Ink Well (penpusher) wrote in spaceagers,
Ink Well

The WTF Episode of "Bachelor Father"

I have been meaning to start another series on Television for awhile, and this seems like one that will have a very long run. For lack of a better name, I'm titling it "The WTF Episode of..." and I plan to present these on a fairly regular basis, with appropriate background and info about the series generally. It's one particular episode of a series that is just so hard to figure, so unbelievable for some reason or reasons that you just can't understand how it happened.

I wanted to begin with this choice because it is chock full of WTF, but just in case you aren't familiar with the program, here's some background on "Bachelor Father."

John Forsythe played a wealthy and successful Beverly Hills attorney named Bentley Gregg, who is the caretaker of his niece, Kelly, (played by Noreen Corcoran) after her parents were killed in an automobile accident. This point is not played up very much, as the opening credits of the program in many of its seasons typically showed Forsythe at the wheel of his car, shuttling Kelly from school back to their modest digs, presumably near what would become the Clampett estate shortly, with their "houseboy" (their term, not mine) Peter, played by Sammee Tong.

Plots of the program generally centered on Bentley's (alleged) search for true love, and how Kelly's life either enhanced or inhibited said search and often Bentley's ability to juggle all of the women in his romantic life (or more aptly, how he couldn't). Other plotlines focused on Peter's desire to become a successful businessman, like his boss, or how having a "daughter" instead of a "son" managed to make things more challenging/less fun for Bentley.

This series is unique for one distinctive reason: it aired in prime time on all of the "Big Three" networks during its run! The pilot (titled "A New Girl In His Life") aired on "General Electric Theater" on CBS which then ran the series from Autumn, 1957 through Spring, 1959. The program moved to NBC that Autumn where it had another two year run from 1959 through Spring, 1961. And it concluded with a final season on ABC from 1961-62.

Now, the program was actually pretty innocuous and somewhat charming and amusing for what it was worth; this despite the obvious and inappropriate stereotypes of Chinese people, women and their place in society in the late 1950s and early 1960s and male interests/behavior during that time frame.

But I want to present an episode that really is unique. The title of the ep is "Where There's a Will."

Kelly's friend Ginger (Bernadette Withers) wanders over to the Gregg house, asking about Horror movies and has a knife in her back, which frightens Kelly. Apparently Kelly's dad is a novelty toy manufacturer who put the fake knife in his daughter's back to scare her mom (WTF? Who does that to their spouse?) But then the two girls immediately put this trick knife into the back of Peter's jacket to make it look like he had been stabbed (WTF? Who immediately turns and does a practical joke after being scared by the same one?). Ginger asks if she can stay for the reading of a will that Bentley is about to perform (WTF? What teenager wants to sit around listening to someone read a will?), but Kelly says she can't... until Ginger offers Kelly to loan her a black turtleneck sweater. Then, all is okay for her to hide in the closet (WTF? How does a clothing loan make it ok, and WTF? Who wants to wear a black turtleneck in Southern California?)!

Of course the attendees of the will soon arrive, and they're all a bunch of WTF. There's a pre-Munsters pair that really give Herman and Lily a run for their money, but there are a couple of beautiful Marilyn types for Bentley to salivate over as well. Of course why Bentley would choose to have a will reading in the living room of his private residence rather than in his office is yet another WTF element to the story, but we're going with it. And, since it's the early 60s, we also have a black sheep beatnik in there too. Move over, Maynard G. Krebs!

Finally, Mr. Crabtree (yeah, that's the name of the deceased) is about to have his due when suddenly the lights go out, there's a scramble, the creepy old lady swears someone pulled a revolver on her and suspects the beatnik because she felt hot breath and hair on her neck...

This leads to the immediate speculation about who got left out of the will, and who will get the fortune. No one is terribly concerned about who might have taken the will or for what purpose. One argument that leads to a catfight, one discovered girlfriend of Kelly's in the closet Peter collapses in front of everyone with the fake knife in his back, and, oh, and by the way, the will goes missing, and everything is in a cocked hat, as they said in those days (WTF does that really mean?).

On top of that, there's a full moon out, and with Bentley, Kelly and Peter all wondering which dastardly character was responsible for pilfering the document, none of them can sleep. They're all wandering the house trying to locate the missing item. Kelly and Peter make a capture, coming through the main entrance! It's Bentley. (WTF? Did he think the thief left it on the front lawn?) Then one of the attendees calls to say she wants Bentley to come over right away; her life is in mortal danger. (WTF? Why wouldn't you call the police?) But of course she's not the Lily Munster character, so Bentley goes right over.

There, he is warmly hugged and romanced as he is told the story of how she knows who stole the will, because she overheard a discussion with the beatnik and the housekeeper in an embrace. Clearly that is proof. So, Bentley goes again to track them down at a beatnik coffee house. (WTF? Leave the hot girl alone? It's like 1 or 2 in the morning!)

At the coffee house, Bentley confronts the beatnik about his girlfriend the housekeeper, who happens to work there as a waitress. Bentley witnesses her putting some liquid from a dropper in his tea as she brings it to him (WTF?). Sure it's poison, Bentley takes the drink and throws it away... right onto an artist painting a mural (WTF? Couldn't that have poisoned the artist?). The artist then comes over and paints the letter "Z" on Bentley's forehead (WTF? Is this "Bachelor Father" or "Zorro?") And then Bentley paints all over the guy's face (WTF? You throw a drink on someone, they DON'T punch you out and you still have to get even for the face paint?).

The waitress brings over another drink and Bentley confronts her about the poison. She said it was saccharin. The beatnik says he doesn't dig saccharin in his tea and tosses it away, you guessed it, on the artist (WTF?). The artist comes over and breaks his palette on Bentley's head (WTF? Bentley didn't do it that time!) But then Bentley dumps a bucket of paint on the artist's head, leaving the bucket as a hat for him to wear. (WTF?!)

The next evening, Bentley and Kelly are chatting and wondering what happened to Peter all day, when in walks a sinister guy in sunglasses, hat, scarf and overcoat with turned up collar (WTF?) Then Bentley realizes it's Peter in disguise. Peter drops his scarf by Jasper (the family dog)'s bowl. Peter had been tailing one of the will attendees in disguise to blend in... this though the episode in question did NOT air on Halloween (WTF? This is a perfect Halloween episode) but on June 6th, when Los Angeles is plenty hot!

At least it was determined that Peter shorted the electrical system when he accidentally plugged in the fake knife rather than the percolator (WTF? How did Peter mistake the knife for an electrical cord attached to the coffee pot? AND how did he then put the knife back in his back for his collapse in the living room?). Then Bentley picks up the scarf, does a calculation in his head and invites the will attendees back because he has solved the mystery of who stole the will. (WTF?!)

And at that meeting, Bentley explained that Peter mistakenly plugged the trick knife into the outlet not the coffee pot, which blew the fuse (WTF! This still doesn't explain how Peter got the knife out of his back or how he replaced it). But who threatened the old lady? They reinacted the scene, using the scarf as the will. Lights out, Jasper the dog comes in, taking the scarf and carrying it out to the patio. there, in a planter's box, was the scarf, assorted other items and the will.

Bentley explained that the will accidentally fell into Jasper's hamburger, just as the scarf did, though we didn't see and weren't told that this event occurred (WTF? How were we supposed to surmise that?) and that Jasper takes anything that smells like hamburger.

But we finally get to hear the will... Mr Crabtree left nothing to anyone. He spent all his money while he was alive. (WTF?) But then, everyone laughs about it (WTF?).

AND we have one final WTF moment from this episode. After wrapping everything up, Bentley is sitting at the dining room table doing some paperwork when in walks a sinister guy in sunglasses, hat, scarf and overcoat with turned up collar. Bentley laughs and offers to give him his watch, wallet and money clip. The would be robber takes the items, then silently backs out of the room into the kitchen and disappears. Kelly comes in and asks what was going on, and Bentley laughed about Peter putting on the disguise again. But when Kelly pushes open the kitchen door, she says "Uncle Bentley, there's something you should see."

It's Peter, gagged and tied to a chair! (WTF?!) and THAT'S where the episode ended! No rushing to untie Peter or to call the police to report the robbery. Just the two of them standing there staring at their manservant struggling to get out of his bind.

End Credits.

Still not convinced? Have a look at this episode for yourself! (Unfortunately, this final scene with Peter bound in the kitchen has been clipped from this version).

Part I

Part II
Tags: 1960s, 1960s tv, sitcoms, stereotypes, television, the wtf episode, wtf
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