So last week, in trying to find out who was the "best" TV sitcom housekeeper, we determined that Benson beat out "Charles" for the right to face the top seeded Mr. Belvedere in the first round of the inaugural "April Madness/Spring Cleaning" Tournament.
We've gone through a painfully scientific process to determine the rest of the match ups, and the brackets are all set, so lets get it on!
First up, we have Mrs. Edna Ann Garett from Diff'rent Strokes (not from The Facts Of Life) going up against Florence Johnston, the housekeeper from The Jeffersons.
Mrs. Garrett, a prototypical maid was the sole house keeper for New York real estate developer and entrepreneur Phillip Drummond and his daughter.
Her work load eventual trippled when she was asked to keep up with her normal house keeping duties and take on to young, presumably messy, black kids from Harlem. She clearly cooked and cleaned but she also provided a much needed maternal anchor for Arnold and Willis and Kimberly.
She was often found handing out advice and sharing anecdotes to all 3 children and occasionally Mr. Drummond. Eventually, she was seduced by the all girl’s prep school Eastland in upstate New York, which most people know as the location of the popular spin off, "The Facts Of Life".
One can assume that even though she worked for the filthy rich Mr. Drummond, that even his deep pockets were unable to match the offer that Eastland presented to Mrs. Garrett (that’s how good she was) and so she had to move on.
The Drumond household and the TV show was never the same.
Ok, so let's take a look at Florence.
You have to give props, first and foremost because it's undeniable, Florence was funny as hell. She was smart, sassy without being too obnoxious and generally a great TV show character. She was also a very shitty housekeeper. She was responsible for cooking and cleaning up after an older black couple with no kids. It was a tiny 2 bedroom apartment and she was famously lazy and a shitty cook who often showed up late. Eventually, through some convoluted plot device, she became a live in maid as apposed to being fired and continued to live on in the Jefferson house hold as more of a foil to George Jefferson than an actual house keeper.
So, Mrs. Garrett has the better skill set, and you could argue that her Florence has the better personality but when you factor in the fact that Mrs. Garret’s personality was one that eventually warranted a completely separate show, you see that Edna is no slouch in the personality department.
The overall package that is Edan Garrett pretty much crushes Florence, the lazy, smart ass, shitty cook who doesn’t answer the phone even when she’s sitting right next to it.
Winner: Mrs. Garrett
Next up, we have Alice Nelson Vs Nelly Ruth “Nell” Harper
Nell, a sassy former lounge singer with a “heart of gold” apparently agreed to take on the house keeping duties for her dying friend’s family.
The dad was a cranky old codger and there were 3 girls to look after, they were aged 13, 15 and 17. Those are pretty difficult ages to manage, it almost doesn’t get any harder than that in this tournament and that duty coupled with the fact that she, much like Mrs. Garrett, provided a mother role that was missing from everyone’s life makes her a worthy adversary.
Alice Nelson though, is either the greatest house keeper in the world, a deranged Prozac addict or just extremely happy to be employed at all because the woman kept that goofy grin on in the face of extreme adversity.
Even though she started out working for a single man with 3 male children, a woman (who didn't even work) and 3 more children got thrown into the mix. That's enough to make anyone quit. She even found time to cultivate a relationship with her boyfriend Sam "The Butcher" Franklin.
Imagine caring for 8 people who are all capable of cooking and cleaning up after themselves. Also, you live with them. Also there's one bathroom. That's the life of Alice. She may not have the personality of Nell, but clearly she's a better housekeeper if she could provide care for all those people. I mean, did you ever see how clean that house was on a regular basis?
Meanwhile, in the opening credits, we can see Nell clearly putting the vacuum cleaner in the fish tank. What kind of amateur shit is that? If your housekeeper vacuums up your fish and you don't fire her, you're a moron.
Nell was a great motivator, mediator and problem solver and she was very funny, but do we want her in charge of our crib? No.
Next up, it’s Geoffrey Barbara Butler vs. Tony Micelli
According to his bio, Geoffrey is a graduate of the University of Oxford and has spent his time working for British aristocrats and for some reason Led Zeppelin at some point.
He was also a “sparring butler” for Chuck Norris which is just hilarious; he has to tolerate arguably the worst type of people imaginable: ungrateful, wealthy, young black people. Could you imagine having to live with, answer to, cook and clean up for the cast of Baldwin Hills? We’re surprised there was never a “very special episode” of Fresh Prince that found Geoffrey Blowing his brains out all over the front lawn.
Tony Micelli on the other hand has one of the most convoluted bios ever. let’s consider his “application” work compared to Geoffrey: He’s a widowed former professional baseball player who is forced out of the sport due to injury. In an attempt to give his young daughter a “better” life he packs her into a dirty van and moves her from Brooklyn to Connecticut so they can live together while he works as a house keeper, a profession he has no training or experience in.
Lucky for him, his employer, her mother and more than likely her son all want to have sex with him so they let him stay.
Geoffrey has world class training working for aristocrats, Tony has no training but is very good at cleaning and he can also cook. If you hire Geoffrey, you add major class to your home and get seasoned veteran in the field of house keeping. If you hire Tony though, you get a whole other person who you have to feed and provide room and board for. That’s just too much baggage.
Finally, completing our opening round of the “Spring Cleaning” edition of Friday Face Off we have Benson vs. Mr. Belvedere.
Mr. Lynn Belvedere is seeded so highly because not only is he based on an actual literary figure but because he encompasses the best characteristics of all the competitors, and he also was such a force in the family dynamic that the show actually revolved around him. HE was the star of the show.
In a small town in a Pittsburg suburb, an English immigrant decides to take work for a working class family consisting of a mother who is a Law student, a husband who is a sports writer and 3 children, roughly aged 12, 14 and 17. That’s quite a load to handle. Sports writing is an incredibly competitive proffession that doesn’t pay very well unless you are among the elite in that field, go ahead and try to wrap your head around the idea of a mother of 3 who is a law student, and the kids were all at various, yet critical states of development. He's basically raising 3 kids. With the help of Mr. Belvedere (who wrote a novel when he wasn’t helping solve everyone’s problems) they all flourished and went on to do great things.
Benson Dubois (and we’re talking pre “Benson” Benson, the Benson who was the butler for the Tate family on Soap, not the one from the show “Benson”)
was the cynical, snarky house keeper whose basic responsibility was to act as the occasional voice of reason for the otherwise insane house hold. Seriously, the dysfunction of the Tate home is far too layered and detailed to even be discussed here. I was a faithful fan of the show, I watched it when it was on “On Demand” and I may go into it in a future column but I promise you, they were nutty.
So by comparison, Mr. Belvedere has more in common with Geoffrey and Mrs. Garrett and Alice, while Benson Dubois (even though he , like Mrs. Garrett and Mr. Belvedere, was “good” enough to warrant and support his “own” show) shares more with Nell and Florence. In that vein, he was a very funny character, but not as effective a house keeper.
You could argue that Nell, Florence and Benson are all black and there fore may have been creatively subject to some sort of negative, narrow minded stereotyping when their characters where created, but they are what they are.
Not to take anything away from Benson, he was very funny, but in terms of which of these people would get hired to watch over Fish&Spaghetti Manor, we’re gonna have to chose Mr. Belvedere, over Benson.
Winner: Mr. Belvedere
So that’s the end of round one, stay tuned for next week as we begin with round 2, featuring Geoffrey vs. Mr. Belvedere and Alice vs. Mrs. Garrett.
It's April Madness!
Don’t miss it.