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Mister Ed: Ed the Beachcomber (1962)
Social Satire on MR. ED
MR. ED is often considered a silly, childlike show. As a matter of fact, the series included a good deal of clever social commentary and satire, as this episode demonstrates. A bunch of beatniks are taking up space on Addison's beachfront property, using it as an art colony, and Addison is annoyed. Kay sides with the young misfits and eventually brings her husband around. What's more, Mr. Ed feels sympathy for the beatniks - he, like them, feels rejected by society - and joins their colony! The generation gap humor between the young people and Addison is priceless, and the latter gets in some great quips. This is a superbly written episode that is both of its time and timeless.
Beaver and Wally Learn the Value of Sacrifice
This is a much discussed episode among LEAVE IT TO BEAVER fans for its ethical questions. Was June wrong for insisting that Aunt Martha and her friend stay and destroy Wally and Beaver's afternoon plans? Or were Beaver and Wally correct to sacrifice their plans in order to make their aunt happy? Or was the problem not so much the moral choice but the sour attitude that (especially) Wally had about the whole thing? The episode offers much food for thought.
The other reviewer gets one important detail wrong. June does NOT insist, in front of Aunt Martha, that the boys have no plans. In fact, it's Wally who does this, no doubt out of a sense of duty. He could just have well said, "Well, Aunt Martha, as a matter of fact we were planning to go to the carnival," and Aunt Martha would no doubt have understood.
What the other reviewer gets right is the frustration inherent in the episode. Its message could be read thus: that we must sacrifice of ourselves to make others happy, even if it seems pointless. After all, the two elderly ladies' conversation is inane and even somewhat embarrassing for the boys (talking about how Wally was swelled up with the mumps, for example). But one must take it on faith that chattering with her nephews in this way was important to Aunt Martha. Above all, we should have a good attitude about such a situation. It was nice that the Cleavers did get to go to the carnival in the end.
As a cat lover I am gratified that the LITB folks decided to do a cat episode. Even though the episode as such is fairly bland, it's still worth a watch especially for cat fanciers. Beaver has attracted a strange feline - a fluffy, silver number named Bootsie who, it turns out, belongs to a lady named Mrs. Prentice. Mrs. Prentice comes to collect Bootsie, but Beaver unfortunately has been feeding him, and you know what that means! Sure enough, Bootsie soon returns for more handouts. How will Beaver shake his feline friend? The cat himself is photogenic and the sound mixers spliced in some effective meows here and there.
Leave It to Beaver: Beaver's Bike (1960)
The Bicycle Thief
Beaver has received a shiny new bicycle from his parents. He begs them to let him ride it to school, and they somewhat reluctantly give him permission to do so. Immediately an older boy steals Beaver's bike from him, by stealth you might say, while he and Larry are standing outside a drug store. Beaver gets a scolding from Ward for his irresponsibility. But when it transpires that Ward for his part forgot to register and insure the bike, he has to eat his words. This is the subversive side of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER: adults were not infallible, and Ward frequently had to admit to being in the wrong.
Beaver eventually recovers his bike, but not before Ward discusses with him the nature of conscience and how it torments wrongdoers. Beaver and Larry (who was responsible for goading the older kid to steal the bike in the first place) then conclude the episode with a whimsical conversation about conscience, which Larry assures us is located in his stomach.
This episode is from the third season, so you know it's going to be top notch in every respect. And so it is.
The Best of Bass
"How do you do, Mrs. Wi-ley?"
The most hilarious and memorable of the episodes featuring eccentric backwoodsman Ernest T. Bass, played brilliantly by Howard Morris. In this one Ernest T. is longing for the love of a woman - any woman - but first he has to be accepted in society. So, in a parallel to the famous story of "Pygmalion" and "My Fair Lady" (the movie of which came out the year this episode was made) Andy tries to make a gentleman out of this rough rustic and pass him off at a fancy party. This re-education program leads to some very funny bits between Andy, Barney and Ernest T.
Howard Morris' layered, funny and touching characterization of Ernest T. Bass makes this episode special. Watch out too for character actress Doris Packer (you may remember her as school principal Mrs. Cornelia Rayburn on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) as society matron Mrs. Wiley. The TAGS writers exploited this situation one more time for the episode "The Education of Ernest T. Bass."
Sweet and Sentimental
Aunt Bee's birthday is coming up, and although she urges Andy and Opie not to make a fuss over her, she secretly longs for the beautiful blue bed jacket displayed in Mrs. Luckens' store window. This is out of character for Bee, who is usually a very practical woman. Aware of this practical side of his aunt, Andy dutifully purchases a set of preserve jars as her birthday gift. But then harried Mayor Stoner comes on the scene: it seems he has no time to buy a going-away present to his wife and enlists Andy to buy the bed jacket for him to give to her. It looks as if Aunt Bee is bound for disappointment when the time comes to open her presents on her birthday.
Without revealing any more of the plot, suffice it to say that this is TAGS at its sweet and sentimental best. Andy engineers a solution which makes Aunt Bee glowingly happy while teaching Opie a lesson about the unexpected joys of self-sacrifice. The last scene will cause you to tear up.
Earle Hagan's musical score plays a prominent role in the episode, with a magical series of chords underlining Bee's wonder at beholding the bed jacket. Bee's friend Clara also plays a key part, coming off in a more sympathetic light than is often the case. Of the episodes that highlighted Bee Taylor, this is easily one of the most memorable.
The Attractive Outsider
In this memorable entry of TAGS, attractive young Ellen Brown (the beauteous Barbara Eden) arrives in Mayberry intending to set up as a manicurist in Floyd's Barber Shop. The menfolk of Mayberry don't quite know how to react to Miss Brown, being both bashful and fascinated at the same time; as for the womenfolk, they become highly suspicious and jealous. The usually sensible Andy ends up putting his foot in his mouth in front of Miss Brown and must then correct his faux pas, winning back her confidence.
We have some funny and perceptive observation of human (paricularly male) behavior in this episode, leading to some subtly risqué material as the men absentmindedly ogle Miss Brown in the barber shop. Andy, with his gallantry, exemplifies the real way to act toward a woman. A solid human story arc, as well as an affecting performance from Eden as a good-natured outsider who is simply looking for a "friendly town" in which to set up shop. Don't miss this one.
Beav and Gilbert's Shenanigans
I always think of this episode and "The Haunted House" as requisite LITB Halloween viewing, even though neither episode actually takes place on Halloween. Beaver and his pal Gilbert stay alone of an evening at Beaver's house while Wally, after basketball practice, plans to go to a masquerade party with his buddies Lumpy and Bill Scott. Beaver and Gilbert have been watching a scary movie on TV, and they become thoroughly spooked to the point where the arrival of a car with two "masked men" in it (in reality Lumpy and Bill on their way to the masquerade) prompts them to call the police!
This is an exciting and amusing episode with the usual LITB moral nuance: was Beav right to call the police, or were he and Gil overreacting? And was Beav right to impersonate Ward on the line? There is also a certain amount of pleasure in seeing Lumpy "get what he deserves."
Mister Ed (1958)
Charming Classic About an All-Too-Human Horse
I recently rediscovered this delightful series after not having seen it since I was a small child. MR. ED, I think, often gets incorrectly bracketed with such "silly" mid-1960s fantasies as THE MUNSTERS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY and I DREAM OF JEANNIE. Maybe a talking horse just seems too foolish to take seriously. As a matter of fact, this is an extremely inventive, witty and sharply written show - one in which the character of Mr. Ed, the equine hero, is used to comment on human foibles. It is also a comedy about values and conflicting familial duties.
What makes MR. ED work is the magical illusionism of a talking horse combined with a perfect, likable cast. Wilbur Post, the hapless owner of Mr. Ed, is played by the late Alan Young. Young combines an easy-going Bing Crosby vibe with a bumbling innocence reminiscent of Danny Kaye. His dialogues with Mr. Ed, conducted in the barn which doubles as his office, form the comedic core of the show. The attractive Connie Hines plays Wilbur's charming but demanding wife Carol. The highly original "triangle" which forms between Wilbur, Connie, and Mr. Ed fuels many of the plots.
For the first three seasons, the couple next door - MR. ED's equivalent of the Mertzes - were the acerbic Roger and Kay Addison. This elegant couple are the perfect foil to the homespun Wilbur and Carol, and their sophisticated bickering repartee is a key part of the show's success.
MR. ED himself is played by a palomino named Bamboo Harvester and voiced by Allan "Rocky" Lane in an inimitable Western drawl. Ed not only talks, he also sings, reads, writes notes, uses the telephone (a lot!), watches TV, does exercises, and shows at times a high level of erudition. He combines a cheeky insouciance with a the neediness of a little kid and in fact is practically a surrogate child for Wilbur. How they got Bamboo Harvester to perform some of the tricks required of him throughout the series is anybody's guess!
The genial bucolic setting (for the most part a convincing set, although some scenes are filmed outdoors) conjures up a specific place, the San Fernando Valley in California. The pastoral atmosphere is one of the most appealing aspects of the series, which was a unique contribution to the genre of the rural comedy. MR. ED remained in glorious black and white to the end of its run, even as many other shows were switching to color.
MR. ED has become one of my favorite early '60s sitcoms, alongside LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. It is entirely worthy to keep company with those shows and remains a unique comic experience for audiences of all ages.
Surrealism in LITB
LEAVE IT TO BEAVER had some notable forays into surrealism. This is one of them. Beaver has suddenly become interested in magic tricks after visiting a local novelty shop with his pal Larry Mondello. The two boys perform a magic stunt for little neighborhood boy Bengie Bellamy in which they appear to transform Beaver into a rock. Bengie is fooled and carries the rock home, thinking it is really Beaver.
To complicate matters, Beaver goes away to visit his Aunt Martha this weekend. The adults and Wally try every trick in the book to convince Bengie that Beaver is not really a rock, but he is unshakable in his belief. Even talking to Beaver on the phone doesn't convince him!
Interesting episode with philosophical/epistemological overtones, not as silly as it first appears. Bengie's mother is played by old-time character actress Ann Doran, who went back to Frank Capra films in the 1930s. Many funny lines from her as well as from starchy Madge Kennedy as Aunt Martha and Joey Scott as Bengie.