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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

RIP Sam the Butcher

Sam the Butcher has died, and yes, it cuts like a knife.

I haven't felt this kind of nostalgic sadness for the TV of my youth since ... well, since the Rev. Alden (Dabbs Greer) of "Little House on the Prairie'' passed away last April.

Allan Melvin was 84. He was known for various sidekick roles throughout his career, including Archie Bunker's friend Barney Hefner on "All in the Family,'' but for those of us who watched "The Brady Bunch'' every single day after school like my brother and I, he'll always be Sam the Butcher. That jolly, lovable lug who flirted with Alice every time she came into his shop, always ready with a corny cut-of-meat pun, usually a rump roast.

Sam (last name Franklin) got plenty of mentions in the Brady kitchen, but, according to episode credits, he only actually appeared in eight shows from 1970 to 1973:

1. "Snow White & The Seven Bradys.'' The Brady kids come up one short for the dwarfs for their theater version of the fairy tale, so guess who helps out?

2. "The Elopement.'' The kids mistakenly think Alice and Sam are eloping. Silly, kids, we all know Sam could throw a strike at the bowling alley, but he had serious commitment issues on the relationships front.

3. "The Big Sprain.'' Best Sam episode ever. When Carol is out of town, Alice slips and sprains her ankle, leaving Mike and the kids to run the household. It doesn't go smoothly. Worse yet: Alice is heartbroken that she can't go to the Meatcutters' Ball with Sam. Sniff, sniff.

4. "Sorry, Right Number.'' With no cell phones to help them out, the Bradys are having phone-hogging issues, so Sam recommends Mike install a pay phone at home. Bad idea, but, as was so often the case with Sam, his intentions were good.

5. "Alice's September Song.'' Alice makes Sam jealous when her old flame, Mark Millard, shows up. Mark bad. Sam good.

6. "Top Secret.'' Bobby and Cousin Oliver think Sam is passing secret plans to the Russians. OK, so not Sam's best storyline, but we'll blame chronic annoyance Cousin Oliver for that.

7. "The Show Must Go On.'' Marcia, Carol, Greg and Mike perform in the Frosty Frolics talent show at school. There's Sam laughing -- he was a great laugher -- and clapping in the audience next to Alice.

8. "Big, Little Man.'' Bobby has size issues, so he does stupid stuff like hang from the backyard swing set to try to stretch himself. And Sam is involved how ...? Help me out here, "BB'' fans!

Technically, Melvin, who is survived by a wife of 64 years and a daughter, wasn't a cast member of "The Brady Bunch,'' just a guest star. But to those of us who watched, he was very much part of "the whole blooming Brady bunch!''



sam was the man. wasn't he responsible for bobby getting locked in his meat locker? or greg? i still think of that episode when i'm freezing in wisconsin.

By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 22, 2008 at 1:14 PM  

I believe all three were locked in the meat locker. Greg breaks the door window and thanks to Bobby's diminutive stature, he's the only one that can crawl through the window. Classic.

By Blogger Antony, At January 22, 2008 at 3:51 PM  

You guys are right on the meat locker episode. It's all coming back to me now. Thanks for jogging my memory.

Now ... anyone remember what dwarf he played in the "Snow White & The Seven Bradys'' episode?

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At January 22, 2008 at 4:30 PM  

Was Sam actually in the locker? I thought Greg and Bobby were watching shop and Bobby shut them in. And then he crawls through the window and saves the day. Or maybe Greg's hair turned orange in the meat locker due to the freezing tempeatures and Bobby acting as hallway monitor decided to get his Sunday's best dirty, leading to Joe Namath taking an axe to the door and saving them all from hypothermia.

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At January 22, 2008 at 4:33 PM  

Maybe I'm typecasting, but I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Sam played Dopey ...

By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 22, 2008 at 5:11 PM  

You know you are right. Greg was working for Sam at the time and Bobby showed up while Greg was closing. Sam warned them about the meat locker door. I can't believe I'm remembering all of this. Bobby went through the broken window and called for help.

By Blogger Antony, At January 22, 2008 at 8:04 PM  

I think Sam had a bowling tournament to go to.

By Blogger Antony, At January 22, 2008 at 8:05 PM  

secret plans to the russians? i think i blocked that episode from my memory.

By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 22, 2008 at 9:01 PM  

Sam WAS NOT locked in the meat locker. Don't be stupid.

He arrives with Mr. Brady, and is very vocal about getting that door fixed so that you can open it from the inside.

RIP Sam.

By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 24, 2008 at 1:47 PM  

Sorry to Antony.

I thought the most recent comments were on the top, and thus didn't realize that Antony already has realized the error of his ways.

My bad. I just get emotional when it comes to the Brady's.

By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 24, 2008 at 1:49 PM  

apparently an easily offended mike lookinland reads our little tv blog.

-- tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At January 24, 2008 at 2:32 PM  

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