Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ain't I a stinker?--Vol. I

First of an occasional series where I salute those truly crappy episodes that inevitably come from good TV series...

Any show that runs 11 years is bound to have its fair share of clunker episodes, and “Frasier” is no exception, especially near the end of the show’s run when many eps involved Daphne‘s insufferable mother, Gertrude, but there are two that really stick out for me.  One of them seems to be universally hated by “Frasier” fans, “Enemy At The Gate” from 2001, where Frasier makes a big fuss about an exorbitant parking garage fee which he refuses to pay and inconsiderately causes a major back-up of cars behind him and Niles at the gate.  Confounded, manyou’re a bloody psychologist and can afford to pay the friggin' $8.50 (or whatever it was)!  The other one I hate is called “Four For The Seesaw” from 1997 where Niles and Frasier impulsively snag a weekend getaway at a mountain cabin with two babes (because life is just THAT kind!) and suddenly morph into Ralph and Potsie once they get there.  Those are the two “Frasier” episodes I refuse to sit through in reruns.

I loved “Friends” to death, but they had several episodes (again, toward the end of the show's run) that basically sucked, and my all-time “Friends” cringe moment was the episode where Ross had to hide the fact that he had the audacity to shop at Pottery Barn because Phoebe absolutely hated Pottery Barn!  First off, this was such a blatantly transparent commercial for Pottery Barn, and secondly, what exactly would Ross have to fear if he did indeed experience the wrath of the omnipotent Pheebsa whack on his pee-pee?  Oh, horror of horrors!  Another one I hated was the time Ross enlisted Joey and Rachel to help him move his new sofa up the steps and he kept uttering the word “PIVOT!” over and over at every turn (pun intended).  And then there was the shameless self-promotion when Robin Williams and Billy Crystal guested briefly in the coffee house in one ep the very same week they just happened to have some movie coming out (which tanked, big-time).
 January 29, 1971 is a date that will live in TV infamy as “The Partridge Family” bus cruised into Motown and they wound up hanging out in the Hood with guest stars Richard Pryor and Louis Gossett, Jr. in the episode called “Soul Club”.  Seems our heroes in crushed velvet somehow got booked at a club called “The Fire House” in the ghetto after somehow being confused with the Temptations (they were practically interchangable, after allnice going, Reuben!) and the club (run by Pryor’s and Gossett’s characters) was about to go belly-up.  However, Keith (aka, "Soul Brother #2,908) saves the day by coming up with a new song ("kind of an Afro thing") and the P-Family delights the Soul Train crowd with “Bandala” and a grand time was had by all.  Talk about fucking science fiction…

“Sanford And Son” is my all-time favorite sitcom ever “on earth in this hemisphere,” as Fred would say, but the one episode that absolutely makes me cringe is the next-to-next-to-last one ever from 1977 called “Funny, You Don’t Look It”.  Did they really expect us to believe that Fred G. Sanford would ever actually think for a nanosecond that he was Jewish?!?  Even worse, by this time Redd Foxx was basically phoning in his performances (as was Demond Wilson as Lamont), so the acting in this episode was more wooden than Pinocchio.  Dare I say it?  You big dummies!

It’s no secret that “M*A*S*H” overstayed its welcome, and many of the episodesespecially after Radar leftwere subpar, like when Klinger runs a camp newspaper, or when the 4,077th staff tries to redo the O.R. floor in cement, et al.  The infamous “Dreams” episode that began the 1979 season is often cited by fans as another clunker, but it didn’t annoy me half as much as “War Co-Respondent” with guest star Susan St. James as “THE” Aggie O’Shea.  It was downright sickening the way the whole camp fawned over this gal, especially Hawkeye, who seemed to think he was entitled to doink every woman under the age of 35 who happened into camp, not to mention the contrived romance between Aggie and the ever-faithful B.J. Hunnicutt.  They should’ve paired her up with Klingerit’d have been a helluva lot funnier…

And then there’s our all-time favorite shark-jumpers, the gang at Arnold’s on “Happy Days”.  I like to divide up HD into two distinct eras:  Pre-Chachi and During-Chachi.  From the Pre-Chachi era, I give you the rather infamous “Fonzie’s New Friend” episode where “Happy Days” suddenly became socially-conscious by inserting a token Black character, Sticks Downey.  Oh yeah, like a brotha is going to play the drums for Richie, Ralph and Potsie!  Okay, tell me that one again about the oceanfront property in Winnipeg, will ya?

From the During-Chachi era, I give you “Potsie Quits School” from 1979 where young Warren Webber struggles with his anatomy studies in college and Da Fonz encourages him to assimilate his studies musically, so come final exam time, good ol’ Pots hums and sings his way through the test, and next thing you know, the entire classroom erupts into a college musical singing along to “Pump Your Blood” while Fonzie proclaims “My boy don’t cheat”, the professor acts all befuddled and Potsie prances around like a faggot.  It’s a sure death knell to any sitcom when it resorts to singing and dancing on every other episode.  As Robin Williams said in Dead Poet’s Society:  “Excrement!”

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