(05/18/66) Teleplay by Jay & Dick
Story by Howard Merrill and Stan Dreben
"To put it in legal terms, he was non compos in his mentis."
"The compos of my mentis is not on trial!"
The 3rd episode with names other than Jay's and Dick's on them. I would guess that Howard and Stan wrote a script. And then, Jay and Dick took it and completely overhauled it. (I'm calling it "Green Acres-ing" it.) And, with almost all the scripts where Jay & Dick don't handle everything, it does feel a bit different from the others. Not tremendously but just enough so it feels a touch odd.
This one starts at the Pixley courthouse. Mr. Haney has sued Oliver for not paying up on a contract. There has been a drought in Hooterville. Haney brings a Native American gentleman over to do a rain dance. Oliver throws them out after the man does a couple steps. When it rains, Mr. Douglas claims the Native American gentleman did nothing. (And, he's pretty much right.)
There is a running joke about Oliver not being a real lawyer because he doesn't hang out at the saloon across the street. It's OK but a little trite. A little too sitcomy. Not so Jay and Dick-like to me. And, Haney's lawyer pretending to be Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind is amusing but doesn't seem quite right either. But, the judge berating the attorney with "I've seen your impersonation of Spencer Tracy" is good stuff. Even, Lisa and her sunflower seems like another writer to me. That's a subplot. She waters a sunflower every day and wishes on it. She wishes for rain. It's a Hungarian thing. I wonder if Howard and Stan just brought in a plotline and a pile of jokes. It was Jay and Dick's job to assemble them together.
Not putting down the funny here, though. The courtroom scenes are amusing but it's when we get back to the farm with the flashbacks that we really take off. I wonder if the original script was all in the courtroom. Maybe Jay and Dick took it and brought it back to the farm. The writing does feel different. Eb's goofy talk about vultures in the field is great. It's in the side stuff that the episode takes off. Mr. Kimball's visit here is very inspired.
I do get slight worries when I see other people's names on the scripts. Because, inevitably it feels like this is a show that had a very specific sensibility. Jay came up with the stories. Dick wrote the jokes. It feels weird when someone else does it. Like reading Sherlock Holmes stories by someone who isn't Arthur Conan Doyle. Haney seems a bit too obviously conniving here. Oliver seems a bit too competent for this point in the series.
A bad episode? No way. I laughed quite a bit. It just felt a bit like it was written by a fan of Green Acres rather than the main guys. Luckily, the show won't do this too often. Or it will find a writer or two who can join in the game.