Welcome Back, Dick van Morgenstern

Updated: Jun 16

Earl Fowler

I know we all learned the Pythagorean theorem at some point and that F = ma was supposed to be as meaningful as a high pot in use (never gets old) and that someone got defenestrated (best word ever) in Prague. Oh, and Henry VIII had a bunch of merry wives of Windsor.

However, when the time comes, as it must — sooner rather than later to those of us with Storage Almost Full blinking on our existential iPhones— for admission to the cosmic interstice and that inevitable passage into the blue tunnel between the worlds, it won’t be isosceles triangles and the square root of some cosine dancing like sugarplums to the dying of the light in our eyes.

Given what actually engaged our attention during those misspent living-room childhoods, when immutable memories were being carved like lapidary inscriptions into the grey marble coils of our temporal lobes, all our eternal souls are likely to retain (not counting the lyrics to Georgy Girl and possibly A Groovy Kind of Love) is a jumble of mashed-up classic sitcoms.

Spoiler alert:

Episode 1: Tricked by a fast-talking TV host, Laura blurts out that Alan Brady wears a toupee. Rob fears for his job. Lily suspects that Herman, who is sneaking out each night to practise being a detective, is having an affair. She hires a detective agency to have Herman followed. The agency assigns Herman to follow himself. Grandpa Munster uses his mouth as a pencil sharpener. Uncle Arthur fools Darrin into thinking he can cast spells on Endora with an incantation, a cowbell, and a kazoo. Grandpa bears a stunning resemblance to Officer Leo Schnauzer from Car 54, Where Are You? Actually, now that you mention it, Herman kind of reminds me of Officer Francis Muldoon. Mrs. Drysdale leaves for a health farm, saying Mr. Drysdale is “going to have a new wife” when she returns. The Clampetts think he wants to marry Cousin Pearl, so Jed comes up with a plan to save the banker’s marriage. Granny mashes a possum. Uncle Joe, who’s moving kind of slow, sets his sights on eternal bachelorette Sally Rogers as Mel Cooley performs an unlikely ventriloquism act with a bald dummy. Buddy makes a crack. Gladys Kravitz witnesses the whole thing from behind pulled curtains. Mr. Kravitz thinks she’s nuts. All of a sudden there’s a new Mrs. Kravitz and a new Darrin, and we’re not supposed to say anything. Hilarity ensues as Alan Brady tells a room full of toupees that they’re through. Fred Mertz appears to be drunk.

Episode 2: The Sweathogs go ga-ga over Bambi, the sexy new student in tight jeans and a red halter top, but she only has eyes for Mr. Kotter. Vinny Barbarino assumes a disco pose that would later serve him well and goes into his trademark “Ba-Ba-Barbarino” song-and-dance routine. As Mr. Carlin’s twentieth high school reunion approaches, he’s nervous after boasting to fellow alumni that Emily Hartley is his wife, the mother of their three imaginary children and, incidentally, a former Playboy centrefold. Howard, a dead ringer for Major Roger Healy on I Dream of Jeannie and Dr. Larry Dykstra on ALF, says “Hi, Bob” about 20 times. Epstein walks and talks like Chico Marx. Horshack rebels against liver being served in the cafeteria. Carol Kester is sassy and adorable. Latka, who needs a new place to live, frets in an equally adorable Eastern European language and spends his life savings on a $3,000 luxury penthouse apartment. When an old flame of Tony’s stops by, a jealous Jeannie embarrasses him by blinking emphatically to yank a chair out from under him. Unsatisfied with the answer to his question “Why is there an elephant in your bedroom?” Dr. Bellows moves in with Tony to put an end to his shenanigans and test his sanity once and for all. Samantha twitches her nose. Aunt Clara appears to be drunk. Stoned, dishevelled Jim increasingly resents all of Latka’s lines. Fish forgets his own wife’s name (Bernice) over breakfast. Bonus: Dick Butkus appears as a rowdy party crasher.


Episode 3: Ricky has booked celebrity guest Orson Welles for a benefit at Club Babalu, so he decides to send Lucy on a Cuban vacation to get her out of the way. When Lucy tries to impress the head of the Ricardo family, feisty Uncle Alberto, she succeeds only in spilling punch on him, ruining his fancy cigars, and calling him a big fat pig en español. Someone in the CIA gets an idea for a Bahía de cochinos invasion. Murray is having another midlife crisis and it seems that Phyllis’s husband, Lars, is cooking in someone else’s kitchen. (Your memory on this one is golden; this was Happy Homemaker Sue Anne Nivens’s first appearance on the show.) Sergeant Schultz (who was Jewish in real life and lost a lot of his family in the Holocaust) knows nothing, nothing! What could be more appropriate ground for comedy than a zany Nazi prisoner of war camp? Hogan always looks unbearably smug and sweaty, like he’d be some kind of perv in real life. The Black guy (there could only be one per show) — Kinch, Gordy the weatherman, Freddy Percy (Boom Boom) Washington, doesn’t matter — hardly gets any speaking parts. Mr. Haney’s voice never quite makes it through puberty. Struck in the head by a ball while standing in the doorway to an inn in Vermont, Bob wakes up confused and tells Emily: “Honey, wake up. You won’t believe the dream I just had.” Rob and Laura are scandalized by the obviously spurious notion that the Hartleys can’t afford twin beds. Ricky and Rhoda have some really serious ’splaining to do, but it’s nothing Lucy hasn’t dealt with a hundred times before. Fred Mertz appears to be drunk.

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