Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Today we’re continuing our series on the best episodes featuring Ann Marie, a.k.a. That Girl (1966-1971, ABC). Fortunately, every episode is available on DVD.
Aspiring actress Ann Marie leaves home and moves to New York City against the wishes of her overly protective father. Determined to make a career as a performer, Ann Marie finds herself cast in a whole lot of strange and quirky predicaments — much to the amusement (and at times, exasperation) of her supportive and loving writer boyfriend, Donald.
That Girl stars MARLO THOMAS as Ann Marie, TED BESSELL as Donald Hollinger, LEW PARKER as Lou Marie, ROSEMARY DECAMP as Helen Marie, CAROLAN DANIELS as Ruth Bauman, and BERNIE KOPELL as Jerry Bauman.
Season Three maintains the excellence of the prior season, and continues the fun and romantic storytelling to which the series had become accustomed. No major cast changes or shakeups this year — in fact, the third season may be the most consistent of the entire series, even though the stories aren’t quite as fresh as they had been in the previous two seasons. There were lots of good episodes in this bunch, but this list wasn’t nearly as difficult to make as was the last one. (Perhaps, the highlights are especially bright.) So, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the season’s strongest installments. (I wanted to pick eleven though!) For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.
Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Three. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
01) Episode 62: “The Hi-Jack And The Mighty” (Aired: 10/03/68)
Ann wreaks havoc when she lands a job as a flight attendant in preparation for an airline commercial.
Written by Ruth Brooks Flippen | Directed by John Rich
The post-9/11 climate has induced a certain (and justified) amount of wariness in broaching the subject of airplane security through comedy. (Remember when Friends had to reshoot a whole storyline?) While this episode certainly, with hindsight, could prove insensitive, it happens to be one of the funniest of the season — with great performances by Thomas, Bessell, and Parker. Also, though the characters fear for their own safety, we never for a second worry — negating some of the dramatic associations with the premise. It’s just a funny, well done installment.
02) Episode 63: “Eleven Angry Men And That Girl” (Aired: 10/10/68)
Ann is selected for jury duty and is determined to reach the right verdict.
Written by Stan Cutler & Martin Donovan | Directed by Hal Cooper
You guys all know how typical it was for sitcoms of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s to do takeoffs of Twelve Angry Men. Well, this is That Girl‘s take on the situation. The premise itself allows for comedy, and by and large, this episode hits all the right (albeit, familiar) notes. What elevates this installment from others of its type is the wonderful trick ending — in which, after Ann has convinced the jury of the defendant’s innocence, he very bluntly (and shockingly hilariously) shows us how wrong she was. Brilliantly funny!
03) Episode 66: “Secret Ballot” (Aired: 10/31/68)
Ann clashes with her father when she refuses to reveal for whom she’s voting.
Written by Richard Baer | Directed by John Rich
WHAT? That Girl is attempting to do an episode about politics!? Well, kind of… Despite the novelty of the situation, we’re far from the in-your-face shouting matches that Archie and Meathead would be having three years later. Rather, the comedy from this episode comes not from external politics, but the relationship — or individual politics — between Ann and her father. And aside from being a well-acted and well-constructed installment, this episode features some great physical comedy. (Which, as you loyal readers know, I always welcome!)
04) Episode 68: “A Muggy Day In Central Park” (Aired: 11/14/68)
Donald springs to action after Ann is mugged while walking through Central Park.
Written by Arthur Julian | Directed by Hal Cooper
I love the premise for this episode, which instantly sets itself up for comedy. When Ann is mugged in Central Park, Donald decides that this would make an excellent story for his magazine. So he goes undercover as a woman to find the mugger. The comedy comes from Ann’s insistence to keep the news of her mugging from her overprotective father, leading to a HYSTERICAL moment in which Lou catches Don in drag. Naturally, not provided the true explanation, Lou panics when he sees Don out with a policeman!
05) Episode 70: “The Seventh Time Around” (Aired: 11/28/68)
Ann is jealous when Don interviews a wealthy and much-married heiress.
Written by Carl Kleinschmitt | Directed by Richard Kinon
Though this episode boasts a great story and a hilariously one-liner-filled script, the Broadway Buff in me is automatically drawn to one thing: the appearance of Benay Venuta. Miss Venuta, who we’ve featured on this blog several times (and who was good friends with prior guest, Ethel Merman), gives an honest, funny, and incredibly memorable performance as Trixie Weatherby, an elderly heiress who raises Ann’s shackles. The laughs are fairly consistent, and with great performances (as usual), this is a very memorable installment.
06) Episode 72: “Decision Before Dawn” (Aired: 12/12/68)
Ann struggles with what to do with her Screen Actor’s Guild paycheck.
Written by Jinx Kragen | Directed by King Donovan
This episode is surprisingly appealing. It’s situated on a relatively simple premise: Ann has money to spend but doesn’t know how to spend it. What jumps out to me in this installment is the high quality of the scripting, particularly in the scenes between Thomas, Bessell, Parker, and DeCamp. The dialogue crackles, and the performers have such great chemistry here. Larry Storch is delightfully lecherous in a guest appearance, and the second act builds to a satisfyingly amusing climax. Just a well done episode!
07) Episode 76: “Dark On Top Of Everything Else” (Aired: 01/16/69)
Ann accidentally locks herself in her parents’ basement while housesitting.
Written by Carl Kleinschmitt | Directed by Ted Bessell
This is probably one of Marlo Thomas’ best performances from the entire series — and it’s such a credit to her, because she spends most of this episode alone. It’s an excellent showcase for physical comedy, as the main sequence involves Ann getting locked in her parents’ basement while housesitting. The bit where she gets caught in the fold-up bed is stellar. Thomas usually shines when given the opportunity for slapstick, and this may be the best of the bunch. Also of note, this episode was directed by Mr. Hollinger himself, Ted Bessell!
08) Episode 77: “The Earrings” (Aired: 01/23/69)
Ann’s fears come true when she loses the new earrings Don gave her.
Written by Howard Leeds | Directed by Russ Mayberry
Okay, this episode is admittedly a little too “typical” sitcom, but, the performers elevate the pretty stale premise and actually give us many moments of nice, genuine, and well-played comedy. Since the story is uninspired, the script tries (and succeeds) in making up for this through the smaller things — little jokes and little bits. Essentially, That Girl takes a bland plot line and makes it better — showing us precisely why its a series deserving of our attention.
09) Episode 80: “There Was A Time Ann Met A Pie Man” (Aired: 02/13/69)
Ann is hired for a television sketch in which she gets hit in the face with a pie.
Written by Milt Rosen | Directed by Russ Mayberry
The “old pie in the face” gag is called the “old pie in the face” gag for a reason, and we don’t necessarily appreciate it as much today as did audiences of the silent era. The novelty has worn off. However, there is still something inherently funny about someone with an inflated sense of self being brought down to earth — and that’s when the gag works best: when the person being pie-d really deserves it. And, no offense to Ann Marie, but it’s nice to see her get it. It’s funny, it hasn’t been done on this show before, and it (oddly enough) helps make her character more relatable.
10) Episode 85: “Bad Day At Marvin Gardens” (Aired: 03/20/69)
Lou and Donald get into a heated game of Monopoly on a rainy day.
Written by Carl Kleinschmitt | Directed by Danny Arnold
Once again, this episode is a triumph of the simple premise design: Ann, Don, and her parents play Monopoly. Now, admittedly, this isn’t the riotous, deliciously vindictive playing we’d see the Family do on The Carol Burnett Show, but the law of sitcom games dictates that at least one of the players be super competitive. Here, it’s Lou, and Parker is excellent at wringing extra laughs from this already amusing and well-written script. As usual, the That Girl cast raises the quality of an episode through the performances. Very entertaining episode.
Other episodes that didn’t quite make the list above include: both parts of “7 1⁄4,” a cinematic installment in which Ann and Donald head out to Los Angeles, “Just Donald And Me And Jerry Makes Three,” which affords Kopell his best moments of the series, “Should All Our Old Acquaintance Be Forgot,” an amusing New Years Eve themed episode, “The Homewrecker And The Window Washer,” which features some great guest performances — like the divine Bobo Lewis (and most deserves to be included on the above list), “My Sister’s Keeper,” a laugh-lite episode that features Marlo Thomas’ sister as a singing nun and Danny Thomas in a cameo as a Priest, and “It’s So Nice To Have A Mouse Around The House,” one of Marlo’s favorites, in which Ann Marie is tormented by a rodent.
*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Three of That Girl goes to…..
“Dark On Top Of Everything Else”
Come back next Tuesday for the best from Season Four! And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!