Tuesday, June 12, 2012

1.29: Horse? What Horse?

Aired: 5/11/66 (Written by: Jay & Dick)

"Lisa, wake up! There's a zebra in the window."

Here's a surprise: The tractor isn't working. The radiator is screwed up. Oliver goes to the telephone pole, which is next to the electrical pole, to call Mr. Drucker about a new one. He immediately gets involved in a long scene going up and down the telephone pole and the electrical pole. They really made Eddie Albert work out hard in some of these episodes. Mr. Drucker keeps calling. The electrical cord keeps falling out. Mrs. Ziffel wants to make a call on the party line. Lisa is unhelpful. It all ends with Oliver falling off one of the poles. Wonderful comedy.

Oliver is looking peaked and muttering a lot. Eventually, he ends up seeing a white horse with black spots. The horse follows him home from the field. But, no one else sees the animal. As the episode continues, Oliver sees a camel and a zebra...  And, everyone thinks he's going crazy. Standard sitcom plotting. But, there's something about straight Oliver being disbelieved by the crazy people of Hooterville that gives it a little twist. We know that they're a little off and that Oliver is our touchstone for "normality". What happens when he begins to slip away? I thought it was an interesting bit of plotting that the horse doesn't show up until the end of Act 1. We set up Oliver's exhaustion in Act 1. The horse is all throughout Act 2. The animals multiply and we learn what's going on in Act 3.

I always found it a little odd that the animals end up having a regular (more or less) explanation. (I won't ruin it here.) I'd always thought that it should be a little stranger. We're still in early days, though. As the show goes along, the general insanity will become truly insane, but in a fun way. (After saying that, I realize that the scene where Lisa shows their Gaugin and their Matisse and their Renoir to the county doctor is a nice touch of insanity. The pricey paintings are hanging out on their shabby walls and the doctor is flabbergasted.)

As far as the funny goes, the opening act is the best here. The aforementioned pole sequence has great verbal and visual laughs in it. The last two-thirds are charming because I love seeing characters I enjoy going through a standard sitcom plot. I like to see where the writers are going to take it. I like to see where the actors are going to go with it. It's a nice conceit to have Oliver, possibly, breaking up. The second half isn't quite as wacky as the first. It is just very entertaining and very charming. We are near the end of the season. Jay and Dick can be forgiven for being a little light on the laughs as long as there is still joy.

Three moments from the last acts grabbed my attention:

1) Oliver's speech to the doctor about scratching in the ground is one of his best. As the doctor looks on, we can all believe that Oliver has gone around the bend.

2) Lisa trying to "slip a mickey" into Oliver's milk, which ends up getting her loaded. We know it's going to happen. But, Eb's calm straight man antics and Lisa's fast-moving, ever-expanding confusion about where the pills are make it great. And, when Oliver says "You know I don't drink milk," that is the capper.

3) Hank Kimball's scene, where he seems to be the sanest man in the scene, is quite funny.

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