This Week's Script Cavalcade: The Subject Was Noses

It’s an episode of TV remembered for a single re-playable moment. A football hits Marcia Brady in the face and she staggers back dramatically, yelping out “Oh my nose… my nose!” Fans and aficionados of 70s TV will be pleased to know that the WGF Library now carries a shooting draft of this exceptional BRADY BUNCH episode, aptly titled “The Subject Was Noses.”

Drawing on the folk and fairy tale archetype of a character receiving a physical curse for a misdoing, "The Subject was Noses" is a compact morality play designed for families sitting down in front of their television sets on Friday night.

Written by Al Schwartz & Larry Rhine, the episode most overtly draws on the idea of Pinocchio, whose nose grows with each lie he tells. As the Pinocchio-inspired heroine of this story, Marcia tells a little lie to get out of a Saturday night date with a nerdy average guy, Charlie… all so that she can hang on the arm of a popular football player named Doug Simpson. After telling this fib (and in a stellar example of plot point karma), Marcia literally takes a football to the sinuses, which makes her nose swell-up and turn blue so that she and everybody around her are constantly reminded of the lie she told.

When we think of wounded heroes bearing facial scars, it’s often tough guys like Terry Malloy in ON THE WATERFRONT, JJ Gittes in CHINATOWN or Tom Joad in THE GRAPES OF WRATH; it’s not typically a pre-teen girl in the vein of Marcia Brady, but that’s just one aspect of this episode that makes it interesting. From here on out, Marcia is a branded woman, forced to live – physically and emotionally -- with the consequences of her choice, but then showing a pleasing amount of agency for a young female character of the time and working to rectify her mistake.

The writing is as poignant as it is funny, transcendent even -- for a squeaky-clean family show -- with all the characters sweetly adding their support to Marcia during her struggle. Plus, the subplot serves as a comic foil to the central dilemma as Mike and Carol face their own quandary of choosing the right wallpaper for their bedroom.

This blogger wonders, however, if "The Subject Was Noses" was written today - would Marcia’s solution involve accepting a date with Charlie, or would she ultimately ditch both boys to work on a stronger sense of her own self-worth?

Patrons of the WGF Library often come in wanting to read the most recent hit series (and rightly so if you are working on a spec episode of a current show), but if you’re reading scripts to bolster your TV writing knowledge, why shortchange yourself by sticking only to shows written in this decade? There’s a lot to be gleaned from classic TV shows like this one, including inspiration, tropes to subvert and good techniques for creating a moving character arc in less than 40 pages.

Be sure to check out our online library catalog to see what we’ve added recently including:

  • Scripts from NBC's comedy THE CARMICHAEL SHOW
  • The complete first season of the Netflix's ONE DAY AT A TIME, created by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, inspired by the 1975 Norman Lear series of the same name (which we also have scripts from)
  • The pilot episode of the 1980s sci-fi sitcom SMALL WONDER
  • A smattering of radio scripts from the 1940s featuring yellow-suited sleuth, DICK TRACY