Season number: 2
Episode number: 22
Production number: 0222
Tape date: February 3, 1978
Air date: February 21, 1978
Written by: Don Nicholl, Michael Ross & Bernie West
Directed by: Bill Hobin
Guest Stars: Richard Kline as Larry; David Tress as Desk Sergeant; Ludi Claire as Flower Judge
Plot Summary: It’s Friday evening and the trio are watching a beauty pageant because Jack has the remote. When the girls protest, Jack puts on a show of his own just as Mr. Roper rings the doorbell. Mr. Roper tells the kids that he wants them to clean out the garden behind the garages this weekend, or risk a raise in the rent.
The next morning we see the Ropers in their living room attending to their hobbies—Helen is arranging flowers for an arts and crafts show that afternoon, and Stanley is preparing his next batch of homemade beer. They trade barbs about how little they think of the other’s hobby.
In the garden, the trio struggle with weeding and trimming, and Chrissy ends up chopping up Roper’s garden hose. After getting eaten up by bugs, Jack proceeds to impale his foot with a pitchfork. Back in the Ropers’ living room, Stanley offers Helen some of his homemade beer but she refuses. Just as he’s testing it, the trio comes in, done for the day, and in exchange for their work Stanley offers them a couple bottles of his beer, which Jack drinks and take upstairs. Chrissy’s picked some wild flowers and greenery from the garden, and Helen takes a few sprigs for her flower arrangement.
Upstairs, Janet leaves to help her friend move, Jack nurses his speared toe, and Chrissy arranges the flowers she picked from the garden. Then Larry shows up to borrow $5. He sees Chrissy’s flowers and claims that it’s cannabis—pot! Stressed out about how to get rid of it, Chrissy proposes going to the police, but Jack says no and keeps swigging Roper’s swill.
Chrissy won the argument, because in the next scene she and Jack park their bikes at the police station. They try to play it cool, but the police officer on duty hears the word “drugs” and won’t let them leave. He then smells the beer on Jack’s breath and asks him to take a breath test. When we see Chrissy and Jack again they’re returning home to Apartment 201, Jack sans bike. Chrissy then realizes she forgot about giving the weeds to Helen for her flower exhibition, and decides to call her.
The Ropers are in the classroom where the exhibition is happening and waiting for the flower judge to come round when the phone rings. Helen sends Stanley to answer it, and once he learns of what’s in Helen’s arrangement, he panics. He tries to tell Helen, but the judge is on her way over. Stanley takes action, grabs a lump of clay sitting nearby and smashes Helen’s arrangement, ruining it. The flower judge then tells them that it wasn’t cannabis, but false aralia. Just as Helen is smashing Stanley’s head with her purse, the local press snaps a photo!
Back in 201, Janet’s home and points out to Chrissy and Jack the difference between false aralia and cannabis—because there was a pot plant in the original flower bunch! Thinking quick, Jack opens the door to throw it out but finds Mr. Roper. He thrusts the bouquet into Roper’s hand and shuts the door, solving their problem.
Tag scene: In the Ropers’ living room the next day, Helen and Stanley are both moaning over the embarrassing photo in the paper. Janet is visiting and trying to smooth things over between them, encouraging them to kiss and make up. Helen’s all for it and Stanley reluctantly obliges. Janet tiptoes out, leaving the Ropers to their passions behind the couch!
Favorite Moment: I love Roper’s face when he realizes what “A can of what? A can of bis?” is.
Least Favorite Moment: Roper smushing Helen’s pretty flower arrangement always takes my breath away because it’s so shocking! (Though funny.) It seems like a metaphor for their marriage.
HI-YOOO (Most Risque Joke): “Honey, I’m up.” Orange-bosomed Jack’s delivery implies so many meanings.
- Mrs. Roper mentions Stanley “painted the bathtub last month,” which refers back to “The Rivals” (which aired a month before this episode) when their apartment was being repainted.
- Helen’s flower arranging course was first mentioned three episodes earlier, in “Jack in the Flower Shop.”
- The trio are watching a fictional beauty pageant that seems to have an agricultural theme—we hear of a “Miss Avocado Grove” and a “Miss Soybean.”
- Chrissy finds beauty pageants degrading.
- Janet mentions the garden is “behind the garages.” In “Chrissy’s Date” Roper complained about parking his car on the street, so the garages don’t necessarily belong to the apartment building.
- Stanley’s homemade beer hobby started at least two weeks ago, when he bottled his first batch.
- Chrissy is afraid of rats and snakes (though we learn later in Season 3’s “The Best Laid Plans” that she isn’t afraid of mice. We do see her kill another “snake” in Season 4’s “A-Camping We Will Go.”)
- Janet’s friend Marilyn is moving.
- Larry borrows $5 from Jack. Also, interesting note: When Chrissy suggests burying the pot plants, Larry says, “And next year a whole new crop will come up… Call me.” Does Larry want to smoke it or sell it? Or both?
- A cat who lives next door killed Chrissy’s fern on the porch.
- Chrissy also owns a bicycle, though where she stores it is a mystery…must be on that fourth wall in her bedroom.
- The episode’s title is most likely a reference to the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, a dark film about alcoholism featuring Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, and Norman Fell look-alike Jack Klugman. However, the actual phrase “days of wine and roses” comes from a melancholy 1896 poem “Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam” by Ernest Dowson, which reads:
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
- Jack says the garden is “right out of Tarzan of the Apes.” He may be referring to either the 1918 silent film of the same name, staring Elmo Lincoln, or the 1912 novel the movie was based on by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
- “There are still pockets of Japanese in there who don’t know the war is over.” In 1974, a Japanese intelligence officer who fought in the Imperial Japanese Army surrendered after nearly 30 years of refusing to believe WWII was over despite repeated efforts to convince him of the truth. He was the last confirmed holdout, but was one of several Japanese soldiers who either did not know the war was over due to a lack of communication or refused to believe it.
- “Did you remember to add eye of newt and tongue of bat?” Mrs. Roper’s crack was a mis-quote of a passage spoken by The Second Witch in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, which actually reads:
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
- “You could get a year in jail for having those plants!” Larry wasn’t lying. Though the U.S. briefly showed signs of moving toward looser penalties in regards to marijuana possession in the post-Nixon era (California, specifically, reduced criminal sentences from felony to misdemeanor charges for possessing an ounce or less in ’77), marijuana was still classified as a Schedule I drug. Possession with intent to sell (the most likely charge had the kids’ been caught with multiple plants) was a felony offense that carried serious jail time. Also, rumor had it that though president Jimmy Carter supported decriminalization, a wild 1977 Christmas party involving drugs and a Carter-administration member played a part in him reversing course on the matter…so a lot was happening in the U.S. regarding pot at the time this episode aired.
- I’m no bike expert, but Chrissy’s bicycle resembles a 1955 Schwinn Deluxe Ladies Racer bike.
Deep Thoughts: Plot holes aplenty don’t stop this episode from being one of the most enjoyable of the early seasons. (How did plant enthusiast Janet miss the cannabis in the garden? And isn’t it convenient she was absent for Larry’s visit? What kind of classroom has a direct outside phone line?) Don’t think about it too much, just enjoy the ride around town. “Days of Beer and Weeds” sends us on a tour of the local Santa Monica neighborhood and boasts the most location changes seen in a single episode in the entire series* that include the police station, the community college classroom, plus the Ropers’ garden where the infamous pot plants are plucked.
Though continually criminalized, marijuana popularized itself in the free-love era of the 1960s, and its cultural normalization had slowly seeped into entertainment by the 1970s, culminating in Cheech & Chong’s 1978 classic stoner movie Up in Smoke. Marijuana’s portrayal on television in the mid-to-late 70s tracks with its position in the political landscape—a slightly relaxed middle-ground somewhere between the paternalistic 1960s anti-weed PSAs and draconian 1980s Reagan-era Just Say No crusade. The few 1970s television episodes that showcase weed as a major plot point use it as a source of mostly harmless and/or hilarious hi-jinx (check out the 1974 Sandford and Son’s “Fred’s Treasure Garden,” the premise of which “Days of Beer and Weeds,” borrows heavily from, or Barney Miller‘s 1976 episode “Hash”). Casual personal use without terrifying consequences was briefly acknowledged. In the decade of disco, pot on TV was generally portrayed as something naughty, or a source of legal concern, but it wasn’t completely demonized as it would be less than a decade later.
Much like last week’s episode “Will the Real Jack Tripper…” did for out-of-wedlock pregnancy, “Days of Beer and Weeds” openly mentions pot, marijuana, “ready-rolled joints,” cannabis, and weed in the space of 22 minutes. And though Jack, Janet, and Stanley Roper worry over it, Larry’s another story. When contemplating how next year a new crop may spring up in the Ropers’ garden, Larry says, “Call me,” suggesting that he has some ideas on what to do with it. But he doesn’t receive condemnation or a comeuppance—he’s just being chaotic-neutral Larry. Even Helen’s middle-aged flower-arranging teacher cheekily implies that she knows more about cannabis than she lets on.
Like many Three’s Company episodes, “Days of Beer and Weeds” plays with a provocative topic while keeping the main characters clean and virtuous. The audience expects innocent Chrissy and stodgy Roper to be horrified at the prospect of pot possession, but even worldly Jack is alarmed—in fact, by the end of the episode he’s so freaked out that he exclaims, “I don’t want this in my house anymore!” and nearly hurls the plants from the balcony. Larry, as the ne’er-do-well neighbor, provides the counterpoint who seems not only familiar but at ease with the Mary Jane. These farcical character types allow the illusion of edgy envelope-pushing while reinforcing traditional attitudes.
This combination of provocation and purity helped the show toe the line of propriety in a censorious age. Around the same time this episode aired, Newsweek published the cover story, “Sex and TV,” and the trio was big news. Nevermind that Jack, Janet, and Chrissy never had sex on screen and, as we see in “Days of Beer and Weeds,” never indulged in vices beyond drinking Roper’s homemade beer—the morality police condemned the show as salacious. However, this episode proves that even though the kids had access to worldly pleasures, they avoided smoking them.
(* – This number is rivaled by Season 4’s “A-Camping We Will Go,” though the characters mostly remain in one location—the camping area—as sets change.)