Summary: The studio executives pitch a brilliant marketing idea.
Rating: R (mild sexual and suggestive content)
Word count: 2,320
MEN OF THE PONDEROSA: A VALENTINE’S DAY TREAT
Scene: Interior. Conference room at Paramount. Present: Studio Executive #1, Studio Executive #2, Studio Executive #3.
SE #1: You’ve got to be kidding!
SE #2: Don’t I wish.
SE #3: Sheesh. Just when you think you’re gonna get a chance to breathe a little. . . .
SE #1: There’s no way this is gonna end well. You know that, right?
SE #2: Believe me, I know. I bet my phone’s already ringing.
SE #3: Who do you figure’s gonna yell loudest?
SE #1: Does it matter? Either way, it’s gonna be a friggin’ disaster.
SE #2: But it’s gonna make a fortune.
SE #1: Yeah, there’s that. C’mon. Let’s get it over with.
SE #3: Into the lion’s mouth. . . .
An hour later.
Scene: Interior. Ponderosa living room. Present: Ben Cartwright, Adam Cartwright, Hoss Cartwright, Joe Cartwright, Candy Canaday, Hop Sing, Studio Executive #1, Studio Executive #2, Studio Executive #3.
BEN: Welcome to the Ponderosa, gentlemen. Hop Sing, won’t you pour some coffee for our guests?
HOP SING: I’ll be most happy to pour coffee for our honored guests, Mr. Ben. (pours)
JOE: Hey, what’re you in such a good mood for?
HOP SING: Who, me?
HOSS: You usually hate when company comes, ’cause it’s so much work.
JOE: You even hated when Jamie came, and he’s not company.
CANDY: Hey, where is the kid, anyway?
SE #1: He’s visiting his grandfather in Boston.
SE #2: Someday, we should tell the writers there are other places east of here besides Boston.
SE #3: At least they can spell “Boston.” Imagine if they tried to send somebody to Schenectady. We’d be here for three days trying to figure out what the town is.
(Hop Sing exits)
ADAM: (gesturing to Candy) Does he have to be here every time we have a family meeting with the studio?
CANDY: Why shouldn’t I? I work here, too.
ADAM: It’s not right. We’re from different seasons. We don’t overlap.
SE #1: That’s not a reason you boys can’t get along.
ADAM: It’s not about getting along. It’s just peculiar.
CANDY: He’s got a point. Can’t we get the chronology of this show straight?
HOSS: That’s always kinda been a problem. We just ignore it.
JOE: Remember how I was seventeen in the first season and then I was twenty-two in the fourth?
ADAM: You never could count very well.
BEN: All right, boys, settle down. (turns to SEs) So, what can we do for you today?
SE #1: Well, fellows, it’s this way. You know that Valentine’s Day is coming up.
JOE: Jamie asked me about that once.
BEN: What did you tell him?
JOE: I said it’s when you tell a pretty girl how much you like her, and you give her a card and candy and maybe some jewelry, and you take her out someplace real romantic, and then you go for a drive in the moonlight, and then, if you’re lucky—
BEN: (with a menacing stare at Joe) —she lets you shake her hand good night.
JOE: Um, sure. That’s what I said.
SE #2: Anyway, here’s the thing. Since you’re all such handsome eligible bachelors (waits while all of them preen) the studio thought it would be fun to do something special for Valentine’s Day. Whaddya think?
JOE: If that’s what my fans want, I think it’d be downright heartless of me to say “no.” (giggles) Get it? On Valentine’s Day—“heartless”?
ADAM: Hilarious. Oscar Wilde has nothing on you.
JOE: What? Who’s this Oscar guy? Don’t tell me we got another relative coming to visit!
SE #3: Not this week.
SE #1: Rumor has it there are a handful of them back east.
SE #2: In Boston.
BEN: You know, I’ve never quite figured out where all these relatives came from. I thought I was an only child, but somehow I ended up with that nephew, Muley Jones. And then somebody else showed up one time and said he was another nephew.
ADAM: That would be Cousin Will. The one who stole my fiancée.
BEN: Oops, sorry. Didn’t mean to bring that up.
CANDY: He got engaged?
ADAM: You say that like you’re surprised. I’ll have you know I’m quite a catch.
CANDY: It’s just that I thought that was Joe’s job. Ain’t he supposed to propose at least twice a season?
SE #3: That was the original idea, but in the first season alone, these three proposed to so many girls that we had to rethink it.
HOSS: I only proposed to one gal, that pretty little Emily Pendleton. And I ain’t even sure now if I really came out and asked her, but that’s what I meant.
ADAM: I had Sue Ellen Terry and what’s-her-name—Ruth, was it? The one who made me wear the bandanna. I think I proposed to them. It was a long time ago.
JOE: That Ruth chick was in the second season. Anyway, in the first season, I definitely proposed to Julia Bulette and Tirza, and I was gonna run off with Amy Bishop, so I win.
BEN: (clears his throat) I was married three times. Which means I’ve proposed to three women, all of whom accepted. So I win.
SE #1: Anyway, we’re getting off track. We’re putting together something special for Valentine’s Day, and you’re all going to be involved.
ADAM: Are we all getting girlfriends?
BEN: Or wives?
JOE: Sure, Pa. More wives. (rolls his eyes)
HOSS: I wouldn’t mind a nice gal.
CANDY: Works for me.
SE #1: Actually, fellows, we thought about doing something like that, but it turns out we only have one blue dress, and trying to find five girls the right size can be a challenge unless we recycle girls from old episodes.
SE #2: That’s always kind of weird, because the audience recognizes them. Like how Joe almost married Tessa who was blind, and the next season Hoss had a crush on her when she was the niece of that nutty professor.
SE #3: And Hoss delivered that blonde’s baby when she was married to a tax collector, and then she was single and he fell in love with her and she got married to somebody else and died, and then she ended up being Adam’s fiancée.
JOE: That was definitely weird. It was like she came back from the dead.
CANDY: That’s creepy.
SE #2: Our New Year’s resolution this year is to try not to recycle the girls so much.
SE #1: Plus, it’d be a problem with all of them here, because they’d all have to be changing in and out of the same dress, and it’d hold up shooting.
ADAM: Well, I’m no expert on costuming, but what if you bought a few more dresses?
HOSS: And maybe let them gals wear some other colors? We did that when I had those three women who wanted to marry me. I think one of ’em even wore pants.
ADAM: Three women wanted to marry you? In one episode?
HOSS: They sure did. You and Joe ain’t the only ones who’re irresistible to women.
JOE: Wasn’t there a green-and-white dress around at some point? That little gal from the mountains—Trudy—I think she wore it.
SE #1: But she wasn’t a love interest. Love interests wear blue.
HOSS: I’m pretty sure we’ve had love interests who didn’t wear that dress.
SE #3: Things were a little crazy in the early days. Our wardrobe budget was insane, and The Powers That Be said we had to rein it in. That’s why you all wear the same stuff now.
SE #2: Speaking of wardrobe. . . .
SE #1: Oh, right. See, fellows, here’s what the studio has in mind. Since we can’t afford all the guest stars, we figured we’d do something to raise a little money instead.
BEN: Like what?
SE #3: A calendar. “Men of the Ponderosa”! Pretty catchy, right?
JOE: A calendar? Like the one Hank Munson at the mercantile gives out every Christmas?
HOSS: Or the one Andy Gibbons gives out from the feed store?
ADAM: Or the one Abigail Jones gives out from the school, with a picture of her on every month?
BEN: I think you’re the only one who gets that calendar.
JOE: Let’s hope.
SE #1: This calendar is going to be . . . special.
BEN: (suspicious) Special how?
SE #3: (gulps) As you know, we need to keep our ratings up. So what better way than creating a calendar filled with hot, sexy men?
BEN: Something tells me there’s more to your plan. (fixes each of the SEs with a stern look, and they all squirm)
JOE: (whispering to Candy) See—that look. That’s why we could never get away with anything.
CANDY: (whispering back) Glad I didn’t grow up here.
SE #2: You see, it’s like this. The big new thing is . . . adult calendars.
HOSS: Calendars for adults? Big deal. Kids don’t need calendars.
SE #3: No, not—I mean—see, the thing is—
SE #1: You’d be nude.
BEN, ADAM, HOSS, CANDY: WHAT????
JOE: You mean right now? (begins unbuttoning his shirt)
CANDY: If he’s in, I’m in. Anything he can do, I can do better. (unbuttons his shirt faster)
ADAM: You going to start singing now?
BEN: (brightening) We’re singing? You know, I had that hit song. . . .
HOSS: (to Adam) See what you started?
SE #2: Keep your shirts on, everybody!
JOE: Pa, the calendar is for the good of the show. Besides, they wouldn’t be showing everything. Right? (no reaction from the SEs) RIGHT? (makes big encouraging nods to the SEs, like “take the hint, you morons!”)
SE #1: Oh, right! Totally! Absolutely! We wouldn’t show everything.
(SE #2 and SE #3 open their mouths as if to protest. SE #1 elbows SE #2 so hard he falls against SE #3.)
SE #3: That is, I mean, unless somebody was game.
JOE: Like, I could wear chaps and . . . well, just chaps.
(A loud crash, like an earthquake, shakes the house.)
HOSS: What in tarnation was that?
SE #2: All Joe’s fans just fainted.
SE #1: Trust me, gentlemen. It’s going to be very tasteful. For example, Adam, you could be playing your guitar, which would discreetly block your . . . private parts.
JOE: (under his breath) He could do that with a ukulele.
SE #2: (ignoring them) Or Candy could be in the bathtub, getting ready for a date.
SE #3: Which you’ve done on camera, so it shouldn’t be a problem, right?
SE #2: Hoss could be out in the barn, holding a little calf in his lap while he bottle-feeds it.
SE #1: Tender and sexy!
CANDY: Unless that calf kicks.
BEN: Let’s say for the sake of argument that I was willing to participate—for the good of the Ponderosa, of course. What might you be thinking about for me?
SE #2: We could put you in that red leather chair with your pipe and a strategically placed newspaper.
JOE: Sounds very distinguished, Pa. Right, fellows?
(The others murmur agreement.)
BEN: Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.
ADAM: Look, I don’t mean to cause trouble—
HOSS AND JOE: (mumbling) Sure you do.
ADAM: —but there are twelve months in a year.
SE #2: Oh, we’ll have each of you on a couple months. It’ll work out.
CANDY: There’s five of us. That means some of us will be on more months than others.
SE #3: (hastily) Oh, don’t worry, we’re all set. We have it all planned out.
JOE: Since I’m the romantic one, I should get February.
BEN: I should be the photo for February. After all, I’m the patriarch. Besides, it’s my birthday month, and that should count for something.
ADAM: But I could pose with a dozen well-placed roses for Valentine’s Day. That would be elegant as well as romantic.
JOE: Watch those thorns, Older Brother!
CANDY: I should be Mr. February—you know, with my name. Everybody gives candy on Valentine’s Day.
HOSS: I should be the February photo since I’m the cuddly teddy bear all the ladies would love to cuddle with.
SE #2: Um, we’ll work out all those little details with your agents. For now, we just need to get you gentlemen ready for your photo shoots.
SE #1: Somebody call my secretary and tell her to schedule the wax girls. Soon as we get rid of everybody’s back hair, we’re good to go.
JOE: I don’t have any back hair.
HOSS: You don’t have any front hair, neither.
JOE: I got plenty of hair where it counts, Big Brother.
JOE: I meant on my head!
Two weeks later.
Scene: Interior. Conference room at Paramount. Present: Studio Executive #1, Studio Executive #2, Studio Executive #3.
SE #1: (hanging up) That was Greene’s agent. Sheesh. What a friggin’ nightmare.
SE #2: Hey, we knew this would happen, but who cares? The calendar is selling like hotcakes!
SE #3: Does anybody actually buy hotcakes?
SE #2: Again I say, who cares? We’re making a fortune! Eat our ratings dust, Gunsmoke!
SE #1: Except the guys are pissed as hell.
SE #2: Well, we knew that was gonna happen. They’ll get over it when we start sending out their royalty checks.
SE #1: I don’t know what the problem is. They each have two months, and they look great. The women are going nuts over them!
SE #3: Just the same, maybe somebody should have told Landon that he and Victor Sen Yung have the same agent.
(SE #1 flips through the calendar to February, where pink and red hearts frame the photo of nude Hop Sing, who stands in profile next to the kitchen table, his hands working bread dough as he flashes a sexy smile and a sexier wink to the camera.)
Author’s Note: Unfortunately, the NBC censors ultimately pulled the “Men of the Ponderosa” calendar from the market. If you have one of the few surviving copies–and it is not marred by lipstick or drool–Antiques Roadshow would like to hear from you.
Other Stories by this Author
- A Ponderosa Christmas . . . Or Maybe Not (by pjb)
- The Real History of “The Crucible” (by pjb)
- On the Other Hand (by pjb)