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1987

Mrs. Pennypacker's Problem

"Oh dear, oh dear dear dear. Oh, dear. Oh dear dear dear dear!" moans Mrs. Pennypacker. She's in the stockroom, behind her desk, resting her head on her hand.

Sam and Muffy come in behind her. "My goodness," says Sam, "There certainly seems to be a lot of 'oh dearing' going around here. What's the matter, Mrs. Pennypacker?"

Mrs. Pennypacker explains that because of her swollen feet, her doctor has advised her not to work in the daytime so she can get some rest.

"Oh, dear," says Sam.

"Oh dear, oh dear!" says Muffy.

"I haven't been this miserable since I spilled a chocolate fudge sundae all over the Duchess of Dandini's royal ball gown . . . It took three days just to wash the whipped cream off the sequins, but at least it was something to do. I don't know what I'm going to do at home!"

Muffy and Sam suggest she do some traveling. But that's out. She wants to go mountain climbing next year but first she has to rest her feet. "You see, I've never actually climbed a mountain before and it'll be too hard on my feet if I don't rest them in the daytime, and with nothing to do I'll be bored. This is a problem!" She knows her doctor is right and she has to take care of her "tender tootsies" but what will she do all day?

"Don't worry, Mrs. Pennypacker, Muffy and I will figure out something you can do at home in the daytime," promises Sam.

Later, in the computer room, TXL calls out, "Mr. Crenshaw, Mr. Crenshaw, your strawberry shortcake is ready!" Then, out from her side slot, the pink concoction appears. Sam offers some to Muffy, who is with him, but she is unimpressed with the sweet desert and goes over to the keyboard to try and get some cheese while Sam is preoccupied. He turns around just in time to see his cake slide back into the slot and a big piece of cheese slide out.

"Mmm!" says Muffy.

"Cheese!" Sam snaps, "Come on, TXL, stop playing games!" He taps on the keyboard again, the cheese retreats, and out comes the cake. So Muffy runs to the keyboard.

"Ah, there we are," Sam says, "Now, for a big, gooey slice of . . ." But then the cake is slides away again. "NOTHIN'! Curdling cream puffs, TXL!"

TXL tries to settle the issue. "Muffy Mouse wants cheese, and Mr. Crenshaw wants cake, so how about a piece of cheesecake?"

Muffy is pleased.

"Cheesecake, yeah," says Sam, "Well, that's very clever, TXL, very clever indeed."

To top it off, TXL offers to tell them a story while they're eating. It's the story of two little kids named Carrie and Bob who decide it's time for them to go out and get a job. The whole story is told in rhythm and rhyme.

First they go to a hospital to try and become doctors, but they're told,

A doctor has to study
A doctor has to learn
Doctors need to pass a test before they get their turn
A test about the body from the toes up to the shoulder.
Maybe you should study and come back here when you're older.

Next they try to become bank managers and again, they're rebuffed.

You're much too small to reach the counter, see it's very high,
Besides, you have to learn to add, subtract and multiply.

Next they try to become cooks in a restaurant. But the cook says,

Cooking isn't easy and it takes a lot of time.
Come back when you can tell me which is rosemary and thyme.

Unable to find jobs, the two kids sit down on a stair to cry.

'My, my' said an officer as he was passing by,
'You already have a job to do, so there's no need to cry,
Your job is being children and learning how to grow,
And having fun and playing games and going to a show,
And this is very necessary,'
He told Bob and Carrie,
'For every single thing you do makes a grown-up out of you.'

So Bob and Carrie go back home to play. In the picture we see them playing at all the jobs they had tried to get earlier. TXL finishes the story:

So no more sob and no more sorrow.
Finding a job could wait til tomorrow.

The cheesecake is nearly gone by the time she finishes. Both Muffy and Sam enjoyed the story, but realize they are no closer to solving Mrs. Pennypacker's problem. Muffy suggests they go talk to Jeff and Jodie and she appears to leave.

"Okay, TXL," says Sam, "Now that she's gone, how's about a piece of that real cake. You know, the one without all that cheese and stuff in it." He pushes a few buttons and out comes the other cake. "Oh, am I ever going to enjoy this!" Sam says, carrying it off.

As he leaves, up pops Muffy. "Now there's something I'd like to take, and that's that cheese without that cake." She pushes some buttons and out it comes. "Oh, yeah! The cheese alone without the pastry, now that's twice as good and twice as tasty!" She begins to nibble on it.

Meanwhile, the mime lady is doing a job. TXL invites us to watch her and see what she's doing. It's soon clear that she's miming typing on a typewritter. But suddenly the "keys" begin playing music instead. She's confused at first, but then she begins enthusiastically playing it like a piano. But after a few grand chords, it begins the familiar "tic-tic-tic" sound of a typewriter. So the mime rips out the paper and decides to write by hand.

In the children's department, Jodie and Jeff have joined Sam and Muffy in pondering Mrs. Pennypacker's problem.

"We'll just have to think of something she could do while she's there [at home]," says Jodie.

"You mean like a job at home," says Jeff.

"Well, one of the most important and difficult jobs is done by mothers and fathers at home. But most people do go somewhere else to work. They go to an office, or a factory . . ."

"Yeah, or a hospital, or a supermarket," adds Sam, "or how about a . . ."

"Department store?" asks Jeff, to Muffy's wry chuckle.

"Funny I didn't think of that one," admits Sam.

"I have it!" Jodie cries, "Writing is something Mrs. Pennypacker could do at home. Well, she could write - an advice column for a newspaper."

"Yeah!" says Sam, "That's absolutely perfect!" Then he turns to Muffy and asks, "What's an advice column?"

"When people don't know what to do, they write to the newspaper for a clue, see, the letter goes to someone wise, who finds an answer and then replies."

Sam thinks Mrs. Pennypacker would be good at that, and he and Muffy go off to talk to her.

When they're gone, Jeff says, "Gee. I wonder what job I would do, if I weren't a mannequin."

"Oh, gee," answers Jodie, "There are so many jobs to choose from, Jeff. You could be a scientist, or a mail carrier, a construction worker, a rock singer . . .'

"Oh! A rock singer! Hey, hey that would be great!" says Jeff.

"Oh, just imagine singing in front of all those people," says Jodie. So they imagine life as rock stars in song, as we see pictures of them, first in the studio.

"We wake up in the morning, and start to rehearse, practicing our song, both the chorus and the verse. Hours at the studio until we get it right," they flub that a bit so they try again, "Hours at the studio until we get it right. Hurry to the theatre, 'cause we've got a show tonight."

Next they're fighting their way into the theatre through clamoring fans. "Photographs and autographs, we sign when we arrive. Checking our equipment, making sure the mikes are live. Get into our costume, for they make us feel just right. Standing on the stage, staring at the flashing lights, staring at the flashing lights!"

Jeff is dressed in a shiny silver jacket and Jodie is wearing a short leather skirt as they sing and dance: "What a job! What a job! You don't hear us complaining! What a job! What a job! Yes, we love entertaining! What a job! What a job! Singing may not be for you. But if that's true, but if that's true then there's plenty else to do. What a job! What a job! But we'll never make a fuss. What a job! What a job! Our fans make it a plus! What a job, what a job, singing songs is such a treat. Moving both our feet to the rhythm of the beat. What a job!"

As the scene fades, we come back to reality in the department store. "What a job!" Jeff and Jodie sigh dreamily.

Just then Muffy and Sam bring in Mrs. Pennypacker. She's enthusiastic about the suggestion of writing an advice column, and they decide to ask her some practice questions. Sam goes first.

"Dear Mrs. Pennypacker, what advice would you give to a young boy who wants to be a sailor? Signed: A little boy who wants to be a sailor."

"Oh, well, 'Dear young boy who wants to be a sailor. My advice to you is, "Learn to swim!"'"

Everyone agrees that's pretty good advice, though Sam would have said he should learn to sing "Yo He Ho."

Mrs. Pennypacker explains that that's what she told Admiral Starboard, who once didn't know how to swim either. "In fact he even wore a life jacket when he took a bath!" But he learned how to swim and now he's in charge of the whole Navy.

Jeff goes next. "Dear Mrs. Pennypacker, I am a little boy and would like to know the fastest way to clean my room."

"Hire help!" says Mrs. Pennypacker. They all look surprised. "Well! I remember that the Duke of Dimwoddy hired an entire town once to help him clean up his palace."

Jodie gently explains that most little boys don't live in palaces and can't afford to hire an entire town.

"They can't? Oh, dear."

They try once again. It's Muffy's turn. 'Dear Mrs. Pennypacker, what would you say? The seaside or the farm for my holiday?"

Mrs. Pennypacker says, "It depends!"

"On what?"

"Why on whose farm and which seaside, of course." She goes on describe an Earl who owns a delightful farm and has taught his cows to curtsy for visitors, and Duchess Sandcastle who owns an exquisite beach house that includes an underwater television room, but she trails off when she sees the odd looks on everyone's faces. 'Oh, dear, I don't think I'm being much help am I?"

Jodie reminds her that the places she describes require an invitation.

"Yeah, and not every little boy and girl knows a duchess or an earl!" Muffy adds.

"I guess you're right," says Mrs. Pennypacker. "Oh, well. It was a good try, Samuel. But giving advice is obviously not for me." Sadly, she walks away.

Jeff and Jodie are still somewhat stunned. "An underwater television room?" says Jodie.

"Cows that curtsy!" Jeff adds, and they shake their heads in disbelief. It appears they'll need to think of something else.

TXL invites us to take a turn giving advice in the form of a quiz. A little boy is getting ready to go to school. Water is pouring down the window. What advice would we give? Naturally we'd advise him to wear his rain gear, which is hung by the door. But then he goes outside to find that the water was coming from a lawn sprinkler.

"Next time, we'll take a closer look before we give advice," says TXL.

Back in the children's department, her four friends are once again pondering Mrs. Pennypacker's choices for something she can do at home. Finally, Muffy has an idea.

"Hey! Clothes are one of her favorite passions! Maybe she could design some new fashions!"

Jodie thinks it's a great idea. "Oh, Jodie, let's tell her this idea of mine and help her with her first design!" Muffy says excitedly, and the two of them rush off.

Sam is rather surprised that people design clothes. "I always think of clothes as just comin' on hangers!" He notes.

Jeff asks Sam what job he would have chosen if he hadn't been a sailor and a security guard.

"Guess I probably would have been a professional checker player!" Sam answers. Jeff looks doubtful. "Or a schoolteacher. Now, when I was young, I wanted to be a teacher. Sort of sounded like a fun job, and well, it's important, too, you know." So he imagines what it would be like.

We see a classroom in which Jeff, Jodie and Muffy are dressed like old-fashioned schoolchildren. Jeff and Jodie are haughty, bickering brats and Muffy is Miss Goody Two Shoes. As Jeff and Jodie fight, in comes their teacher, Sam.

"Morning, class!" He says.

"Good morning, Mr. Crenshaw," the class answers.

"That's better!" Then he begins to sing, "I wake up in the morning, and then I come to school. A-teachin' all the children about the Golden Rule. Standing in the playground, so no one has a fight. Then hurry to my home again to mark their books at night."

"What a job! What a job!" The kids sing, while raising their hands. (Jeff and Jodie are competing to see who can raise their hand the highest.)

"You don't hear me complaining," sings Sam.

"What a job! What a job!" The kids repeat.

"The children I love training."

"What a job! What a job!"

"Teaching may not be for you." Then they all sing together, "But if that's true, but if that's true, then there's plenty else to do."

"What a job! What a job!" The kids sing.

"But I'll never make a fuss."

"What a job! What a job!" All three kids hold out apples for the teacher.

"I give this class A+!"

"What a job! What a job!"

"Teaching kids is such a treat! And every day we'll meet, until their learning is complete."

"What a job!" The kids sing one final time, all of them now munching on the apples they had offered, even Muffy.

Back to reality in the children's department, Jeff says warmly, "Aw, Sam, I bet you would've made a great teacher."

"Yeah, maybe," says Sam, "But then kids are kinda noisy you know. And I do like working at night. Everything's always so nice and quiet."

'YOOOO HOOOO! JEFFREY! SAMUEL!" Shouts Mrs. Pennypacker shrilly as she enters the children's department. "You're just the people I wanted to see. Muffy's wonderful idea about fashion design really appealed to me. So we dashed to the fabric department and I've already whipped up a couple of Pennypacker originals, which are about to be unveiled for your pleasure and perusal."

"Oh! Oh. Oh," says Sam. Then he turns to Jeff. "What did she say, Jeff?"

"We're about to see a fashion show, Sam." says Jeff.

"Ah!"

First up, Mrs. Pennypacker's premiere design. As music plays in the background, Jodie struts into the room wearing a spectacular black sequined sheath with a multi-colored sequin jacket and a big floppy, feathery blue hat. She looks absolutely gorgeous and everyone is impressed, until Mrs. Pennypacker announces that it's a dress for the "working woman to wear during office hours."

Muffy stops the music.

"Working woman?" Jodie asks in surprise. "Mrs. Pennypacker, this is a fabulous dress, but, well, I thought it was an evening gown for a fancy party!"

"Nope! It's for every day."

"Every day! Well, preening peacocks, Jodie, it's gonna be hard to run around putting up displays in that little number," says Sam.

"It's my firm belief that everyone should look good while working," insists Mrs. Pennypacker. "And now. For outside winter wear, may I direct your attention to the counter."

Muffy struggles up to the counter practically smothered in a huge fur-trimmed coat. Sam can barely see that it's her. The coat, Muffy acknowledges, is heavier than she is. Before Mrs. Pennypacker can finish describing it, Muffy begins to stagger.

"Muffy! Muffy!" Mrs. Pennypacker cries as Jeff steadies Muffy.

"Now hear this, loud and clear! I've just given up my modeling career!" Muffy yelps.

"I guess designing isn't for me, either," sighs Mrs. Pennypacker.

Muffy faints.

Later, after Jodie and Muffy have changed back into their regular clothing, the two of them, along with Sam and Mrs. Pennypacker, are gathered in the children's department again. Despite all their efforts, it doesn't seem that Mrs. Pennypacker's problem is going to be solved. She stands at the counter, chin in hand, and Sam is patting her on the shoulder. She sighs. "It's no use, Jodie, there's absolutely nothing for me to do. I guess I'll just have to sit at home with my memories. All those wonderful times I spent with the dukes and barons and . . . "

Jodie interrupts. "That's it! The perfect answer, Mrs. Pennypacker! Don't go away!" Then she rushes off.

"Jodie, don'tcha - Jodie!" Sam calls after her. "My goodness she certainly seems to be in a big rush doesn't she?"

"I know, Samuel. One moment I was talking about all my memories and the next moment Jodie just rushes off!"

"Memories." Sam repeats. "Yeah. Hey, that - that gives me an idea, Mrs. P."

"Gee, I've had an idea too for something that you'd like to do!" Then they rush off.

"You wait right here, we'll be back," says Sam. "Come on, Muffy!"

"My goodness," Mrs. Pennypacker says as Jeff walks by. "People are acting strangely."

"They are?"

"They are! Why, every time I mention my memories and all the good times I've had people just get rushing off hither and yon and, eh... Jeffrey? Jeffrey?!" Now he's gone, too.

"Well, I never. What is the matter with everyone?"

Just then Sam and Muffy come back in. "Mrs. Pennypacker!" Muffy cries breathlessly. "Here's a pencil just for you to help you with what you want to do!"

"And I got a pen, here, I think you might need that. There you go. Here's your pen," Sam says before Muffy's finished talking.

Before Sam is finished, Jeff rushes in and says, "I'm sure you could borrow this typewriter, Mrs. Pennypacker, it should solve all your problems!"

While he's still speaking, Jodie comes in. "I talked to the store manager on the phone and the store is going to lend you this computer!"

"Now wait a moment! Pencils, pens, typewriters and computers. Won't someone please just explain what is going on?"

Just then TXL asks us what we think in the form of a quiz. A pen, a pencil, a typewriter and a computer all have something in common. "Can you guess what? Right. They all can be used to write words. I wonder what Jeff and Jodie and Sam and Muffy want Mrs. Pennypacker to write?" She shows a freeze frame of Mrs. Pennypacker's face.

The picture comes to life. "My memoirs," says Mrs. Pennypacker. "You want me to write a book about my memoirs?"

Jodie explains that all the exciting people and places she's seen would make a wonderful book.

And Jeff reminds her that writing is something she could do at home.

Mrs. Pennypacker agrees. "Why not? It does sound like a lot of fun, fun, fun! Of all the things I could do at home, writing my memoirs sounds like the best job of all." She begins to sing, "I'll wake up every morning, and spend the day at home. Upon my memories my mind will start to roam. Remembering adventures is always a delight. And they'll become my memories in the book I'm going to write."

"What a job, what a job!" The others sing to a cha-cha beat.

"You don't hear me complaining!"

"What a job, what a job!"

"My life I'll love explaining,"

"What a job, what a job!"

"Writing may not be for you - but if that's true, but if that's true, then there's plenty else to do."

"What a job! What a job!"

"But I'll never make a fuss."

"What a job, what a job!"

"I've so much too discuss!"

Jeff and Jodie have begun dancing the cha-cha as they sing, "What a job! What a job!"

"Writing memoirs is a treat. Every day I'll write, until my story is complete!"

"What a job!"


Quizzes:

  • Here are three pictures of Sam, Jodie, and Mrs. Pennypacker. Each one likes to do different things. Sam likes being a security guard, Jodie likes making displays and Mrs. Pennypacker likes wrapping boxes. "But what do you think our mime lady is doing?" TXL asks us. (She's working in the window garden). "Gardeners like to watch plants grow, which of course, takes a long time." But then a plant shoots up instantaneously. Taking off her glove, the mime lady discovers that her thumb is green!
  • An animated scene of animals playing on a sunny beach. What's different about this picture? There's a polar bear standing on the beach, completely wrapped in winter wear. "I wonder why?" asks TXL, as the other animals chuckle at him. Suddenly, a huge mound of snow falls on the beach. "Ah! Smart polar bear," says TXL.

Nursery Rhyme:

  • None

Notes:

  • Mrs. Pennypacker says that she's never climbed a mountain before, but in "Jeans," she described an eventful trip she had had on vacation with the Duke of Beefgravia. Part of that trip was a mountain climb in the Himalayas.
  • I'm never quite sure if TXL is supposed to be actually cooking food for Sam or merely storing it as a kind of combination refrigerator/microwave, but in this episode it appears she actually made the food. "Your strawberry shortcake is ready!" She said. A rather unusual strawberry shortcake, this had thick gooey icing all over it.
  • I wonder if some kids thought that cheesecake actually contained the same kind of cheese Muffy eats, instead of cream cheese.
  • Nerene Virgin gets a rare chance to show off her legs in the episode, both in the rock star fantasy and in Mrs. Pennypacker's sheath, which had a slit up the side.
  • Speaking of that dress, I think Mrs. Pennypacker might have found a buyer for it, despite her misconception of it as work clothing! But I agree that writing her memoirs is a perfect fit for Mrs. Pennypacker. I kind of wish I could read them!
  • Sam calls Mrs. Pennypacker "Mrs. P" for one of the few times in 1986/1987 episodes.
  • I love the music and lyrics in the three versions of the "What a job!" song. The song worked well in three different styles of music, and the lyrics fit beautifully in each version. I was especially impressed with the way they rhymed "complaining," with "entertaining," "training" and "explaining." This is why I included all the lyrics here.
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