When it comes to parodying and paying homage to classic movies, TV shows are goldmine. You might well expect to find a number of TV shows offering episodes that parody cultural institutions like “Star Wars” or “The Wizard of Oz” but if you are a long time fan of TV and know a little something about movie history, you will notice that one movie seems to get parodied in one form or another over and over again. It may not be the most famous movie ever, but it clearly holds a special place in the hearts of TV writers. “12 Angry Men” may quite possibly be the most parodied movie in TV history.
The Odd Couple
“The Odd Couple” features a parody of “12 Angry Men” that is especially interesting because Jack Klugman appears in both the movie being parodied and the parody episode. Another layer of fascination is added by virtue that is one of two or three episodes of “The Odd Couple” that relate how Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar first met that directly conflicts with the show’s opening narration which states that they were boyhood friends. Any parody of “12 Angry Men” must feature one juror at odds with the others and in this case it is the anally retentive Felix who is the holdout proven right in the end.
The Andy Griffith Show
Less a parody than a subtle homage, in this case the lone holdout is Aunt Bee. The most interesting element in the way “The Andy Griffith Show” pays homage to “12 Angry Men” is found outside the jury room. The defendant whose freedom is dependent on Aunt Bee sticking to her gut instinct is played by none other than Jack Nicholson. “Aunt Bee, the Juror” is another of many episodes of this beloved look at traditional values that is positively dripping with misogyny. All the other jurors are male and their view toward Aunt Bee’s refusal to find Nicholson’s character guilty is based entirely on the inappropriateness of allowing her gender to take part in criminal trials rather than on any individual characteristic.
King of the Hill
One of the best flat-out parodies of “12 Angry Men” in TV history occurred on “King of the Hill.” In this case, what’s on trial is not a human being, but the latest upgraded model of Hank Hill’s favorite lawn mower. The “Nine Pretty Darned Angry Men” of the title are not jurors, but members of a focus group put together by the Mason company to find real people whom they can manipulate into agreeing with their preconceived marketing plan to sell the latest version of the mower as the ultimate improvement. At first only Hank Hill stands in opposition, but over the course of the episode, in true “12 Angry Men” fashion, he proceeds to prove his case and change their minds.
The episode “Twelve Annoyed Men..and Women” tweaks the original concept with a realistic twist. The basis of “12 Angry Men” is that one conscientious juror is willing to stand up to the other 11 who just want to find the defendant guilty and get out. In this case, Newhart’s character doesn’t really care so much about guilt or innocence, he just wants the jury to arrive at a decision so he can get out and make it to a basketball game for which he has tickets.
The very opposite case occurs on “That Girl.” In “Eleven Angry Men and That Girl” the title character played by Marlo Thomas finds herself on jury duty that conflicts with plans for a trip to St. Louis to meet the parents of her boyfriend. Despite this conflict, that girl is the only one on the jury who seems the least concerned with doing her civic duty. Everybody else in the jury room is preoccupied with personal matters and selfishly unconcerned with the matter at hand. Despite this, however, there is only one holdout coming time to vote on a verdict…that girl!