This episode remains controversial after more than 40 years. The crushing oppression of racism and ghetto life that still taints this country is hauntingly portrayed and the acting is brilliant, particularly that of James Earl Jones.
"East Side West Side" was canceled after 26 episodes largely because America in 1963, as now, was not ready to confront the effects of racism on the society. CBS affiliates in the Deep South refused to air this episode, and sponsors were unwilling to underwrite the program.
Filmed on location in New York, the show's hard edge and unflinching honesty are wonderful to watch. Unlike its counterpart "Naked City," which, while still a great show, is somewhat dated, East Side West Side may still be ahead of its time. A must see!
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****SPOILERS**** Shocking as well as ground breaking episode about life in the inner city slums of New York that even now some 50 years later hits the spot and shocks anyone who sees it with its stark realism in what people have to put up with in both living and dying there. Unemployed and looking for work Joe Goodwin, James Earl Jones, feels humiliated in his wife Ruth, Diana Sands, a waitress in a Harlem restaurant being the only breadwinner in the Goodwin family. With no skills and taking night course to achieve them Joe feels that the only work he can get is that of on unskilled laborer that barley pays for the rent or puts food on the table. It's one evening that the Goodwin's infant son is attacked and bitten by a rat that may very well have infected him with rabies.
The show goes from Joe being outraged in what happened to finally accepting it, as living in the slums, and hoping for the best in having the local hospital save his son's life. As for Ruth who was the anchor that Joe could hold on to she completely fell apart into a deep depression making Joe's effort to keep his sanity almost impossible. It's the kindly and understanding social worker Neil Brock, George C. Scott, who tries to lend a hand in getting the Goodwin's son medical attention that in the end turns out to be futile. Brock knowing that there's noting that he or the city can do can only keep silent and take all the unfounded abuse that Joe can throw at him and the agency that he works for. All that's now left for the Goodwin family is to get enough money from friends and neighbors as well as Brock chipping in to give his infant son a proper burial instead of having him interned in Potter's Field.
It's after that tragedy that the Goodwin's finally put the past behind them with Ruth recovering from her depression and Joe finally getting a good paying job from the city, as a maintenance worker, and later take night classes to improver himself. As for Neil Brock even though not family wise connected with the Goodwins this tragedy is as devastating to him as it is to them. That in Brock, as a social worker, in being their only and last hope together with city services being totally unable to help them.
This episode of "East Side West Side" because of its disturbing but effective storyline about life in the inner city was banned in a number city's throughout the US in that it was to be broadcast in. Even now some 50 years after being first broadcast it still shocks its audience as much now as it did back then and rightfully so. The episode opened up the door or floodgates to many future TV shows as well as movies about life in the inner city that for the most part the public, who didn't live and die there, were completely clueless about. And most of all if the episode didn't make things that much better for those living there, as unfortunately history has proved, it did make those watching it have their heads taken out of the sand and realize what they had to put up with! P.S a year later both George C. Scott and James Earl Jones were reunited in the 1964 end of the world back comedy about nuclear annihilation "Dr. Strangelove" or "How I stop worrying and learned to love the bomb".
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