotty sighting!

“This great beast is Oliver?” French cries.

(Something about the way Sebastian Cabot says the word “beast” tickles me to no end. Luckily, this is the first of four times he’ll use it in this episode.)

Bill’s not amused about the situation. He says Oliver can’t stay because it’s against building rules. (This is debatable.)

The twins move back into manipulative mode.

“We don’t mind if you don’t keep your word,” Jody sighs.

“I guess that only goes for kids,” Buffy agrees.

Does this predicament leave Bill rubbing his head?

Yep?

Yep.

He gives in and says he’ll convince the apartment manager to let Oliver stay for a few days.

Cissy, who has just come in, shows her usual knack for stating the obvious.

Cissy, who has just come in, shows her usual knack for stating the obvious.

“That’s what I’d call a big dog!” she exclaims. (Oliver really is quite large. He’s downright Putin-worthy.)

That evening, the twins fret about whether Bill would still like them if he knew they tricked him.

I don't usually like big dogs, but Oliver looks cute here.

I don’t usually like big dogs, but Oliver looks cute here.

When Bill comes in to say goodnight, it becomes obvious that Oliver hates the sound of his voice. He hustles Jody off to bed, leaving Oliver with Buffy.

She tries to reason with the dog in an attempt to improve his relationship with Bill.

She tries to reason with the dog in an attempt to improve his relationship with Bill.

French was supposed to retrieve Oliver from Buffy’s room and confine him somewhere for the night.

Whatever he tries doesn't work, though. Oliver barges into Jody's bed in the middle of the night.

Whatever he tries doesn’t work, as Oliver later barges into Jody’s bed.

Jody hushes Oliver and tells him not to wake up Bill, who has a big meeting the next morning.

The, inexplicably, Jody barges into Bill's room and wakes him up himself.

The, inexplicably, Jody barges into Bill’s room and wakes him up himself.

(I wouldn’t want to share a twin bed with Oliver, either, but Jody could have moved to the sofa or the girls’ room if he didn’t want to disturb his uncle.)

A lonely Oliver then tries his luck in French's room.

A lonely Oliver then tries his luck in French’s room.

“How dare you take liberties?!” French shouts, sending Oliver scurrying for the door. (I bet it’s been a long time since anyone took liberties with Mr. French.)

Oliver, of course, winds up in Bill’s room. Does Bill get a good night’s sleep?

Nope.

Nope.

He can’t focus on his work, so he heads home to get some rest. (If one sleepless night throws Bill so far off his game, he’s lucky he missed the newborn stage of parenting. My daughter didn’t sleep through the night for two and a half years!)

Oliver doesn't give him a warm welcome.

He doesn’t exactly get a warm welcome from Oliver.

Bill and French discuss the situation and brainstorm ideas for getting through another night.

French’s first idea is having the dog stuffed, but he admits that might not be practical.

With a twinkle in his eye, he offers another suggestion: “Perhaps a sleeping pill in that beast’s great mound of meat, sir?”

Bill rejects that idea, too.

Finally, French volunteers to run the dog around the park to tire him out. “He will sleep the sleep of the well-worn beast,” French promises.

After an hour and thirty-one minutes--and, I suspect, little actual running--French thinks Oliver should be sufficiently exhausted.

After an hour and thirty-one minutes–and, I suspect, little actual running–French thinks Oliver should be sufficiently exhausted.

Oliver has other ideas, though–he spies another dog and takes off chasing it.

French feels guilty about letting Oliver get away, although Bill assures him that nothing human could hold the dog back.

Bill reports the disappearance to the proper authorities and waits by the phone for news.

Bill reports the disappearance to the proper authorities and waits by the phone for news.

Eventually, gets a call from an irate dress shop owner.

When the porter left the door open for a moment, Oliver chased a cat into the shop.

It seems that when the porter left the door open for a moment, Oliver chased a cat into the shop.

French and Bill have to head out before dawn to retrieve the dog..

The whole thing takes a predictable toll on Bill.

The whole thing takes a predictable toll on Bill.

He tries to explain what’s been going on at home to his co-workers.

I love their reaction.

I love the looks on their faces.

At home, Buffy and Jody are running Oliver around the apartment in another attempt at tiring him.

French approves of the idea but not the noise. He tells them to exhaust Oliver "pianissimo."

French approves of the idea but not the noise. He tells them to exhaust Oliver “pianissimo.”

It’s too late, though. Complaints from the downstairs neighbors bring the apartment manager to door.

Comparing the Oliver's noise to that of a horse, he orders the family to evict the dog.

Comparing the Oliver’s noise to that of a horse, he orders the family to evict the dog.

Bill tells the kids Oliver will have to spend the last night before his family returns in a kennel. Of course, he nearly caves again when the twins tug at his heartstrings.

It’s up to French to make the ultimate sacrifice. “The clumsy beast seems to like me,” French sighs.

So, that night…

...Bill sleeps peacefully...

…Bill sleeps peacefully…

...and Buffy sleeps peacefully....

…and Buffy sleeps peacefully…

...and Jody sleeps peacefully...

…and Jody sleeps peacefully…

...while French sits up with Oliver in a noisy, crowded kennel. Awww.

…while French sits up with Oliver in a noisy, crowded kennel. Awww.

(I bet French doesn’t shirk his duties the next day, either.)

Once Oliver is home safely with his owners, the twins come clean about deceiving Uncle BIll.

They even come up with their own punishments: No dessert and no TV for a week. (French thinks the TV ban is “cruel and unusual punishment.” He’s probably sad about losing his usual quiet hour during Captain Hippopotamus.)

A stoic Bill agrees to their plan. Nervously, they ask him if he still likes them.

He responds quickly: “No.”

Ha! They didn't see that coming.

Ha! They didn’t see that coming.

Of course, Bill soon breaks into a laugh, giving this episode a typical hugs-and-kisses ending.

I'm glad they at least avoided the too obvious "I don't like you...I love you" schtick.

I’m glad they avoided the too obvious “I don’t like you…I love you” schtick.

Commentary

This isn’t a great episode, but it’s an entertaining one, thanks mainly to Sebastian Cabot. It’s also fun to watch Bill run and cower in Oliver’s presence. It makes a nice comic contrast with Brian Keith’s usual hyper-masculine persona.

Guest Cast

Madame Antoinette: Danielle Aubry. Policeman: David Brandon. Mr. Ross: Richard Bull. Mr. Brown: Hap Holmwood. Mr. Rogers: Vince Howard. Scotty: Karl Lukas.

Richard Bull, who makes his second of three appearances as the apartment manager, died in February at age 89.

With these glasses and this mustache, he doesn't look much like his most famous character, Nels Oleson from Little House on the Prairie.

With these glasses and this mustache, he doesn’t look much like his most famous character, Nels Oleson from Little House on the Prairie.

Vince Howard had a prolific career in television. It’s surprising that he doesn’t play the police officer here because that was by far his most typical role. For instance, he played Police Officer Vince on Emergency!