Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happy birthday, Doris Singleton!


OTR-television-film actress Doris Singleton is celebrating her 91st natal anniversary today—having been born on this date in 1919 in New York City. The name might not immediately strike a bell but you’ve seen her face—and certainly heard her voice—in any number of movies, TV shows and radio programs from the past. Doris is probably best known among couch potatoes as Caroline Appleby, Lucy Ricardo’s rival and nemesis on the classic sitcom I Love Lucy. Star Lucille Ball tagged Doris’ character with the “Caroline” appellation because she supposedly knew someone by that name—though in the first episode Doris appeared in, “The Club Election,” the character’s first name is “Lillian.”

Singleton’s birth name was Dorothea Singleton, and early in her show business career she sang with the Art Jarrett Orchestra and danced (for three seasons) with the New York City Ballet. But it was her distinctive voice that made her a radio favorite, and she eked out an incredible career emoting over the ether, working alongside such greats as Alan Young, George Burns & Gracie Allen, Bob Hope, Jack Benny (she often played Mary Livingstone’s maid, Pauline), Ed Gardner (as one of the many “Miss Duffy’s” on Duffy’s Tavern) and (Bob) Sweeney & (Hal) March. Her other radio work includes appearances on The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator, Broadway's My Beat, The CBS Radio Workshop, December Bride (on which she played Ruth Henshaw, the role played by Francis Rafferty in the TV version), Let George Do It, The Lux Radio Theatre, Meet Millie, My Little Margie, The NBC University Theater, Rocky Jordan, Stars Over Hollywood, Suspense, That's Rich, The Whistler, Young Love and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Like so many other radio veterans, she also appeared occasionally on such programs as The Sears Radio Theater, the 1979 program that gamely attempted to bring back radio drama and comedy to a new generation of listeners.

It was while appearing on a broadcast of My Favorite Husband that Doris struck up a friendship with Lucille Ball, who kept her in mind when I Love Lucy came around—and she would also guest star on the comedienne’s The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. Singleton also landed regular roles on TV’s The Great Gildersleeve and My Three Sons—and played Susie, the sympathetic next-door neighbor to the Lucy-like Angel Smith in the short-lived sitcom Angel (1960-61), starring Annie Farge. Among the other TV series Doris guested on were such TDOY favorites as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Peoples’ Choice, Perry Mason, The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Pete and Gladys, Checkmate, The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive and Hogan’s Heroes.

As of this post, Doris is one of only three recurring cast members from I Love Lucy still living—the other two being OTR veteran Shirley Mitchell (best known as The Great Gildersleeve’s “Leila Ransom”—and who is scheduled to be at the Friends of Old-Time Radio convention in Newark, NJ this year Oct. 21-24) and Peggy Rea (The Waltons, The Dukes of Hazzard, Grace Under Fire). Singleton, who wed veteran OTR and TV comedy scribe Charlie Issacs in 1941 and was married to him until his death in 2002, is most deserving of a birthday shout-out from her friends at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mayberry Mondays #20: “Sam the Expert Farmer” (02/17/69, prod. no. 0120)

It is important to remember that as we continue to examine and probe the fascinating Mayberry R.F.D. universe each week here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear that the series, while at first glance seeming to be an innocuous sitcom about small-town life in the South in the latter part of the 1960s, is actually teeming with metaphors and camouflaged messages about human sexuality. Case in point: six weeks ago, in an episode entitled “Aunt Bee’s Cruise,” a character was having difficulty with his African violets {{{wavy lines}}}

CAPTAIN: Just where did you raise African violets?
AUNT BEE: Well, I happen to be the president-elect of Mayberry Garden Club… (She places a hand on the violets) And your soil is a little too damp…
CAPTAIN: In my opinion, madam, my soil is not too damp…
AUNT BEE: And in my opinion, Captain, you’ve been at sea too long…

{{{wavy lines}}} It’s not until Captain Horticulture (played by guest star Will Geer) allows a woman—represented by Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Frances Bavier)—into his life that his “African violets” no longer droop, but are vibrant and the talk of the cruise ship. This week’s Mayberry Mondays spotlight, “Sam the Expert Farmer,” returns to this familiar ground with the hero of the show, city council head/poor dirt farmer Sam Jones (Ken Berry), discussing what I think are vegetables with Mayberry’s token black resident Ralph (Charles Lampkin).



SAM: Look how small these beans are, Ralph…I just don’t get it…and those are some of the bigger ones…
RALPH (examining the beans): I can’t understand it…
SAM: It’s lucky I only planted this experiment crop here…I was planning on planting three or four acres next year…
RALPH: Yeah…bean crop pays well
SAM (disgusted): I tell you, Ralph, it’s got me whipped…just whipped! They’re about a third of the size they should be…

Can’t you just feel the sexual tension? Can’t you feel the exhilaration of discussing then-taboo subjects on television in the subtext of tiny vegetables? Can’t you…oh, hell—who am I trying to kid. It’s all bullsh*t, people…Sam just has a problem growing big vegetables. That’s pretty much it.

SAM: You…you never planted beans, did you?
RALPH: No…no…I thought about it…but I’ve been doing pretty good with tomatoes and melons…

Ouch! I hope that was unintentional on the part of the gentleman who penned this little opus, veteran television scribe Elroy Schwartz…Ralph asks Sam if he added any potassium to the bean crop, prompting Sam to respond: “Potassium, potash, sulfur—the only thing I haven’t tried is penicillin.”

As the two gentlemen continue to talk shop, Sam is interrupted by the arrival of his son and heir to the vast Jones estate, Mike the Idiot Boy (Buddy Foster), who pulls up on his bike. Mike wants to ask his father a question, but Sam waves him off, explaining that he’s gabbing with Ralph.

MIKE: I’ll be right here when you finish talking...
SAM: Yes, I see you…
MIKE: Just thought I’d mention it…
SAM: Okay, Mike—what do you want?
MIKE: Can I go to the movies on Saturday with the guys? Richard’s mother is going to take us in…
SAM: I’ll think about it and let you know…

Sam, you moron—someone else has offered to take that idiot boy of yours “in”…jump on it before they stop to reconsider the repercussions! Anyway, Sam announces to Ralph that he’s going to stop by the supply store to chat up a gent named Harry, who might have some further ideas on why Sam’s garden does not grow. So Sam climbs into his truck and drives off for town, leaving idiot Mike and Ralph to bond:

MIKE: He’s in a bad mood, isn’t he?
RALPH: Well, his whole bean crop didn’t come in the way he hoped it would…
MIKE: Geez…he’s got acres of other stuff
RALPH: Yeah, but you see, Mike…we farmers like your dad and myself...we plant seeds in the ground and…we try to make the soil, and the weather, and the chemicals work for us…when they don’t, we get kind of upset—you know what I mean?


“Sure…you’re talking about sex.” Well, this “Sam-has-tiny-beans” scenario is getting a bit dull, so leave us journey across town to the humble domicile of bakery doyenne Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka), the cutest character on this show and current steady of Farmer Teeny Veg. A car pulls up in her driveway, one driven by gas pump jockey and village idiot Goober Pyle (George Lindsey).

GOOBER (strolling into the backyard): Got your car all fixed…
MILLIE: Oh, you didn’t have to bring it by, Goober—I was going to come by and pick it up…
GOOBER: Oh, that’s okay…I got ‘er tuned and she’s purrin’ like a kitten (makes howling cat noise)
MILLIE (laughing) So what did I get—the major tune-up for $29.95 or the minor one for $19.50?
GOOBER: The twelve-dollar one…wasn’t that much wrong…
MILLIE: Good…
GOOBER (noticing her garden): Hey—whatcha got goin’ on here?
MILLIE (giggling): String beans…and I grew them all by myself
GOOBER: No kiddin’! Well, I think they’s the biggest ones I ever seen…whadja you do, feed ‘em vitamins? (He laughs stupidly)
MILLIE (joining him): No…no, I didn’t do anything to them…
GOOBER: I tried growin’ artichokes once …they come up real fine but I didn’t think they was much good ‘cause when I eat ‘em I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to eat a whole leaf
MILLIE: Oh…
GOOBER: I was just a kid then…no more than nineteen or twenty…

Yeah, and I remember how proud you were, just starting fourth grade. Millie asks Goober to be honest with her, wondering if he thinks they’re good enough to show Sam. And with that, our plot for this week officially kicks in…

MILLIE: Well, about four or five months ago I told him I wanted to start my own little garden…he said not to bother, that I probably wouldn’t have any luck…
GOOBER: Oh…
MILLIE: But I insisted that I wanted to try it anyway, and…he gave me some seeds he was using, and…well… (Shrugging her shoulders) This is it!

“Well, I just think they’re great, Mill,” burbles Goober as he grabs a string bean at random and bites off a piece…and then continues to nibble on it as they continue their conversation. (Apparently Goober’s a fan of vegetables al dente.) Anyway, Millie’s planning on surprising Sam (believe me, he’s going to be floored) when he comes by—she explains that she didn’t say anything beforehand because she didn’t want him “poking fun at her.” Goober reassures her she has nothing to be ashamed of, and before getting back to the gas station reminds her that she and Sam will be double-dating with him and his new girlfriend this evening. “Hey, does she still have that police matron’s job in Siler City?” Millie asks.

“Yeah, they’d never fire her with them muscles,” replies Goober. As he goes out the way he came in, he meets Sam pulling into Millie’s driveway and mentions that Mill has a surprise in store for him. “I don’t like to say anything about surprises ‘cause if you tell anybody about the surprise it kinda spoils it for ‘em,” he tells Sam in a serious tone. Sam makes his way to the backyard, but Millie stops him before he can go any further and tells him to close his eyes. She then brings him over and places his hands on some of the string beans…



…and this is his reaction. Bean envy.

SAM: Beans…
MILLIE: Mm-hmm…I know they’re not as big as they should be, but…well… (Giggling) I’m kind of proud of them…
SAM: Yeah…nice…uh…these are the seeds I gave you…?
MILLIE (nodding her head): Mm-hmm…the very same…
SAM: They are…

Pauvre, pauvre Sam. He’s been bested in the growing of foodstuffs by his lovable airhead of a girlfriend, and his manhood will no doubt suffer as a result. Trying to salvage what is already an emasculating situation, Sam quizzes Millie on the steps she took in planting the beans…and she responds that all she did was press holes for the seeds with her thumb…and water them “when I could.” She’s very pleased with the results, and to demonstrate French-kisses the beans to show her appreciation.


Sorry you had to see that, by the way. Sam and Millie quickly go over their plans for this evening (they’re planning on taking in a Sophia Loren film—quel culture!) and before he can leave, Millie asks:

MILLIE: Sam, how did your beans do?
SAM: My beans? Oh, uh…fair…fair…
MILLIE: Oh—well, what’s fair for you is great for me…remember, this is the first time I’ve ever planted anything…

They both laugh, and Sam starts to wonder if maybe he should have took a few more accounting courses like his high school guidance counselor suggested. “You didn’t, uh…you didn’t drop anything in the soil by accident, did you?” he asks, still trying to comprehend why Millie’s bean crop is drinking his milkshake. No, Sam—Millie didn’t conduct any Wiccan rituals to grow gigantic produce…she’s just a better farmer than you are. As she walks him out to the truck, she spots a bucket in the back containing his “prize” bean crop.

MILLIE: Hey, Sam…Sam, what are these things?
SAM: Uh…
MILLIE: Some new kind of vegetable?
SAM: They’re beans…they’re beans…
MILLIE: Oh—what kind?
SAM: String beans…
MILLIE: Oh… (Looking into the bucket again) But that’s impossible…come on, you’re kidding—what are they?
SAM (noticeably testy): I said they were string beans… (He puts the bucket back into the truck)
MILLIE: Wh…well…what do you need them for…where did you get them?
SAM: I grew them…see you later…


Sam climbs into his truck and pulls out of the drive. Millie just stands there with an incredulous look on her face, as if she’s just found out there’s no Santa Claus. Dark clouds start to appear in the brisk, spring Mayberry sky. (Okay, I made that last part up.)

We then cut to a scene at the local soda shop, where our old friend Joe the soda jerk is wiping down a table as Sam, Millie, Goober and Marilyn come in. Joe is a world-weary cynic to whom we were introduced to in Episode #13, “Sam and the Teenager,” but because the part isn’t considered of major importance they’ve recast the role with character actor Jim Begg instead of “Teenager’s” Ralph J. Rose. (Then again, it’s possible that everyone working behind the soda fountain in that town is named “Joe.”)

Okay, I can tell this is kind of confusing for everyone, so here’s some photos to help out—Joe 1 (from “Teenager”):

…and Joe 2:


While we’re on the subject, let’s check out Goober’s date…


This is character actress Peg Shirley, and while I’ve seen a few of the things on her IMDb resume she’s not really ringing a bell right now—it’s one of those deals where I know I’ve seen the face, but I can’t quite come up with where I’ve seen it. Anyway, we’ve established that the character she’s playing, Marilyn, works as a matron—which is why she’s wearing a turtleneck and has a boyish coiffure. They’re telling us in that not-so-subtle sixties television way that Marilyn is a dyke, and that this is pretty much Goober’s only option, date-wise, because all of the other girls in the immediate area know him by reputation and wouldn’t go out with him even if he were heavily sedated and placed in a maximum security cage.

But back to our story—Joe, because he’s looking for more in life than counting maraschino cherries, asks the group how the Loren flick was…

MILLIE: It was beautiful—it was all about Venice…
GOOBER: Yeah, you know where they have them canals? I yelled out, “Don’t cross the street unless you can swim!” (Stupid laugh) Got a big laugh…

I just realized who the guy with the James Thurber-like wit is sitting behind me whenever I go to the movies.

SAM: Well, what are we going to have—Millie? Marilyn?
MARILYN: I’ll have a chocolate soda…
MILLIE: Me, too!
JOE (writing on his pad): Two chocolate sodas… (To Goober) Okay?
GOOBER: I’ll have the House Special, Joe…that’s strawberry hot fudge sundae with whipped cream, nuts and a cherry… (He grins stupidly)
JOE (back to the pad): Uh-huh…okay…
GOOBER: Ah…instead of strawberry, could you make that pistachio…and instead of hot fudge I’d like some of that marshmallow…and chocolate sprinkles instead of nuts…
JOE: What do you want instead of the whipped cream?
GOOBER (testy): I’m having the whipped cream…I said I’m having the house special

Did you find the continuity boo-boo in that dialogue exchange? No, it’s not that Goober feels he’s somehow superior to a guy jerking sodas for a living…it’s that he ordered pistachio ice cream…let’s flashback to Episode #7, “Youth Takes Over” {{{wavy lines}}}

GOOBER: I’m sorry I’m late, but there was a long line at the ice cream store…
SAM: That’s okay, Goob…sit down and we’ll get started…now…
GOOBER (as he sits): I wanted chocolate but they was out of it, so I had to take strawberry…
SAM: As I was saying…Andy and I have been giving some thought to the youth program…
GOOBER (interrupting): They had pistachio but that makes my mouth turn wrong side out…
ANDY: Goob…
GOOBER: You reckon that’s because “pistachio” sounds a lot like “persimmon”?

{{{wavy lines}}} Whoa…I gotta stop with these flashbacks…I’m getting a little dizzy. Okay, back to the awkward small-talk that the group is making because they don’t want to come right out and ask if Marilyn is a lesbian…

MILLIE: Well…we haven’t had a chance to talk, Marilyn…how are things at the prison?
MARILYN: Oh…same old thing…sometimes you get some nice ones, and…sometimes you get some rough ones
(They all laugh…except for Sam)
MILLIE: Doesn’t that sound like exciting work, Sam?
SAM: Oh…yeah…yeah…sure is…
GOOBER: Marilyn…there’s, um…something I’ve been meanin’ to ask you for a long time, but…uh…I always felt kinda funny about it…
MARILYN: What’s that, Goober?

Ladies and gentlemen and readers of this blog…we are about to make television history

GOOBER: Did you ever shoot anybody? In the line of duty, I mean…

Missed it by that much…

Millie keeps trying to bring Sam into this fascinating conversation but he’s being a little pissy…and it’s not too hard to figure out why…

MILLIE (looking at her nails): My nails…a mess…
GOOBER: It’s prob’ly from all that gardenin’… (To Sam) I meant to ask you, Sam—whadja think of them beans Millie grew? Real bigguns, wasn’t they?
SAM (frostily): Yeah…yeah, they sure were…really big…
MILLIE: Oh, Goober…that was just luck…
GOOBER: Luck nothing! I say when somebody does somethin’ good, it means they got talent for it…they know what they’re doin’—right, Sam?
SAM: Right…absolutely right…
GOOBER: Why, I bet a lot of them people planted the same seeds and didn’t do as good as you…because they didn’t know what they were doin’—right, Sam?
SAM (pissed): Right, Goob…
MILLIE: It was just luck, I tell you…you know, speaking about that movie tonight—I think that Sophia Loren…
GOOBER (interrupting): If you ever grow beans, Sam, you oughta let Millie help ya…she’s a whiz, all right…

Faithful Mayberry Mondays readers know, of course, that Goober the Manchild’s social skills are somewhat retarded and that he often has difficulty Letting. Things. Go. Fortunately, Providence has brought Joe the Soda Guy to the table with everybody’s order before Sam gives his buddy a lip so fat he’s going to have eat his vegetables pureed from now on. Even with Goober shoveling ice cream into his mouth, he’s wandered back to the subject of Millie’s bumper bean crop until she finally shouts at him: “Goober, will you shut up about those beans!” (If this was a three-camera show, the studio audience would be breaking out into spontaneous applause right now. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they picked Millie up and carried her around the studio on their shoulders.)

The scene shifts back to Millie’s crib, because even though Sam doesn’t have a green thumb he’s still gentleman enough to drive Millie home. (As for Goober and Marilyn—I’ve got five bucks that says they’re probably in some Mt. Pilot biker bar by now.) He escorts her to the door, and as we watch we’re concerned that this could get ugly.

MILLIE: Sam…I’m sorry…
SAM: Sorry about what?
MILLIE: Well…you know…for growing big beans

Well, we need no longer be concerned. It is going to get ugly.

SAM: Oh…don’t be silly…that’s ridiculous
MILLIE: Oh, please don’t be upset…
SAM: Who says I’m upset?
MILLIE: Well…you were so quiet all evening…
SAM: Well…I…just didn’t have anything particular to say, that’s all…
MILLIE: Well—why did you seem to be upset with me?
SAM: Mill…Millie…you said I was upset with you…I didn’t say I was upset with you…
MILLIE: Well, then you’re definitely not upset…
SAM: No, I am definitely not upset…I will sign an affidavit if you want me to…
MILLIE: Well, you don’t have to be sarcastic
SAM: I’m not sarcastic!
MILLIE: …and don’t be angry with Goober, either…

“I’m not angry with Goober…I’m just going to pin the friggin’ arm he uses to check the oil behind his back until he shrieks like a little girl…”

SAM: Goober?
MILLIE: Well, yeah…you know, back at the ice cream parlor…
SAM: Well, who said I’m angry with Goober?
MILLIE: Well…after some of the things he was saying about my beans—why, he didn’t even know you were growing any!

Yeah, I mean—how is he supposed to know you grow beans on a farm?

MILLIE: So don’t be angry with him...
SAM: Millie…first you tell me I’m angry with you, and then you tell me I’m angry with Goober…is it okay with you if I just…feel the way I want to feel? I mean, you don’t have to tell me how I should feel, you know?
MILLIE: I am not trying to tell you how to feel…I was just trying to help you understand
SAM: Understand what? Look, Millie…if you feel guilty about your…beans, then that’s your problem…
MILLIE: My problem? My problem? Why, the only problem I have is…standing here trying to help you!

And with that, she grabs the house key out of Sam’s hands (he’s been fiddling with it, trying to open the door during their conversation), opens the front door and shuts it firmly behind her. You know, we really could have used Millie’s old flame, pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) in this scene—he’s never around when you need him!

There’s a scene change as the front door of Boysinger’s opens, and Mike the Idiot Boy wanders in—he asks Millie if “broken donuts” are still two cents apiece. She confirms that they are, and that she’ll have to “break a couple” for him. Putting what appears to be whole crullers into a bag, Mike asks: “Are you supposed to do that?”

“Well, I’ll have to ask Mrs. Boysinger one of these days,” Millie says sadly. (I don’t suggest you kids should try this at home, but if I knew of a place where I could get “donut irregulars” for two cents apiece there wouldn’t be an unbroken donut left standing in that joint.)

MIKE: Did you have a fight with my father?
MILLIE: Well…uh…um…what makes you ask a question like that, Mike?
MIKE: He was kinda grumpy again this morning…

It’s called “not getting any,” kid. You’ll learn about this once you’re old enough to hang around the smoking area in high school.

MILLIE: Oh…um…no…n-no…no, of course not…grownups don’t fight

Uh, Millie—we covered this in last week’s episode…the one you weren’t in. So he’s not going to uybay any of your apolacray.

MIKE: I guess it’s still those beans then…I heard you grew some big ones

As big as your head, my little mental midget. Millie rings up the broken donut sale and asks Mike where he’s heard that fable…

MIKE: I heard my father talking to Aunt Bee…he said Millie grew the biggest darn beans he ever saw in his life…
MILLIE (closing the cash drawer and slightly depressed): I see…
MIKE: What did you do to make them grow so big?
MILLIE: I-I-I don’t know, Mike—they just did…
MIKE: You must have done something…
MILLIE: No, I didn’t! I really didn’t!

She’s a witch! Burn her!

How do you know she’s a witch?

Well…she turned Goober into a newt. And believe me, that was an improvement. (Audience applause) And…scene!

Okay, back to the shenanigans in Mayberry. Millie explains to Mike that all she did “was plant the seed and talk to them.”

MIKE: Talk to them?
MILLIE (waving her hand at him): Oh…well, I’m only kidding…you know, when I work in my garden I…sort of talk to everything…I’m…kinda nutty that way…

Girlfriend, if I were a string bean plant and you whispered sweet nothings into my plant ears I’d have a growth spurt that would put a run in your panty hose. Mike thanks her for breaking the donuts and runs off, leaving Millie somewhat dejected and depressed. Fortunately for her, however, she doesn’t have to be in the next scene—which finds Sam strolling along Mayberry’s main drag until he comes to a stop at the lowly establishment of Mayberry’s resident fix-it savant, Emmett “I wish I was collecting a pension” Clark (Paul Hartman).

Now, in all honesty—I should stop right here and not bother finishing this episode because, really, this is the reason why Sam’s vegetable yield is as puny as it is…he spends far too much friggin’ time at Emmett’s. But, we still have fifteen minutes left in this session, so let’s continue on—Emmett greets Sam sarcastically as “Happy,” and Goober’s salutation is a bit reserved, too.

SAM: Aw, look, I’m sorry, guys…I know I haven’t been too smiley lately…it’s just that this darn thing has been bugging me…if you were farmers you would understand…

And so would you, too, Sam.

EMMETT (struggling with a toaster): Look, Sam—every man whether he’s a farmer or a businessman has problems now and then…right, Goob?
GOOBER: Well, of course! You don’t think every motor job I work on goes smooth all the time…?
EMMETT (still wrestling with the toaster): Of course not…thing you gotta do is take it in your stride…
SAM: I know, it’s just that…this thing got to me, that’s all…
EMMETT (the toaster is winning on points): You can’t let it, Sam—you can’t let anything get under your skin like this…
GOOBER: Right…you gotta try and forget it…
SAM: Well, I’m trying…
EMMETT (the toaster has him on the ropes): Gotta learn to hold onto your cool…
SAM: I know, I know…
EMMETT (the toaster is getting ready for a victory lap): …or else you’re not worth anything to yourself…or anybody…the first thing you know you…OHHH!!! (He lifts the toaster up in frustration and brings it crashing down on the sidewalk, and then takes his hat off and throws that down as well)
SAM: I’ll remember your advice…

Sam takes his leave of Emmett and Goober, and Goober—seeing at how his friend has suffered defeat at the hands of a minor appliance—asks Emmett: “You wanna get a bottle of pop?”

We then are whisked by television magic to Jones Acres, where Sam is just pulling up in his truck. Mike the Idiot Boy, as faithful as any family dog, sits patiently by the barn awaiting his father’s arrival.


MIKE: I was just wondering if you thought any more about me going to the movies on Saturday…if you haven’t had the time, though—that’s okay…I just thought as long as I was sittin’ here I’d ask you…
SAM: Sure, Mike…you can go…
MIKE: Thanks, Pa…
SAM: Right…
MIKE: I found out something from Millie about growing beans…


Sam has just come to the painful realization that his own flesh-and-blood is a stool pigeon, a grimy little snitch who’d sell out anyone just for the opportunity to sit through a Saturday afternoon matinee with his “friends.” Desperate to save face among his fellow farmers, however, he asks his son to—oh, I’m so ashamed I resorted to using this—spill the beans.

SAM: You did?
MIKE: Yeah…you know, what she does to make them grow so big…
SAM: Yeah, uh…what…what?
MIKE: She talks to them…
SAM: Talks to them?
MIKE: That’s right…
SAM: Does she…does she say whether they talk back to her?
MIKE: Oh, Pa…
SAM: Come on, Mike…now Millie was just kidding you…talking to beans isn’t going to do any good…but…thanks a lot for trying to help anyway…

You know what’s coming…you can see it from a mile away…but I’m contractually bound to do this…wait for it



Yes, Sam does everything but sing You’re My First, You’re My Last, My Everything to the friggin’ beans…and if you’re wondering whose blue jeaned legs those are, I’ll give you three guesses…and the first two don’t count…

SAM: Oh…h-h-h-hi, Ralph…I…I-I-I…I was just…

RALPH: It’s all right, Sam…I’ve talked to my crops for years…it kind of gets it off your chest…

It’s interesting to see how far racial relations had progressed by the time this episode originally aired. If it had taken place twenty years ago, you’d have a bug-eyed Mantan Moreland reacting to Sam with “Mmm…mmm…mmm…you folks sure am crazy!” So while Ralph plays it super cool and is careful not to make any sudden moves around Sam until the men from Happy Acres arrive with the wagon, the two gentlemen farmers start to wax philosophical:

SAM: Darn it, Ralph—you and I both know there’s got to be a scientific explanation for why these things didn’t go anyplace!
RALPH: Oh, no—I disagree, Sam…I’ve been through this myself…
SAM: Well…what’s the answer?
RALPHL Well…look at that bunch of trees over there…and that field of wildflowers…

I see trees of green…red roses, too…I see ‘em bloom…for me and you. And I think to myself…what a wonderful world. (Ohhhhhhh yeahhhhhhhhhh…)

SAM: Yeah…what about it?
RALPH: Well…did you ever stop to wonder who’s taking care of them? (Shaking his head) Nobody…
SAM: Well…what’s the explanation?
RALPH: No explanation…Mother Nature just looked at those wildflowers and gave them whatever they need to grow and be beautiful…

And if there’s anything I’ve learned from years of watching margarine commercials, it’s that it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature…

RALPH: …she must have done the same thing in Millie’s backyard…whatever it takes to grow string beans, Mother Nature just slips it right there…
SAM (chuckling): She sure did…
RALPH: You know, I’ve been farming for about twice as long as you have, Sam…

"…and you’ll note that I generally stay the hell away from Emmett’s fix-it shop as a rule…"

RALPH: …so this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen…most of the time, we can help a crop along, eh? We put the right things in the soil, we plant it in the right spot…but there are times that no matter what we do, nothing happens…this is just one of those times, Sam…


Yeah, well, thanks for the freakin' enlightenment, Master Po. Ralph goes on to pontificate that, sure, Sam can’t grow a damn string bean to save his life…but his tomatoes sure are fat and sassy. “Oh, yeah,” agrees Sam, “kind of hit the jackpot there.”

Okay, I need to wrap this up because God forbid I should miss this week’s edition of the new Hawaii Five-0. Sam stops by Millie’s with a peace offering of his gargantuan tomatoes, and apologizes for being such a dink.

SAM: Millie…I came by to apologize for the way I acted…it was…really childish
MILLIE: Hmm…you’re…you’re forgiven…
SAM: Uh…good…
MILLIE: As a matter of fact, I’ll even invite you over for dinner…how’s that?

And don’t forget about the make-up sex…yowsah! He presents Millie the tomatoes, who fawns over them like they were the greatest produce in the world. “Well, at least I have a touch with tomatoes,” Sam philosophizes. He tells her he’ll see her later on for dinner, and then leaves and you’ve already figured out the ending to this one, haven’t you…wait for it...




You’d be amazed at what a little fertility dance for Mother Nature’s approval can do with your crop yield. And now for the coda…

We find Sam and Millie on the front porch at Casa del Swanson, with Sam strumming a guitar much in the same way that the guy who used to own this sitcom—what was his name again?—once did. (I kind of wonder if the producers of R.F.D. ever thought out loud: “Trust us—they’ll never know he’s gone!” And then the slower viewers at home were thinking: “Damn…Andy Griffith looks like he should really start working out!”) When Sam is finished crooning a few bars of Carolina Moon, Millie compliments him with “Nice.” (But she’s careful not to add: “…but you’re no Sheriff Taylor.”)

SAM: You know, that meal you cooked was just great…
MILLIE: Uh…thank you…those tomatoes you brought over helped, too…
SAM: Hmm…
MILLIE: They were delicious…simply delicious…
SAM: They do have a nice flavor, don’t they?
MILLIE: Mm-hmm…and they’re so big, too!
SAM: Yeah…well…you know…growing tomatoes is a lot different than growing beans…a person really has to know what they’re doing…
MILLIE: Mm…I’m sure…
SAM: An experienced farmer can really…bring ‘em along…well, I…kind of pride myself on knowing how to handle a tomato crop…
MILLIE: Oh, you certainly should…
SAM: Yep…when it comes to tomatoes…I don’t have to take my hat off to anybody
MILLIE: Unbelievable…absolutely unbelievable…

You serrit, kiddo. Let’s check Aunt Bee's stats and then blow this pop stand.

Although Aunt Bee is referenced briefly in this episode by Mike the Idiot Boy, she doesn’t physically appear in the show so Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Mayberry R.F.D. Bee-o-meter™ stands at nine appearances this week. In the closing credits of the show, actor Richard Collier receives acknowledgment as having played the part of Harry—but since no such character appears onscreen (except for being mentioned by Sam in the first part of the episode) it’s not hard to deduce that he fell victim to the trimming necessitated by this episode’s retirement in syndication. I previewed “Sam the Expert Farmer” last week at the same time I watched “The Camper,” and my first impression was that it was pretty lousy…and a second viewing didn’t improve on that at all, except that I was a bit more snark-inspired. So as to why “Farmer” ranks so highly among TV.com’s top fifty R.F.D. episodes (#5)…well, the individuals who make up the website’s devoted fan contingent are clearly smoking crack. Next Monday, we invite those of you who haven’t given up on this feature to spend another action-packed half-hour with the sitcom that’s the walking definition of “television mayonnaise” in a little opus entitled “The Pet Shop.” Be with us next week. Aloha.

Bookmark and Share