Small Screen Pop’s First Anniversary! Birthday-Themed Episodes From Leave It to Beaver, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and More

By Karen A. Romanko

Small Screen Pop has its first anniversary today, and what better way to celebrate than re-visiting some classic birthday episodes from TV shows of the past.

Our first stop is the fifties, where the always charming series Leave It to Beaver confronts the perennial issue of what to do with a hideous birthday gift. Everyone’s favorite TV mom June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley) deals with that thorny problem in “June’s Birthday” (1959), when son Beaver (Jerry Mathers) gives her a “ghastly” print blouse emblazoned with twin Eiffel Towers on the front and the words “Ooo-La-La” on the back. June agrees to wear the blouse to a Mothers’ Club tea the next day, but changes her outfit after husband Ward (Hugh Beaumont) fears embarrassment. When Beaver’s class gives a surprise performance at the meeting, Beaver is devastated when he sees that June is not wearing the present he thinks is so beautiful. With some difficulty, June manages to soothe Beaver’s hurt feelings in a touching conclusion that teaches Beaver just a little about the ways of grown-ups. High marks all around, especially to Ward’s hilarious reactions and the delightfully garish sartorial creation itself.

Beaver (Jerry Mathers) presents June (Barbara Billingsley) with the "beautiful" blouse

The next port of call is the 70s, where the romantic mystery McMillan & Wife puts a new spin on the surprise party trope by adding an earthquake, a bony party-crasher, and hidden emeralds. In “Aftershock” (1975), Sally McMillan (Susan Saint James) throws a surprise party for police commissioner hubby Mac (Rock Hudson), but the party is interrupted by a major earthquake, which brings down a brick wall in their living room, revealing a skeleton. As more corpses pile up, Mac learns there may be millions of dollars of emeralds stashed in their home, a possibility which piques the interest of a statuesque Italian film star (Julie Newmar), a Lloyd’s of London agent (Richard Dawson), a Greek restauranteur (Robert Loggia), and others from the shining array of guest stars. The McMillans’ sardonic housekeeper Mildred (Nancy Walker) gets the best line in the show’s snappy dialogue, when Sally criticizes her choice of a necktie with GOLFERS on it for Mac’s gift. Immune to the criticism, Mildred replies, “Well, I tried to get one with tiny little criminals on it, but they were all out.” I love this show!

Sally (Susan Saint James) and Mac (Rock Hudson) before the party crashes

Our final birthday destination is the 80s for a rollicking episode of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, where the search for a birthday gift leads to murder, mayhem, and, yes, mirth. In “Fearless Dotty” (1984), Dotty West (Beverly Garland), mother of neophyte spy Amanda King (Kate Jackson), buys a rare book for her grandson’s birthday, but unknowingly leaves the store with a different book, one which has been encoded with juicy secrets intended for the espionage community. As Dotty moves through her birthday preparations, bodies drop wherever she goes, but she always is oblivious. The high point comes when she is asleep under a dryer at her salon, and a battle erupts between Amanda’s partner Lee “Scarecrow” Stetson (Bruce Boxleitner) and one of the bad guys (William Smith), a fight where bodies crash through LOTS of glass. After the fracas is over, and everyone is cleaning up, Dotty emerges from her dryer and asks, “Am I dry yet?” Fearless Dotty slept through the whole thing! All’s well that ends well with a nice birthday party for Philip (Paul Stout) in this comedy gem from the series.

Amanda (Kate Jackson) is happy the party is saved on Scarecrow and Mrs. King

Of course, there are LOTS of birthday-themed episodes across television’s decades-long history. Please share your favorites in the comments. And don’t forget to celebrate Small Screen Pop's first birthday by reading some of our earlier posts. Our most popular have included “The Beat Goes On: Rock and Pop on 60s Sitcoms” and “Lost TV Locations, Part II: Malibu’s Paradise Cove Pier in Harry O, the Rockford Files, and More.”

Happy birthday, Small Screen Pop!

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