Life with Elizabeth
Betty White’s first starring role on TV was in “Life with Elizabeth” which had an unusual structure. Each episode was actually composed of three separate and unrelated vignettes. Preceding “Dinner Party” and “Contract Interrogation” one week was a segment titled simply, “Monopoly Game.” And if you ever thought that Betty White was somehow incapable of pursuing capitalist domination with all the vigor of Bill Gates or Jack Welch, then you will certainly have your eyes opened. This may be one of the first times any TV characters ever sat down to play a game of Monopoly. It would truly be a wonder if any of those who watched this episode ever played the game themselves afterward.
In an episode tellingly titled “The Art of the Steal” the main focus of the story revolves around Rebecca preparing a nude surprise for the man she loves and Sam trying to wrangle a way to see her naked. It is the B-story where “The Art of the Steal” makes great points about just how well the Monopoly board game defines the state of capitalism in latter 20th century America. Sadly, that state has only worsened to the point where Monopoly almost looks quaint compared to how the real economy operates.
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special
You may well have taken note that Monopoly isn’t just Monopoly anymore. If there is a brand that Monopoly can be tied to, it exists. Personally, I happen to own the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror special edition of Monopoly. Which would fit in quite well, actually, with the bizarre reference to the game that shows up on Paul Lynde’s Halloween TV special. Part of the structure of this most kitschy and bizarre of all Halloween TV specials has to do with Paul Lynde spending some time among witches. Who happen to be playing a special version called Witch’s Monopoly. What’s the difference? Well, you can still purchase property as usual. Or you can just elect to blow up the property.
Speaking of the Treehouse of Horror version of Monopoly, the show satirizes the plethora of narrowcasted special interest versions of the Parker Brothers classic. For instance, Springfieldians apparently have access to a version of Monopoly that must surely rank as one of one of the most strictly targeted ever: Edna Krabappoly, which seems to be based around the love life of Bart’s 4th grade teacher. If you ever find yourself in Springfield you may also want to try your hand at Gallipolopoly, which seems even more bizarre considering it based on Australian involvement in World War I. Those with a taste for reggae music should look into playing Rasta-Monopoly.
Of course, the single greatest appearance on episodic television of a game of Monopoly goes to That Girl, the kicky Marlo Thomas hit which helped defined the 1960’s. The title of the episode of almost says it all: “Bad Day at Marvin Gardens.” A running theme of the show is the tension which exists between Anne Marie’s father, Lou, and her boyfriend Donald Hollinger. Very often, Mr. Marie gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop by virtue of being overprotective and old-fashioned. Here, however, he nails it. Lou Marie gets it and he expresses it. What is “it” you wonder? Why nothing less than the secret to winning Monopoly: control Marvin Gardens and you control the world!