Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay. Today’s film is 1974’s Roll, Freddy, Roll! It can be viewed on YouTube!
Poor Freddy Menlo!
Played by Tim Conway, Freddy is a well-meaning guy who gets absolutely zero respect from the rest of the world. He works as a computer programmer but his boss (Henry Jones) doesn’t think much of him and an attempt to score a contract with the U.S. Navy falls through when Admiral Norton (Scott Brady) announces that he doesn’t think much of computers. Meanwhile, his ex-wife (Ruta Lee) has fallen in love with and married “Big Sid” Kane (Jan Murray). Big Sid is a millionaire who made his fortune selling used cars. Big Sid is seen every day on television. And, due to catching the biggest bluefish tuna on record while on his honeymoon, Big Sid Kane is now in the Guinness Book of the World Records.
A lesser engineer would crack under the pressure and go on a rampage through Los Angeles, Falling Down-style. But Freddy just wants to be a good father. He just wants his son, Tommy (Moosie Drier), to look up to him the way that he now looks up to Big Sid. Freddy takes Tommy to a roller skating rink and awkwardly skates around while Tommy talks about how much he enjoys going to Big Sid’s car lot. When it’s time to leave the rink, Freddy is informed that his shoes have been lost. An angry Freddy refuses to return the rink’s skates until he gets back his shoes. Freddy then takes Tommy down to Big Sid’s used car lot, where Big Sid has invited other people to come and try to set world records of their own. A local news reporter sees that Freddy is on roller skates and announces that Freddy is seeking to set the world record for the most time spent rolling around! Finally, Freddy has found a way to impress his son!
Excuse me while I catch my breath. That was a lot of plot to cram into just two paragraphs.
Roll, Freddy, Roll is not a particularly complicated movie. For the most part, it exists solely so that Tim Conway can do some mild physical comedy while trying to balance himself on roller skates. It only has a 73-minute run time and it basically feels like an extended episode of an old sitcom. With all that in mind, it still seems like it takes forever to actually get Freddy into those roller skates and once he does put them on, the movie keeps up coming with implausible excuses to keep him from taking them off until he finally decides to go for the world record. The story would have been stronger if Freddy has been the one to look at his feet and say, “I’m going to set a world record,” as opposed to him just being bullied into it by a news reporter. Tim Conway’s likable but there’s only so many times you can watch someone fall on roller skates before the joke starts to wear thin.
It would not surprise me if Roll, Freddy, Roll was meant to be a pilot for a sitcom. It’s easy to imagine Tim Conway trying to impress his son and win back his wife by doing something stupid on a weekly basis. As far as I know, Roll, Freddy, Roll did not lead to a television series and that’s probably a good thing. Freddy had a hard enough time just rolling around Los Angeles for two days! Who knows what would have happened if he had tried to do it on a weekly basis!?