Thursday, December 15, 2011

1.19: Organization Woman

"Time to LV! I'm sorry you'll have to MU, CT & VU as best you can this morning."

Welcome to The Aunt Harriet Show!

I've watched silent comedies from 1914 that have required less accommodation than this episode asks of me. About 2/3 of the way in, Steve arrives home and sees his family running around like crazy. It is all very nicely put together and smoothly done and, when it originally aired, I'm sure it was the Hilarity that rocked the US. But, I found it tiresome and I wasn't actually sure that it was funny.

Harriet is Steve's sister. She's engaged to Frank. Frank is an efficiency expert. Remember them? I think they're still around but back then they were looked on with laughter. Nowadays, efficiency experts make people sick to their stomach. If you've ever sat in a job with someone sitting next to you timing everything you do and saying things like "If you put the stapler right above your left hand, instead of by your right side, you would save 2 seconds every 10 minutes", then you know that these folks are worse than the average HR department.

But, circa 1960, the efficiency expert was a hoot! And, Aunt Harriet arrives at the Douglas household to help out while Steve is away... and she efficiencies everyone! And, the show becomes all about Aunt Harriet and, in the end, her attempts to become super-efficient so Frank will set a date for the wedding. Steve spots this when he gets home and walks into the middle of a crazy world:

Everyone is using a lot of acronyms. And, there's a huge chart of what everyone has to do and when they have to do it. And, there's a traffic flow chart through the place. And, doors are labeled with "In" & "Out" (more or less... And, it turns out that Harriet is so busy being efficient that she won't let Frank talk when they're together... and he just wants to propose! Well...

I can't say I was a huge fan of Aunt Harriet. She made me tired. Yes, I know the organization is thrown out at the end for the charming love of the Douglas household yelling and yelling. Yes, the efficiency is shown to be too much. But, Steve's powers of deductions are almost to astounding. He strolls in, sees what's happening and gauges the problem instantly. He tells it to Harriet and, then, it's just a slow roll towards the end.

It took a few minutes before I realized that this episode seems to be a backdoor pilot for a "Harriet and The Efficiency Expert" TV show. The boys, Bub and Steve do so little. And, Harriet gets all the long significant close-ups. The episode moves fairly quickly for a My Three Sons episode but it all, kind of, has little to do with the main characters. Of course, not to put a well-made show down, it is a nicely mounted episode. Mr. Tewksbury doesn't let us down on that side. And, I do like the fact that they are still fiddling around with the set-up. But, the fiddling can end up being slightly detrimental.

We know the Douglas household. Here's someone coming in who tries to change the whole thing. But, it's happened before. And, I imagine it will happen again. And, is a family sitcom the sort of thing where this happens? Possibly... Maybe that's the charm. But, why not just make an anthology series featuring new chracters interacting with the Douglases every week? (Maybe I still think it's too early in the show to do this kind of thing? Maybe this show was commenting on other shows of its type? I'm still learning here...)

This episode feels like a time caspule from the year (maybe the week) it aired. And, so it should be watched and appreciated. Wheter I enjoyed it or not, I really can't say. More Steve please.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

1.18: The Bully

Chip is getting bothered by a bully. He's felling really down. He doesn't want to go to school. Steve is insistent that Chip take care of it himself. Steve says that Chip should fight back. If the Bully's going to start punching regardless of what Chip does, than Chip should get some punches in.

And, Chip gets the stuffing kicked out of him worse than before.

Bub has a funny meeting with the principal but that's about it on the humor front. Steve vanishes for most of the episode, on another "trip". Steve really isn't in this show much at all. He sort of floats around the outside. There's a reason why the character is remembered as a pipe-smoking, advice-distributing dad who wades in and solves the problems. Because he isn't in it much. He appears, solves the problems and then is gone. Whole swathes of the episodes go buy without him appearing. It can feel a little odd.

So, Chip gets beat up a lot and...Steve finds out that his advice had backfired. Chip keeps attacking the bully, long past the point where the bully wants to fight. It's a nice twist...and at that point, when Steve is ready to have his final chat with DVD jumped.

Oh no. This darn DVD. The next episode is on Disc 3 of my collection so I'm hoping everything will be OK. Basically, as Steve is about to talk to Chip, the episode jumps back to the end of Bub Leaves Home...Come on!

Well, the episode is pretty interesting up to that point. Wish I knew the ending. Everyone lives...I know that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

1.17.: Mike In A Rush

Mike is deciding whether or not he wants to go to college. He goes to a party with his girlfriend. And, he gets involved with a fraternity because he's a track star at high school...And, Mike lets it all go to his head and becomes, kind of an aloof jerk.

Not a funny episode. The charms come from watching Mike teetering on the end of a high school and the (possibly) realistic depictions of the Fraternity life of early 1961. Oh yes, it's White. Everybody's white. Well, that certainly places it in it's time and, honestly, there's nothing else I'd want from My Three Sons at this time. As the 60's continue, I am very interested to see what it gets up to.

Regardless, there are some humorous moments. "Dad, I'm going to college!" Bub: "Anything to get out of doin' work around here!" The actual frat stuff is very straight-laced, at least from what I can see. I was never part of a Fraternity and, from watching this, it all seems kind of, I don't know, odd. But, Mike warms to it immediately. Unfortunately, his over estimate of his current worth in the eyes of the "KAG" Fraternity and Chip not quite relaying a message to him properly causes some confusion and embarrassment at the Winter Mixer.

It all ends with a guy from the Frat earnestly speaking to Mike about membership and why Mike isn't getting in. Mike is disappointed but...he's one step closer to becoming a man.

Hmmm...The earnestness of the Frat presentations does seem strange to me. It's sad to see Mike get his hopes up so high and then dropped but that's life, that's growing up. Again, like the last episode, it's an important character moment and a nice episode. But, it doesn't really super-grab me like some of the earlier ones.

I wonder if this is the way the show shall carry out from here on in, at least, in this season. I kind of hope not.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

1.16.: Bub Leaves Home

Bub is at the bus station. He's leaving the house. Where's he going? Why's he going? Luckily, Bub is big on flashbacks so we learn what has happened over the past few days. What sent him from the comfort of the home and Steve and the boys...

Cousin Selena...She comes to visit. She seems to be more competent than Bub. The boys seem to like her more. Bub begins to feel left out. he begins to doubt the fact that he should be working in the kitchen, that's women's work. And, he leaves the household. We get a lot of shots of James Frawley making faces at the camera as a voice over talks and talks.

In the end, there is a lovely scene where Selena and Bub talk in the bus station. She heads back home. Bub goes out to Steve and the boys. But, the rest of the episode is pretty average. When Bub is feeling sorry for himself, he's not funny. Bub is the Comic Relief in this comedy. When he's not funny, there ain't a lot of comedy but there is a lot of running around.

I like the fact that the premise is Bub doubting his place in the Douglas household. That makes it worth viewing. The acting is fine. The drama is good. There isn't really any comedy. But, it's a definite important point in the series because, in the end, Bub returns to the home. Nothing will get in the way of him and his family.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

1.15.: Domestic Trouble

Bub is called out of town. So, the guys decide to get a Lady in to help...but there's some chicanery! And, Steve almost gets a wife!

Well, I know. It sounds like this one might overdo the corn but it has its charms. The best bits are the "Chain of Command" moments. Bub says Steve needs to take him to the bus station in the middle of the night. Steve gives the car keys to Mike. Mike gives them to Robbie. Robbie gives them to Chip. The same sort of thing happens when Chip ends up calling the "Domestic Bliss" agency rather than the "Domestic Aid" place.

The actual plot is as old as the ages. The Domestic Bliss lady thinks Steve wants marriage. And, no one in the house knows that she is trying to get Steve married. And, when the Domestic arrives (a large, blousy woman, possibly Bub in drag), she is put in the Master Bedroom by Chip due to some goofballery earlier on. There is some nice "not quite meeting up with people in the house" shtick. The woman from the Domestic Bliss place is comically indignant when she talks to Steve. And...there is so much confusion...

In the end, it's another OK episode. The thing that surprised me was that it seems to move quicker than the other episodes. The resolving of the conflict comes on pretty fast once everyone is assembled. I guess because there are a bunch of different things happening here. In the end, the "Don't Pass The Buck" lesson was better when it was shown, rather than told explicitly in the final scene. I think this one feels more sitcom-like than the best episodes so far. The whole thing, in fact, seems very sitcomy. And, it's all right but, if the show is going to be like this for much of its run, I don't know if I can travel with it.

I need an atypical episode soon, please.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Slow Sons

Yes, I have been very slow with this. I apologize. I am going to try to get back on track now.

I've had three problems:

1) Other writing. These blog is a lark and an experiment. When my other work (like Bleeding Skull) comes up, it gets first dibs on my time.

2) My DVD-R. I am watching Season One from a series of Uncut episodes aired on Canadian TV Land. I chose these because they have the original music in them, unlike the commercially released DVDs (which are awesome otherwise). My disc with episodes 10-18 is screwy. If you click on the individual boxes for the first two episodes, it takes you there. The other 7 boxes takes you to the middle of Episode 2 every time. So, you have to chapter jump ahead but it's all on EP so some spots jump ahead five minutes, others take you ahead by three episodes. None of the chapter stops are at the beginning of episodes, too. And, fast forwarding, since it's EP, can throw you to the end of the disc in seconds. I don't know the episodes good enough to know where to stop. Laziness on my part? Possibly. But, the disc is annoying.

3) No hindsight. With a movie, you're seeing the full piece. With a TV show, each episode is a chunk. It's much easier to talk about episodes of a show when you know everything. (Have a look at my Green Acres reviews for that.) With My Three Sons, I know up to the point that I'm reviewing so I can only make vague guesses as to the future and the past I have with the show is severely limited. Hence, some reviews end up being "Here's what happened and it was pretty good." I try to do more but, sometimes, that's all I can do.

Excuses? Sure. But, I will try to be more diligent in future.

1.14.: Mike's Brother

The brother would be Robbie. And, Robbie is very jealous of his brother, the Blessed Mike (that's how Robbie sees it). We've had the sibling rivalry thing before but this is the one that dives right out and says that Robbie is very jealous of Mike. It all builds around their incredibly messy garage. Steve can't get in the garage because the boys haven't put up shelves to clean up all the random debris. So, they will spend the next few days fixing it up.

Robbie is a big ball of jealous hate in this one. Mike is starting a new job. He put up the first half of the shelves. Robbie needles Mike about every single thing he does. And, Mike catches on and asks Robbie what his beef is...And, Robbie blows up and lets off a litany of reasons why he's sick of his older brother...And, frankly, Robbie does seem like a bit of a jerk but he's really just an awkward kid trying to grow up. And, let's be honest, Mike is cooler than he is.

Of course, in the end, both of them goof up. Robbie screws up on the shelves and causes all sorts of garage troubles. Mike is too cocky and doesn't get the job. Both brothers have their problems and the great thing about this show is that it takes the Sibling Rivalry plotline that we've seen so often and gives it a little extra humanity. We like the characters and we want to see them make up but, hey, I've had siblings and, a lot of times, these things never get made up. You just live with them.

I don't think I'd say this is a great episode but it's a good one. We need an episode like this. We need to have the brother's rivalry and jealousy acknowledged. We know that Robbie will screw up the garage but it's nice to see Mike screw up his new job.

An average episode but one filled with great charm.