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, ALICE BORDEN as Ruth Bauman, and BERNIE KOPELL as Jerry Bauman.
With a shift in producers but no real change in format, the fourth season of That Girl can best be described as a series in desperate need of some shaking up. There are good episodes, to be sure, but there’s a higher number of mediocre installments — especially when compared to Seasons Two and Three. It’s 1969, and while the series was championed in 1966 for introducing an independent single woman as a lead character, the novelty has worn off. We’ve seen these types of stories for three years — and with Ann relegated to being less liberated than she (and we) would like, That Girl (and the other silly/sweet sitcoms of the ’60s) is beginning to show its age. But all of this is in comparison to to the show’s brighter years; taken by itself, Season Four is a solid and moderately engaging collection of stories — and this was a difficult list to make (in a good way). But, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the season’s strongest installments. 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 Four. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
01) Episode 91: “At The Drop Of A Budget” (Aired: 10/16/69)
Ann is hypnotized into becoming a shopping fiend at the literal drop of a hat.
Written by Ed Scharlach & Warren Murray | Directed by Russ Mayberry
The stories get a bit sillier this season, and this episode is the perfect example of this subtle evolution. Ann’s dentist tries to hypnotize her into feeling no pain, but as the logline indicates, there are unintended consequences. Naturally, this occurs at the worst time: when Ann has snared a recurring role on a soap opera. Anytime a hat is dropped, hijinks ensue. Very funny!
02) Episode 92: “Hearing Today, Gone Tomorrow” (Aired: 10/23/69)
Ann gets a cold that renders her deaf right before a big commercial.
Written by Bernie Orenstein & Saul Turteltaub | Directed by Hal Cooper
Undoubtedly the best episode of the season, much of the installment’s humor comes from the wonderful performance of Marlo Thomas, who is hysterical when Ann gets loopy on cold medicine. Also, this episode boasts some of the funniest and sweetest moments between Donald and Ann, making for a bonafide classic episode of That Girl.
03) Episode 93: “The Snow Must Go On” (Aired: 10/30/69)
Ann, Don, and her parents are stranded at the airport.
Written by Arnold Horwitt | Directed by Russ Mayberry
As my readers know, I love episodes in which characters are forced to interact in a limited space. Here our characters are stranded in the airport, confining the action to a few locations. Parker and DeCamp BOTH get some great stuff, but what truly makes this episode soar is Ann’s desperation in auditioning for a Broadway show — leading to a wonderfully amusing climax. Great episode!
04) Episode 94: “Write Is Wrong” (Aired: 11/06/69)
Don writes a TV script about their adventures in the airport.
Written by Ruth Brooks Flippen | Directed by John Rich
Any writer can appreciate this episode, which seems like a natural fit for this series. In a wonderful continuation of the prior installment, Don writes a TV script about their adventures in the airport, and Ann Marie is selected to star. Unfortunately, as writers know, the entire thing gets rewritten, and the comedy comes from Ann’s attempts to keep Donald from finding out. This episode is blessed with both humor and refreshing realism.
05) Episode 100: “I Am Curious Lemon” (Aired: 12/25/69)
Ann goes out of her way trying to impress one of Donald’s ex-girlfriends.
Written by Alex Barris | Directed by Russ Mayberry
The story may seem typical sitcom fare, but this installment is surprisingly fresh. Ann is nervous about making a good impression on one of Donald’s former flames, but things are complicated by a lemon tree, a second cousin, and several other requisite (but nonetheless amusing) disasters. As usual, Thomas is great handling the mania, and this episode has quite a few laughs. (Interestingly, this is also the last episode to air in the ’60s.)
06) Episode 101: “Ten Percent Of Nothing Is Nothing” (Aired: 01/01/70)
Ann joins her agent for a comedy act in the Catskills.
Story by Ron Clark, Saul Turteltaub, & Bernie Orenstein | Teleplay by Saul Turteltaub & Bernie Orenstein | Directed by John Rich
This episode is a triumph for its premise. Given that this is a) a sitcom and b) a sitcom that stars Marlo Thomas, any episode that directly involves comedy in its plot is fascinating. In this one, Ann performs with her agent in the Catskills… until a misunderstanding leads to a funny (but cringe-inducing) disaster. Solid and enjoyable episode.
07) Episode 102: “Opening Night” (Aired: 01/08/70)
Ann gets her finger stuck in a faucet on her big opening night.
Written by Arnold Horwitt | Directed by Russ Mayberry
This episode is very reminiscent of “This Little Piggy Had A Ball.” Once again, Ann gets a body part stuck in something right before she’s due to make an important appearance. (Last time it was at an awards show; this time it’s upped to a Broadway opening.) While the prior excursion simply had more laughs, this one has wonderful direction, and Thomas gives a PHENOMENAL performance.
08) Episode 108: “The Reunion” (Aired: 02/26/70)
Class treasurer Ann loses the money saved for their high school reunion.
Written by Saul Turteltaub & Bernie Orenstein | Directed by Richard Kinon
Though this episode utilizes an original premise, most appealing about this excursion are the scenes between Ann and Lou, as Thomas and Parker have established such a believable repartee (which works in both the heavier and the lighter moments) that it’s a pleasure to watch them — even in inferior scripts. Fortunately, there’s nothing inferior about this episode.
09) Episode 109: “Gone-A-Courtin'” (Aired: 03/05/70)
A producer hires Ann to help him win his case in court.
Written by Joseph Bonaduce | Directed by Russ Mayberry
I adore this episode, which features probably one of the freshest stories of the season. Ann auditions for a producer who, instead of casting her in his play, hires her to assist him in the courtroom, where he figures her clumsiness will help win a case involving a shish kabob skewing accident. Anytime Thomas gets to do physical comedy, it’s tops, and with a great script, this is a standout installment.
10) Episode 111: “Easy Faller” (Aired: 03/19/70)
Ann arranges for Don to conduct an interview at her place after he injures his back.
Written by Saul Turteltaub & Bernie Orenstein | Directed by John Rich
Again, this episode features some physical comedy and wonderful interplay among the regulars — who really make the episodes worthwhile, and by this point in time, are adept at elevating less-than-stellar material. But as one of the funniest episodes (thanks to a solid script and good performers) from the occasionally mediocre fourth season, this one gains distinction. (And lots of sweet moments for the romantics too.)
Other memorable episodes that didn’t make the list above include: “Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” in which Ann gets a job as a dancing chicken, both parts of “She Never Had The Vegas Notion,” a cinematic and comparatively convoluted installment in which the pair goes to Las Vegas (with Jack Cassidy) and Don is tricked into thinking he drunkenly married a showgirl, “Stocks And The Single Girl,” in which, similar to an I Love Lucy episode, Ann mistakes a grocery list for stock tips, and “The Night They Raided Daddy’s,” in which Lou hires a new music group for his restaurant — one that performs in the nude!
*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Four of That Girl goes to…..
“Hearing Today, Gone Tomorrow”
Come back next Tuesday for the best from Season Five! And tune in tomorrow for another Wildcard Wednesday post!