Sunday, July 7, 2013

Maude: "A Tuckahoe Bicentennial"

Maude and friends celebrate the "Spirit of '76"
First aired February 9, 1976

It's 1976 and Americans are swept up in Bicentennial Spirit.  Maude Findlay () of Tuckahoe, NY is no exception.  She has booked Tuckahoe's armory and plans to stage a musical variety show that will celebrate the contributions women have made throughout US history.

The cast will feature only women, no men.  She enlists her daughter Carol (), best friend Vivian () and housekeeper Mrs. Naugatuck () and others to perform.  They are rehearsing a patriotic medley featuring "I Am Woman" with extra lyrics that mention many women of historical importance.

Maude's husband Walter () and friend Arthur (Conrad Bain) don't understand why Maude would want to pay tribute to American women this way. Walter's appliance store is one of several local businesses sponsoring the show and he hopes to make a big profit from his "Buy-Centennial Sell-A-Bration".  He believes men will stay home from an all-female show, thereby killing his sales figures.

"You know, that President Ford is a smart cookie.  Just when the economy hits rock bottom, he dreams up this gimmick of a Bicentennial!" - Arthur Harmon

Colonel Reikert (), who operates the armory, isn't happy either.

He needs to sell tickets to make money as well and threatens to eject Maude and cancel her musical.  Maude is defiant and continues to rehearse her women-centric song & dance numbers.

If that isn't enough trouble, Vivian is determined to perform some solo songs in the show.  Maude finds all her songs to be less than desirable.  

Vivian (dressed as Carrie Nation) REALLY wants a solo number in the show 
The colonel is ready to cancel the event until tickets for the musical sell out.  Walter and Arthur also change their tune.  Maude is disappointed, thinking Walter is only concerned with his wallet.  She threatens to cancel the show causing Walter to have a moment of clarity.  He trashes his store's display and tells Maude she should do the show her way.

Walter destroys his store's display booth
He also requests that the men of Tuckahoe be allowed to do one number in the show to demonstrate their solidarity.

In the new atmosphere of cooperation, Maude relents and allows the show to go on with the additional number from the men.

Maude as George Washington on a horse! 
Will the show be a success?  Will the additional number from the gents celebrate the dignity of American women?  Will Maude's portrayal of George Washington be well-received?   Watch and find out!

J.A. Morris's Review:

First off, let me say that Maude was a great series.  I watched it when it was airing new episodes back in the 1970s, but I appreciate it more as an adult.  The issues that were discussed on the show are still relevant, and it's also hilarious.   Maude currently airs on Antenna TV, check to see if it's part of your cable package.  We hope to review Christmas episodes of the series in the near future.

The Bicentennial was a major event of my childhood.  Red, white and blue products were everywhere, George Washington, Ben Franklin and 'Yankee Doodle' were in seemingly every commercial and it bordered on the obscene.  4th of July parades were bigger than ever.  And who can forget Bicentennial Minutes?

"A Tuckahoe Bicentennial" captures this moment nicely.  In the era of 2nd Wave Feminism, who can blame Maude for wanting to celebrate the overlooked contributions of women since 1776?  And Walter's attempt to cash in on the once-in-a-lifetime event mirrors what most local businesses were up to at the time.

Arthur Harmon (Conrad Bain) and Walter Findlay (Bill Macy) contemplate the financial possibilities of the Bicentennial
The musical performances are still funny 37 years later.  Bea Arthur does a great job singing "You're A Grand Old Flag" in the manner of Barbra Streisand.

Maude channels Barbra Streisand.
Rue Mclanahan is also great as Vivian.  I felt like Maude was a bit rough on her best friend, but Vivian's song choices were weak at best.  While I always supported the goals of feminism, I've never cared for the song "I Am Woman."  But Maude, Carol and Vivian deliver a great version, and the extra "Bicentennial" lyrics make it an unforgettable performance.

Fans of classic television shows will appreciate the presence of Richard Deacon as Col. Reikert. Deacon is best remembered from his roles on Leave It To Beaver and The Dick Van Dyke Show.  He serves as a good foil for Maude in this episode.

There aren't many episodes or specials dedicated to Independence Day.  "A Tuckahoe Bicentennial" is a great episode of an influential series, and I can see myself watching it every year around July 4th from now on.  

J.A. Morris' rating:
4 Flags!

RigbyMel's review:

I was too young to remember much of the Bicentennial festivities, but I suspect that this episode from the fourth season of  Maude captures the ambiance of the time very well. This is a very fun and funny episode of the show.

Maude as George Washington
Being a bit of a music geek, I particularly enjoyed all of the great songs in the episode as well as the fact that it gave Bea Arthur a chance to show off some of her formidable Broadway talent. Her send up of Barbra Streisand is hilariously brilliant as is her impassioned performance of "You're Gonna Hear From Me" - a song (originally written for the 1965 film Inside Daisy Clover) which was covered by luminaries like Frank Sinatra ... and Barbra Streisand!

Maude sings "You're Gonna Hear From Me"
Hermoine Baddeley (who is probably best known nowadays for her performance as Ellen the maid in Mary Poppins) also gets a chance to show off her comedic singing talents in this episode.

Mrs. Naugatuck (dressed as Betsy Ross) takes some direction from Maude
The men's "tribute to women" at the end is utterly cringe-inducing and also utterly laugh-inducing.   If one can't have a little fun with feminism and its vicissitudes, what's the point?

"There is nothing like a dame, nothing in the world ....!" 
Credit is also due to Norman Lear for bringing great topical shows like Maude (and All In The Family, The Jeffersons and others) to television in the 1970s.   They often feel like good stage plays and tackle issues that continue to resonate today with humor and wit.

"A Tuckahoe Bicentennial" is well worth seeing if you get the chance.  It's available on the Maude:The Complete Series dvd boxset and Antenna TV currently airs reruns of Maude.

RigbyMel's rating:

4 Flags