Saturday, March 28, 2009

Next Week's Episode

Oleson Versus Oleson

1981 - The women of Walnut Grove revolt when the men won't alter a law giving property to husbands only.

March is Women's History Month, so why not finish off the month with a healthy dose of feminism, Little House style?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Little Women 5/5

All the parents are gathered in the schoolhouse as Willie and the Ants prepare for their skit outside. And by prepare I mean the Ants are ready to kill Willie for not bringing the tobacco products like he promised. Willie claims it isn’t his fault his dad caught him, but the Ants think that he was bluffing the whole time. An in-depth “did not”/“did so” debate ensues. The episode must have come in a little short this week. Meanwhile, Ginny peeks inside to see if her Ma is in the audience. It looks like Ginny doesn’t see her, so she sulks as she rejoins the Ingalls girls who are watching Willie’s fight. Laura tells Ginny her mom will show up as Mary fiddles with Ginny’s bonnet. As the girls talk about their readiness, Nellie arrives wearing her New Jan Brady wig. She even has a red bow in her hair. Before everyone can make fun of the wig, Miss Beadle comes outside to see if everyone is ready. She tells Willie he is up first and tells everyone to do their best.

Inside, Miss Beadle welcomes the parents and introduces the first play: Tom Sawyer. The audience applauds as Miss Beadle waits for Willie to come on stage. When he doesn’t show up, she runs outside to see what the hold up is. She reaches the doorway and gasps. In walks Willie completely covered in whitewash. Everyone in the audience, except Harriet, finds this hysterically funny. Nels isn’t too impressed either, especially when Willie blames him for this embarrassment. He takes his son outside to clean up and the audience is still cracking up. As the Oleson men walk out, Mr. Mayfield and Ma Clark walk in and take a seat.

Once the laughter dies down, Miss Beadle introduces the next play: Little Women. The cast is introduced, starting with Nellie as Suzanne Pleshette as Meg. Mr. Edwards takes one look at her and starts cracking up again. He stops when he realizes he is the only one laughing. Once the cast is assembled on stage, Nellie starts things off by giving Harriet a shout out and then introducing the scene. Okay, having wooden actors play wooden actors is a sight to behold and Nellie and Mary do a fantastic job of this. Also, as Harriet watches she mouths the dialogue. I don’t think the double woodenness is intentional on Little House’s part, especially if you compare it to something like this which is intentional, but I’m enjoying it.

Anyway, the writing is pretty bad, as all of the extended dialogue is literally sent back to Meg (“let Meg tell you”) and there are a number of declarative statements. As for the plot, Jo (played by Ginny) somehow got a wad of cash and Meg asks how she earned the money. Meg removes Jo’s bonnet and we see that Jo must have sold her hair. Only Ginny actually cut her hair. Eh, I’m not really a method actor and I’m a little surprised Ginny went that route – she doesn’t seem like the type. Actually, it turns out she sold her hair to the wig man so she could buy the dress for Ma Clark. Aww. Ma Clark is overwhelmed with emotion and runs over to hug Ginny. Nellie gets pissy about being upstaged, but Miss Beadle tells Nellie to be quiet (hehe) and says the play is over, leading to a round of applause.

After the performances, Ginny runs over to hug Mr. Mayfield and asks if he liked the show. He says he liked it and he likes her hair. Ma Clark agrees. Aww. Caroline asks her daughters if they’re interested in going on stage ever again. Laura says maybe, so long as she doesn’t have to work with Nellie again. Sorry, half-pint, there will always be at least one Nellie Oleson in any stage production. Mary also says maybe, but she likes the drama of real life more. Mary Ingalls sucks at suspension of disbelief. Mary and her parents watch as Mr. Mayfield and the Clarks ride off. And scene.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Little Women 4/5

Mary, Laura and Ginny are walking home from school and are talking about the performances that will be happening tomorrow. Laura is pretty tired of rehearsals at this point because half of her lines have since been taken out of the script. Yeah, when I played the Tin Man in my high school’s production of The Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow and I had maybe three lines between the two of us after the Cowardly Lion was introduced. That’s a lot of standing around time, especially when you factor in an intermission. Anyway, Mary tells Laura it will be over soon. Laura reminds her sister that Doc Baker said the same thing when he pulled out one of Laura’s teeth even though it hurt for days afterward. Yeah, student theater is like pulling teeth. Ginny chimes in that she doesn’t mind the play so much but that she wished her mom would come to the show. This is the first time the Ingalls girls have heard this news and they ask Ginny about it. She says her Ma gave lots of reasons and Laura suggests acting really sweet so Ma Clark will give the real reason. Ginny runs home to try out this tactic.

When Ginny arrives at home, she has a package that she must have picked up along the way. Ma Clark greets her daughter and sees the package. She asks what it is and Ginny hands it to her and says it’s a present. Ma Clark unwraps the package and is pleasantly surprised to find a dress inside. Ginny reminds her that she said that she didn’t have a decent dress to wear to the play so Ginny got her one. Ma asks where Ginny got the money, but the girl says it’s a secret. Ma Clark thinks about it for a moment and jumps to the conclusion that Mr. Mayfield must be involved. She tells Ginny to take the dress back to the mercantile and give the money back to Mr. Mayfield. Ginny denies that Mr. Mayfield was involved, but Ma cuts her off, accuses her daughter of lying and sends her to bed without supper. Booo!

The next morning at the homestead, Charles finishes his chores and heads back inside the house. He sees the chairs stacked on the table and asks Caroline about the floor: he thought she already scrubbed it. Caroline said she did but she wanted to mop the floor and can’t find her mop. She calls up to the loft to see if Laura knows where the mop is. Laura asks a string of clarifying questions, such as “THE mop? The NEW mop?” causing Pa to call her downstairs. Laura is wearing the mop as a wig. About twenty years ago I was down in New Mexico for summer vacation. On Saturday morning my sister and I were channel surfing trying to find cartoons and came across this show on one of the religious stations where one kid was sitting on another kid’s lap like a ventriloquist’s dummy wearing a mop on her head. It was one of the weirdest things I had seen on TV…up to that point in my young life. Laura looks a lot like that dummy. Caroline tells her daughter that she looks more like Medusa than Beth, but Laura is not up on her Greek mythology either. Pa tells her to put the mop back on its handle.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mayfield is driving down the road when he sees Ginny sitting in a tree crying. He stops his cart and asks if she wants a lift to town. He asks why she’s up so early and figures it is because of the show. She tells Mayfield that she is going to be in the show because her Ma isn’t going. Ginny doesn’t think her Ma cares. That’s a totally reasonable argument your daughter is making, Ma Clark. Bad mommy! Ginny goes on to tell Mayfield about the dress she bought, which goes to show that he was not involved at all. He tells Ginny that everything will be alright. He takes the package and promises that her Ma will change her mind. In the meantime, he suggests that Ginny take the long way to school so she can wash away her tears in the creek so that “the prettiest girl in school” doesn’t look all gloomy on stage. Aww. Ginny watches Mayfield ride towards her house before leaving for school.

Ma Clark is less than thrilled when Mayfield arrives at her house. He begins to lecture her about how she is treating her daughter. He tells her that he found Ginny crying this morning and that he was not involved in the dress purchase. Ma Clark tries to argue with him about it, but he calls her out on her itty bitty pity party. Mayfield says in no uncertain terms that she should do what’s right, put on the dress, and ride with him into town to go watch the play.

Over at the mercantile, Willie is sneaking down into the store to get the tobacco for the Ants. Just as he opens the humidor, Nels walks in and asks Willie what he is doing. The kid says he is getting some stuff for the play, but Nels tells him that those props won’t be necessary for Tom Sawyer. Nels takes the cigars and sends Willie to school. Harriet comes down the stairs and tells Nellie to hurry along. Nellie doesn’t want to go, so Harriet tells Nels to move along while she deals with Nellie’s stage fright. “I’ve never heard of an actress yet who hasn’t had some sort of temperament,” Harriet chuckles as she goes upstairs. “What’s her excuse the rest of the time?” Nels mutters to himself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Little Women 3/5

Harriet is handing out the scripts to the cast assembled in the Oleson parlor. Mary will be playing Marmie, Laura will play Beth and Ginny will be playing Jo. Nellie will play Meg as planned, along with the assurance from Mrs. Oleson that all the parts are tailored to the actors. Mary and Laura share a glance at that announcement. As the cast gets ready to leave Nellie reminds them that the man from the wig shop will be at tomorrow’s rehearsal. Laura asks why bother with a wig, to which Mrs. Oleson replies that “all fine actresses nowadays wear wigs.” Isn’t the point of those wigs so that the actresses have hair like Nellie’s? Or maybe I’m thinking of make-up so that the actresses can have permanent bitchface. Ginny’s excited about seeing the wig. Is she stalking Nellie?

As the girls walk home, Laura continues her whining from earlier. Mary offers the consolation that there aren’t too many lines to memorize. Laura agrees, since all of her lines are “oh yes” and “oh my”. Sounds riveting, Harriet. “I think I’ll add one more line,” Laura says. Mary asks what it is. “Shut up, Nellie.” No, I swear, that really happened! Mary laughs.

Back at the homestead Caroline is scrubbing the floor of the house. She asks the girls about the play and Mary explains the lack of enthusiasm. Although the lack of lines is annoying for a budding actor, the source material could be a lot worse. At least they aren’t doing The Upside of Down or Voices from the High School. Ma tries to console her daughters, but both seem pretty apathetic about the whole project so they should be fine in the long run.

Meanwhile, Willie and the Ants are practice the fence whitewashing scene from Tom Sawyer. Nels walks past the kids on the way back from the bank and tells them they are doing a nice job. Mr. Oleson, who is reading a ledger as he’s walking, moves towards the house and passes through a gap in the fence. He goes about five feet before realizing he did not walk through a gate. “Willie!” I guess the fence he is rehearsing with used to stand where the gap now exists. Willie asks what his Pa wants, but Nels thinks better of it and says never mind. Nels then walks around the fence to pass through the gate, instead of through the gap, and into the house.

Over at the Clark house, Mr. Mayfield stops by to pay a visit. Widow Clark steps onto the porch and tells Mr. Mayfield “if those flowers are for Ginny, she’s already left for school.” You know, lady, there are other ways to dissuade a gentleman caller than implying he may have an inappropriate relationship with your 9-year-old daughter. Mr. Mayfield perseveres and tries to give the flowers to Mrs. Clark. She refuses the flowers somewhat rudely, but that doesn’t stop Mayfield from pouring his heart out. He opens by calling her a “handsome woman.” Hehe. I know, “handsome” was gender neutral back then, but she does look somewhat mannish. Mayfield stumbles on his words a bit but finally spits out an invitation to join him at the play performance. Clark considers it for half a second before refusing, saying that she won’t be going because there’s too much to do at home. Mayfield says that Ginny will be heartbroken, but Clark says she will have to learn to live with disappointment. Booo! You suck, Ginny’s mom.

The conversation takes a turn when Mayfield tells Clark that her husband, who died two years ago, wouldn’t appreciate this. She says if she had the choice she would want to be dead with him. That’s lovely. Mayfield can’t believe she would think that, especially since he wouldn’t have followed his wife to the grave when she died five years ago. You know what doesn’t come off as flirty? Playing Quién es el Esposo más Muerto. Clark doesn’t want to play and sends Mayfield on his way.

The next day we see Nellie at her wig fitting. It looks like they are going for the 1974 Cher look. Laura and Mary are visibly bored and Harriet seems a bit apprehensive about the whole process. Nellie looks in a mirror and decides that she wants it to be curly like her normal hair. Harriet instantly agrees but the wig man cautions that it is a lot of hair to curl and that there will be an extra charge. This slows Harriet a bit as the wig man does some arithmetic and arrives at a total of $27. Yikes. Mrs. Oleson raises a fuss, Nellie gets all Veruca Salt about the wig, and the wig man says the hair alone cost $18. Mary and Laura are horrified by the economics of the situation before them. Harriet eventually agrees and the wig man assures them that the wig will be ready by morning. Ginny follows the wig man to the door and she watches his exit through the parlor window. Harriet starts the rehearsal and begins blocking the scene...badly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Little Women 2/5

Laura, Mary and Ginny are walking home and talking about the day’s events. Ginny is really excited about getting the chance to see the inside of the Oleson house. I watch HGTV every now and then, but I don’t understand what would be so great about seeing the Olesons’ place. Of course, I never had the desire to watch MTV Cribs, so maybe it’s just a personal taste thing. The Ingalls girls tell Ginny that it is a pretty snazzy place, and with that little nugget to look forward to Ginny runs home. Laura complains some more about Nellie joining the group, but Mary shares the observation that Ginny was really excited about the opportunity to go to Nellie’s house. “That’s like wanting to go to Hell instead of Heaven,” Laura snarks.

We rejoin Ginny who starts waving at someone as she approaches her house. It’s Mr. Mayfield and he is happy to see Ginny. He jumps down from the wagon and tells Ginny about a honey bee tree that he found. “I thought to myself ‘who likes honey better than bears and bees’,” he tells Ginny. “Me!” she replies. Are they about to burst into song? Mr. Mayfield reaches into the wagon and grabs a couple of jars of honey for Ginny and her mom. Ginny invites Mr. Mayfield inside, but he seems hesitant to accept. Ginny runs inside to drop off the honey and fetch her mother.

Ginny’s mom was watching everything through the kitchen window and seems to disapprove of what is going on. Once Ginny is inside she can’t get two words out before her mom tells her to tell Mr. Mayfield that he shouldn’t have bothered. Ginny tells her mom that he is waiting for a thank you, but the mom says the honey is for Ginny and she should go thank him. Wow, mom is playing really hard to get. Ginny goes outside and tells Mr. Mayfield “my Ma says to thank you.” He looks crestfallen that he had to hear it from a messenger. He goes on to mention that he noticed their wood pile getting low and offers to help out, but Ginny’s Ma calls from inside to “tell him no.” Mr. Mayfield seems to get the hint and takes his leave. Wow, how often do you get a show with a plot that revolves around quaternary characters?

Ginny goes back inside and tells her Ma that she thinks Mr. Mayfield is awful nice. Ginny’s Ma doesn’t really respond to this. Ginny goes on to tell her about the play at school and who is in her group. “Doesn’t sound like school studies to me,” she responds. Ginny sort of half agrees, saying that even Miss Beadle referred to it as “entertainment”. When Ginny mentions that all the parents are invited to watch the plays, her Ma complains that entertainment would take time away from work. That’s...sort of the point of entertainment. Ginny begs her Ma to come to the play, but Ma goes on this spiel about how since Pa died it’s been nothing but work. Ginny pleads some more, saying it is only a morning and the other parents will be there. Ma doesn’t like the idea of mingling with the other parents, and besides she doesn’t have a dress for the occasion. Ginny asks one more time, but her Ma sends her off to do chores. Why do the parents in this town suck?

It’s dinner time at the Oleson house. The conversation seems to be about logistics for this whole play thing and Harriet has determined that the Mercantile will have to be closed Friday morning. Nels is leery about the lost business, but if most of the people in town are watching the plays anyway I don’t see what the big deal is. Harriet tries to lay some guilt on Nels, saying that not only will it be Nellie’s stage debut but Harriet’s writing debut as well. Apparently Harriet is the only person in Walnut Grove who has been to a play and therefore understands all the intricacies of effective writing for the stage. I guess I won’t need to bother with that screenwriting class I was looking at, seeing as how I watch TV. Nels seems pretty ambivalent about the whole thing until the subject of Willie’s part comes up. Willie doesn’t want to be in Little Women, so Nels suggests an adaptation of the new bestseller Tom Sawyer. Finally – a reference point for when this show actually takes place (1876ish). Nellie sneers that none of the other boys will want to be in a play with Willie, which he counters with a promise of licorice bribes. Nels warns his son that he can’t buy friends. I guess it’s the hermit’s life for Willie, then.

The next day, we see Willie frantically begging his former Ants to join him in the Tom Sawyer adaptation. The Ants aren’t interested at all, especially since Willie wants to be the lead. I wish “drama queen” was a more gender neutral term, as it applies equally to all genders. Willie promises the Ants licorice and sarsaparilla if they join up, but they are still a little dubious. Then, one of the 12-year-old Ants remembers that the Mercantile has a wide assortment of chewing tobacco and cigars and offers their services in exchange for some chaw. Chaw is so gross. Smoking I can deal with, but any activity that requires public spitting is just distasteful in my book. Anyway, Willie agrees and the guys start looking over the book.

Laura, Mary and Ginny stop by the mill to say hi to Charles, Mr. Edwards, and Mr. Mayfield. Pa asks about the rehearsal, but Laura says they haven’t received their parts yet. Mr. Mayfield asks which play and when they tell him, Mr. Edwards makes a joke about some midget he saw in St. Louis and it cracks everyone up. Except me. Confession time: I’ve been purposely avoiding the Mr. Edwards episodes that have been coming up because I really don’t have the patience to deal with his character. I’ll have to get to it eventually, but if you’re a fan you might have to wait a while. Ginny invites Mr. Mayfield to the show and he agrees. He asks if Ginny’s mom will be there, but Ginny is not optimistic.

The school bell rings and the girls run off to class. Mr. Mayfield compliments Ginny and her mom and Mr. Edwards starts teasing him about being lovesick. Charles asks Mr. Mayfield if he fancies Widow Clark, but Mr. Mayfield says that she doesn’t seem to notice. Mr. Edwards suggests that Mr. Mayfield be direct with her “and then you tell her how it’s gonna be.” Guh, shut up, Mr. Edwards. Charles then pretends to greet Mr. Edwards’s wife and he and Mr. Mayfield leave while Isaiah sputters around drunkenly, or something.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Little Women 1/5

Spring has sprung in Walnut Grove as we open on a shot of flowers growing in the waterway near the mill. Laura and Mary are walking to school and they are being watched by Willie Oleson. He is sitting in a tree wearing what appears to be a Napoleon hat with some feathers in it. He jumps in front of the girls, wielding a wooden sword and demanding that they “stand and deliver”. Oh, I get it: Willie is playing Adam and the Ants. The girls are not up on their new wave dance hits and have no idea what Willie is talking about. A couple of Ants in the tree clarify that he is playing Robin Hood (oh...boring). Willie explains the conventions of Sherwood Forest and tributes and whatnot, but the girls are not interested. Mary tries to walk through, but Willie pokes her in the belly with his sword. Ant #1 vouches for the tribute system by showing off the piece of licorice Willie acquired. “Those are my merry men and no one can beat Robin Hood and his merry men,” Willie run-ons.

Laura grabs a stick and claims dibs on the Little John role, correcting Willie that Little John beat Robin Hood. Fight scene music kicks in as the two start to duel. Sort of. It’s probably some child labor law thing, but the two don’t actually appear in frame together as they thrust and parry. Eventually Willie knocks the stick out of Laura’s hand using the flyswatter method of attack. She counters by going all Flavor of Love on his face. Mary tries to break up the fight as the Ants cheer it on. The other kids playing in front of the school hear the commotion and run over to watch. Miss Beadle hears the ruckus as well and races over to the scene. Mrs. Oleson notices what’s going on and freaks out that Willie is involved, though I’m wondering if she is freaking out in general or because she somehow managed to pick him out in the middle of the melee. By the time Harriet gets to the fray Miss Beadle has the kids separated, but Mrs. Oleson gives Laura a couple shakes just because. Harriet coddles her son as the whole crowd agrees that Willie was the instigator. Miss Beadle tries to defuse the situation by saying everyone looks alright, but then Harriet gasps when she sees that her ugly hat got trampled in the fracas. Willie explains that it wouldn’t be Robin Hood without the feathers, but his mom doesn’t care as she drags him home. The rest of the kids go to school.

The kids are still chattering about the fight as they take their seats. Miss Beadle starts to walk down the aisle sternly until she hears the clomping of Willie’s feet as he runs in to take his seat. After Miss Beadle passes Laura and Willie’s row, Laura sticks her tongue out at him. The teacher turns around and lectures the kids about the bad behavior she just witnessed. Willie takes this as an opportunity to blame Laura and the two start bickering again. “You’re not Robin Hood,” Laura yells. “You’re poor, so there,” Willie counters. “You’re dumb, so there,” Laura retorts. Just as this fight is getting really good, Miss Beadle sends the kids to the corner. They both go to the same corner but Willie refuses to share, claiming that it’s his corner. True.

Moving on, Miss Beadle has decided that she would like the class to embark on a more constructive engagement with the class reading assignments. Mary suggests doing a school play. Miss Beadle thinks about it for a second and agrees that a play would be a great idea. Nellie likes the idea too, as does the freaky girl sitting behind her. Yikes. You know, if a tertiary character doesn’t blend into the background it becomes subject to the gun rule: If you see a gun in Act I, it will go off by the end of the play. Miss Beadle tells the class to split up into groups and each group can select its own material. Nellie asks if her mom can watch since Mrs. Oleson is apparently the George S. Kaufman of Hiro Township. It’s a fair comparison: they have the same hairdo. Miss Beadle rolls her eyes at first, but then decides to turn this project into an event. Hey, what’s a play without an audience?

After school, Mary, Laura, Freaky Girl, and Extra (I don’t know the girl’s name) are mulling their literary options. Laura suggests Snow White Rose-Red but Extra says they don’t have a prince. Freaky Girl, whom Mary calls “Ginny”, offers the unhelpful suggestion of “it doesn’t matter to me.” Gah, don’t make this group project suck, kid. She must have heard me, because Ginny redeems herself by suggesting Little Women.

Nellie, who is not so nonchalantly eavesdropping on the conversation, runs over to insinuate herself into the group. She says she knows what scene they can do and assigns the parts. Nellie will play Meg since “she’s the smartest.” Laura rolls her eyes and Extra tells them “Peace out”. Mary tries to 86 the whole idea, but Nellie has already figured everything out right down to the rehearsals at the Oleson house. Ginny is enthralled with the idea of visiting the Oleson living room, but Nellie reminds her that Ginny must wipe her feet and touch nothing. This is such a weird conversation. Mary tries to resist but eventually gives in, much to Laura’s disappointment. Nellie is excited and tells the girls that her mother will write up the script tonight. I think everyone but Ginny knows how that is going to turn out. The school bell starts to ring and the girls walk back to class. Laura tells her sister that if they knew Nellie would be in their group, they should have done Hansel and Gretel. “Then she could be the witch who gets cooked in the oven.” As is almost always the case, I think there is going to be more drama off stage than on stage.