This Brady Bunch bully began his reign of terror in Mayberry
Russell Schulman was television's go-to punk kid from 1968–70.
What makes a kid actor get typecast as a bully? Is it a mop of shaggy straw hair that swoops down over his perpetual squint? Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) had that look in The Karate Kid. Is it his innately smart-alec voice? Is it freckles? Is all that combined with an inner anguish, like a cornered animal lashing out, because the bully character inevitably is revealed to be a victim himself?
You can find all these qualities in Russell Schulman, who for the last two years of the Sixties, tormented famous TV kids. He first appeared as a blond brat of Mayberry in 1968. One of the last few episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, "Opie and Mike" introduced Mike Jones (Buddy Foster), son of Sam (Ken Berry). The father-son duo would form the core of the spin-off, Mayberry R.F.D.
Early in the episode, we meet Mike at school, where a snot-nosed imp named Edgar Watson (Schulman, of course) harasses Mike.
"Save me! He's going to hit me! Save me! Save me!" Edgar jokingly protests, cowering behind a pal in mock fear. Mike just stands there silently with a quivering lip and dampness in his eyes. Opie struts into the scene. This is season-eight Opie, the tallest kid in the hallway. He learned how to deal with punks way back at the start of season two in "Opie and the Bully." Taking Mike under his wing, Opie helps the new kid out of the situation.
A few months later, Schulman popped up again, on the tough streets of New York City. Well, not that tough. It was on Family Affair. In "By a Whisker," Jody wants to join a tough boys club called the Daredevils. Butch Patrick is the leader. Schulman, "Skinny," is the henchman and instigator. Skinny tells Jody he must "pass a test of bravery."
Not long after, both Butch Patrick and Schulman worked together again, with the tables turned, in the Adam-12 episode "Log 15: Exactly 100 Yards." Here, Patrick is the teen in need of help. Schulman ("Mike") talks sass to Officer Pete Malloy, showing disrespect for the police, true to typecast.
But Schulman's defining moment as a rascal arrived on The Brady Bunch. "A Fistful of Reasons" proved to be the best bonding moment between the blended step-siblings Cindy and Peter. School ruffian Buddy Hinton (Schulman, natch) ridicules Cindy's lisp. Pete comes to her defense — and earns a black eye for her honor.
Buddy continues to mock "Baby Talk" and "Peter Chicken." Mike and Carol reach out to Buddy's old man and find out the apple did not fall far from the tree. So Peter socks Buddy in the face, knocking a tooth loose, giving the bully a lisp and a taste of his own medicine. It's the Rocky IV moment of The Brady Bunch. All that's missing is "Eye of the Tiger." Or would that be "Eye of Tiger"?
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The lesson in the bully episode[s] might be most important of all, since most every kid of every generation knows the terror of the school bully. Of course Andy taught his fictional son the proper lesson. He didn’t preach about toxic white masculinity or warn Opie that defending himself was an overt act of racism, no matter what the color of Ope’s tormentor. No sir, Ange sat the boy down and told him that fighting was not a good thing, and that you should always do what you honorably can to avoid it. But he made sure that the boy knew how to defend himself (with some karate lessons from Barn), and he told him that all bullies share the common trait of cowardice. He said son, when it’s right, and you have no other choice, stand tall and take no more ... defend your friends and your family. What always went unsaid was to trust in God. But it was certainly implied. Opie’s mom would have been proud of him.
I'm sad to even write that 73% of teenaged African American males have nobody living at home named Dad. Not having that male role model makes it much more likely that you'll be the bully instead of the Opie. I got off track when I really just wanted to say how great your comment was, Dave. Very nice writing.
I believe these are also "moral points." Perhaps they give the viewer the opportunity to think about something outside of their own experience.
You need to leave the vitriol some place else. I agree with the original point, it’s nice to watch a show written in a simpler time. I don’t appreciate current Hollywood’s efforts to “teach” me something every time I watch a TV show. And I’ve got news for you, yours is not the only valid opinion out there.
This is the BEST post I have ever seen. Boy, does it say it well! Thank you, Crockett1