Lou Grant: s05 e03 – Reckless


Yes, ossifer?

After two strong and direct episodes, each with a clear storyline, we were back to the A/B model this week, with a diffusing effect. Granted, the two storylines were more equal in weight than has been seen for some time, giving the B story more strength than usual, but as always, two competing threads ran the risk of not cohering, and failed to totally convince.

It didn’t help that the supposedly comic open, of Lou waking up at home with an appalling hangover that rendered him semi-human, cod cliche joke about putting his shoes in the fridge, etc., was more disturbing than comic. The drinking theme continued, as if he’d never entirely sobered up, and it resulted in him being busted for drunk driving, after being pulled over by the Police for having a busted taillight, caused by giving Charlie a lift.

The need to give Charlie a lift was the catalyst for the A story. Charlie’s car was busted into in broad daylight, with no-one ‘seeing anything’. The irate Charlie proposed, with hearty police support, and lukewarm support from Mrs Pynchon, an anonymous tip-line, Private Eye (some people’s imagination is sooo limited), run by the Trib. An anonymous caller with an English accent phones in a tip about a murder.

On the one hand, we have Lou, who is guilty, going through the programme, consisting of community service that causes him to miss a great game, accompanied by Billie to report on the same, culminating with the two taking the drunk driving test run: a deliberately difficult course to be driven sober at top speed before the drivers are then rendered legally intoxicated with free, Police-bought beer, before driving the course again, with predictable outcomes.

This relatively straight expose of the risks of drunk driving and how quickly you hit that drunk stage had the necessary effect: nobody stopped drinking until they were blootered but at least they now took cabs or, for a comic ending, all begged lifts off Rossi.

Who was the major figure in the A story. Rossi’s uncomfortable with the whole Private Eye thing, his natural suspicions about everything automatically, and seriously, anatomising its possible flaws. The murder tip identifies a suspect whio becomes an accused, an accused whose right to confront his accuser is being denied by the absolute privacy afforded the tipster. Who will get $2,500.00 for a conviction. Doubts set in immediately.

Rossi tries to find the tipster, in breach of the conditions of Private Eye, This outrages Charlie, especially when Rossi’s investigations threaten to undermine everything by his failure to find a woman with an English accent associated with any of the houses from which the murder could be seen. Lou sends him back to recheck, whereupon he finds, by chance, the Englishwoman realtor selling the empty house…

So, the tip was solid, the suspect was guilty, Private Eye worked, but it could so easily have been the other way round. that’s enough to shake Charlie, whose enthusiasm for the scheme is now wavering, and when a civic group offers to take it over, the Trib jump at it.

It’s a reminder of an older time, once again, where you could talk about journalistic integrity without horse laughs. Yes, I know, the Trib’s reporting staff are ideals, paragons sans fear, sans dishonesty, for whom chequebook journalism is an anathema, and it went on then, but wouldn’t you just love to think that the modern crop might investigate the tips they pay for instead of writing them up as stories because they sound good, not because they’re true.

Both strands were decent stories but there was little or no synergy and each ultimately detracted from the other. Still, let’s give the last season a bit more time to show it’s more episodes 1/2 than 3, eh?

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