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Sam looks like she belongs in a "Mothra" movie after Aunt Clara tries to synchronize the soundtrack to a home movie but winds up de-synchronizing Sam's voice instead!

If you've seen "Singin' in the Rain" this routine will seem pleasantly familiar. One of the funniest sequences in that film is when Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are screening their first "talkie" to find that the synchronization has gone all out of whack ("Yes-yes-yes! No- no-no!") Whether this was inspired by that or simply by the then-infamously poor dubbing of foreign films (as Sam says, "I feel like I'm in an Italian movie!"), this episode speaks well enough for itself in terms of cleverness. Unfortunately, uneven pacing and diluted performances keep this from going all the way with its comic possibilities.

Despite a good script, cute gags (Sam wearing the surgical mask and later gargling) and a Standing Room Only invitation to a party inside the Stephenses bathroom (so THAT'S what it looks like!), this episode never quite manages to kick into a higher gear. Even boasting appearances by three powerhouse guest stars (Marion Lorne, Mabel Albertson and Bernard Fox), oddly enough not one of them ever manages to deliver the delicious laughs we've come to expect whenever they appear. Here Aunt Clara doesn't seem her typically sweet befuddled self but rather sadly unfocused; Mrs. Stephens seems almost subdued in her bossiness; while Dr. Bombay is so unusually humour-free that he's just downright annoying in all of his Unpleasant Curmudgeoness.

Liz looks great in her Pucci-like pantsuit and along with Dick is a stalwart trooper (love their romantic opening breakfast scene!) But ultimately they, too, seem distracted by not the problem of Sam's voice coming two seconds too late but rather by the unsnychronization of their three guest stars -- all whom seem to be in each other's way with not enough to do. As Aunt Clara says to Sam early on, "It is unnerving, isn't it?!" I couldn't have put it better myself.

GUEST STARS: They've done it again! Roy Roberts (Mr. Stephens) is suddenly playing a major role that up to now has been played by another actor (Robert F. Simon). Of course if we hadn't already been through the Alice Pearce-Sandra Gould/Irene Vernon-Kasey Rogers and the ultimate Dick-Dick initiation of unexpected cast changes, one might be surprised. Roberts certainly was qualified for the job: Not only seen as a semi-regular on "Gunsmoke," "The Lucy Show," "Petticoat Junction" and "Beverly Hillbillies," ALL AT THE SAME TIME he also stayed busy with one-shot guest stints on other major TV shows. His impressive film career included Vincent Price's "House of Wax" and Jack Nicholson's "Chinatown." In an interesting twist with this particular role, he continued to alternate the role in future episodes with Robert F. Simon, depending on whoever was available for filming that week. (Although for my money, Robert F. Simon will always be Darrin's REAL dad!)

© Review Copyright 1999 by SCOTT VIETS

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