Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not Such A Drag

I love Ted Bessell in drag! Do you know this photo is selling on Ebay right now? That's where I found it, after Googling "Ted Bessell in drag".

Check out Bessell's facial expression in this shot. Priceless. Bessell plays the boyfriend in "That Girl". Here's what I'm finding out: "That Girl" is not as dippy a show as I thought. Some of the writing is very funny, and the supporting cast has great comic timing.

There was even a Seinfeldian moment on one episode. Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas's character) is going to play Monopoly with her boyfriend and her parents. The boyfriend and the father both want the battleship playing token. Finally they decide to roll for it. The father blows on the dice like he's rolling for high stakes at Vegas. He rolls a ten. The father slides his lips over his teeth in a hilarious "I got you" grin. But then the boyfriend rolls eleven. The boyfriend offers the father the hat token. "I hate the hat!" the father protests. "I always lose with it." The boyfriend says, "Okay, take the thimble."

I confess that one of the episodes had me in absolute stitches. Ann is mugged in Central Park, so she goes to a police station. She is sent to one of the offices, to meet with a detective. When she opens the door, she sees several men hiking up pantyhose and putting on their lipstick. They are on the “park detail”, and they pose as women to bait muggers.

Ann's boyfriend gets wind of this, and being a journalist, wants to do a story on the detectives. So he agrees to dress in drag one night and pose as the lady on a "date" with one of the detectives. Before meeting the detective, he stops by Ann's apartment to show her his "new look." Who should open the door but Ann's father, who doesn't like the boyfriend in the first place, and now is even more suspicious of him. The boyfriend can't tell him it's part of police work, because Ann doesn't want her father to know she was mugged.

The boyfriend explains that he's going to do a skit at a bachelor party, where he's going to play the wife. But the father is still unnerved by Don's gender-bending, wondering why he isn't going to play the husband. The father takes Ann to dinner at a place near the park, where the boyfriend is on park detail. He sees the boyfriend being escorted by another man, and watches, alarmed, as they sit down on a bench together, and start cuddling. "Just how important is this Don Hollinger to you," the father asks his daughter. "Oh father, he means a great deal to me," she replies. "Well, I'm not so sure he feels the same way about you!!" the father says.

The show has a surprising slyness to it, kind of winking and nodding at the possibility that Ann might have a sex life, despite her father's efforts to keep such a thing from happening. When Ann and Don plan an intimate evening alone together at her apartment on New Year's Eve, Ann tells her friend next door how her father is worried and is going to come over. "Does he think you're not healthy?" the friend asks. "No, he's afraid that I am," Ann replies.

In another scene, Ann tries to buy a mattress but is relentlessly hit on by the salesman who can't resist making suggestive remarks. It's interesting to watch, because the writers strike a tricky balance between innuendos that are clear but subtle enough to get past the network censors. Later that evening, the salesman shows up at Ann's door with a bottle of wine, to make sure she finds her mattress "comfortable." I found this all very surprising for a sitcom of that time period.


  1. You're making me want to watch this! I love Ted in drag too.

  2. Come on over! We can watch it together.

    I just replaced the last paragraph with a different one.