Monday, October 3, 2011


It will be heresy - blasphemy! - for many to read this, but 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' was not perfect. There were a couple of scripts that could be considered clunkers, for example.

Ivan Shreve (who's hosting the 50th anniversary blogathon for this classic sitcom at his blog "The Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear" today) holds "The Twizzle" to be the show's nadir. I don't find much fault with it, though I think it displays Sally Rogers in a bad light, if you stop to think about her life in the context of this episode. (A redeeming value for "The Twizzle" in its Toobworld status today in this Inner Toob marathon.) As for me, I dare anyone to find anything good to say about "The Bad Old Days". It's a miserable mess of misogyny that espouse an argument (even they do eventually refute it) that is as out-dated as the artistic style of Rob's dream in that episode.

Another problem for 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' is in recasting characters. No matter what the show (and especially soap operas, when I used to watch them, and when there were far more opportunities to watch them) this has always been a problem for me, even before I answered the siren call of televisiology. Seeing a new actor playing a role just takes me out of the moment. Trying to resolve these "Darrin Discrepancies" (so named to the recasting of Samantha's mortal husband on 'Bewitched' from Dick York to Dick Sargent) may have been the impetus for my immersion into the Toobworld Dynamic.

But at least Rosie O'Donnell got a good joke of that example early in her career.....

With 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', the situation never affected the main characters. However, it did play hob with three of the major recurring characters - Rob Petrie's Dad, his old Army buddy Sam (or Sol), and Buddy's wife, Fiona Conway Sorrell. (In the neighborhood in which she grew up, any girl named Fiona was automatically called PIckles. She happened to be the only one in her neighborhood.....)

With this post, we're going to take a look at the two faces of Pickles.....

Fiona Conway was a former show-girl who married Buddy back in 1951. (According to Buddy in "The Unwelcome House Guest") Previously she married a con artist named Barton Nelson (AKA Floyd B. Barriscale. This happened in 1944, when she turned 18. (This information was courtesy of the episode "Divorce".  I gauged her age based on the age of Joan Shawlee, the woman more associated with the role, even though she wasn't the first to play it.)
Barbara Perry as Pickles
Barbara Perry originated the role of Buddy's wife. She appeared in the episodes "Sally Is A Girl" and "Where You Been, Fassbinder?" Less than a year later, Pickles returned in "My Husband Is A Check-Grabber", but now she was played by the statuesque Joan Shawlee. She would go on to play the role twice more, getting to perform with the gang in "The Sam Pomerantz Scandals" and then blubbering her way to comic glory in her showcase episode "Divorce".

(It feels as though Pickles appeared in far more episodes than she did because Buddy talked about her all the time.)

The splainin for the difference in her appearance is the most basic one supplied as a Television trope - plastic surgery. Although she had an off-beat beauty that I think made her a perfect match for her husband Buddy, perhaps she was bothered by the overbite.

Or maybe there was a darker reason for her to undergo so much plastic surgery that it would totally alter her appearance.....
Joan Shawlee as Pickles
As I said, Pickles had been married to Barton Nelson, who got sent up the river for forgery. While he was in jail, she divorced him, after which she met Buddy and eventually married him. Plastic surgery may have been an attempt to keep her ex-husband from ever tracking her down.

But apparently it was "frutile"* When Nelson got out of prison, he changed his name to Floyd B. Barriscale and threatened to expose her past connection to him unless Pickles paid him off. It was finding Pickles' cache of cancelled checks to Barriscale that nearly caused Buddy to seek a divorce.

So hopefully that serves as a suitable splaining for Pickles' puss.......


* "Frutile" was a word coined by Roger Andrew McChesney, the Petries' babysitter. I think he meant either "futile" or "fruitless". Both of them applied when it came to his love for Laura.....


Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

As for me, I dare anyone to find anything good to say about "The Bad Old Days".

Oh, I concur, Dr. O'Brien...I rag on "The Twizzle" a lot (mostly because I find it inane) but "Bad Old Days" is definitely the worst of the worst.

Paul C. said...

There was even a "Fake Pickles", in the episode ""A Surprise Surprise is a Surprise". An actress clearly made to appear as the Joan Shawlee version of Pickles is at Rob's early morning surprise birthday party, shown only from behind. This episode could actually qualify as Pickles' final appearance!