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Scarecrow and Mrs. King classic show
On October 3, 1983 Scarecrow and Mrs. King swept into the living rooms across America. Not quite like anything else, it charmed and captivated the public. Excellent writing, top notch casting, and characters who care about each other made this show a success then, and still today. I am convinced that critics who claim Scarecrow and Mrs. King to be only a “minimal show with only a little romance to keep it going” or “tongue and cheek comedy” have totally missed what the fans saw from the beginning. This show has class that TV writers could not dream of replicating today.
Amanda King played by Kate Jackson, is a lady with which almost everyone can identify. Her hardworking, family centered, practical, and honest personality captures the hearts of the viewers. Also, she loves her country. I think that she might bleed red, white, and blue if she is shot or stabbed. Amanda’s character also showed that ordinary people can do the extraordinary- when asked. The very first episode in the train station exactly pinpoints her personality for the whole series. When a handsome stranger, of course Scarecrow, begins to escort her through the train station and convinces her to take the package, her simple rely, “OK, what do I do,” became her theme. (More on Kate in a minute)...
Scarecrow and Mrs. King the legend
Bruce Boxleitner as Lee Stetson, is Scarecrow. Handsome, innovative, and a maverick of a secret agent, he is anything but ‘normal’. He is assigned many of the hardest cases and uses much more than his gun to figure them out. Characters like the British Agent “Emily Farnsworth”, seen in both Season Two episodes “The Legend of Das Geisterschloss” and “The Three Faces of Emily”, and “The Wizard, Paul Barnes” in “We’re Off to See the Wizard”, Season Three, help to expose more of his true character. It becomes obvious that Emily taught him early on to out think his opponents. The Wizard, Paul Barnes, the giver of his code name “Scarecrow”, saw something special in Lee when he first joined the agency. As part of a crack commando group Paul also taught him to analyze his opponents. Remember, in the Wizard of Oz, the wizard gave the scarecrow his mind.
As one of the top agents of the Agency, he finds himself working more and more with Amanda King. In the first few seasons he is forced to work with her, much to his dismay and her delight, but by the end of season two he called her “partner”.
Lee’s long string of high society, flashy, or stunning ladies begin to pale against the strong, quiet, and tender character of Amanda. In “Tail of the Dancing Weasel”, season three, Lee tells his elderly superior and long time friend he would follow Amanda anywhere blind folded in the a blizzard at midnight. No matter what the bad guys throw at her, she rises above it again and again. Not quite keen on shooting people, many times she would out maneuver them. More than one of them ends up hit with a tree branch, sprayed with whip cream, or decked with a lamp. This impresses Lee and unbeknownst to him, this housewife begins to melt his cold spy heart.
Another angle of Scarecrow comes to light with the story that becomes so very real in “We’re Off to See the Wizard”. The murder of the woman, code named Dorothy, was explained, thus why Lee could never stand the smell of roses. Perhaps this is one reason it takes him three seasons to realize the treasure he sees in Amanda. As an agent he saw many killed and turn against the government. Maybe Lee was afraid to trust his heart to anything more than just the flashy ladies. I guess we would have to ask Scarecrow that one.
The chemistry of the series wouldn’t work without the clever inclusion of the supporting character Dotty West (Beverly Garland) as Amanda’s mother. Writing her as an active part of everyday life, her presence allows for the progression of Amanda from part time office worker at the Agency to full time secret agent. The inclusion of Amanda’s sons Phillip King (Paul Stout) and Jamie King (Greg Morton) enhances and provides an even richer backdrop for the series. I love the episodes where they write Dotty into the plot. In Season One’s Episode “Waiting for Godorsky”, Dotty’s driving lessons and fascination with the Princess never fails to keep us in stitches. The careful weaving of story line, humor, and quality characters make this one of my personal favorites.
Martha Smith and Mel Stewart
Mel Stewart as boss Billy Melrose, and Martha Smith as fellow agent Francine Desmond round out the cast. Billy’s immediate like for Amanda give her character the support it needs to develop into the super talented spy she becomes. Billy shows the ability to think out side of the box and use Amanda in ways that help the agency and also complements one of his top spies.
The downcast light that Francine Desmond at times casts on Amanda, just makes her shine all the more. Martha Smith does a super job. From impersonating a defective woman to running the agency when needed, hand to hand combat or backing up a fellow agent, she plays the parts well. Her personal interest in Lee makes her condescension to Amanda even more real. She just can’t ever figure out how a ‘simple’ housewife could be given assignments that she would like, much less actually succeed in catching the famous Scarecrow romantically.
Lee and Amanda
The final episode of Season Three, “All the World’s a Stage” has more significance than anyone realizes. Yes, of course it is thrilling to see Lee finally admit his interest in Amanda and their first real kiss, but there is more to this episode. As part of the story line of the episode Amanda becomes involved with a play by her favorite play write. In a scene in her kitchen, she is acting out her lines with her sons and mother. Her sons believe the play to be boring. Dotty does not understand why the one character just sits at the end of the bar and says one line over and over, and another character is doing the can-can.
Amanda, in her introspective way, analyses the spirit of the French Revolution in the can-can and uses the satire to explain the true meaning of the whole play. I could be wrong, or perhaps it was simply unintentional on the part of the writers, but I believe this is actually a poke at the critics. Critics only want to credit Scarecrow and Mrs. King as something much less than it is. But the viewers know better. This special series lets the critics sit on the side all day long, but meanwhile Scarecrow and Mrs. King are out dancing to the music of risking their lives, figuring out plots, and outwitting the bad guys. In the end it is the critics who were out maneuvered.
Kate Jackson's Triumph
Sadly, sadly, May of 1987 brought the end of this super show. Though many did not understand why the producers would allow Amanda to be shot on her honeymoon in early 1987. Then for her to be written out of the bulk of many episodes and Francine’s role increase, did not seem right. We all wanted to see Lee and Amanda’s romance deepen first hand. What many did not know was that Kate Jackson had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Only her producer knew the real truth and Kate Jackson checked into a hospital under an assumed name for treatment. She actually finished the rest of Season Four under heavy pain killers and having to deal with things like chemotherapy. In great pain, she still stuck it out for her fans and the show. Her cancer went into remission. Then a few years later she had another bought with the dreaded disease. Today, though she seems to be doing well.
From October 1983 to May of 1987 and 88 one hour episodes, enhanced everyday life for millions of Americans. Nothing quite like it had ever been shown before. I am so glad that as a child I had the opportunity to watch it and remember its name.
How to Be a Secret Agent by Jenni Lee
Scarecrow and Mrs King DVD
Just this spring 2010 the first season of Scarecrow and Mrs. King was released DVD. This official version is great. I have watched all of them (more than once) and can't wait to see the second, third, and fourth season to become available. The only thing I wish is that some interviews with the stars and makers had been included. Many DVD series that have been released have personal interviews that give such neat insight into the various episodes, back grounds, and story lines. We are all tickled as fans that Warner Brothers and Shoot The Moon have made the official release of the first season. I even found that SMK was the 6th most requested series by individuals to be released on DVD of all time. Even 1999 I signed a petition on Amazon to have it released. Do be careful purchasing DVD or 'fan collections' other than from reliable sources. I purchased a $50 collection at it was entirely bootlegged and very unwatchable.
Online Videos and AOL TV
There are some online videos for Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Fancast.com has about 20 episodes from season one and two (I'm not sure if season three is available or not) that they offer on a rotating basis. AOL TV has the vast majority of all four seasons, only missing two found in the third season). There are commercials in the shows. Also my computer pauses them several times per each approximately 46 minutes of playing time. But it is a very economical way to get to experience the show. The video and audio qualities are better than is found on the DVD set I purchased.
A fan named Jenni Lee has put together some really neat videos clips on the show. Viewable over on youtube.com, I have greatly enjoyed her tasteful work. Below is one of my favorites. For all of her videos sequences visit youtube yourself and type in "Scarecrow and Mrs. King".
Scarecrow and Mrs. King photo
"Give the package to the man in the red hat..."
I have heard that both Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner have said they would gladly step into their roles once again for a reunion movie. Though it sounds so, so neat to get to have that chapter reopened, I really don’t believe that there is a writer who could do justice to this classy, unique, and first rate television masterpiece.
In my mind’s eye, Lee and Amanda, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, are still out fighting the bad guys, solving mysteries, and loving it and each other more every day. Keep a look out, who knows, a secret agent might just ask you to “Give the package to the man in the red hat” someday…
Thanks for reading about something that is special to me. Sue