'Ff'lo (fflo) wrote,

"I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin." -- Oscar Levant

So I was watching these old episodes from the first season of the Doris Day Show---1968---and it was going along predictably enough, apart from the odd way one episode tried to address the topical matter of racial tension. I'd been thinking of how I know for some reason that the producer was Doris's husband, and was a schmuck, and wondering whether the Joseph Bonaduce who wrote one episode was the show-biz-semi-failure father of Danny "Partridge" Bonaduce who was himself a schmuck, as the tale goes. Feeling the influence of EJ there---she's been a TV-credits-reader from birth, practically. And I'm thinking how Doris's being widowed and having the sacred care of innocent children to attend to makes her asexual in a way that was convenient to the Brady Bunch sort of ideal domestic tone of the times. Stuff like that. So then I'm in episode 6, "The Antique," & there's this plot about these two snarky old spinster sisters travelling rural areas ripping people off by buying their antiques for a song (and with a bit of song-and-dance).

By this point in the series there is emerging a bit of a theme of Doris (as former-city-girl now widow rancher raising two sons with her crusty-but-warm-hearted father [Denver Pyle] and savvy buddy older gal à la watered-down Vivian Vance and "nincompoop" ranchhand à la watered-down Gomer Pyle)---a theme of her being wiser than other country folk, and using her women's wily passive-aggressive ways to bring about the proper/just result needed for that week's conflict, all with soft-focus vaseline lens for any close-up on her---and, sure 'nuff, here she manages to outwit the old lady cons, securing the return of Grandpa's beloved table (kept in the barn & sold by the boys at the opening of the show). And then we come back from the last commercial for the tag ending portion of the program, with just the one loose end out there to be tied up: why Grandpa loved that table so much. When it was revealed that the boys'd sold it, he'd gotten sad and left the room, and crestfallen Doris told the boys ---as her pal knew, too, I believe--- that the table had been very special to Grandpa. So it's gonna be heart-warming, you just know, though bittersweet 'n' wistful. Ten to one it involves now-dead Grandma, Doris's mom. The show's had some moments of wistful love of the now-dead.

The set-up is there as we rejoin the players for this final segment: Doris & pal are on the porch in the evening drinking coffee---Doris sitting on the railing all country-like & everything, with her legs stretched out on it & crossed at the ankles. (I won't get into detailing the varyingly pointy appearance of her breasts in the show.) Does Grandpa want coffee? Pal says he's upstairs in his room, looking for his mandolin strings; they call up & he says as much, and that he'll be down in a minute. Cut to him restringing. Takes a few tries to snag the one he's on.

Enter the ranchhand. Grandpa compliments his new belt buckle --- he got it in the mail that morning. He's got a date; Grandpa asks who with, and he says Miss Somebodyoranother. Can he borrow the truck? He'll be careful. Yes. Will he ask about the table? No. Exit ranchhand.

Grandpa begins playing the mandolin---a slow ballad, with sustained notes from multiple rapid tight strummings of strings. Begin slow zoom out through the open window, followed by very slow, almost freakishly art-y pan down to Doris on the railing below. Just before we get to her we hear faint humming---it's Doris. Is this that Old Mill Stream song? Doris is now softly singing some words. Pal takes over, lazily, for a few. Doris finishes up ---yep: "... old ... mill ... stream."

Scene! Roll "Que Sera, Sera" closing credits! that's it, goodnight! ----Huh ?? But what about the table? And, moreover, what kind of totally anomalous interlude have I just seen in this early sitcom?

It was a surpriser, I have to tell you. I like being surprised in the midst of predictability. I guess the writer---a woman with three names I forgot to write down---was going for a bit of country evening porch-sitting charm, but it was so languidly plotless, utterly abandoning the stock schtick, and with no overlay of signifying whatsoever. In other words, it was grand, at the very same time it was hokey. And it also stuck out like a sore thumb for how subtle it was, in the middle of the ham-fisty mechanical and transparent TV factory schlock that is so much of the rest of the show.

Why was I watching what I consider schlock to begin with? It's schlock from my childhood, that's all. I don't know how much of it I saw at the time, but some. And I'm kind of into the history of TV then, and into taking a look with my grown-up eyes at the bits like this that are, unlike Gilligan, just turning up now for another peek.

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