Evening Shade: Season 4, Episode 18

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Wood (7 Feb. 1994)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy
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Stonewell
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7 February 1994 (USA)  »

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The title is based on the movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). See more »

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Leslie's Last Laugh
21 June 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I used to enjoy the program EVENING SHADE, which followed the lives of a set of southerners who lived in a small town of that name. The central figure in the comedy was the town sheriff Wood (Burt Reynold) who was married to Ava (Marilu Henner) and had three children. His closest friend was Harlan, the town doctor (Charles Durning), but he also was the friend of Ponder (Ossie Davis), and had a small sized but interesting deputy Herman (Michael Jeter) who had to live in the home of Wood's sister Frieda (Elizabeth Ashley - whose role and performance suggested she could easily have been a relative of the Sugarbaker sisters on DESIGNING WOMEN).

The stories were usually quite amusing, especially about the problems Jeter had with his bossy, opinionated landlady. They didn't always center on that relationship. One dealt with the fleetingness of glory. Wood won his reputation as a local gridiron hero in a stunning touchdown he made in a critical high school game several decades before. As it turned out Harlan had taken home movies of the stunning moment, but never showed them. Finally developing the film it turns out that Wood made a highly irregular technical error that was not noticed at the time. Naturally it disqualified that heroic touchdown. And naturally the town gets a trifle sore at their tainted hero (not, mind you, at the garrulous Harlan, who could have seen the footage himself, realized the impact it would have had, and destroyed it before anyone else saw it!).

This particular episode of EVENING SHADE was in the final year of it's too short production life (only four seasons in the early 1990s, but at least 79 episodes). Leslie Nielson made an unexpected appearance on the episode as a wealthy seeming eccentric gentleman named Stonewall. A fun loving type, Stonewall enjoys setting off expensive fireworks on holidays, but frequently there are complaint by town-people about the dangerous nature of his pyrotechnical displays. Wood visits Stonewall and informs him that he is no longer going to be allowed to display the fireworks. Stonewall, naturally, insists that he has been careful about his actions and that the complaints are from chronic malcontents. Nevertheless Wood insists: no more fireworks or Stonewall will be arrested.

During the course of the confrontation, Wood (who lives comfortably but has a large family to support) makes some pointed remarks about Stonewall having so much money as he doesn't know what to do with it (like he doesn't know how to have relatively safe fun that everyone can enjoy). Stonewall of course notes this, and points out it's none of Wood's business to criticize him on how he spends his fortune - moreover Wood shouldn't think of commenting on this unless he had the money himself.

Shortly after the confrontation, word spreads that Stonewall has died - in a last fit of insanity and thumbing his nose at Wood he set off all his fireworks into his limousine while he was inside it. Then Ponder shows up with a legal document. It is Stonewall's last will and testament: His multi-million dollar estate is up for grabs between Wood and Harlan, with Ponder and Herman as the executors (guaranteed a fee of #100,000.00 each). The estate is to be either split in half if both Wood and Harlan perform the chores assigned them, or it goes to the one who does stick to it and performs those chores. If neither does it goes to charity.

The chores, of course, make both Wood and Harlan look increasingly ridiculous, such as singing about little Dutch school girls, while wearing dresses and wigs like they are little Dutch school girls. As each chore goes forward, Wood is getting queasier and queasier about doing them - only to be egged on by Ava who reminds him of the trust funds that can be set up for their kids. At first Ponder and Herman are enjoying the embarrassment of their two friends doing these silly chores, until they find that the original promised $100,000 fees are now pegged on them joining in on the silly chores too.

The episode is titled "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Wood" in honor of the classic "greed" comedy, IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD World. Actually it is similar to the British Comedy LAUGHTER IN PARADISE, where Alistair Sim and other legatees are forced by the testator to perform ridiculous and demeaning actions to inherit his money.

SPOILIER COMING UP:

At the last moment, Stonewall pops up - he had not died in the destruction of the limousine, but set it up so as to produce this practical joke and teach Wood and his friends a lesson about money and greed. Stonewall never was mean with his money, but the way Wood painted him he was supposed to have been selfish - like the fake Stonewall behind the will. Actually, even for the best of reasons (Ava's wanting to give her kids security) money makes people who count too much on it act atrociously. Stonewall then leaves - he's going to have dinner and set off some more fireworks.

It's too bad the series ended when it did - Neilson could have returned as a semi-regular pretty nicely.


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