Saturday, September 25, 2010

01.22: The Day of Decision

"Darlin', I love ya...but give me Park Avenue."

I know...What is a quote from the theme doing in the spot where a quote from the episode goes? Well, it'll make sense in the end. A little harbinger of "Things To Come" for the series involves this quote. But, we'll talk about that at the end. Other things are of importance now...

Today, Lisa decided if she stays in Hooterville or goes back to New York. The 6 months are up. Oliver is nervous. The whole town of Hooterville, including Uncle Joe, are on tenterhooks waiting for her answer. And, for a show that has had such endearingly slim plotlines, this one is the slimmest. The whole episode hinges around one woman making one decision....and it's a good one.

A good episode, I mean. Lisa's choice is her own.

(Although, the slimness of the plotline does seem to get to the writer's slightly. The episode has several flashback scenes, mainly to the first two episodes. Either they were having trouble filling up the episode or they were reminding viewers (and cluing those who hadn't watched in) of what occurred several months before. I believe it is the latter.)

A little viewer's context:

GA - A Day of Decision aired on February 23, 1966. The show itself premiered on September 15, 1965.

That week:

Batman - That same day (2/23/66) the 13th episode aired - The Thirteenth Hat. The first appearance of the Mad Hatter. The one that ends with Batman getting covered in Super Fast Hardening Plaster.

The Beverly Hillbillies - Same Day - The Great Jethro - Episode 23 of Season 4. Jethro wants to be a magician with hilarious consequences.

Petticoat Junction - The day before (the 22nd) - The Invisible Mr. Dobble Episode 23 of Season Three

Get Smart - Later that week, 2/26/66, the 23rd episode aired - I'm Only Human The one where Fang's bark (I believe) will trigger a KAOS bomb.

And, across an ocean...2/26/66, Bell of Doom, the 25th episode of the 3rd Season of Doctor Who. The Doctor and Steven in Paris. The year is 1572...and another adventure is reaching its conclusion.

That's all the stuff I have handy right now but it gives you a feel for Pop Culture on TV at that moment.

It's a beautiful episode, The Day of Decision. From the opening scene, where Eb tells Elinor what day it is through to all the townsfolk and their worrying to the lovely decision scene to the closing moments...that echo the closing moments from Episode works. The sign of good writing is knowing when to complicate things and when not to. Extra plotlines can be fun but they can also get in the way. When you have a large cast, if you keep the focus on one man (a la The Great Gildersleeve) then you can focus on one plotline. If you have a show like The Simpsons and everyone needs something to do, you split the focus and can lose sight of the main story. Doesn't happen here and it is stellar.

Olive spends his time rambling around. Meanwhile, off camera, Lisa sits and dwells upon her choice. As she says, if they go back to NYC, she's happy but Oliver isn't. If they know. And, she does think about it and it wracks her mind...The joke about the noises in Lisa's head is a funny one and the follow-up is funnier but the great thing is that the jokes aren't the important element here...even the laugh track seems to know it. There are things that other shows would have tagged as a "Big Gag!" but GA, here, downplays it...especially during the Decision scene. The laugh track lies low and a very good choice that was.

We see how much the townspeople like The Douglases in this episode. Mr. Kimball's scene with them, in particular, is very affecting. And, during the final moments, we see how much Lisa has been changed by the farm, although she wouldn't admit it. And, after Lisa has made her decision, we see how much being on the farm hasn't really changed Oliver. (He's still rather uptight.)


OK, well, obviously, they stay. If they left, the show would have been very different. "A NYC couple leave their Park Avenue penthouse and move to a farm. Halfway through Season One, they move back to the city and never return to the farm." Doesn't quite grab ya in the same way...unless they moved in with Jimmie "J.J." Walker.

But, the wonder of the show is that you don't quite know what the Decision will be until it is made...Once Lisa asks Oliver to sit with her in the bedroom, you know the decision is made and you know they are going back to NYC. Eva Gabor's finest moment? Possibly. She plays the scene so lovely. She even has a malapropism that fits perfectly. I will say that this scene always waters up my eyes a bit. I always believe that Oliver's Dream is over and they're heading back.

Yeah, the Final Act reverses that but it does so in a completely believable manner. Lisa decides to stay another 6 months because Alice and Elinor will get killed and eaten if they go. 6 months before, NYC Lisa wouldn't have changed her life for a chicken and a cow. Now, Hooterville Lisa does and it feels like the dramatic punchline for a bit that has been building for 22 episodes.

Lisa now belongs in Hooterville. That's why, in 6 months, we don't have another episode like this. She belongs. Oliver, well, that's another story.

And, the opening quote? As Eb strolls to the barn with the milk pail, he "do do do" 's the Green Acres theme and, when he reaches the opening quote, he turns to the camera and sings the line...just like fact, it is Lisa. And, it is very odd and it is where the show shall bend shortly...

A beautiful episode. Let the show continue...

Monday, September 6, 2010

1.21: What's In A Name?

"You hit me and I'll tell Ma and you'll get it!"

And, we are one episode away from the big day of decision...

Ralph wants to marry Mr. Kimball. He won't go out with a woman named Ralph. Oliver agrees to represent Ralph in court to get her name changed. Oliver, anxious to practice some law again, has to take the Hooterville bar exam. And, it's wonderful.

The opening sequence, with the Monroe Brothers hammering a sign into the bedroom wall, is hilarity incarnate...literally. A very funny mix of Mr. Douglas's exasperation, Lisa saying weird things, the Monroe Brothers being themselves and just joy. I don't know. I was thinking about why I'm not so terribly thrilled on most of today's TV shows. I believe it has something to do with all the "anti-heroes" and people living in awful worlds with little bursts of hope.

I like my heroes. And, if I can't get a hero, I'll take a world filled with whack jobs, like Green Acres. Mr. Douglas just wants to farm. And, in this episode, he wouldn't mind a little lawyering, too. We already know he still has lawyer thoughts (Lisa Bakes A Cake) so he's trying to get the best of both worlds. (Of course, what happens to Lisa's needs but...that's a whole 'nother write-up). There is so much great nonsense. And, there's never evil here. It's all fun.

And, when it's not fun, it's at least very charming. Look at that guy who runs the bar exams. The "Harvard, where's that?" scene is superb. Who knew that there was a Harvard School of Hypnotism? And, watch the (erroneous) info about Oliver being disbarred for hitting a judge spread like wildfire.

The plot is thin. Well, there really isn't one...just sort of a suggestion for a series of incidents and they're great incidents. Once again, the show feels like a 30's or 40's radio show. Doing its own thing and making us laugh.

I don't know. My favorite shows are Doctor Who and Green Acres. My heroes and my non-lethal goofballs. That's what I love.

I am, however, a little worried about or next episode: The Day of Decision. Will the shoe end here or continue on for, say, another 148 episodes? Tune in to find out!