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Forever Knight: Dying to Know You (1992)
Thanks Fer Comin' Out!
Metro police are summoned when the wife and daughter (Chandra West) of wealthy philanthropist Conrad Hedges (Brett Halsey) are kidnapped during a day out shopping for haute couture in Yorkville. Psychic Denise Fort (Elizabeth Marmur) is brought in and she appears to be the real deal because she gets results almost immediately finding the murdered chauffeur whom the killer displaced.
But as she works with lead investigator detective Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) she sees the memories in his mind. Nick is an 800 year old vampire so he has a lot of memories and there are many extremely disturbing ones in there. She doesn't pick up right away on what she is seeing because it is entirely impossible. But it throws her off her game just having him in the same room. She just doesn't know what is real.
For the most part Nick has been able to skate by with mortals under the very logical belief any sane person has that vampires are a myth. He has honed his skill as vampire denier over centuries and we have seen him use his vampire's hypnotic power of suggestion on the series. That power worked like a Jedi mind trick. But, as we see depicted in flashback, it didn't always work the way he wanted it to.
The corpse of the kidnapped wife is found but the daughter remains missing. Hedges then disappears along with the ransom money he offered. Police Captain Stonetree (Gary Farmer), Nick's boss, is edgy and so are the cops in his unit. Nick's partner Detective Don Schanke (John Kapelos) has shown contempt for the utilization of the psychic from the very beginning and wants to do the by-the-book kind of police work process any good cop would trust over the use of a psychic. Stonetree can offer Schanke no reasonable objection.
Nick however, doesn't give up on Denise. He respects her power noting her results from the early stages of the case. He has matured, can see when he is going to have to confront the truth and find a resolution. The times are also different than they were in his flashback and it involved a very different kind of person. It might not pan out. She might not be able to handle the truth. But he doesn't think it'll come to that and it is his best shot at getting his job done.
John Kapelos reprized the role of Detective Don Schanke from the TV movie Nick Knight (1989) and the production was better for it. What Kapelos did was ground the show in aspects of police procedurals by giving us an interpretation of what a real police detective who unknowingly had to work with a vampire might be like. Schanke, for all the boorishness was an above average to excellent cop when it came to trusting the process and following up. He served as an excellent contrast to the psychic character.
Forever Knight: I Will Repay (1992)
Vampire Crown Prosecutor Scores Killer Verdict
Crown prosecutor Richard Lambert (Lindsey Merrithew) has a stellar reputation for his relentless fight against the most dangerous organized crime groups in Toronto. His work with the police frequently brings him to visit the station. But one night, on a work-related visit, a felon has stolen a gun off of a cop, a standoff/hostage crisis has broken out and it's resolution leaves Richard very near death. Only one thing can save him.
Richard's sister Dr.Natalie Lambert (Catherine Disher) calls in a marker with a cop she knows. Detective Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies). Nick is a vampire whose secret she helps keep whilst working with him as coroner. She demands Nick turn her brother into a vampire. He resists the idea. Over the course of eight centuries he has turned people before and regreted it. But he certainly owes Natalie and a lot of indications suggest that Richard will be a noble vampire like him.
The mystery of how Natalie knows Nick's secret and why she helps him wasn't adequately dealt with early on in the series. The viewer had to just go with the fact that the coroner had knowledge of the dual identity of a police detective/vampire and was helping him to be a kinder/gentler bloodsucker. She has been seen trying to get Nick to tone down his excesses like a good friend would try to serve as support mechanism for an addict trying to quit.
That she suddenly thinks it is a good idea to have him turn her brother into a vampire might seem contradictory. But the well-being of a loved one can get the most logical of people to contradict the very best of their own wisdom. She also points to the fact she's helped Nick keep it together and can do the same with her brother.
This teleplay serves to troubleshoot the limits of the overarching narrative. If Nick is going to do this thing where he uses the power of vampirism for good then why doesn't he just find a bunch of really altruistic people and turn them into vampires to fight evil and defend humanity for eternity? Richard's arc shows us why, very much including how good intentions can turn into malevolent actions.
Lindsey Merrithew is not the kind of actor one would cast as a a vampire. But he is precisely the kind of actor one would cast as a high-minded lawyer. He never looks right when he is a vampire. The miscasting is thus not entirely miscasting. But the logic of that won't work for everyone particularly in later scenes.
Forever Knight: For I Have Sinned (1992)
The Lady's Not For Burning
Recovering vampire Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) has spent the past 800 years, off and on, drinking human blood. Feeling guilty he becomes a cop on the mean streets of Toronto who only works at night (Because...y'know...Days are bad for him). His search to right wrongs and redeem himself, whilst keeping his addiction in check, brings him to track a serial killer of young women who attend mass at a popular Catholic church.
After three such women are dead, a fourth, Magda (Maria Del Mar) is tormented when the religious fanatic killer calls her at work. Magda is a form of call-centre customer service rep who helps lonely men (I'll put it that way). She is then attacked in the hallway of her loft. Knight - using his vampire powers miraculously shows up and saves her. The prospective victim is proactive and has also seen far too many American TV cop shows (Probably Hunter) eagerly offering to set herself up as bait to trap the killer.
A prime suspect in the grisly slayings is the young priest Father Pierre Rochefort (Michael McManus) whose flock it is. How judgmental is he about the lives of those he is preaching to? Why was he in the alleyway outside Magda's apartment after she was attacked?
For audiences a game on this show was not just guessing who the killer was, or the motive of the crime, but rather which one of the guest stars is a vampire. Michael McManus's best characterizations are ones which depict internalized conflict. The character name is also a classic French name in use throughout much of French history. Could he have hundreds of years of memories behind that brooding visage? Or is it the weight of his faith?
Nick renews acquaintances with Toronto's vampire scene including his ex Janette (Deborah Duchene) who owns the Raven - Toronto's most popular vampire club, looking to get a bead on things. Nick's partner Detective Don Schanke (John Kapelos) goes to the club too entirely against Knight's instructions. Schanke meets a particularly predatory vampire in the beguiling form of Alma (Tracey Cook) and escapes her advances. He is warned off by words from Janette which, since he doesn't believe in vampires, he interprets as Alma having a form of infection.
Some of the fun of this program was in how it sent up cop show cliches. The cop fighting alcoholism? How about one fighting an addiction to human blood? We see him popping garlic pills like they're methadone and trying to build up a tolerance for crucifixes. Geraint Wyn Davies goes tour de force in conveying it as do the other actors portraying vampires who are grossed out by his new habits.
Tracey Cook's turn as Alma serves as placeholder for what the character LaCroix (Nigel Bennett) played in the series. LaCroix, Alma and other vampire characters like them interpret the concept of vampire in the way it should be interpreted. They are users who prey upon human weakness in a way that at least one of them - our hero, becomes sickened by. They, themselves began life as humans but had such little regard for others as to choose eternity preying upon them.
The theme of religious zealotry is compared with Nick's days from the Hundred Years war in which he attempted to save Joan of Arc (Christina Cox) by offering to turn her into a vampire. The viewer can see superficial parallels with the Magda character - another woman with more faith than fear. But the real parallels are to be found with Nick. Joan of Arc made a different choice than he did (And was posthumously canonized for it). It entirely revolted him at the time. But he revisits it in his memory and sees it differently.
Forever Knight: Only the Lonely (1992)
Natalie & Nick: A Love Story
A serial killer of young women is tied to a computer dating service in Toronto. Metro police Detective Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) appears at the scene of the latest killing - one in which a brilliant young career woman was brutally killed. That she died whilst seeking love makes it all the more tragic. That she wasn't the only one and was the latest in several such murders makes it chilling. Nick's partner Detective Don Schanke (John Kapelos) scores a break in the case with a telling lead almost immediately.
The deaths of the young women coincide with the 30th birthday of accomplished young coroner Dr.Natalie Lambert. It highlights the fact that with everything she has going in her life and career helping the police, a life partner is not one of those things. It also shows us that the very search for one can yield frightening results for women at times. As for men in her life, there is a guy she works with whom she routinely shows interest in, and he shows passing interest in her sometimes. But it's real complicated as workplace romances can be.
When she meets a new guy (Barclay Hope) - a handsome gentlemen with, like her work colleague Nick, an air of mystery, she feels something. Like Natalie's dearly departed brother Richard, the guy is a lawyer. He seems a lot more like Richard than Nick and there is a gap in her life left by Richard's passing. Nick shows signs of jealousy which are a source of frustration for her. We know she gots a major crush on 'im, eh! Buddy just never staked his claim!
Nick and Natalie (Catherine Disher) have a special relationship going back three years. The sexual tension between the 800 year old vampire and the just turned thirty, highly accomplished and devastatingly sexy nerd-girl is noticeable in virtually every episode of the series. She helps Nick find his humanity offering considerably more than merely playing Moneypenny to his 007.
A lot of groundwork that could have been laid out earlier was instead done in this episode. The mystery of how Natalie knows Nick's secret and why she helps him wasn't adequately dealt with early on in the series. The viewer had to just go with the fact that the coroner had knowledge of the dual identity of a police detective/vampire and was helping him pass himself off as human. She was seen getting Nick to tone down his excesses like a good friend would try to serve as support mechanism for an addict trying to quit.
This episode features a flashback by Natalie, not Nick. Flashbacks were a big part of the show but they were mostly Nick's and depicted an instance from his 800 year character arc that was reflected in the mystery he was working on as a cop. Instead we get a series of memories Natalie has about the strange man who ended up on her slab who turned out to be a vampire - a sad, depressed kind who was in need of friend but was afraid his true nature would be exposed.
The question of whether Natalie was a "familiar" i.e. a human who wants to become a vampire and undergoes a kind of apprenticeship serving a vampire could have been speculated upon by those who had digested other vampire fiction. But Natalie is not a familiar. Nor is she enraptured by a form of vampire hypnosis that we see Nick use in many ways during the series, including in this episode where he draws information from a suspect using that ability. In one of the flashback scenes Natalie actually shows immunity to it when he tries it.
To have made Natalie a familiar or an enthralled acolyte in a hypnotized state would have made the character look weak and made the bond between Nick and Natalie look cheap. The story of Nick and Natalie is a love story insofar as their lives will allow for that. The special relationship between Nick and Natalie is tested here and it's limits are exposed. They made good choices. But they made them later then they needed to.
So no dream sequences for Nick, no LaCroix nor Janette. Coming as it did on the heels of a bizarre episode filled with dream sequences which served no purpose in tying the backstory together, this episode helped put the viewers back on track in accepting a diagesis for the duration of a weekly broadcast teleplay. We see the worthiness of the motivations of the regular characters and a truth that we can relate to.
The murder mystery itself is pretty simplistic and forgettable and provides an unsurprising resolution. This was, and wasn't, a cop show. The police procedural portion would always take a backseat to the supernatural and metaphysics as it should have.
One of the scenes in this specific episode criticized and misunderstood by some fans is the one in which Nick is seen in his black pyjamas practising his golf putting on one of those portable greens in his loft. Why is the scene there? Golfing is a day activity and Nick is a vampire. That is entirely the point. Nick looks forward to a future time in which he will do things during the day. Aspiration is motivation.
Forever Knight: Dying for Fame (1992)
Rock N Roll Fantasy
Heavy metal/hard rock icon Rebecca (Tracey Cook) thematically configures her latest album and world tour around the gimmick that she wants to murder her fan-base. She becomes the target of protests and death threats after releasing the single 'Fan Kill' (A kind of a Lee Aaron/Lita Ford-style tune). A blackout drunk, her own battle with alcoholism is entirely a threat to her well-being but not the only one.
Toronto police Detective Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) and his partner Detective Don Schanke (John Kapelos) are dispatched investigate a murder she is suspected of committing in the suite of her hotel. The murder is of a young male fan Rebecca spent the night with. Her finger prints are on the murder weapon - a knife she used in her stage show. Schanke thinks that she did it and is laughing at them.
Nick sees something of his own arc within Rebecca's plight. He too has kind of a drinking problem. But it isn't booze for him. It is human blood. Nick is an 800 year old vampire who has taken on police work as a penance for preying on humans for centuries. But that is the story the series was telling. We see almost none of it told here in an episode so completely outside the formula as to be a near complete outlier.
Tracey Cook appeared on season 1, episode 3 of this series as Alma - a minor vampire character who almost drains Schanke. Thus when I recognized the same actress upon tuning in to this episode I thought it was the return of Alma. But the character was an entirely a different character and while edgy, no vampire. It made for confusion initially and the teleplay then went in a number of unexpected directions taking this episode even more out of my reach.
The idea of a musician enacting the murder of her fans as a publicity gimmick makes for a dark satire of the music industry. But they don't go very far with that. It segues into what could have been an interesting murder mystery and they don't go very far with that either. It is difficult to see that point in time where this episode stopped making any sense in terms of plot or point or connection to the backstory.
Concurrent to that which they don't go very far with Nick begins having nightmares and hallucinations for no apparent reason. These result in dream sequences which include his vampire associates LaCroix (Nigel Bennett) and Janette DuCharme (Deborah Duchene) in what look like macabre music videos. LaCroix appears in the dream sequences as a soda jerk, a concert promoter and a jail guard. Janette appears as a truck stop waitress.
There are obvious comparisons to Queen of the Damned - an influential work of vampire fiction featuring a vampire rock singer. But that would be a flattering way of characterizing what is actually shown in this episode.
The real star of the episode is the music performed Toronto artist Lori Yates. Fan Kill is one song. But 'Dark Side if the Glass' is the other one and it is far more appealing. It was written Yates with Stan Meissner - an exceptional Canadian songwriter and performer. The song sounds like late 1980s Madonna.
Renegotiation of the Soul
As established in part 1 (Season 1, Episode 1) Metro police detective Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) happens to be an 800 (Give or take...But rounding it off at 800 makes the math easier) year old vampire passing as mortal. His superior Captain Stonetree (Gary Farmer) is very accommodating about Nick's difficulty working a night shift even though Nick never specifies what health condition he has that makes days bad for him. But he requires him to take on a partner from the day shift and that partner is Don Schanke (John Kapelos) - a yapping troglodyte he can't stand.
Along with the understanding captain, and a day-shift partner who also does a lot of work on the night-shift with Nick, is Dr.Natalie Lambert (Catherine Disher) the coroner he works with. Her brilliant postmortem examinations of cadavers augments her other role in Nick's life - keeper of his vampire secret and somehow his addictions counsellor. She helps Nick find his humanity offering considerably more than merely playing Moneypenny to his 007.
Multiple murders across the city require attention. Most of them are of homeless people but one, resulted in the death of a security guard. It occurred at a museum and involved the theft of a sacred Mayan jade cup used for the ritual drinking of blood. Museum employee Dr.Alyce Hunter (Christine Reeves) sought to help in any way she could, particularly after encountering Nick - a man she found fascinating for reasons she did not entirely understand at first. The cup, matched with another that Nick has, can supposedly cure vampirism. He believes that and so does his mentor Lucien LaCroix - an even more ancient vampire.
As we see depicted in flashback all the way to 1228 AD, LaCroix's case for the vampire lifestyle had diminished in validity for Nick almost immediately upon becoming one, but never for LaCroix. Nick is confident that LaCroix is in the city on a killing spree and that he stole the cup. LaCroix has signalled his presence (Via guest DJ spot on a pirate radio for vampires that Nick listens to) and he and Nick meet again. Hunter follows Nick and is somehow undetected as the two vampires meet for an encounter that is more intervention than reunion.
It is a rehash of a recurring argument over centuries. Nick had misgivings before and always went back with the LaCroix and his tribe. LaCroix and other vampires did not think that Nick would be a tourist in their culture. For most of the time elapsed he was far from a guy experimenting with a different lifestyle. But he never lost a sense of right and wrong or compassion for the downtrodden. LaCroix had neither, nor an understanding of why a vampire might retain anything like that.
Like a lot of malevolent mortals can, LaCroix is a vampire who can present any self-serving justifications as reasoning. Like a lot of heroic mortals Nick is haunted by his past, sees his mistakes and even his contradictions, trying to right them as best he can even though the circumstances are not ideal. Thus a horror story relates commentary on the human condition via a mythological exemplar. As we see, LaCroix gave Nick what people even in his present day would think was a gift. One individual whom Nick cares for begs for the same gift.
So as with the formula of most episodes two mysteries run concurrent: A crime for Nick to investigate, and the continuing mystery of why he is the way he is which the show juxtaposes in a manner that seems like it should. The template is beautifully established. But they also did some trouble-shooting to help the audience with a few things that detracted from the audience's enthrallment.
The dialogue from part one, tells us Nick has been in the city for three years and transferred there from Chicago. How his ruse of being a human works suggests that, as all vampires of a few hundred years standing would have had to do, he assumed a new identity and presumably it was that of a cop who completed a background check and academy training like any one of them would have had to do.
In part one, we also see Nick use a vampire power of suggestion in dealing with a prying journalist that works like a Jedi mind trick. That trick utilized with practice as well as other vampire powers get him pretty far from what we see selling his ruse and performing his duty as cop. None of this diminishes the preposterous notion of vampire as cop.
But they weren't selling the audience on realism. They were getting them to accept a diagesis for the duration of a weekly broadcast teleplay. These things helped the audience. They did not make things more realistic. They merely reconfigured what they had to put it in line with what an audience could accommodate to be entertained.
Ringy For Over
Metro police detective Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) and his partner Don Schanke (John Kapelos) are at their wit's end when it come to a case in which another police detective strangled an accountant to death then was himself stabbed. The opening scenes reveal the killer to be an extremely persuasive woman who commanded one murder then committed the second. The victims had past reputations for being upstanding, conscientious and sedate before changing.
Retracing the steps of the murdered men they locate a strip club and Ann Foley (Cynthia Preston) - a young exotic dancer whom both men were seen talking to. Nick is smitten almost upon sight of her, feeling something he remembers from when he first saw Janette (Deborah Duchene) - his ex, a vampire who helped bring him into that lifestyle during the Crusades. It indicates that it isn't just an animal attraction.
Knight's partner Schanke - normally a drooling, sweating horn-dog doesn't see much in Ann that he can't see in any of the other girls working in the club the night they go there. Ann's power of attraction just doesn't quite work on him for some reason. But Nick goes "red kryptonite Superman" for a spell and as a vampire, or just as a cop abusing his authority, that can lead to some very bad things.
For audiences a game on this show was not just guessing who the killer was, or the motive of the crime on each episode, but rather which one of the guest stars is a vampire. Is Ann a vampire? Or is she meant to show the vampire tendencies some individuals have that make them seem vampire-like? Actually she shows considerably more than that. Her arc opens up an examination into the mindset of those who actually recruited and mentored Nick in the vampire lifestyle as well as his mindset in being recruited.
Janette's seduction of Nicholas De Brabant aka Nick Knight, is depicted and juxtaposed with Ann's seduction of Nick. It implies that part of the appeal of becoming a vampire might have been the thrill and running with the wrong crowd which can happen to the best of people. Janette's surprise introduction of her friend Lucien LaCroix (Nigel Bennett) indicates there was a level of peer pressure to it as well and that physical intimidation might have been part of it. The aspect of cult is also implicit. LaCroix is a vampire's vampire and he chooses Nick.
The character study of the hero was the backbone of the writing on the show. Ann is the kind of woman Janette or LaCroix would have recruited. The vampire community is full of her kind of thrill-seeking, power-abusing disposers of victims. A century or two earlier, Nick himself might have turned her. But his arc has changed and that is illustrated perfectly here. The subtlety of that is immaculate.
Forever Knight: Last Act (1992)
The Passing Of An Old Soul
Vampire Erica (Torri Higginson) decides upon suicide by going to a park bench in Toronto before dawn. She stays until daylight and she turns into ashes. Toronto police detective Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) who also happens to be a vampire, knew her in the past. Back in his theater days (the 1690s) they were in love and performed together in plays she wrote. Both embraced their vampirism then. But she did not do it as fully as he did.
Erica viewed her art as her contribution to society and saw it as consolation for preying on humanity. She made clear to him if she felt her art no longer served that then she could not bear to live. He never understood her feelings in regards to that though they spoke of them often enough. A woman who has been talking about suicide for 300 years shows more than adequate warning signs but, conversely, a counter-intuitive amount of staying power.
Concurrent to that is Nick's investigation when a young doctor (Gillian Vanderburgh) is found dead of an apparent suicide. He thinks it has been made to look like a suicide. His co-worker (A mortal who keeps his secret and covers for him) Dr. Natalie Lambert (Catherine Disher) tells Nick it really could have been a suicide from examining the body. But, because he has never understood the suicidal urge he can't accept that finding.
As an 800 year old vampire Nick has centuries of unfinished business and unresolved feelings which have bearing on the way he sees life today. His feelings about Erica's end could appear to cloud his judgment. Worse, because of his growing case load and inability to close them of late, he starts wondering if maybe he isn't contributing to society as much as he should and strongly considers following her example.
Another of his exes is Janette (Deborah Duchene) - a nightclub owner who caters to the vampire scene. He meets with her to talk about their mutual friend. She explains why Erica pushed him away. She knew she was eventually going to kill herself and did not want it to impact him because she really did care for him and understood his passion for life.
A cascade of flashbacks which reflect upon the theme of the crime Nick must solve/resolve are a staple of Forever Knight episodes. But this one includes a number of scenes in which Nick imagines Erica is still alive and they interact in the present days after she has fully combusted. There is nothing wrong with the performance of Torri Higginson in any of these scenes. But there is at least one scene too many of that shown here.
This episode is very evocative of the writings of Anne Rice and specifically in relation to Erica's doll and how it relates to the role Gema Zamprogna's actress character plays in Erica's final play (Staged at the Factory Theatre - a fixture on Toronto's entertainment since 1970). But Nick slyly mentions Romeo & Juliet - the most famous suicide pact in history, one which offers parallels with a distinct contrast.
Street Legal: Neighbours (2019)
Toronto lawyer Olivia Novak (Cynthia Dale) is set to triumph in yet another high-stakes litigation versus Standout Pharma. Standout's lawyer Guilia Lessandri (Leni Parker) offers $30,000,000. Novak's new law partners Lilly Rue (Cara Ricketts), Mina Lee (Yvonne Chapman) and Adam Darling (Steve Lund) aren't satisfied for moral reasons. Novak isn't satisfied because she knows she can get considerably more seeing a manoeuvre by Lessandri as a sign of weakness.
Novak's weed-smoking, sexually adventurous daughter Emily Tchobanian (Julia Tomasone) shows up having dropped out of medical school in Vancouver under mysterious circumstances. She strikes up a bond with Darling (Yes, Dear?) which makes things very complicated when her mum finds out, eh! At some point Darling will get around to doing some actual lawyering. Olivia has acquiesced to his being second-chair for their case versus Standout. But that could change after the thing with Emily.
Lee takes on Len Dakota, a nightmare of client. The volatile paraplegic is bothered by the brats and their parents who attend a daycare adjacent to his home. Lee runs into a past/future love interest Taylor (Laurence LeBoeuf) - a Crown attorney, during the case and they work a highly immoral hack which should get them called before the Law Society of Upper Canada (Like a lot of stuff RDL and Olivia are doing).
Olivia's mysterious private investigator Derrick Leiber (Patrick Labbe) continues his affair with Rue. But he finds time to follow Lessandri and Standout's CEO DuMoulin. What he finds out shows Novak and RDL a twist they didn't see coming. They aren't happy. But they aren't devastated.
This is what Street Legal was in it's original incarnation but it is ratcheted up a notch. Novak has somehow found (Not by chance!) a group of young lawyers who function at her elevated level of adrenaline. They take chances and burn the candle at both ends like she did and still does.
We see the failures of Novak's personal life that her new partners could enjoy when they're her age. But disbarment is only presented in the spectre of Leiber - a former lawyer turned investigator. Emily suggests that the high-mindedness of Novak's new partners will rub off on her mum. The reverse is more likely.
This episode also serves to open the door for a guest appearance by C.David Johnson who portrayed Chuck Tchobanian for the full run of the original Street Legal (1987-1994). Chuck and Olivia weren't married that long. But it was long enough to conceive Emily. Chuck, as the episode eludes to, went to Australia.
Adderly: Critical Mass (1986)
Wendy Crewson Guest-Stars
Miscellaneous Affairs office secretary Mona Ellerby (Dixie Seatle) entreats her co-worker V.H. Adderly (Winston Rekert) to look in on the husband of her friend Jenny. She thinks he is having an affair. It isn't what Adderly - a veteran of intelligence work, is used to. But he owes Mona a thing or two for covering for him at work many times. It also beats the superfluous assignment their boss Melville Greenspan (Jonathan Welsh) assigned to him - one Mona agrees to do.
Adderly looks into fellow International Security and Intelligence (ISI) employee Gary Fields (Peter Dvorsky - no relation to the Slovak operatic tenor) who might be bent (Selling plutonium to pay down gambling debts). But other ISI agents are already looking into it and they don't want Adderly around. He can't help it when he sees how badly ISI agent Marge Websin (Wendy Crewson) is handling it. After it goes as poorly as Adderly promised it might. But Marge words her report to their boss Major Clack (Kenneth Pogue) skillfully blaming it all on Adderly.
Wendy Crewson's character is meant to show the kind of agent that Adderly could never be and would never try to be. She can mess things up royally and claim the only reason it wasn't worse is because she was there. Adderly is focused on the making whatever the job is come out right - not throwing a colleague under a bus of potentially career-ending blame if the result is unfavorable.
Marge Websin, on the other hand is so volatile and vindictive she chooses to interpret commands in the most malignant way possible. Who knows what she'll do when Clack orders her to find a way to keep Adderly out of it. Who knows what will happen to Jenny if ISI's absurd sting operation entangles her and her husband is in over his head.
The efficient episode gives us further insight into the main character. He got his hand crushed on assignment but, as this episode and others tell us, that is far from the only reason he has been shunted off to Miscellaneous Affairs. The thing with his hand is just an excuse for reassignment. Many episodes of the series give us an indication that he is really there for reasons related to the politics of the bureaucracy - things his psyche has committed too much contempt for, to understand or navigate.
We also see Mona assert herself more in this episode too. She brings Adderly into it not knowing that ISI has an op going. She then ably assists Adderly in the field - something she has dreamed of doing since the first episode. That helps address one of the criticisms of the show which was that Mona is Adderly's cheerleader and her only joy is doting upon the hero.
Wendy Crewson is one of the most successful performers ever to come out of the Canada's entertainment industry. She is also one of Canada's most appealing women. But here they put a hairdo on her that looks like it was made by sticking her finger in a light socket. It was the 1980s. The difference in styles is also reflected in Winston Rekert sporting a mullet and wearing 'bespoke' menswear that makes him look like he is head of security at a Loverboy concert.
Street Legal: Moving Day (2019)
The Posse That Rides With The Fastest Gun
Young Toronto lawyer Lilly Rue (Cara Ricketts) is discernibly unsettled by checking on friends of hers that have disappeared from their breakfast table as if in to the thin air. But it is not science fiction it is the Canadian judicial system. Presented like that is a brilliant way of characterizing the manner in which adult human beings can be seized as "Wards of the Crown" i.e. be taken custody of by a lawyer.
Mina Lee (Yvonne Chapman), partner with Rue in RDL Legal, is dropped by one of her clients because RDL Legal has a case going against big pharma and that client has conflicts. Big business in Canada is compromised of a pretty sparse number of people considering our population. When one relationship has conflicts with another the more powerful one wins out usually. So there is this kind of domino effect of businesses distancing themselves that threatens to destroy RDL before they've really started.
Adam Darling (Steve Lund), partner with Lee and Rue in RDL Legal, has an issue with Olivia Novak (Cynthia Dale) regarding their case vs big pharma. It becomes apparent that the RDL partners were not entirely ready for what teaming up with Novak would mean in real working terms. With her genius legal mind, work ethic and pathological instinct to see everything the way a lawyer would, she climbed to the top of her profession. While she asserts leadership she also elevates partners.
But Novak's mean streak and vindictiveness aren't necessarily yet known by the younger lawyers. They evidently haven't heard the stories about her yet. Older lawyers would know, if not been witness to her bludgeoning of a construction worker with her brief case in broad daylight on the streets of Toronto.
There is an almost adolescent tone in the way Novak expresses disdain and asserts her superiority. She allows it of herself because she is that good and that assertive. It might be a concern for her vis a vis how others perceive her, but not enough of one for her to stop doing it the way she does.
A lingering effect is one felt between her and her former law firm partner Hal Lloyd (John Ralston). They meet again in a dispute over boxes of documents she took off with at their former firm. The documents relate to the big pharma case and he gets an injunction. When Novak asks "What did I ever do to you?" and his answer is a matter-of-fact "Enough" the viewer can read the subtext. What the viewer can't know is how far he'll go with it. When he gets his other ex-partner Gerry Czernik (Michael Murphy) to join the dispute it indicates he might go pretty far.
Meanwhile, Olivia's mysterious private investigator Derrick Leiber (Patrick Labbe), a disbarred lawyer, tries to bond with office manager Sam (Joanne Vannicola) as well as with Rue and is considerably more successful with Rue than Sam.
The first episode began in a crack-house where a son discovers his mother shooting up. Adam Darling's mum Rosemary Dunsmore will always be an issue because of her addiction. Maybe he'll get around to actual lawyering something at some point. Every arc goes where it is supposed to except for the Adam Darling character. Therein lies the weakness of this episode.
What we do see depicted in this episode though is revealing. There is a coming together and the establishment of a working dynamic. With Novak, who knows if it will continue beyond the big pharma case. But we know she is all in on that. Rue and Lee each show the moxie of the kind of lawyer Novak might want to stand with. Darling (Yes Dear?) does not which might well mean the character will be called upon to do more in future episodes.
Yannick Bisson Guest Cameo
V.H. Adderly (Winston Rekert) - a veteran secret service operative who got his left hand crushed in the field longs to make a comeback. International Security and Intelligence (ISI) - his employers prefer him where he is - in the basement of it's headquarters near the boiler room in a department it calls "Miscellaneous Affairs". There he clashes with bureaucrat Melville Greenspan (Jonathan Welsh) - a supervisor with no experience in the intelligence community whom Adderly refuses to accept as boss.
Routinely Adderly storms into the offices of Major Clack (Kenneth Pogue) with Greenspan in tow to demand reassignment back in the field. It is a bad work dynamic between Adderly and Greenspan. But it is one entirely acceptable to Clack. Adderly knows too much to be allowed to retire with dignity. The purgatory of a desk job under a barnacle-like bureaucrat such as Greenspan might at least keep Adderly out of trouble until the currency of his inside information withers.
Clack nevertheless decides to put Adderly back in the field after one of these meetings in his office. But the assignment - a delivery, appears to be fully as inconsequential as the ones Adderly has been given since being cast asunder. Nevertheless Adderly soldiers on even as his rendezvous with Pete Bracken (Richard Comar) - another agent, falls through. He uses his wealth of experience and follows procedure to get the delivery made.
When he and Bracken are nearly killed they join forces to track their attempted murderer Belkin (Chris Wiggins), the sleazo crime-boss of an international smuggling ring.
This solid entry early in the series establishes the altruism of the main character more firmly whilst illustrating that character's flaw. Wherever he can Adderly sees setting things right as being his entire purpose. But that does not necessarily further the cause for good that he might accomplish. Benchmarks for the success of a spy are only supposed to be obvious to their employers. But Adderly doesn't care quite enough about that. If he did he would see that he has to take some credit to retain the credibility needed to be entrusted with getting the right thing done.
The Canadian setting was, of course, obscured to the point of being nearly invisible in this episode as well as others. That was something TV and movie producers did in Canada to maximize the marketability of the production to American audiences. A hint at the setting is nevertheless noted in the placement of a small CN Tower ornament on Melville's desk. But behind Melville's desk is a large picture of the New York skyline with "City of New York" seen printed at the bottom. It is seen in close-ups and there is no doubt at the inference meant to be drawn.
Yannick Bisson, who would go on to be one of the most ubiquitous stars of Canada's TV industry, has a cameo here as a valet at a car rental agency. He worked with Winston Rekert multiple times early in his career. As with any domestic Canadian entertainment product the community which produced it was considerably smaller than in other countries including a not insignificant one south of us. It meant you'd have trouble doing anything professionally without tripping over somebody you worked with before. I'm sure the two iconic Canadian actors got along famously. But a lot of casts in Canadian entertainment productions overlap just because of scale.
Adderly: Hit-Man Complex (1986)
Spies, eh?! Oooh, right on!
Extremely affluent Senator Thomas Woodside (Don Harron) is marrying off his daughter and requests that the government supply security for the wedding. The better compliment of International Security and Intelligence (ISI) agents are on assignment elsewhere. The absurd detail is one none of them would think was worth their time anyway. The obscure department Miscellaneous Affairs somehow appears to be an answer instead of "Go to a private firm, Senator! YOU can afford it. The taxpayers CAN'T!".
ISI keeps Miscellaneous Affairs in the basement of it's headquarters near the boiler room. Why the department even exists is something of a mystery. A bitter pill of a bureaucrat Melville Greenspan (Jonathan Welsh) is in charge and his priority is keeping the budget low and the department profile even lower. He thinks that is how he keeps civil service cutbacks from eliminating his job. He is not entirely wrong.
The bored secretary Mona Ellerby (Dixie Seatle - a Canadian performer with a VERY American-sounding name) is generally found reading a book and sometimes it is spy fiction. She and Greenspan get to keep their tedious, almost entirely meaningless jobs in a way many bureaucrats and government employees have throughout history i.e. by always being present in the event that somebody calls which for them is extremely unlikely.
The frequency of the calls increases dramatically with the presence of V.H. Adderly (Winston Rekert) - a veteran secret service operative who got his left hand crushed by torture whilst in the clutches of the opposition. Transferred to Miscellaneous Affairs he is still a great intelligence agent and longs to make a comeback. ISI refuses to look beyond his disability which is unfortunate considering he finds deadly trouble in even the most mundane, nuisance details assigned him.
Melville dispatches Adderly to the wedding KNOWING it to be a mundane, nuisance detail but hoping that Adderly will still complete the task adequately. His primary concern is that Adderly is appropriately attired and acquits himself well in a manner that won't reflect poorly on the department. It puts Adderly on the trail of an international assassin whom Adderly must stop, and do so single-handedly. We get a solid template of the formula for future episodes.
The Canadian setting was, of course, obscured to the point of being nearly invisible. That was something TV and movie producers did in Canada to maximize the marketability of the production to American audiences. The casting, the locations and the tell-tale softening of vowels in the dialogue betrayed where it was really produced and who it was produced by. But it was somehow thought that American audiences wouldn't notice and that Canadian audiences wouldn't mind.
This episode featured guest-stars Gary Farmer, Lisa Howard and Peter Krantz. They were young and still learning but they would stick with the industry long enough to build impressive resumes and do so here in Canada - either in domestically produced content or augmenting foreign productions shot here. They toiled in a relative anonymity which is something that is very difficult for a performer to have to do and shows an uncommon attachment to the craft. For many active on Canada's entertainment scene the process IS the reward.
The established guest-star Don Harron - the one they hoped might lure in audiences, was one the Canadian entertainment industry never quite knew what to do with. Here he is quite passable playing a supporting role. He mostly did supporting guest roles on American TV up until he hit big in America on the syndicated series Hee-Haw, a show he departed in 1982. Believe it or not he had a TV talk show that went as poorly as any of the English-language ones (Paul Soles, Alan Thicke, Ralph Benmergui etc) we've had in Canada.
Adderly: Midnight in Morocco (1987)
Morocco When It Sizzles
Veteran secret service operative V.H. Adderly (Winston Rekert) relates the story of a mission he had in Morocco a decade earlier. His audience is Mona (Dixie Seatle) - bored secretary in the same government intelligence Miscellaneous Affairs department he has been banished to. It helps them make the time pass faster working late while they wait out a heat wave in a steaming-hot office during summer.
Boxes of top-secret documents are scheduled for shredding. Melville Greenspan (Jonathan Welsh) - their prickly boss, wants the files sorted alphabetically and by date. He specifies that, before he goes to play tennis with HIS boss Major Clack (Kenneth Pogue). Adderly and Mona pretend to acquiesce knowing that it makes no difference what order the files are in and that Greenspan just assigned it to them to impose his will abusing what little authority he has.
Whilst they pretend to work, over Chinese take out and with a TV showing an old movie, the story Adderly tells is one Mona's imagination interprets like something from the Golden Age of Hollywood (Specifically Casablanca). She casts herself as this femme fatale character from his past and envisions the adventure in the most romantic terms including her work-crush Adderly whom she imagines in a tuxedo. In her mind it is fulfillment of a fantasy and escape from the tedium of work.
Mona's imagination places Greenspan (Channelling Peter Lorre) and Clack (Channelling Claude Rains) as dubious characters in the fantasy. Somehow she even finds space for a couple of very attractive foreign women (Cynthia Dale and Lolita Davidovich in off-beat cameos). But it is difficult to tell what really happened in Morocco. Mona gets a key fact wrong that puts the whole thing in an entirely different light.
If you are cynical you can look at this as a rehash of the William Holden-Audrey Hepburn movie 'Paris When It Sizzles' with an homage re-staging of Casablanca thrown in. For ideas, that is far from a bad one when it comes to the formula of this show.
Canadian series Adderly was one that Canadian TV network Global offered as fulfillment of it's obligation to broadcast domestic content. Though it had an espionage adventure theme with comedy elements it wasn't really the level of spoof of American spy comedy 'Get Smart'. The humour was considerably more dry. Often times it looked like one of those sitcoms set in an office because it could be exactly like those.
Some of the difference was in the attention payed to what Winston Rekert offered as a leading man. The dynamic between he and Dixie Seatle played that up as a recurring theme for, if not basis of the series.
The Mating Ritual Of The Hobbled Sasquatch In Purgatory
It is a three-day weekend and Chicago psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley PhD (Bob Newhart) is looking to take advantage and get out of town with his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). But she has a fear of flying. The first episode ever aired of this series depicted her fear of flying at its most erratic point. In the series her fear of flying was a running gag. Of course that limits where a couple from Chicago can go on a three-day weekend.
Bob asks her to randomly pick a spot on a map that is within reach of where their car can travel to and back from. This idea an astoundingly bad idea. Bob is supposed to be the last kind of guy to have an idea that absurd. But a lot of people have had the same idea and done what they do here in order just to be spontaneous. Emily bites and the results are a special kind of disastrous.
The place they get is a ski resort inn so decrepit it is on the brink of collapse. The manager (Allen Garfield) is kind of skeevy and entirely unprepared to deliver the guest experience advertised. They also have to share their bathroom with the couple across the hall. The Millers (Chuck McCann and Joyce Van patten) are loud and boorish but they seem like nice people...At first. The Hartley's are polite but they wanted to get away from people for a bit, kick back and focus on each other.
What they staged is like a slasher movie except instead of running for their lives the couple just wants to avoid awkwardness and doing things they don't like with people they don't know at a destination they somehow expected more from. Things get even worse as the first night progresses and pretty soon Bob and Emily are hiding out in their room. How long will they stick it out? Can they get away without being seen? Can it get worse?
If you're a fan of this comedian and his humour you can see one parallel with his later work on the series Newhart (1982-90). The setting here is an inn outside the city and the set looks like an early version of what the Newhart/Stratford Inn set would look like. But we don't see Bob pivot to the whole Green Acres-in-a-Blue State direction he would be able circle back to on the later series.
On an episode of Newhart, the later series, Bob as Dick Louden and his wife Joanna have the same idea of picking a vacation spot at random but of course they had to do something different with it.
Street Legal: Glass Floor (2019)
When The Lioness Is Given A Smaller Cage...
Icy Olivia Novak (Cynthia Dale) - a senior partner of Czernik, Lloyd and Novak (Bay Street's finest ambulance chasers) loses her client to RDL Legal - a tiny Queen Street West start-up firm after she was counting on a lucrative case vs big pharma (We have it in Canada too) over a drug that users were told was non-addictive that turned to be addictive (Really?). The turn in fortunes coincides with Czernik, Lloyd and Novak's best mergers and acquisitions lawyer deciding to trigger his buyout.
Misfortune can cascade in business (Which is what this is no matter how high-minded any corporate lawyer can sound), as well as other aspects of life with disturbing regularity. When the managing partner Gerry Czernik (Michael Murphy) decides to walk the gold-plated plank too, Novak goes after his job with his blessing whilst attempting to get a deal going with the tiny start up over the flawed client in a case where they've got a snowball's chance. But it's Canada in early March, snowballs have a longer lifespan.
As circumstances play out Novak and the young shysters have to join forces. If you've watched the original Street Legal you know Olivia Novak is a mix of good and evil of varying degrees depending upon if she gets crossed, by whom and what the settlement is. When she is cornered she can show signs of vulnerability. After that you wouldn't want to be the one who is doing the cornering.
So you put the lioness in a smaller cage to fight for scraps? The X factor is how she'll co-exist with a group of younger lions Lilly Rue (Cara Ricketts), Adam Darling (Steve Lund) and Mina Lee (Yvonne Chapman). Presumably the writing will give the younger lawyers a chance to assert themselves whilst letting Olivia be Olivia. As fans of the series upon which this is a spin-off of know, Olivia Novak is most certainly capable of being vindictive and payback can be called a certain thing that she too has been called.
If one finds anything lacking in this production I cannot say it is because it is less than our best. These are our actors and they're good ones (Brilliant guest-stars included). One of our best directors (Sturla Gunnarson) was at the helm. What you see is what we've got and what we've got is more than we used to have. The result of the debut episode gives us a solid start to this continuation (Or if you wanna say 'reboot'...I'd rather you didn't but, anyway...) of the very popular CBC TV series of exceptional quality and cultural resonance that ran from 1987 to 1994.
When it comes to any Canadian series what we see is part of a greater project whether everyone involved wants for it to be or not. Canadians want OUR stories, told by us, starring us. It isn't just a patriotism thing, and it isn't just a visibility thing. But for some reason some of us think of it as petty. When we get something good (And fundamentally, it looks like that is what this is, and will continue to be) then we have something to crow about. If we get something bad we begin to wonder if the tax credits and broadcasting time quotas which are supposed to be incentive for the making of it are a good idea anymore.
Like any Canadian series, whether it is good OR bad is not necessarily an indicator of whether people will watch it. The schedule against American commercial television does not favour ANY Canadian competition. We just can't match it in terms of production value and countless other things. But it can find a following online as people can watch the episodes free on the website of our national broadcaster. We didn't have that before and we certainly need it more now.
The part about watching it online will be essential if it comes back in the fall. If it remains scheduled at 9pm on Monday nights much of whatever male audience there is won't be watching it at THAT time because of Monday Night Football and smatterings of other demographics will defect to the new fall line-up of other American shows in the time-slot. Everyone involved has to know that and I'm sure they know to manage their expectations.
This show could become binge-worthy and I think it will. Particularly it will find resonance when it connects people to the real life effects of what lawyers do which this initial offering ties it together efficiently.
But the issue of 'Diggstown' - yet another CBC TV series that is a legal drama , and debuts but 48 hours after this one, does raise questions. It features actor C.David Johnson - one of Street Legal's mainstay stars during it's run. It also has Natasha Henstridge (I still gots like a major crush on 'er, eh!). If Diggstown gets canned will Street Legal just raid it's cast, writing staff etc?
Toronto concert venue Cameron House (Among other local landmarks) has a cameo.
Rich Man, Poor Man
Dapper but dirty cop Jake Stiles (Joe Penny) teams with grizzled District Attorney J.L. McCabe (William Conrad) to track down the murderer of Mitchell Thompson (Josef Rainer) one of wealthiest men in the city. The victim's two surviving kin are his younger brothers - a pair of oddballs who are disturbingly close. But one (Dwight Schultz) is an odder ball than the other (Russell Todd). He has been covertly taunting McCabe and the police in a serial murder spree of homeless men.
The tone of the way the wealthy brothers are played is several steps beyond eccentric. I can interpret it as a statement on "affluenza" before it was an actual term. Here that is taken to the extreme in a tour-de-force characterization by Dwight Schultz. There is not just solipsism and narcissism. David Thompson is a classic take on the cinematic stock character of wealthy and warped predator from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The murderers on this show characteristically displayed galling audacity.
The main demographic they attracted with this show was an older, upper income, conservative one. They attempted to offer them something of classic appeal. It meant presenting something that was kind of like 1930s/1940s era mystery with Joe Penny as the classic leading man (A Cary Grant for the 1980s). Blending with that is McCabe portrayed by an actor whose following stretched back to days on radio and you have a retro feel the formula could reliably deliver week by week during the TV season.
The ideal settings for various episodes were upscale in keeping with so many Hollywood murder mysteries which is why we see so many wealthy bad people and wealthy victims. The fact that so many of the guest characters are played by actors who tended to attract a younger demographic would also become a continuous aspect of the series. Russell Todd was brought in for that here.
As for the continuing character study of the leads sublety was insufficient often times. They obviously went for a gruff but proud father/roguish but loyal son vibe. The opaqueness of that is captured in the appalling opening titles sequence from the show's first season which includes a hokey scene of the actors embracing as their characters praise each other's awesomeness and virtue. That cringe-inducing scene of characters telling, when they should be showing, started off every show on a poor note until they got a new titles sequence.
"Don't Always Believe What Ya See!"
Nurse Samantha (Amy Steele) is blinded by a man who has murdered her patient in the same attack. The shared grief brings her together with the woman's husband Alan Shay (Mark Goddard) who each work with law enforcement to apprehend the assailant. Samantha is set to have an operation to recover her sight and it appears promising. But her attacker (A malefactor with a breathtaking track record of efficiency), who doesn't want her to live long enough to be able to see, and identify him, has other ideas.
Casually corrupt police lieutenant Jake Styles (Joe Penny) and gruff but earnest district attorney J.L.McCabe (William Conrad) both formed a rapport with Samantha and Alan in the aftermath of the murder. They are concerned for her safety despite her assurances. Styles orders a special detail i.e. patrol cops to drive by her place and check in with her in the lead up to her flight. But when an attack upon Samantha by the same killer is thwarted Jake begins to wonder if things happened as they initially appeared to.
In this episode the lush setting they somehow found themselves in again, is not purely accidental. The stylistic formula the show had going required placement of them in such a setting somehow, some way. What the show gave viewers was a mystery with less of the messy police forensics work aspect and more of the intrigue in a setting most of us can find agreeable even if we can't really relate to it. A good, solid teleplay can get you past the setting. That is what they delivered here and would do intermittently during the run of the series.
The multi-layered acting characterization constructed by Amy Steel is what really sells this episode to the audience though. She was cast because she balanced being something of a sex symbol in 1980s popular culture from the Friday the 13th movies with very real acting chops gleaned from excellent schools and a solid theatre background. She was also, by the time they got her for this, a youngish veteran of two TV series and multiple motion picture releases. It was a very agreeable match between role and performer that served to deliver a younger demographic.
There are still implausibilities. But the episode remains one of the better early ones because a better baddie tends to make for a better mystery. This has a transgressor who evolves in an unexpected way. The quintessence of villainy on display reflects another trademark of this series : malignant audacity in the role of the antagonist.
What Could Go Wrong?
Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) and his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) have been happily married for three years (REALLY not very long...Especially for 1972) after a blind date that went better than they usually go.
In the spirit of that, Emily thinks it might be a good idea to set up their wacky neighbour Howard (Bill Daily - a criminally underappreciated comedian who used to write for Steve Allen) with Bob's flighty secretary Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace).
Bob doesn't think it is a good idea. He explains why. What he doesn't have to explain is what we have already seen from Carol and Howard. She is constantly horny and his job as navigator for an airline flight crew means he is out of town every week. The audience can see where that might go even if the characters on the show haven't evaluated the equation. Then Jerry (ONE of her bosses...Sort of) factors in. He picks up on Carol all the time (Almost like he is following some kind of rule). His attentions will almost certainly factor in because Carol kinda likes him too.
But it is too late. Emily has already talked Howard up to Carol. Emily has dropped Howard off at her husband's office building where Howard gets a tooth yanked (Though strangely NOT by Bob's dentist friend Jerry who has an office on the very same floor). After his procedure (and a generous shot of laughing gas) Howard is found hanging out by Carol's desk. In an artificially relaxed state he comes off as calm, witty and strangely spiritual. Carol likes him.
The double date Carol and Howard have with the Hartleys is planned on the fly and goes off poorly. Off drugs, Howard is Howard. A nice, harmless man he is nevertheless like a ten year old in bad need of Ritalin and shows every sign of a social anxiety disorder. Carol, fickle in the extreme, is considerably less impressed. Howard's continued awkward attempts at romance with Carol collide with Jerry's awkward attempts at romance with Carol.
They had done some solid work by this point in the series. But they crafted a classic in this entry. They did that with a teleplay that additionally served to elevate the importance and resonance of supporting characters adding depth to the stories they would be able to develop later. I'm convinced this episode influenced the Chinese restaurant episode on Seinfeld due to the bit with the maitre d (James Hong, who also appeared in this episode).
Evidently one of the rules of the show was that if Bob could explain it in a funnier way than it would be to stage it then they'd let him explain it. His audience, going all the way back to his albums love it when Bob has to explain something that is awkward to explain. So it was with Howard's date with Carol.
Finally Marcia Wallace's Carol Kester character began to develop beyond being Wallace doing Carol Burnett if Carol was playing Mrs.Wiggins and Mrs. Wiggins was doing an impression of Lily Tomlin's Ernestine character. Whilst appearing derivative it made for a very funny combination. So the show continued to go with that. They also picked up on the fact that Carol the receptionist wasn't seen to do very much at the office and seemed like a redundancy in past episodes.
Here we see her collating. In episodes before it Carol was seen stamping letters and attending to a datebook. Difficult things for an actor to do and time a portrayal with. Marcia Wallace did more and more things like that as she went which served quite well to sell the eccentric characterization and the setting. For some of us that counts for a lot. One imagines long rehearsal and endless takes to get it right.
The character continued to make a cascade of emotional transactions at the office. Workers are not supposed to do that. But they are human beings and spend half their waking hours during a work week AT the office or whatever kind of workplace it is. They don't stop being human beings from 9am to noon, then become human for lunch hour, then stop being human again from 1pm until 5pm.
Carol is the extreme. If she was not, she might have gone unnoticed on a sitcom. What she gave Bob Newhart was the constant flexibility to pivot comically to a bit with him being the boss trying to be polite when an employee is flaking on him. It offers several variations on "You're HERE...THANKS! Since you're around could ya maybe do some of the things we pay you for?".
Emily is terrified to fly. It is part of the series bible that she has a fear of air travel. In Howard, we also see a commercial plane navigator who has a notoriously poor sense of direction and consistently appears poised to have a panic attack. Because of that, I always wondered if the show was sponsored by a company that sold travel insurance.
"Your Impression Compound Is Hardening!"
Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) and his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) return from a much needed vacation in Mexico. On his first day back at work orthodontist Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz) whose office is on the same floor as his office, and who is a good personal friend informs Bob he is engaged. The swinging bachelor is ready to settle down with devastatingly sexy dental hygienist Cynthia Freemont (Elaine Giftos) - a woman he has known all of ten days. Bob was out of town for those ten days so he has little sense of who Cynthia is, or what she is like.
Cynthia has very swiftly gotten Jerry on an ever-tightening leash where she dictates what he does, whom he does it with and when. His appointments schedule and his social life are under her full control. This is expressed most explicitly in her interactions with Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace) - the receptionist on the floor of private doctor's offices. Cynthia bullies the peppy secretary with the most detailed demands for Jerry's itinerary including a luncheon reservation.
When Jerry tells Bob he is set to get married on Sunday it seems a little fast for Bob. Professionally Bob would advise a patient to take time to be sure about his choice. But Jerry isn't a patient, he's a friend (And a form of co-worker) and Bob is confused about what place he has in looking out for him. He has already set a pretty decent example for Jerry in his own marriage but he would never be so presumptuous as elude to it.
Bob and Emily, by contrast to Cynthia and Jerry, have a more balanced dynamic in their relationship and they value it. Emily gets her way a lot and anyone can see she is the physically attractive half of their partnership. But Emily does not overtly use that as currency. Bob also stands up for himself more efficiently than Jerry can with Cynthia. Their give and take is more cooperative and more fun. Most of the other couples we see depicted on the show are nowhere near as happy.
They had something here in this episode. They really did. They just didn't go very far with it. Cynthia has all too brief appearances in three scenes in which she looks great and but never acts quite overbearing enough for Bob to come off as fully correct about her when he refers to her as a 'back-breaker'. They could have brought her back for multiple episodes. It was a missed opportunity to build the backstory showing more of Jerry's life and contrasting it with Bob's giving both a greater depth of subtext.
Cynthia is a dental hygienist with what could interpreted as a form of obsessive compulsive disorder and perhaps a touch of Asperger's. That is not necessarily a bad combination for a dental nurse. But is there more to it? Is she a woman used to getting her way over the wishes of others because of the power of her sensuality? The tone of the way she is presented suggests that as does her wardrobe including an exceedingly provocative hygienist's uniform which looks as though it was dreamed up as a kind of ribald cosplay version of what hygienists really wear.
The scenes in which Cynthia imposes her will upon Carol is what I would view as productive for the arc of that supporting character. It was a long time before the Carol Kester character would really begin to develop beyond some kind of cover-version of Carol Burnett-come-Lily Tomlin-as-Ernestine hybrid. Most episodes in which she appears she seems superfluous i.e. engaged in tasks that Bob does not really need her for like, for instance, showing a patient in - a task Bob can handle by getting up from his chair and walking less than fifteen feet to open his door to the waiting area.
Seeing Cynthia interact so callously with Carol serves to give the audience concern about Cynthia and what Jerry is in store for. But seeing Carol trying to balance an appointment book for the doctors with offices on her floor makes it look like Carol is actually necessary. Cynthia also actually makes Carol appear underappreciated.
An Ode To Football Widows Every Fall
Chicago grammar school teacher Emily Hartley (Suzanne Pleshette) is always delighted to have orthodontist Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz) over to her apartment to visit. Jerry is a friend and practices on the same floor of offices that Emily's psychologist husband Bob (Bob Newhart) works at. Sports fan Jerry is known to steal Bob away for Bulls and White Sox games. But Emily puts her foot down when Jerry and Bob make a habit of watching Monday Night Football games at their place.
Wives across America lost the attention (About three hours worth give or take) of their husbands on Monday nights after the debut of ABC's Game of the Week compromise that put the NFL in prime-time in September 1970. In MNF's third season it was enough of a phenomenon that this show on another network (CBS) was giving it proper attention for how it changed television as well as impacted the lives of football fans. Whether it was being shown in a private home or at sports bars, MNF bored generations of wives and girlfriends.
Bob and Emily are happily married and agree on most things (Evidently including horrific taste in wallpaper, drapes and modern art). But they have their disagreements and issues which have added up for Emily. She doesn't like football and Bob knows it. But Bob loves football. The same time every year this is gonna come up but since the sport is so far out of her orbit she finds it unexpected and. is thus unprepared, each time.
Emily hates it that during every football season Bob watches games on Saturday (College) and Sunday (Pros) and wonders why she should then be asked to give up on an evening of quality time on Monday so that her husband can watch a sport she has never understood or seen much to take an interest in. She goes on work-to-rule in their marriage only creating more friction. The resulting brinkmanship is hilarious whilst offering a true to life resolution.
The humour lies in how mature and adult these characters are even when they get into a trivial dispute. Emily shows the kind of passive-aggressive recalcitrance stereo-typically attributed to women in arguments with the men in their lives. But Bob's reaction is more uniquely Bob than a typical guy's reaction. Ultra-calm and sedate (The kind of mindset that a PhD in psychology might carry with him everywhere) he maintains his reserve but also his resolve as he has with evidently no less than 46 concurrent arguments he is having with the love of his life that haven't made HIM a candidate for a strait-jacket.
So what is there here to see? It is mature comedy but also a form of wish fulfillment. This episode, and the series, suggested that a nice guy didn't have to finish last or get walked all over. Bob Hartley (Not Bob Redford, nor absurdly portrayed by a glamorous actor like him) quietly built a successful practice doing something that helped people. He also maintained a happy (Though hardly argument-free) marriage to Emily - a beautiful and loving grammar school teacher and dedicated life-partner who, from all subtle indications, was a spectacular lay. He did all of it at a time when the divorce-rate was sky-rocketing.
The ultimate message of the show is a pretty conservative one to give North American TV audiences in the 1970s i.e. if you work hard, put in the time, maintain your commitments, manage your expectations and keep your head about you, things should be pretty good for you. It isn't only Bob's character who is telling us that. It is Emily's character - a dedicated teacher who does all those things and is happy, particularly when the man she loves is there (Unless he is watching football).
Whether or not you would view their living as high (A fifth floor apartment in an upscale building, they take the L-train to work back and forth every weekday, they both deal with people in need of guidance which is sometimes nerve-wracking, he employs a secretary but shares her with an orthodontist on the same floor as his office) these are good people who have done their best. They don't have so much but they don't need so much and, given that they're still together when fewer and fewer could make it work, appear to be happy i.e. successful where it matters.
These are but some of the elements of one of the most sophisticated and urbane romantic comedies in network TV history. It offered validation to a lifestyle ordinary people could relate to. At it's best, the show celebrated the intelligent, industrious and altruistic family people of North American society who are at it's bulwark.
"What Problems Could A Guy Who Looks That Good Have?"
Chicago psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley PhD (Bob Newhart) makes the same trek back and forth from work each day on the LRT all year long. His breathtaking wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) however teaches grammar school and has not adequately planned for what to do with her summer days after the school year ends. Bob and their wacky neighbour Howard (Bill Daily) suggest various forms of sporting exercise none of which strike her immediate fancy but provide food for thought.
Bob returns home to find Emily has decided she wants to learn to play tennis and has shelled out for attire and equipment engaging the services of an instructor at a local club. His pleasant surprise that she has found a healthy pass-time is short-lived. Her instructor Stan Connors (Peter Brown) is a beefcake and stereo-typically a prime candidate for an affair. If Bob were not sedate and level-headed, as his PhD in psychology suggests, he might let possible scenarios cause him worry. The people he shares an office floor with are not particularly effective in assuaging his concerns.
No sooner has Emily begun her lessons when she gives her husband's business card to her instructor. The tall, athletic man with a great head of hair is in Bob's office the very next day hoping for help with his issue. The issue relates to his attractive physical appearance - a horrific calamity Stan a little bit too readily identifies as one Bob would not have first-hand experience with. Stan is under a constant siege of female attention and has trouble saying 'no' drifting from meaningless affair to meaningless affair. The level of pity, and sympathy Stan elicits from men everywhere due to his difficulty is, understandably, off the charts.
Bob, as a professional is, of course, determined to give this unfortunate man all the help he may require. The fact that Stan has identified Bob's wife as the most beautiful woman (Yep!) he has ever seen is added incentive. With every reason to be jealous, Bob of course has to be. A logical man, he is still far from coldly detached, which is what makes him a good psychologist, a fine husband and a profoundly sympathetic potential cuckold.
In this instance, where does that leave Bob? The position is far from flattering and the schadenfreude is side-splitting for the audience. Bob Newhart looked like what he was - an accountant from Oak Park. For whatever reason, the women who starred as his wives on his sitcoms were younger and beautiful. Mining that as a form of sight gag was a no-brainer and the fact they did it in the third episode of this series shows how obvious that was.
That they executed this teleplay so well illustrates the difference between this sitcom and others. Bob Newhart was not just funny, he was exceptionally intelligent in choices selecting what worked for him as a performer. He realized much of the potential of the premise by maintaining a solid working relationship with with MTM productions and CBS. They got writers that knew the act of the performer and played to his strengths.
What they delivered consistently was an adult comedy (Utilizing old-fashioned subtlety and discretion) that the whole family could watch. It tended to resonate more with older audiences but not to the complete exclusion of young adults.
Elementary Logic Is The Very First Victim
Top-rated soap opera Littleton, USA has a huge following. The success of the show coincides with the phenomenon of soap operas reaching a peak of popularity (There were 15 American network TV soap operas on the air in 1982) across North America and worldwide. The show's creator Carla Sherman (Suzanne Pleshette), who is also head writer, faces the unexpected crisis of Quenton Mallory (John Gabriel) one of her stars getting murdered. His character, the show's resident cad, was pivotal to her new story-line.
Suzanne Pleshette's character is meant to be a reflection of the audience. She used to be a soap fan who then tried her hand at writing. As a former member of the audience she is appalled when she hears the network wants to have a morbid clips show celebrating the career of the murdered star. Real audiences would be appalled too. But it is probably what the network, and the show, would have done if that had really happened. Almost nothing of what we see appears formulated from what would have been done if any of this really happened.
In keeping with the expected for a murder mystery the victim was roundly loathed which could have maximized the number of possible assailants with similar but different motives offering solid basis for a whodunit. But when a well-liked younger star (Peter Bergman) is murdered days later any suspect and motive becomes less clear. With a second slaying it also becomes less clear why the network doesn't put the show on hiatus and lock down the set. But they soldier on with two fewer characters. This is where the plot veers off into complete absurdity.
After another popular young star (Robin Mattson) and her husband are murdered, the network of course shelves things. But they quickly get production going again hiring security people to watch the cast. That doesn't help when Carla is nearly strangled in her apartment. She recovers quickly. So quickly she even signs for the package the delivery guy drops off after his pushing of the buzzer to her apartment has scared off her assailant.
Detective Flynn (Barry Newman) of the LAPD, the man assigned to the high-profile case, is entirely ineffectual as a cop but somehow successful as a love interest. Carla, rebuffs his suggestion that a security guard be assigned to her. She tells him she'll just get the locks changed. If there were any realism at all her house would be locked down as an active crime-scene and she'd be in hospital.
Instead Carla and Flynn get cozy on her couch and bounce around theories about the killer. They muse about the aspect of fans thinking the show is real - a well-known but highly exaggerated phenomenon. Carla appears to conclude that is what the motive really is. Without the flimsiest of clues indicating anything of any kind her theory cannot be refuted. But her certainty of it is equally unverifiable.
The murderer (Seeing her from the point of view of a subjective camera) stalks her humming "Pop goes the weasel" (A biting statement upon the predictable and simplistic direction bad soap opera narratives often take?). It could be that he just can't believe his luck at how lax security is and how easy his prey appears to want to make his killing spree. The nonsensical conclusion makes it seem like they decided on the killer by drawing from a hat full of names.
The idea of having a TV movie about a soap opera featuring the roster of soap opera stars of leading soap network ABC (All My Children, General Hospital, Ryan's Hope etc) which broadcast it was very clever advertising. Coinciding with the popularity of soap operas in the 1980s were, of course, slasher films. A hybrid of that could have been enticing for some audiences. But it doesn't look they got enough beyond that conceptual framework to do anything with it that makes sense.
Attempting to combine elements of mystery, suspense, horror, family comedy and romance it comes off like a grab-bag of bits gleaned from unused screenplays. It also looks like a rushed job.
It is also really regrettable that such an appealing cast goes wasted here. Any TV production in the early 1980s that could boast Suzanne Pleshette and Barry Newman as leads was, theoretically, on pretty solid footing. There is in fact not a single bad actor in the entire cast. The same thing that happened with this production happened far too often with even the best of soap operas that have great casts. They wrote themselves into a corner.
The Associates: The Censors (1980)
A True TV Sitcom Classic Episode.
Wall Street law firm Bass & Marshall has a major TV network (This is back when there were only three) as client. The network have slotted a new sitcom called "Me & Stevie" about a single dad with a young son. The network's Standards and Practices people have censored a line of dialogue that they think will get them in trouble. Phil Kramer (Stuart Margolin) the producer of the show appears ready to file a lawsuit citing the creative free-hand he was contractually promised.
The law firm is asked to send an associate to California to sit in on a meeting between the two sides and persuade (possibly intimidate) the producer into caving. Senior Partner Emerson Marshall (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and junior partner Eliot Streeter (Joe Regalbuto) suss out who among their three brightest young attorneys - Tucker Kerwin (Martin Short), Leslie Dunn (Alley Mills) and Sara James (Shelley Smith) will serve them on the assignment.
With the selection process ultimately in the withered hands of Marshall, fully at his caprices and whims which don't always appear formulated by cognisance, who will it be? Who will best fit in amongst Hollywood people? Sara MIGHT be the obvious choice because she attended Stanford and has screen star glamour. It could've been Leslie and been used to better flesh out the arc of her character - one which they never quite contrasted with Tucker. Of course it has to be Tucker (Martin Short was the real star AND the one getting the best critical notices).
For what looks like the most absurd-seeming reason (His sense of humour gaged by a bad joke Marshall relates) Tucker gets sent. He and the network guy Gerry McMartin (Lee Wallace) meet with Kramer on set. Kramer, whilst exhibiting the diva kind of manner of some of our best creatives offers to drop it on one condition and one condition only - if they see the scene in question and tell him it isn't funny. Suddenly Marshall's choice of Tucker, who didn't laugh at a joke Marshall didn't find funny either, seems entirely calculated.
The scene involves the kid (A boy scout no less) walking in on his dad (Guest star John Ritter) with a high-voiced, flighty, crass and extremely well-endowed woman (Louisa Moritz) he picked up at a bowling alley. Though it happens off stage it is comedically obvious they've been caught inflagrante delicto (Latin is NOT the exclusive property of jurists!). Contained within the scene (Amidst genius physical comedy of the most adult kind performed with side-splitting precision by Ritter and Moritz) is a single line of very offensive dialogue which no logical creative would see as integral but will make all the difference.
Tucker is practically falling out of his seat in amusement watching John Ritter at his best. Not only is the scene on the fictional sitcom that funny (And that well-done) it is a true to life articulation of the awkward way in which a single dad might be prompted to give his son "The Talk" earlier than expected out of flagrant necessity. There is no question it is edgy and that some (The same people who find everything objectionable) may think it is in poor taste.
But could the network face real push-back from viewers, and by extension, sponsors? The network had to consider that as did their lawyers when push came to shove as it sometimes did. Tucker honors that as responsibly as his fiduciary responsibility calls for and goes further. But he knows he shouldn't have laughed. He might also know that he should not have agreed to any "Just tell me it's not funny. That's ALL you have to do!" challenges to watch a scene on the floor of a Hollywood soundstage.
The network adjusts it's position which results in a meeting at Kramer's office. Also invited to the meeting is a Mr.Adamson (Lee Brestoff) gay activist (Presumably from an imaginary composite of a representative of GLAAD) with flamboyant mannerisms who turns out to be profoundly reasonable in every way, indicates no problems with any aspect of the script (Having read it in full) and very clearly, even eloquently articulates that. The conspicuously cooperative activist then reveals something very telling which diminishes Kramer's position.
This was, for it's time and present time, scathingly funny social satire that pokes fun not only at political issues but at TV production itself. The most essential part is Margolin (Angel from The Rockford Files) utterly eviscerating - in the most loving manner possible that one can eviscerate an entire group (Screen Auteurs) of people. Kramer is ruthless and stubborn in not allowing the slightest alteration to his art (Even though it is not particularly subjective what works and what doesn't about the Stevie show scene) but also so desperate for any kind of validation from anyone that he'll take common courtesy as heartfelt praise.
The compromise resolution presents a different kind of comedy. It sends up how network TV sitcoms could be utterly destroyed by the most insane compromises made by people who don't know comedy or television. We see the absurdly altered version of Stevie & Me watched by Tucker, the other Associates and Streeter back at the law office and note how the script (And casting) on the fictional show can be ruined by pandering to all tastes.
So they've got John Ritter - one of the more gifted and beloved sitcom actors in history, as guest-star whilst he was the male lead on Three's Company produced on ABC (which also produced The Associates). The story-line is controversial and topical - filled with precisely the issues facing TV productions of that time. Plus they have one of the raunchiest scenes in American network TV history to that point in time.
Ratings were remarkably disappointing and there would be only four episodes before this series got canned. It suggests they may have been attempting a kind of beau risque at some point early in the production stage to reverse their fortunes. But it is nothing less than some of the very best network TV I have ever seen. The self-awareness alone puts right it up there as nothing less than classic. Even the idea of this episode makes me cackle.
Free to air commercial network TV really did use to be very provocative and edgy until censorship took hold. Unless they have seen reruns it is difficult to convince people of that now. Archie Bunker was still on the air hurling every kind of derogatory epithet. Sanford & Son did some of the same. It was about properly depicting the way real people talk whilst telling a story.
At the time few insults were more offensive than insulting the intelligence of the audience by assuming they can't handle mature content presented frankly. What this revolutionary episode previewed was another of it's grim truths i.e. the rise of censorship was on it's way. The overall idea appeared to be to present a different grim truth every episode.
My only criticism is that Tucker is the one who gets sent to Hollywood instead of Leslie or Sara or even Streeter. The cast doesn't really become an ensemble unless one of the ones who isn't Martin Short gets to do something. These writers would easily have had to have known that as would the star. Couldn't it have been written for one of the other associate characters?
The closing lines of dialogue of this episode can seem very telling.
The Associates: Is Romance Dead? (1979)
Martin Short's Best Performance
Idealistic young lawyer Tucker Kerwin (Martin Short) has developed an understandable infatuation for gorgeous fellow associate Sara James (Shelley Smith) his colleague at the prestigious Wall Street law firm Bass & Marshall. The statuesque bottle-blonde was of a physical type popular back in the day and she would do quite for herself now. But no man could hope to keep her for long.
Her law degree from Stanford shows more ambition than character in context with everything else we see. Sara - a venal sort of gold-digger and power-monger with no evident sense of shame has gathered an impressive stable of suitors quite quickly, would never consider a man at her level of power and means and certainly not lower. Tucker is so beneath her radar that she finds his attentions amusing and quaint.
A corporate law-firm will offer her opportunity to meet her first husband who will more than likely be quite affluent and powerful. From there she can meet her second husband - possibly a future president. She hasn't managed her expectations or seen a need to. Nights at galas, drinks in the Blue Room at the Algonquin and brunch at Tavern on the Green will offer introduction to many well-heeled inamorato.
Tucker - her associate and contemporary, for all his flaws, will more than likely be making six figures before he is 35 - IF he can take the weight of the most morally reprehensible litigation his firm constantly throws his way. Plenty of the most materialistic women would find him quite a catch. But he wants Sara.
Sara acts unprofessionally showing up to work in an black cashmere evening gown. She undresses down to her silk teddy right in front of Tucker in her office whilst talking to him like he is a female confidant instead of a male colleague. The timing is poor. They are set to work together representing Julius Barnes (Jack Gilford) a college professor/author accused of plagiarizing the writing of one of his students. Tucker's unrequited feelings become obvious to the client who surprisingly offers help.
Tucker asks fellow associate Leslie Dunn (Alley Mills) who is a tad smitten with him and not exactly surrounded by male admirers, if he can use her as surrogate to sound out the approach Julius has coached him on to use to woo Sara. In so doing, Tucker treats Leslie as poorly as Sara has treated him and been as utterly oblivious to HER feelings as Sara was with his. Tucker is at very least awarded the pat on the head of Sara affirming that he is "A sweet little person". Leslie has the last laugh but she and Tucker continue to looking for something out of reach.
Because it is Bass & Marshall, the client is, of course, the bad guy - somebody who has enriched himself enough to afford their hefty retainer to defend against those who might seek actual justice. Because that client is played by Jack Gilford there is a tither of humour almost immediately. But this guy is a villain in someone's life story. As light-hearted and human a representation of the sinister as he is, nothing changes what Julius Barnes has done even if he helps Tucker.
Shelley Smith did quite well giving audiences a little more of the nuance which made Sara James tick, in effect constructing a defense for her. But Sara remained a one-dimensional supporting character at that point not quite ready to become lead. The other cast members suitably asserted their characterizations in a way that told the story adding subtext to their characters subtext. Jack Gilford was also a solid guest-star for any sitcom.
With all that going for it this episode then features a comedic performance by Martin Short that crosses over into pure genius involving a take on the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet that is comedy gold. The writing can only be so good on it's own. A performer can bring it to life in so many other ways with how they interpret it. That is what Martin Short continuously did on this series in portraying a character who certainly thinks he is a nice guy and acts like a nice guy but is continuously betrayed by his absurd ambitions in service to very bad people.
How nice is Tucker really? How nice are any of them? In the first episode Tucker was tasked with a case in which he had to help argue in favour of a property developer's right to tear down a 200 year old cathedral. In this second one he is helping defend an indefensible client in Barnes who offers him poor advice which Barnes has likely stolen from other people. If he is a nice guy he is most certainly an ineffectual one.
The sum total of Tucker's activism consists of neurotically expressed guilty feelings. But that has consistency. If he is deluded enough to think Sara will ever see him in a romantic way he is probably deluded to think he can make a difference for the better at Bass & Marshall. He is that much of dreamer which can make him likeable even if he isn't nice (Which we see him try to be).