Barry Williams, in his autobiography Growing Up Brady, mentions that he had met many families through the years that have installed payphones in their home, all to teach their children a lesson in financial responsibility, priorities in using the phone and other phone-related lessons. It's owed to the so-crazy-it-just-might-work parenting technique used by Mike in "Sorry, Right Number" after lectures, threats, restrictions and other progressive steps fail to impress upon the kids his desire to bring household finances and sharing two phones under control.
In an episode that was a show of the times (nobody even uses payphones, much less has them in their home as their primary phone), the road that eventually leads to Mike installing a payphone in the house begins when he installs a second phone in the living room, seeing that he now has a new wife, and six - not three - kids, and his phone in the den is to be used by the kids only in case of emergencies. However, when he has to make a business call, and can't use either phone, because the kids are using both phones, and Greg and Peter, in particular, are using the phone in the den for non-emergencies, he banishes the kids from using the den phone at all. However, it creates a problem, as now the kids are queuing to use the living room phone.
But the worse is to come yet - when Mike receives a huge phone bill, having exhausted all his options. Luckily, Alice brings home the wild idea of installing a payphone after crying on new boyfriend Sam's shoulder about the whole situation. (Sam had also had problems with customers wanting to make calls on his business phone, leading him to install a payphone.)
Mike installs the phone, and after some initial difficulties the kids finally get the hint about household finances and courtesy, and bring their phone usage under control.
And then, just as Mike is finally able to get some sleep at night ... his parenting technique nearly flies in his face.
Mike has been trying to complete drawings for a multi-million dollar project for a national company and needs to honor a telephone appointment to set up a meeting time with Mr. Crawford, its CEO, to discuss the details and confirm the contract. With all the other phones in the house in use (by Carol, trying to talk to her gabby friend, and Alice), Mike has no choice but to use the payphone in the family room to call Mr. Crawford. Just as Mike is about to confirm the appointment, the operator cuts in, asking for more money. Mike scrambles to find a dime in his pocket but is eventually cut off. Sam comes to the rescue with another dime and Mike is able to make a new call ... but then it could be too late, anyway, because the irritated Mr. Crawford now is not sure about Mike's abilities or the stability of his firm, and is even more annoyed when he thinks Mike is so cheap he can't afford a regular landline. Mr. Crawford is about to hang up when Mike finally blurts out the reason the phone was in his house. Mr. Crawford is suddenly intrigued and agrees to meet with Mike.
In the end, Mike has his business deal secured, his firm wins the contract ... and the payphone is on its way to Mr. Crawford's house — as he had his own problem with teen-aged kids running up the bills and was out of solutions.
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV goes here):
- Crazy Enough to Work: Mike's idea of installing a payphone in the house for the kids' use.
- George Jetson Job Security: The first of several times where Mike is battling to save either his job or a lucrative contract for his firm.
- His Name Is Not Durwood: At one point, when Greg is chatting endlessly on the phone and Marcia, Peter and Jan are (im)patiently waiting their turn, Mike and Carol place an egg timer next to the phone. Carol explains that once the sand in the egg timer has emptied, "it's good-bye Charlie!" Greg explains, "It's Harvey." An irritated Mike replies, "Well, then it's good-bye, Harvey!"
- Phoneaholic Teenager: The kids' constant use of the telephone (to do little more than jabber about nothing) and running up the bills, eventually driving Mike to install a payphone. While the name applies to Greg, who is 14 as of this episode, all the kids fall victim to the trope itself.