Sunday, August 23, 2015

The HORN Section Salutes: Melody Patterson (1949-2015)


This one hurts, just a couple of days after we learned that Yvonne (BATMAN) Craig had succumbed to cancer at age 78.  Already in 2015 we've also said goodbye to Christopher Lee, Theodore Bikel, Dick Van Patten and HONDO himself, Ralph Taeger.  Now we learn that Melody Patterson, F TROOP's beloved Wrangler Jane, has passed away at age 66.



Born in Inglewood, California on April 16, 1949 (some sources initially gave 1947, but--see the next paragraph), Melody Patterson studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and appeared as a guest star on a 1964-65 episode of George Burns' WENDY AND ME prior to winning the role of sharpshooter Jane Angelica Thrift, proprietress of Fort Courage's general store and girlfriend to the "Scourge of the West", Captain Wilton Parmenter.


On the cover of TV GUIDE, 49 years ago last week

I'm sure you've heard the incredible story that Melody was only 15 when she won the role for the F TROOP pilot that ABC later picked up for its Fall schedule in February 1965.  Back in the day, she was able to hide her real age until several weeks into filming, when several episodes had already aired and the show had already become one of ABC's very few bright spots that Fall.


After the truth came out, Patterson explained that she had been turned down for a number of roles when she gave her real age--she specifically mentioned the regular role on NBC's HANK that ended up going to Linda Foster.  So, the ambitious actress began lying about her age.  (Her F TROOP co-star Forrest Tucker had done the same thing in 1934 at the same age, first to get a job in a burlesque club and then, in a bit of foreshadowing, to join the U.S. Cavalry.) 

Guest starring on the second episode of ADAM-12, 1968

A bold move that worked for the teenaged actress, since Patterson ended up being so perfectly cast that it is hard to imagine anyone else playing Wrangler Jane.  The athletic starlet (she bowled and practiced yoga in her spare time) learned how to ride, shoot and rope for the role--which ironically lasted until her 18th birthday.  The same month that Melody turned legal, Warner Brothers pulled the plug on a third season for F TROOP in April 1967 after the sale of its TV division to Seven Arts.  ABC almost certainly wanted the show back for 1967-68: it was the network's second highest sitcom in the Nielsens behind BEWITCHED at the time.

On THE MONKEES in 1968

Patterson had lent her singing talents to both F TROOP (That's Show Biz) and SHINDIG and appeared to have a very bright future in the industry.  Instead, after leading roles in the features CYCLE SAVAGES (1968) and BLOOD AND LACE (1971) and a number of TV guest shots (ADAM-12, THE MONKEES) she ended up putting her career on hold for marriage to HAWAII FIVE-O co-star James MacArthur.  Patterson did guest star three times on her husband's series but was otherwise inactive onscreen for the rest of the Seventies.  Unfortunately, her career never regained the lost momentum after this long hiatus.

In BLOOD AND LACE (1971)

Melody Patterson was interviewed by Tom Lisanti for his book Drive-In Dream Girls (a book I consider a must-read, by the way) and wrote a column, "Wrapping with Wrangler" for Wildest Westerns magazine in recent years.   The aforementioned and thoroughly insane BLOOD AND LACE, which I consider to be her best role outside of F TROOP, is coming to Blu-Ray and DVD on November 24 of this year.  That film is also highly recommended by yours truly.

And for a recommendation to check out Melody's comedic talent in her most famous role, her best F TROOP showcase is in the riotous first season entry, The Courtship of Wrangler Jane, in which O'Rourke and Agarn attempt to help her realize her dream of becoming Mrs. Wilton Parmenter.



R.I.P. Ms. Patterson.  You can check out her work each weekend!  F TROOP currently airs on Me-TV for a full hour each Saturday morning at 5 AM ET/4 AM CT and on Sunday mornings at 6 AM ET/5 AM CT.


Sunday, August 09, 2015

Television Review: QUINCY, M.E. "To Clear The Air" (1982)







QUINCY, M.E. : THE HILARIOUS YEARS -- Number 6: "To Clear the Air" -- Season 7 (1982)








Starring Jack Klugman as Quincy, Robert Ito as Sam, John S. Ragin as Astin, Val Bisoglio As Danny, Joseph Roman as Brill; special guest stars Stephen Elliott as Craddock, Joan Pringle as Dr. Ruddy, Joby Baker as Sabarosa, Ronald G. Joseph as Ruben Cardenas, Frank Marth as Ed, E. J. Andre as Sy Schuster. Directed by Lester Wm. Burke.  Written by Sam Egan.


Since it's been awhile, here's the introduction and overview to our affectionate tribute to QUINCY, M.E.: THE HILARIOUS YEARS (a.k.a. The Soapbox Years, if you prefer) at this linkPlease see the links under the photo of the great Jack Klugman on the right side of the page for previous installments.  Also, please note that I'm not deconstructing each episode scene by scene anymore.  Quite frankly, it takes too long for me to write and you to read.  So, in hopes that it doesn't detract from the fun, I'll just give you a review instead.


77 year old emphysema patient Sy Schuster is out for a morning walk with his wife while Los Angeles is under a smog alert.  Not a good idea, and he ends up on Quincy's slab without finishing it.  Turns out the treatment clinic for lung patients is virtually next door to Frontier Oil Refinery.  When the Big Q learns that they've been in violation of clean air regulations, he declares air pollution as the cause of Schuster's death.  Bad publicity?  It's the Chronicle's top story!



(It probably topped the front page over at Lou Grant's Tribune too, I bet.)

Frontier Oil President Craddock predictably brushes off the coroner's findings.  After all, Mr. Schuster had plenty of complicating comorbids and was aged.  But then a tweener asthma patient at the same facility collapses outside (also after being warned not to go out there!), making Quincydamus' dire prediction of a death toll closer to reality.  Quincy's willingness to go out on a limb also captures the attention of activist Dr. Ruddy, who informs Q-Man that the Clean Air Act is in peril with the new Congress, and it may be, since it turns out that Craddock isn't content to just thumb his nose at the current rules.


During its first act, To Clear the Air has all the makings of a Hilarious Years classic a la Bitter Pill, Dead Stop and the piece de resistance of the soapbox era, Next Stop, Nowhere.  We open on stacks polluting the air a la COLD TURKEY's closing shot, with several shots of people out and about, wearing bandanas (over their noses and mouths) and smoke protection masks while bicycling and roller skating on the sidewalks.  Meanwhile, a voice over radio announcer wishes us good morning thusly: "And a smoggy one it is!  Fourth day in a row of ninety plus temps and second stage alerts!  And, sorry to say, no end in sight.  Not much of anything in sight, for that matter!  Visibility is zilch!" 

Uh, I think we get the point......

Next, our weekly villain Craddock refuses to make adjustments on the sulfur levels--it's profits over people again!  Well, OK, he does cite the people at Frontier who would be laid off if production fell.  Schuster collapses and dies in eye-popping fashion immediately after, sending Quincy on his usual mission for statistics ("The refineries were supposed to cut back 20%").  The officials at AQMD bemoan a go-to QUINCY, M.E. reason for lack of enforcement:--"there's only 86 of us for 70,000 sources to watchdog!"  Act One ends very promisingly, with Dr. Astin aghast at reading the headline-making proclamation above.


Looks like a Quincy Comedy Classic in the making, right?

Wrong!

After this auspicious beginning, the three following acts mostly disappoint.  Our courageous coroner has a sanctimonious sentence or two, but never raises the decibel level while delivering them.  That's right--not even one Outrage! this time.  Does he take over the jobs of others (i.e. directing the toxic waste disposal team in Dead Stop)?  Well, Quince tags along for the inspection at Frontier Oil, but only as an observer.  He never directly confronts Craddock or any of the underlings at Frontier--no shouting, no face to face space invasion--doesn't even wag his finger at them!

I wonder if she's ever been on a houseboat......

Most damaging of all to that Big Q reputation, he has that look in his eyes after meeting Dr. Ruddy (and he should, since she's played by Joan Pringle) but nope, no sly attempts to get her to Danny's for dinner or a drink.  He just gives low-key testimony in front of Congress at Ruddy's request, and cedes center stage to her at the hearing.  It's like watching an episode of BATMAN in which Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson never go "to the Batpoles!"


To Clear the Air seemed tailor made to give us that Soapbox Quince we know and love so well.  What happened?  Writer Sam Egan also scripted Bitter Pill, Next Stop Nowhere and Never a Child, so he had no problems taking us over the top elsewhere.  Director Lester Wm. Berke, on the other hand, was helming a television episode for the first and only time in his long career.


Berke's only other credit as director was the 1958 feature THE LOST MISSILE, a project that he took over when his father William Berke (a veteran with nearly 100 direction credits) passed away unexpectedly on the first day of shooting.  The younger Berke made his name as a producer, and he was in charge of QUINCY, M.E. during the 1979-1983 seasons.

Whaddya mean, I'm overacting?
So the director of To Clear the Air was THE boss during The Hilarious Years---why was this episode so low-key and lacking in unintentional humor in its final three Acts?  Since Berke rarely helmed a project himself, did he just lack the assured flamboyance of (say) Ray Danton?  It's entirely possible that Berke intentionally dialed things down, sensing that the histrionics of Dead Stop and Bitter Pill were turning his show into a comedy.  Along those lines, it's very possible is that air pollution was a topic near and dear to the show's producer, and he wanted to ensure the most earnest treatment possible by directing this lone installment himself.  In my opinion, this is the most likely reason.  Berke was no novice, and the ominous montages of a smog-ravaged Los Angeles remain ubiquitous from beginning to end.


Fresh off his quintessential rich asshole role in CUTTER'S WAY (1981), Stephen Elliott gives To Clear the Air most of its spark.  With his controlled glee at outwitting the inspectors and callous disregard for the two deaths, he's in fine form.  But even with the knowing reference to the lack of AQMD manpower, his Craddock is a far cry from the one dimensional villains of the aforementioned issue episodes.  Pep pill proprietor Zagner was just a really, really bad guy with no redeeming qualities, but Craddock is fiercely loyal to Frontier Oil's employees: he's even put the son of his "right hand man" through college and given him a job afterward.  These shadings keep him from being a cartoon, but when coupled with his lesser qualities, add to the stagnation of To Clear the Air between comedy and tragedy--The Hilarious Years needed those cartoonish villains, dammit!


WHO'S THE REAL VILLAIN HERE?

For about the 174th time in the show's run, Quince makes poor, deprived Sam break a date in order to stay late and do extra lab work.  The almost sadistic smile Quincy gives when the perennially disappointed Sam turns away is kinda hard to take here.  C'mon, Quincy, don't you ever get tired of cock blocking this overworked and undersexed man?  I'll bet Craddock lets his employees get laid once in a while......

THE BOTTOM LINE:
 
This one could use either a more subtle visual approach or some scenery chewing, one or the other.  Berke's sober, low-key treatment is undercut by the ubiquitous and giggle-worthy montages, while an atypically subdued Quincy removes most of the unintentional jollies for those of us who tune in to see our beloved superhero.  Ironically, on this series, excessive melodrama usually proved more effective at sticking a worthy issue in the viewer's mind than putting The Big Q under wraps (like Berke does here) did.   A letdown.  (** out of four)  

 

Monday, July 27, 2015

MAVERICK Mondays: "Rope of Cards" (1958)





MAVERICK Mondays: Number 17







MAVERICK: "Rope of Cards" (1958 ABC-TV/Warner Brothers) Starring James Garner as Bret Maverick, Joan Marshall as Lucy Sutter, Tol Avery as John Sloan, William Reynolds as Billy Gregg, Will Wright as Jabe Hallack, Hugh Sanders as Blaine, Frank Cady as Hamlin, Don Beddoe as Price, Emile Meyer as Pike, George O'Hanlon as Caldwell, Harvey Cheshire as the Judge, Ken Christy as the Sheriff.  Written by R. Wright Campbell and Robert Ormond Case.  Directed by Richard L. Bare.


Bill Gregg is arrested for killing John Sloan, having been caught running out of Sloan's house with the dead man's cattle profits found on his person.  Bret Maverick's poker game is interrupted by the Sheriff, since Gregg has identified Bret as one man who can back up his seemingly impossible alibi.  Unfortunately, Bret can't, and Gregg is put on trial for Sloan's murder with Bret and the rest of the town's poker players among those selected for the jury.


With a politically motivated prosecutor presenting the evidence, it's clear that Gregg faces long odds.  In addition to the facts above: Sloan's fence had been cut, Gregg had recently purchased wire cutters, and a half-dozen witnesses in the saloon saw a confrontation between the two shortly before Sloan's shooting.  The tally is 11 to 1 in favor of a guilty verdict on the jury's initial vote, with Maverick being the lone holdout.  Why?  Bret knows things aren't always what they seem.


Though it is another of TV's seemingly endless variations on the Rose classic, it's way too simplistic to say that Rope of Cards is 12 ANGRY MEN, MAVERICK style.  We get a puzzling mystery that is solved in flashback by Gregg's testimony, yet seems so far-fetched that (as Bret surmises) Billy himself doesn't believe it.  Only Bret Maverick does, with the series once again making its point that the deductive reasoning required for successful poker play translates well to life's other areas.


Rope of Cards also features a marvelous battle of wits between ambitious Blaine and defense attorney Hallack.  Sending a "murderous thief" to the gallows will only enhance Blaine's planned run for Governor under the banner of law and order.  Hallack, who finds his colleague ethically lacking, takes the case to stop him from using Gregg as a stepping stone.   The ensuing courtroom battle is even better than the one that follows in the jury room between Bret and Pike; in fact, for my money it's as good as any Perry Mason/Hamilton Burger confrontation.


The role of Hallack gives flinty Wright (I'd imagine he and Charles Lane were up for a lot of the same parts) a chance to play a good guy for a change, and the old pro clearly appears to relish the opportunity.  Rope of Cards was the first of his six MAVERICK appearances for Wright, who had his penultimate TV role in the final season's The Troubled Heir (he died of cancer in June 1962).


Of course, the final third is dedicated to jury room deliberations, with Bret as the lone holdout (a.k.a. "Juror 8") and Pike as the leading antagonist, ostensibly "Juror 3".  Pike is the toughest nut to crack, and--as we heard while the card game was still going--has definitely pre-judged Gregg's guilt.  But Pike isn't the sadistic bigot that Juror 3 was revealed to be in Rose's original, and in fact is given plenty of reason to dig in his heels--by Bret.


Before discussing a single shred of testimony, Maverick bets Pike $500 that Gregg will be acquitted, putting the bet's outcome entirely in Pike's hands--Pike must vote "not guilty" for Bret to win his money.  While it is typical MAVERICK subversion to feature such a perverse bet (a man's life literally hangs on the outcome!), in making it, Bret ensures that Pike will remain entrenched in his position before he gives evidence even the slightest chance of changing the man's mind.  A minor flaw, true.  Also more than made up for by Bret's ensuing presentation of logical thinking.  He's a worthy rival to Fonda's dramatic Juror, and rather than giving us the high minded homilies that other westerns would, Maverick climaxes his presentation with a card trick.


Which, by the way, is what everyone remembers about Rope of Cards: the introduction of Maverick Solitaire.  Watch closely: director Baer presents the entire sequence in one continuous shot, starting with the shuffle and ending with the highly unlikely (or is it?) five pat hands.  Pike, being a player Bret accurately pegs as "only betting on sure things", falls hook, line and sinker for the presentation, but this second "safe bet" turns out to be anything but.  Rather than ending up a shattered man like his 12 ANGRY MEN counterpart, Pike proves in the conclusion to be a "pretty good man" as Bret suspects in addition to a pretty good player.  In modern poker parlance, though, Pike is "book smart" but not "street smart", though, and a professional player had better be both--like Bret.  Maverick bluffs Pike off of a hand holding King high during the poker game, then later bluffs him into a call by making Pike think he has a near-certain winner in the denouement (when in fact, Pike is almost drawing dead)--playing the player both times.  And using his poker skills to set an innocent man (another sharp read by Bret, the pro) free.
  

HOW'D BRET DO AT POKER?

Bret was losing to Mr. Sloan, but once Sloan's untimely demise removed him from the game, Bret seemed to be doing better--though he still appeared to be stuck when the Sheriff called him away at Gregg's request.  We did see Bret pull off a nice bluff with a busted open ended straight draw on the game's final hand.  After Bret took down the respectable pot, the game was interrupted for good to choose a jury pool.  Bret did make at least $1,000 back in side bets with the hapless Pike, meaning that Maverick Solitaire was the more profitable game (by far) this time.

AWARD WORTHY:

Future LAWMAN director Robert Sparr was deservedly nominated for an Emmy for his editing of Rope of Cards.  Curiously, while he also directed episodes of 77 SUNSET STRIP, HAWAIIAN EYE, CHEYENNE and BRONCO among other Warner Brothers series, he never helmed a MAVERICK, though he also received an Emmy nomination for his work on The Quick and The Dead.

WISDOM FROM PAPPY?

None, which is mildly disappointing since you'd think Pappy would have something to say about our justice system.  Just one of several instances to expect the unexpected in this installment.


THE BOTTOM LINE:

While I doubt that Roy Huggins was literally correct in claiming that "every store in America" was sold out of playing cards within days of its initial airing, there's no denying that Rope of Cards was very effective in selling the country on tuning in to ABC's freshman series at 7:30 P.M. on Sunday nights.  Everyone remembers the introduction of Maverick Solitaire, but Rope of Cards is also a solid mystery with outstanding courtroom theater.  Over a half century later, MAVERICK remains the most pro-poker series ever to hit prime time, portraying the skills needed to succeed at the game in a consistently positive light.  If this installment isn't quite Exhibit A in that regard, it isn't too far down the alphabet.  (***1/2 out of four)


MAVERICK currently airs Monday through Friday at 1 PM Central/2 PM Eastern without commercial interruption on Encore Westerns, and every Sunday morning at 10 AM Central/11 AM Eastern on COZI TV.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Television Review: HONDO: "Hondo and the Singing Wire" (1967)





Your lives are meaningless compared to HONDO!







HONDO: "Hondo and the Singing Wire"  (1967 ABC-TV/MGM/Batjac Productions) Episode 3; Original Air Date: September 22, 1967.  Starring Ralph Taeger as Hondo Lane, Noah Beery Jr. as Buffalo Baker, Kathie Browne as Angie Dow, Gary Clarke as Captain Richards, Michael Pate as Chief Vittoro, Buddy Foster as Johnny Dow, William Bryant as Colonel Crook.  Guest Stars Donald Woods as Dr. Paul Stanton, Perry Lopez as Delgado, Pat Conway as Redell, Donald 'Red' Barry as Sergeant Daniels, Iron Eyes Cody as Chief.  Written by George Schenck.  Directed by William Witney. 


Series Overview for HONDO: TV's Unlikeliest Cult Hit at this link  


Southwestern Telegraph Company is expanding through Apache territory, making good progress at up to five miles of wire per day.  Vittoro gives the project his tentative blessing, but renegades led by Delgado manage to make Redell's first demonstration to the Chiefs a very public failure, massacring Southwestern's repair crew and wounding Hondo.  Moving in for the kill, Delgado sees Lane wearing Vittoro's eagle claw and recognizes Lane as Emberato.  Learning also that Hondo doesn't work for Southwestern, the renegade's leader relents, with a message for Lane to deliver if he lives.  "Tell Redell that he will die with his singing wire!"


Picking up on a clue from the encounter, Hondo lives to convalesce at the home of Dr. Stanton, a fugitive from justice whose location is known only to the Natives.  Meanwhile, Redell pressures the Army to mount an offensive against Delgado's men.  Captain Richards eventually agrees, but it soon becomes clear that the conflict between Delgado and Redell is a very personal war with the latter considering anyone to be acceptable collateral damage.


Directed by William Witney (DARKTOWN STRUTTERS) and written by George Schenck (BARQUERO, CRAZY LIKE A FOX), Hondo and the Singing Wire is ostensibly about establishing a needed telegraph service while winning the cooperation of the Apaches and neighboring tribes.  Like that other renegade Silva in the preceding episode, Delgado vows death to the white man who wishes to take Native land.  Any commonality between the two agitators stops there, however.


Unlike the disdainful and bloodthirsty Silva, Delgado respects Chief Vittoro, and is only after one white man--not them all.  This dissident is just using the expected rhetoric as a recruiting tool in his personal vendetta against the Southwestern Telegraph company and its owner specifically.  Delgado (whose father was a white settler) has much in common with fellow half-Apache Hondo, something that helps Lane survive their initial skirmish.  Just as Lane did during the Civil War, Delgado seeks revenge against the man and the entity that he holds responsible for the death of the person he loved most.


Delgado kills several employees and soldiers in the process, but also offers to spare everyone remaining if Redell is turned over to him, and given his backstory, the renegade isn't entirely unsympathetic.  The same can't be said for racist, condescending Redell, who proves to be completely uncaring of any life other than his own.  As Buffalo aptly puts it: "he's lower than a snake's belt buckle!"  (Not to spoil anything, but we learn that the acorn didn't fall far from the tree, either.)


While the regulars take something of a back seat to the grudge match, Hondo and the Singing Wire isn't stolen from them entirely.  Hondo Lane gives further evidence of his resourcefulness and scouting expertise, and Buffalo mulls a career change near the end of his hitch.  Captain Richards faces a bigger dilemma, as his "by the book" philosophy is put to the ultimate test.


HONDO continues to boast a tremendous supporting cast on a weekly basis.  Lopez (DEATH WISH 4) is properly intense with the episode's plum part, while Conway (star of TOMBSTONE TERRITORY) does what he can with a one dimensional villain.  Iron Eyes Cody plays a Chief for about the 194th time, and to the surprise of no one familiar with his roles post-RED RYDER, Donald 'Red' Barry's Sergeant turns out to be an opportunistic douche.


The most memorable impression among the guests is left by another B-movie vet, Donald Woods (NEVER SAY GOODBYE), who has the meaty part of the compassionate but understandably reluctant physician.


Hondo and the Singing Wire is unfortunately marred by one head-scratcher of a plothole.  What happened to Delgado's contingent after they surrounded their cornered prey?  It seems more than implausible that they'd all disappear, since we didn't see Delgado dismiss them.  And why would he, since he would be giving up his strategic advantage to do so?  Delgado's followers are presented as true believers, so you'd certainly think they'd appear and open fire during the denouement if they're camouflaging their presence.  In short, this aspect of the climax makes little sense.


HOW MANY CANS OF WHOOPASS?

Hondo Lane was busy recouperating from his bullet wound for most of the first half of Singing Wire, and only ends up throwing one punch the entire episode, understandably decking Redell with it.


IT'S A DOG'S LIFE:

When Hondo is wounded, it's up to Sam to bring him his horse and help lead him to the Doctor.  Later, Sam has a tender paw from their initial travels, putting him on sick call until the episode's epilogue.


THE BOTTOM LINE:

Light on the fisticuffs and a tad heavier on exposition than usual, Hondo and the Singing Wire is a curious assignment for Witney, whose specialty was fast-paced action.  As a result, it's the least of the director's three HONDOs.   The unconvincing finale is a considerable hindrance.  On the plus side, we have another top notch supporting cast, handsome production values as always, and Taeger's understated yet undeniably effective presence anchoring the proceedings.  (**1/2 out of four)

  
HONDO: THE COMPLETE SERIES is currently streaming at Warner Archive Instant

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Eleven Angry Women" (1957)



LOVE THAT BOB: "Eleven Angry Women" (Original Air Date: 1/10/1957) Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy,  Richard Deacon as The D.A., Jackie Loughery as Harriet Burke, Robert Carson as The Judge, Tony Henning as The Newsboy, Charles Wagenheim as the Court Clerk, William Kendis as the Press Photographer, Barbara Drew, Maude Prickett and Nora Marlowe as jurors. Written by Paul Henning, Shirley Gordon and Phil Shuken.  Directed by Norman Tokar.


Series overview of LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW previously published here for the one hundredth anniversary of the star's birth in 2008 at this link. 


After getting his jury summons, Bob Collins is set to use a flareup of "old war injuries" to get out of his $3 per day civic duty.  However, a glance at the newspaper causes him to have a change of heart, since he'll be in the pool for the high-profile Beach Bandit Case.  It seems that the young lady pictured at right below is on trial for a string of robberies along the sandy shores.


With a stated altruistic motive to see that "this innocent girl" gets a fair trial, Bob nevertheless faces a daunting challenge in being selected, since the D.A. understandably wants twelve females on the jury.  But somehow, our ace shutterbug (who says he mostly photographs "interesting structures") manages to convince the prosecutor that he will be impartial during the screening process.  Bob ends up being the lone male juror and (initially) the sole holdout for acquittal against seemingly airtight and damning evidence.


Bob Cummings won an Emmy as Juror # 8 in the 1954 Studio One production of TWELVE ANGRY MEN, so spoofing it on his own series was a natural fit.  The result is an enjoyable, if unexceptional outing, though Collins' selfish shenanigans seem slightly shadier than usual.  Can't mince words--Bob's desired outcome is to free a kleptomaniac so he can sleep with her.  The now venerable Reginald Rose classic has seen dozens of sitcom variations in the half-century since, but the angle presented in Eleven Angry Women remains one of the most inspired of the takeoffs in concept.

The photographer poses for a change
Unfortunately, execution of said concept left something to be desired.  The main shortcoming of Eleven Angry Women has to do with the lack of any solid opposing force, with Deacon's hapless D.A. and Carson's passive judge completely steamrollered by Bob's gamesmanship.  In particular, the D.A. is not only easily outmaneuvered in court by Collins, but also by the Bandit, who is representing herselfSome DA--Hamilton Burger probably has a higher winning percentage.



With the authority figures dispatched, Bob's fellow jurors are putty in his hands--all eleven of them, especially after the milquetoast turns back into the playboy once the trial is underway.  Our silver tongued orator doesn't have a deliberation room adversary close to the level of the source material's infamous Juror # 3.  Collins' argument on the Bandit's behalf is mostly an emotional appeal for her canine companion rather than exposure of holes in the evidence (outside of wondering where she could hide the 'take').  With Bob in her corner, the defendant isn't required to demonstrate the ingenuity implied by her thefts in the courtroom.  Collins doesn't even face his usual hurdles from office or home: default blocker Schultzy is relegated to the peanut gallery, and sister Margaret (Rosemary DeCamp) and nephew Chuck (Dwayne Hickman) are both M.I.A. this segment. 


To answer the question, I'd say "both"
Former Miss USA (and future Mrs. Jack Webb) Jackie Loughery gets to spend a considerable amount of screen time in her bathing suit, not an easy thing to arrange when most of the episode takes place in court.  She is appealing, but not exactly the femme fatale the role calls for.  Loughery made numerous TV and film appearances throughout the decade and returned to the series in season four's Colonel Goldbrick.  Bob's most effective foil is the civic-minded newsboy played by Tony Henning, the producer's son.  This would be the younger Henning's only screen credit.

A partner in crime
Director Norman Tokar helmed a handful of third season episodes in between the transition of lead directing duties from Rod Amateau to Cummings.  Tokar (WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS) does a respectable job, but his specialty was more leisurely paced family humor--he directed 93 segments of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and several Disney features. Like all LOVE THAT BOB outings, Eleven Angry Women has its comedic highlights: Collins being dressed down by the civic-minded paper boy; the abrupt end of Bob's "nerd" act in the courtroom, Harriet's canine accomplice and, of course, Harriet demonstrating the lack of hiding places for the loot. 

Looks like Bob agrees with that last highlight....


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

As noted above, no one, at least effectively.

Nothing in my way, hmm?  Not even Joe Friday?

DID BOB SCORE?

He certainly had it all set up, but after the trial, he appeared to have changed his mind before anything happened.  Puzzling, especially the reason.  I mean, what did you expect from a thief, Bob?


Some funny moments as always, and Cummings is having a great time spoofing his most famous dramatic TV role, but the lack of a solid opposition keeps Eleven Angry Women from really scoring.  It's just way too easy for our Playboy this time.  Some good laughs as always, but in the end, a mediocre outing that coasts as far as it does on the star's shtick and Loughery's wares.   (**1/2 out of four)


Eleven Angry Women is included as an extra on The Official Collection DVD release of Cummings' 1964 series, MY LIVING DOLL.