Lou Grant: s05 e14 – Hunger

Probably it’s a combination of things, including last week’s discovery with regard to ratings, but it’s been Person of Interest on Tuesday and Lou Grant on Thursday for two years now and there’s been a change in one and suddenly I’m finding it hard to summon up interest in Lou Grant. I want it over so I can go on to something else new, and fresh, on Thursday mornings as well, and I want that now and not in two and a half months time.

The feeling isn’t much helped by a poor episode. Though there’s a secondary story in the shape of Mrs Pynchon insisting on eliminating waste and the Trib staff reacting with the same calm, adult understanding you’d expect (ha!), that’s nowhere near enough to constitute a B-story, so this is basically a one story episode, with Joe Rossi, and it’s as didactic as the show gets at its weakest.

The set-up for the story is a bet between Rossi and Lou that anybody walking past them on the street is and can be a story. Lou takes the bet and selects a busy, brish middle-aged woman. This is Louise Frawley (Uta Hagen) and when Rossi follows her, he finds her climbing into a dumpster behind a restaurant and digging out unused food. You see, properly she’s Sister Louise Frawley, and she rescues unwanted food to serve to people at a soup kitchen.

As stories go it’s a story, but it’s been done before and Rossi can’t turn it into anything fresh. It gets in the paper so he wins his bet, but it’s three graphs nearer the back than the front so it’s not much of a win. But Sister Louise leads Rossi deeper in, with a photograph of an eight year old girl, a farmer’s daughter, who’s dying of pneumonia, her resistance crippled by malnutrition.

So Rossi winds up on the story, though it’s as a personal crusade. The paper doesn’t want it, indeed the Foreign and Financial Editors pour scorn on Rossi, a daily reporter, for even thinking he can understand the story. Lou takes him off the story, Sister Louise guilts/encourages him to continue, he’s doing it in his own time, working double shifts, getting crankier and crankier.

And the story tumbles out in a welter of facts about what and how and why, but it’s a liberal expose of things that have accumulated over the years: a foolish and misguided attempt to emulate America after the Second World War, Industry versus Agriculture, growing cities versus rural poverty, artificial depression of farm prices, emphasis moving from edible to non-edible products, vested interests, military governments, the whole nine yards.

Sister Louise goes back to Malagua, Joe’s story gets page 1 and he rushes after another guy-on-the-street story, this one with a more obvious eccentric angle. Basically, allowin for the factual importance of the story in front of an ignorant and uncaring American public, it’s the worst aspects of the series in one episode. No wonder ratings were plummeting.

I hope there’s something better left in the last ten episodes.

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