Lovey Howell Gits Blowed Up Real Good!
Jason Daniel Baker from Toronto, Canada
13 August 2011
Houston has bought expensive tickets for he and C.J. to attend a
charity benefit at the Beverly Hills Social Club. A raffle is held for
a chance to drop a mallet on one of those "Test Your Strength" bells
for a big prize. Mean Hollywood gossip columnist Vonda Moran(Natalie
Schafer) wins, slams the mallet down and ka-boom she goes from the
Entertainment section to the Obituaries.
In the spirit of murder mystery novels the victim is an unpopular
individual a lot of people wanted dead for a variety of different
reasons maximizing the suspense up until the end. The victim is also
killed in an offbeat way all to lighten the mood of what should be
Houston's jet-set lifestyle means that he should be at home at an event
like this. His presence at a high society philanthropic function ties
in with the benevolence of the character as well his affluence. He has
a natural place in this mystery instead of being brought in like a
gumshoe out of the yellow pages, the type of introduction to a case
that was not understandable or logical but nevertheless was his point
of entry to a number of mysteries.
The mayor, chief of police and a notorious madam who were each at the
event entreat Houston to undertake a low-key investigation though it is
pretty obvious they are less concerned about who killed Ms.Moran and
more concerned about the recovery of a black book containing the
madam's trick-list detailing involvement of powerful men in something
called the "Aphrodisia Fellowship", a high-class escort service whose
clients also pool their resources to raise money for children's
Houston protests even when it is made clear to him his personal
expertise and discretion are a better remedy than police involvement
and the publicity that sometimes goes with it. His altruism is not
generally of the judgemental variety but it has its limits and
something that sounds suspiciously like the supposed ring behind the
Franklin Cover-Up is not his bag up until he meets one of the kids who
benefits from the charity.
Houston can be a skilled amateur and here they let him be that in an
episode which very nearly strikes a perfect balance that so few
episodes of this series ever approached. But the whole Aphrodisia
Fellowship angle did rather give me cause to raise an eyebrow. Were
they trying to make some important people nervous with this episode? My
only other criticism is minor as I regard this as one of the best
episodes of the debut season. Houston is nearly hit by a car again that
tries to run him down. My guess would be that Lee Horsley's stand-in
specialized in that kind of stunt but they just did that stunt to death
on this show.
As for the casting, the group assembled here was quite experienced and
appealing even though their respective characters weren't. It is
structured like an offbeat whodunit and several cast members were
actors from old sitcoms (Jayne Meadows, Ron Palilo, Natalie Schafer)
which was the way they had it in numerous episodes in the debut season.
These are actors to whom Lee Horsley can play straight man to which is
something he was very adept at.
That is Ben Murphy, a terrific TV actor who never really found a
suitable star vehicle portraying Terry Noble - essentially a
thinly-veiled version of womanizing baseball star Steve Garvey, a man
who layed so much pipe off the field he could have started a plumbing
service in the off-season.
Bo Hopkins (Who could have played Houston) portrays the Reverend Noah
Sunday - a thinly-veiled version of other well-known playas i.e. TV
evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart, who not only likes hookers but is
building a $60,000,000 cathedral over a garbage dump. They seemingly
milked every sacred cow they could think of in this one.
The Johnny Donato (Tony Longo - 21 years old at the time, playing the
lover of a character portrayed by an 82-year old actress) character who
is the younger lover of the Vonda Moran character is a version of
Johnny Stompanato, a mafia-thug who became Hollywood legend Lana
Turner's lover before becoming the victim of one of Tinseltown's more
sensational murders. Inexplicably the character Johnny Donato is
credited as "Johnny Gucci" when he is clearly called Johnny Donato
throughout the episode.
In case anyone was wondering Natalie Schafer was 82 years old when this
was shot and she continued acting in a few productions after this. The
joy of doing what you love never gets old for some people even long
after they do.
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