I just watched two great science fiction classics tonight: MR. ED and LASSIE. I don’t wanna hear any gripes about “those aren’t sci-fi!” – a telepathic dog and a talking equine are the DEFINITION of sci-fi, my friends.
This was the never-aired Mr. Ed pilot, with Scott McKay playing Wilbur Pope (not Post as in the series). McKay comes across as a younger, better-looking Emeril LaGasse. The comedy template is the same, with the laff track and the very set-bound barn housing Ed, who was voiced here as in the series, by Allan “Rocky” Lane. McKay does a decent job with the funny looks and expressions, but I prefer Alan Young. Maybe it's Young soothing voice. A different horse played Ed and he wasn’t nearly as pretty – or photogenic - as the one they got for the series.
A bonus feature on the disk was one of those “Buy U.S. Savings Bonds” ads in the form of a special Mr. Ed episode (with Young playing Wilbur). The highlight was when after Ed was told a horse couldn’t buy bonds, he picks up the telephone, drops the receiver where he can get to it, then picks up a pencil, dials the operator and gets down to business. Classic Mr. Ed highjinks.
The Lassie portion consisted of two episodes of the classic series featuring the mind-reading collie. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for how Lassie was so damn smart.
One episode had little Jeff (Tommy Rettig) and his pal Porky (wearing a genuine Jughead hat) building a swell treehouse. They and Lassie and Pokey, Porky’s pet basset hound, attempt to sleep in the treehouse one night when Pokey goes postal and won’t shut the hell up with his howling. Jeff tells Porky that shit won’t fly in his treehouse. Porky says It’s MY treehouse too! Jeff tells Porky to 86 Pokey. Porky says If Pokey goes, then so do I. Jeff says FINE. Porky tells Jeff that one day he’ll find a severed horse’s head in his bed and he will rue the day he tossed Pokey and Porky outta the treehouse. Jeff says Are you still here? Lassie is snoozing through all this and would make a crappy eyewitness to the events.
Long story short, Jeff find the treehouse demolished and blames his rotund former BFF. Porky swears to his even more rotund pops that he di’na do it. Porky and Jeff exchange some more eye daggers.
One night Jeff hears a terrible ruckus (is there any other kind in the sticks?) and Lassie jumps out the window. Jeff, and his Ma and crazy, ricket-infested Gramps find Lassie at the base of the treehouse, from whence the ruckus is STILL ensuing. Jeff climbs up, expecting to see Porky’s fat ass trashing their once beloved tree-dwelling, but finds instead Gentle Ben (or at least a bear) lookin’ for a late night snack.
We of course close out the episode with a moral about not jumping to conclusions, and maybe not making best friend plans with a fat kid who owns an old goddamn dog that won’t STFU.
I must say that Tommy Rettig at this age would have made a kick ass JONNY QUEST. The kid looks just like him, with the same giant landmass of hair (at least when Rettig combed it), and the same knack for getting into some serious shit. Rettig combover was so severe it must have inspired a young Donald Trump. I'm just sayin'.
Lassie didn’t do much in this episode because he/she was resting up for the next episode where he/she did all her own stunts. In the second episode, Lassie is on trial for murder and Jeff fights for her life! Well, actually Lassie was put on trial for attacking a kid. The penalty though was DEATH for Lassie, so Jeff really was fighting for her life.
The kid’s pop was trying to strong arm Gramps into selling the farm. While they were doing that Jeff and the guy’s snot nosed young son were left in the barn. Over Jeff’s objections, Billy or whatever his name was, tried to saddle a yearling who’d never been ridden before over. When the young horse knocks the young jerkwad on his butt, Billy gets a stick and moves to beat the horse (that’s city folk for you). Jeff jumps in and hands Billy his ass. Jeff’s mom comes in at this moment with the requisite country tray of milk and cookies (warm milk…blech!) and sends Jeff out to change. Jeff orders Lassie to keep an eye on Douchebag Jr. and, sure enough, Billy grabs the stick once more and goes to beat the yearling. Since no one understands Lassie’s S.O.S. barks he/she takes matters into his/her own hands/paws and grabs the stick, and Lassie and Billy end up wrasslin’ for a spell (as they say in the country). Douchebag Jr. loses his grip and falls down on some barbed wire or something and starts screaming his little douchebag head off. Gramps and Douchebag Sr. come a runnin’ and find Billy wimpering on the floor and Lassie standing over him, barking. Mr. Cityfolk assumes that Lassie has attacked, I say ATTACKED, his young, defenseless, innocent son. You’ll rue the day, etc, etc.
They go all Inherit the Wind with a trial to determine if Lassie is vicious and if he/she should be destroyed. Turns out Billy LIED on the stand about his injury - the kind old defense attorney proved the bite marks didn’t match (it’s CSI: Hicksville), and Lassie is set free. Hooray!
Then Jeff and his telepathic dog Lassie spend the rest of their lives roaming the post-apocalyptic wasteland, looking for food and chicks for Jeff to bang. Or am I confusing this with A Boy and His Dog, again?
Ps: I say he/she when referring to Lassie because while the canine actor was a male, the character of Lassie was a female. And that's one to grow on!