Season 1 Episode 26

My Son The All American

Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Apr 08, 1964 on ABC

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  • A Professor Howe lecture serves as the catalyst for the unlikely spirtual awakening of football star, Jeff Brubaker. Wannabe girlfriend, Kathy O'Reardon, coaxes and cajoles him onward, but are her actions really consistent with his best interests?

    The CHANNING finale has a lot going for it: (1) a talented actor, James Caan, soon to become a major star on the big screen, (2) the sexy Yvonne Craig, poised to cap her extensive 1960's résumé of episodic TV, spy, Elvis, and beach party flicks, with her iconic role as Batgirl, (3) a re-tooling of the CHANNING theme as a college marching band anthem (with the requisite glockenspiel prominently featured in the mix), and (4) a bold storyline (for its day) courtesy of accomplished screenwriter, Bob Kaufman. James Caan is very comfortable in the role of a somewhat intellectually challenged jock; he actually played varsity football at Michigan State and had great success portraying the ill-fated Chicago Bear player, Brian Piccolo, in the 1971 TV-movie, BRIAN'S SONG. Channing Episode #26 opens with a Professor Howe lecture in which he relates the story of the 1906 meeting of Mark Twain and Sholom Aleichem in which Twain remarked, "They tell me you are the Jewish Mark Twain" and to which Aleichem replied, "The way I heard it, you are the Gentile Sholom Aleichem". This leads into a class discussion of contemporary Jewish writers and their apparent assimilation into mainstream American culture. Class member and triple-sport star athlete, Jeff Brubaker, seems uninterested in the lecture and prefers to focus his attention on the notes being passed to him by two giggling female admirers behind him [one of whom is played by Beverly Adams, another veteran of 60's beach party and Elvis movies, and future wife of hair stylist Vidal Sassoon]. However, the rest of the class are eager to participate in the discourse. Kathy O'Reardon suggests that ongoing prejudice remains an issue even in the late 20th century. Mr. Peterson, an African American student voices his support of this point, and then Rebecca Goodman eloquently speaks on the topic from a Jewish perspective. Prof. Howe notices Brubaker's inattention and calls on him to relate his experience. He comes up with the lame answer "I'll have to ask my parents". The bell rings, and Howe initially hesitates in dismissing the class, then relents and lets them go. Brubaker leaves the class in the company of the two giggling girls. Kathy O'Reardon takes all this in (with a very concerned look on her face). The second scene opens with Jeff Brubaker pitching softball for the Delta Sigma Phi sorority against the Alpha Phi fraternity. Almost "leering" low camera angles are utilized in showcasing the sorority girls in their snug short-shorts and t-shirts. Brubaker's presence on their team enables the girls to trounce the boys, and Dean Baker and Coach Middleton are in the stands observing. Their conversation establishes Brubaker's status as the greatest all-around athlete in the last twenty years (who was widely recruited by other schools) and who became the recipient of Channing's coveted Tremaine scholarship. Kathy confronts Jeff during the softball game about his "casual indifference" during the classroom discussion of Jewish American authors and playwrights. She further suggests that their works would still be haunting men's souls after the fleeting athletic accomplishments of a Mickey Mantle were long forgotten. The next day Kathy catches up to Jeff during his early morning run and presents him with the text, "Chronicles Of The Jewish People". The next scene finds Jeff in the stands at the athletic field during cheerleader practice. He is totally engrossed in the book and is paying no attention whatsoever to the cute girls doing their cheers. As an amusing counterpoint to the metamorphosis of Jeff's new value system, the scene ends with the head cheerleader instructing the other girls: "Now, remember beating State is the most important thing in our lives, right?" Cut to the pre-game bonfire. Kathy is there with a new book for Jeff to read- this one concerns the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Nazis. The next scene shows Jeff in his frat house room on the phone to Kathy discussing the new book. It is now apparent that Jeff has embraced the importance of his heritage. The next day, Jeff and Kathy continue their conversation at the soda shop – this time touching on the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Jeff wonders why he had never before learned of the struggles of the Jewish people. Kathy suggests that this is a question he should ask his father. Kathy continues orchestrating Jeff's spiritual awakening by making a date with him to attend Rabbi Feldman's services at the Temple that evening. Rebecca Goodman is there and wishes Jeff good luck with the upcoming game. Jeff walks Kathy home; she coaxes a lukewarm goodnight kiss from him, but he is obviously preoccupied with all he has learned over the past few days. He has a sleepless night and is unable to concentrate at football practice the next day. He packs up his gear and informs Coach Middleton that he has made the decision to give up the football, baseball, and basketball programs. Middleton shares the news with Prof. Howe who later finds Jeff playing catch with Bobby outside the frat house. Howe takes a catcher's glove and participates in the game of catch while discussing the scholarship implications of Jeff's decision. Jeff soon is summoned to meet with Floyd Tremaine, the benefactor of the scholarship. Kathy accompanies him. We learn of the scholarship's cancellation when Jeff comes to Dean Baker's office carrying a big stack of books and indicating his desire to concentrate solely on academics. Prof. Howe is also there but is unable to persuade Jeff to reconsider. Baker indicates that he will have to inform Jeff's father. Jeff returns to the frat house. He gets the "cold shoulder" from his roommate who has heard of Jeff's decision to quit the football team. Jeff flies into a rage and forcibly evicts his roommate, throwing his clothes into the hall. At Manny's Soda Shop, no one will pass Jeff a pitcher of cream for his coffee; he again flies into a rage. Cut to a scene at Rabbi Feldman's house. Jeff is taking religious training for his belated bar mitzvah, but the Rabbi is more interested in discussing baseball. The Rabbi suggests that Jeff should perhaps consider a compromise that would allow him to continue his athletic pursuits and participate in religious studies. In the next scene, Jeff gives a perplexed Kathy her "walking papers" due to his concerns that less than 16% of "mixed marriages" ever work out. The next day, Jeff is at Manny's with Rebecca when she reminds him that his selection of a chocolate malted with a hamburger violates kosher dietary laws. Jeff immediately pushes the food away. Rebecca drops the not-so-subtle hint that she would be happy to keep a kosher household for her husband. Kathy storms over to their table, obviously jealous. Jeff says he will call her later. Rebecca inquires into Jeff's new major course of study, which is philosophy. He says he eventually wants to teach. Rebecca tries to convince him that Pre-Law would be a better choice given the poor salary for teachers. It is obvious that Rebecca also has designs on planning out Jeff's life for him. Upon returning to his frat house, Jeff finds his father waiting for him. Jeff confronts his dad for an explanation of his lack of religious training. His father indicates that he just wanted to provide the best and easiest life for Jeff, unlike the treatment given him by his immigrant father in the Chicago slums. The scene concludes with Mr. Brubaker slapping Jeff's face. Kathy refuses to give Jeff up without a fight. She next takes her case to Rabbi Feldman. Through her dialogue with him, she discloses her previously hidden agenda for Jeff and arrives at the conclusion that her manipulations have precipitated many of Jeff's problems (and related unintended consequences for the school, its faculty, and students). The day of the game, Dean Baker goes to Jeff's room to inform him that Mr. Tremaine has relented and will now allow him to retain the scholarship whether or not he continues to play sports for Channing. He finds Jeff packing his belongings, as he has been able to find employment to pay his tuition. After some histrionics and a minor shoving match with Baker, Jeff smokes a cigarette and calms down enough to listen to Baker's pitch. He decides the moral decision is to honor his scholarship contract and to play sports for Channing. Dean Baker advises Jeff that Kathy is waiting for him at Manny's to take him to the stadium for the big game. When Jeff arrives Kathy is still pouting until she gets the answer to her question: "What about Becky Goodman?" and ascertains that Jeff now considers Rebecca to be a "klug" – the same slang term Kathy had previously used to describe her to Rabbi Feldman. Jeff and Kathy dash out of Manny's hand-in-hand on the way to the game, as the Channing theme swells. This is definitely an enjoyable episode but it has some weak points. It is perhaps tries to accomplish too much within the fifty minutes allotted. James Caan isn't consistently believable as he traverses the hills and valleys of his somewhat farfetched spiritual journey. Ezra Stone's cloying portrayal of Feldman (especially with the smoking jacket attire, idiosyncratic grasp of his cigarette, and the constant reference to Yvonne Craig as "my daughter") tends to trivialize his credentials as a serious religious advisor. Although I detest 21st century political correctness, the advice dispensed by Gentiles, Dean Baker, Prof. Howe, and Kathy O'Reardon, to Jeff regarding his Jewish background is uncomfortable at best. Also, the "conniving" aspects of the female characters in this episode is perhaps over-emphasized. That being said, I always enjoy Yvonne Craig's performances. I am not terribly familiar with Josie Lloyd's other work, but she does a great job as Becky Goodman, here. I rate this one "8.5" for ambitious writing, superb guest stars, a peppering of historical tidbits in the writing, and very interesting and attractive bit players.
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