While Oscar thinks his Eskimo friend would make a great quarterback, Felix wants him to follow his cello talents.

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(based on the play "The Odd Couple" by), (developed for television by) | 3 more credits »
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Ernie Wilson
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Efram Goodchild
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Slim Daniels
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While Oscar thinks his Eskimo friend would make a great quarterback, Felix wants him to follow his cello talents.

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Comedy

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14 January 1971 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Affirmative Action Eskimo is Helped by the Couple
18 October 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This episode began with Oscar sneaking in some fellow in a parka to the apartment, and being caught immediately by Felix, who is told that the young man has just finished college at Alaska A & M and is a fabulous football quarterback, Ernie Wilson, whom all the pro teams are dying to sign to a contract—which Oscar is going to help him with for 10% of the deal.

Oscar knew Ernie because he had somehow written about him in his column. Players having contracts negotiated by an agent was still a relatively new thing in sports, but a sportswriter who knew the guy might well have attempted to help him, and himself, as Oscar was trying to do.

Now the NFL draft had been around for decades, beginning in 1936, so the whole premise of this episode did not ring true for football fans. If Ernie was so highly sought-after, he would have been drafted. Players not drafted do sign with pro teams, but they are not, then or now, highly desired by all the pro clubs, as Oscar stated.

Ernie was also an Eskimo, which led to a succession of jokes between him and Felix about cold weather, eating fish, etc., mostly stated by Felix who immediately apologized for his dumb jokes.

Ernie was played by Reni Santoni, a 31-year old actor best known for his role as Poppie on Seinfeld, but who has a long list of TV credits dating to 1964.

Right after introducing Ernie to Felix, Oscar leaves to go to his office to make phone calls for Ernie, with strict instructions for Felix to keep Ernie in the apartment and not let anyone in, lest some team representative be eagerly trying to sign him to a contract without Oscar helping.

Almost immediately, Felix answers the doorbell and a big, burly guy almost forces his way into the apartment, but he has nothing to do with football. He represents some, I presume, fictional musical school who is eager to sign Ernie as a cellist.

Felix is impressed with Ernie now, and we are told that Ernie would like to study music instead of playing pro football, even though the money wouldn't be nearly as much. Oscar, on learning from Felix that Ernie would like this comes on board. Only as soon as Ernie starts playing the cello Felix rented for him, Felix learns that he is terrible at this talent.

He phones the man from the musical school, who comes over and agrees that Ernie is terrible at playing. He reveals that he is desired because they don't have an Eskimo cellist. They don't use the words "affirmative action" but this is what they are describing. Schools and businesses were eager for "token" representatives to put up appearances that they were diversified and many people got places in a school—in this type of instance—who weren't at all qualified in the skills normally needed. The episode was really a stinging criticism of this practice, without really delving into the politics of it all.

The "big scene" set up by all of this is a pro team owner, Slim Daniels (Dub Taylor), supposedly with a background, not a personality, like that of Gene Autry, comes by with three other men to the apartment, to find out why Oscar told him Ernie was not interested in playing football anymore, not knowing that the QB had now changed his mind, on learning why he was desired by the musical school.

Slim talks about his accountant and his lawyer, leaving Oscar to ask about the third man. We all learn that it is Slim's movie sidekick, Grubby (not Gabby) who happily recites on of his supposed movie lines that endeared him to movie fans. Slim still employs Grubby because "we take care of our own." The scenes with Slim were the funniest in the show, as improbable as they were. I don't think it will spoil the fun for anyone to read here how the resolution really was that Ernie was advised by Oscar to get a good lawyer to help him sign the contract because Oscar was inexperienced at that. Frankly, as a big-time sports writer, Oscar would have the knowledge of what other QBs were getting and actually could have gotten him a good contract. In those days, most players had one-year contracts, or maybe 2-3 years and there wasn't any salary cap, or deferred money to complicate matters.

Nowhere near the best episode, there were some laughs and it was nice to see the pair not getting into any sort of fight for a change. Some of their arguments were quite funny, but a series wears out its welcome if they keep having big arguments almost every week. I gave it a 7, with one point just for seeing Poppie a quarter of century before his wacky role on Seinfeld.


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