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Frasier: Don Juan in Hell: Part 2 (2001)
Neil Simon wrote this first
This is one of the better episode of Frasier. It was great to see Lilith Sternin and Diane Crane again. And Rita Wilson was great as Frasier's mother. Although they might have found a better actress to play Frasier's first girlfriend.
But this episode was clearly based on Neil Simon's play and TV movie "Jake's Women" of 1996. Just like Frasier, Jake imagines himself talking to all the women from his past. That was five years before this episode of Frasier aired.
Kudos to the Frasier writers for producing this fine episode. But why do I feel that Neil Simon should get a piece of your royalty checks?
Emergency!: The Game (1976)
Leaves something to be desired
I give Cinader and company credit for continuing to come up with different rescues, but this episode is underwhelming. Roy and John are assigned as part of a ten-paramedic contingent at a USC football game and somehow manage to catch every call in the stadium that day. None of the stadium rescues are particularly telegenic or interesting. After the last rescue, Roy and John return to stadium by ambulance, walk inside and find the place deserted. The game is over. Everyone has gone home. Even the ambulance left. Now I enjoy a good Roy and John joke as much as anyone, but this was ridiculous because an empty parking lot would have tipped them off; not to mention a time check.
Best thing about the episode occurred before and after the first (and only non-stadium) rescue of a man in a tree. A woman gets into a van with her daughter (age about 6), tells her to fasten her seat belt but doesn't fasten her own. I wanted the girl to say, "So it's do as I say, not as I do again, right, mom?"
This is the first mention of seat belts in Emergency that I recall. Roy and John never wear them while riding in their squad.
This episode strains credibility to my breaking point
I understand that one can't expect TV dramas to adhere strictly to reality. They'd be as boring as everyday life and soon canceled. So some conceits are acceptable and even necessary if a show is going to succeed. But this NCIS episode goes too far.
What we are expected to believe is that DiNozzo and McGee, without official authorization, enter an African country and deliberately allow themselves to be captured by Arab terrorists who are holding their colleague Ziva David. Why would they do that? Because their capture allows Gibbs to officially mount a rescue operation that apparently consists solely of himself. Somehow Tony, who has no way of knowing that Gibbs successfully positioned himself for a shot with a sniper rifle, tells the terrorist that he will be shot moments before Gibbs fires. Gibbs then dispatches two more terrorists from the same distant location while DiNozzo and McGee carry David out of the room they were held in. Then, suddenly, Gibbs stands in front of the three ex-captives and says, Let's go home. In the next scene they are walking into NCIS headquarters looking as if they haven't even showered since their ordeal. And everyone gives them a round of applause. I felt like giving them a raspberry.
I understand that many people find this episode compelling drama, but I don't understand how they can accept the fantastic improbabilities in the plot. Audiences must be easier to please than they once were.
Blue Bloods (2010)
Premise is too ridiculous to believe
I've only seen first season of this CBS drama and don't plan to watch subsequent seasons. Reason I bought it on DVD is that it was inexpensive ($13), starred Tom Selleck and recommended by my mother. I like that it showed a close family that still has dinner together once a week. That's a good message for viewers. The stories are good, as is the acting. But I have a big problem with the central conceit that every high profile case in New York City is handled by members of this family. Danny investigates, and his sister Erin prosecutes; frequently working together as a team. Are there no other detectives in the NYPD? Or does Danny do everything? In the penultimate episode of first season Danny is even allowed to be lead investigator in the death of a married couple whose children he grew up with and are suspects. That was a real stretch. I have no inside knowledge of NYPD procedures, but I'm pretty sure detectives aren't permitted to investigate crimes where they have such a conflict of interest. I know that conceits are necessary in every show that isn't a documentary. But producers and writers sometimes go too far, and I can't swallow their conceits. That is the case here.
Another problem I have is that everything about the premise seems to have been crafted to appeal to a demographic that show business usually disdains: Middle class, heterosexual, white Americans who attend church, obey the law and believe in strong family ties. They even named the family Reagan! It would be nice to learn that the show's creators and writers really feel that way. But the cynical ex-journalist in me says that's probably not true. It feels like the makers of Blue Bloods are playing me, and I don't like that.
Emergency!: Simple Adjustment (1975)
Gage and DeSoto get the idea to tape record their notes on the fly when they are busy. Then they can listen to the tape later when completing reports. I thought it was a good idea, too, but they went about it all wrong. They wired a tape recorder into the squad somehow (which was milked for laughs several times) so they could record by keying up a microphone. And their ultimate effort was a failure. Why didn't they just use a hand-held cassette recorder and speak into its built-in mic? I know Gage might be too dumb to realize this, but adding DeSoto to the ranks of the clueless is like replacing Abbott with another Costello. To top it off, when the boys attempt to demonstrate their prowess in recording their notes to fellow firefighters they are using a hand-held cassette recorder with a built-in microphone (and have somehow recorded radio calls, not their notes).
I know Cinader and company took a few liberties with reality in making "Emergency!", but this tale was as difficult to swallow as Hugh Simon's potage au gelee in "What's Up, Doc?"
Emergency!: The Hard Hours (1974)
Touching yet funny
I knew something was going to happen to Dr. Joe Early when he offered to have a look at the rough-running engine of "the squad" before Roy and Johnny left for the firehouse. "You're points are probably stuck," he said after just hearing the engine run. Asking Johnny for a screwdriver, Joe had the squad running like new in 30 seconds. How can we repay you? Johnny and Roy ask. Joe says to invite him to dinner at firehouse next time Capt. Stanley makes clam chowder.
Next thing we know, Joe needs a bypass operation, which saddens Dixie, Kel, Johnny and Roy. The actors do yeoman's work in conveying their empathy with Joe. And Bobby Troup (as Joe) gets to do a little more acting than he usually does.
The funny part comes when Kel visits Joe just before his chest is shaved for surgery. Turns out Joe has chest hair like a shag carpet. I had to wonder if they put fake chest hair on Troup, or if they took one look at Troup's natural chest hair and knew it would make a good joke.
And, of course, after Joe's successful surgery, Roy and Johnny came a calling and delivered a Thermos full of Capt. Stanley's clam chowder.
Very weak episode
I love JAG, but this episode is a stinker apart from the subplot about Harriet's weird pregnancy behavior and how it affects the admiral. Harm and MacKenzie investigate after an F-14 pilot doesn't pull the trigger when he has an enemy plane in his sights. The pilot claims to have heard a disembodied voice saying "Don't fire." Harm and this pilot take two F-14s aloft to try to "re-create" the mission on which the incident occurred. That would normally be the point where the explanation for the heretofore inexplicable occurrence appears. But instead we are treated to (and here is the spoiler) contaminated oxygen causing the suspect pilot and his back-seater to remove their oxygen masks and fall unconscious due to lack of oxygen. This right after maneuvering to intercept imagined Klingons (seriously) on account hallucinations brought on by hypoxia. Nevertheless, the autopilot has somehow been engaged by the time pilot and RIO are unconscious. That sets the scene for Rabb to do some skillful flying to disengage the autopilot and save the lives of the unconscious men (who recover consciousness at lower altitude). So they return to the carrier, and everyone seems to feel that the problem has been solved. But it hasn't. Rabb even says the oxygen must have been fine on the original mission, and the voice the pilot heard remains a mystery. Hard to believe the Navy would be happy with that ending. It still has a pilot who might not shoot when necessary on account of another "voice."
JAG: Someone to Watch Over Annie (1998)
Rabb sings, Admiral kicks butt
This is one of my favorite JAG episodes, but not because Rabb plays guitar and sings a love song to Annie Pendry. That part is rather cringe worthy but worth seeing just for the novelty of it. No, I like that we finally get to see Admiral Chegwidden reveal more of himself to the other characters and fight with them to save a boy in trouble. (A boy that he, too, has bonded with after pretending not to care.) Once he and Major MacKenzie have beat hell out of two bad guys, Chegwidden says, "Hoo-ah" in the most understated way possible, and it's hilarious. She later kisses him on the cheek, and it's a beautiful moment.
JAG is among my all-time favorite programs, and I have all ten seasons on DVD. The first season was great from the start, but the second season began with three below-average episodes. (Maybe more, but in my current run through the series I'm only up to third episode of second season.) These three episodes include happy endings that defy credibility. In Jinx, a RIO quits because he believes he brings bad luck to every pilot he flies with. Rabb agrees to fly with him on a missing man formation funeral flight. An accident happens, of course, and Rabb and the RIO work together to land the F-14. Then, suddenly, the "jinx" is over. Rabb killed it by surviving the mission. It was amazing how quickly he recovered from having a piece of plexiglass in his eye.
I suspect we can chalk up these poor episodes at beginning of second season to fact that JAG was canceled by NBC and picked up by CBS. It was retooled and essentially a new show, so Bellisario was stuck trying to make new characters Sarah McKenzie and Bud Roberts fit into the fun and games. Not to mention whatever pressure he was under from CBS.
This is an unusually good episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Ted has a mild heart attack, causing him to appreciate life all the more. His colleagues are frustrated with him at first but eventually come to feel the same way. Lou and Mary tell each other how much they are appreciated. No joke about it. And it works well. Murray realizes he is a lucky man to have a wife and kids and friends. The episode ends with the three of them simply admiring a sunset from the heretofore unseen WJM film library. I was reminded of a movie Mary made in 1968 called "What's So Bad About Feeling Good," in which a South American bird infects New Yorkers with a virus that makes them happy all the time. One wonders if episode writer Earl Pomerantz was influenced by "What's So Bad About Feeling Good" in the creating this great episode.