Lou Grant: s05 e18 – Law


The moment the episode started with a slow shot of a dripping tap, I had the feeling I was looking at an unwelcome symbol.

In that, I wasn’t completely wrong but the episode was a bit mono-direction, being about law and lawyers and lawsuits and anything else beginning with the letters l-a-w that the writers could think of.

Thankfully, the episode took three-cornered approach – actually a four-cornered approach – so that there was enough going on to ring the changes but the heavy bearing placed on one single thing that rarely comes up as even a part of other episodes was a bit too much.

The dripping tap belonged to Lou: his water’s off. Lou call’s in Chuck’s Plumbers, Chuck himself. Estimates the job is $300 for a proper job, $100 if you want a temporary bodge whilst you sell the house to some poor unsuspecting schnook. Lou goes for the proper job but when he get’s home, Chuck’s gone, not to be contacted, having smashed up the kitchen, cracked the sink, wrecked the pipes and broken a gas pipe. A real, professional plumber estimates $1,200 to fix it.

Partway through, Chuck returns, claiming to have had a mystery, protesting at others stepping on ‘his’ job, and gets thrown out by Lou. Lou’s furious. He hires The Animal’s brother, Kenneth Price (James Canning) to sue (cue a surprised ‘you have a brother?’ from Donovan that evoked a warm memory of a private joke between me and a once-loved one).

But Chuck counter-sues for £15,000, headaches and nausea from Lou’s unsafe home with its gas-leak, superior court stuff, five year delay for a hearing, legal fees kill. Chuck’s got sixteen similar lawsuits already. So Lou has to drop his suit, due to malicious manipulation of an inefficient legal system…

So that’s one corner. Of larger moment, and altogether more serious, was the story involving Billie. Though Rossi’s spent so much time investigating (offscreen) the clearly venal Councilman Garbers (Charles Cioffi), Billie gets sent to cover his Press Conference. Garners’ is being investigated by the Grand Jury and attacked by the local Citizens Action Committee, a group of amateurs who’ve started a Recall Petition. Billie and Animal get a photo of three people signing the Petition, two women organisers and the inoffensie, unconcerned delicatessen owner Mr Gruber (Harold J Stone).

But when the Grand Jury exonerates Garbers, the slimeball turns vicious. He claims the Petition was raised with Malicious Intent to Defame his Reputation and his Standing in the Community, and sues for $7,000,000, picking out just seven of over 15,000 signatories to make examples of. His chosen defendants include the two organisers and the apolitical Gruber.

It’s pretty clear intimidation, stifling of dissent and basic being a shitty bastard – Reagan was President, so the attack on Democracy should come as no surprise. The trio’s high-flying lawyer, who has much more in common with Garbers and his attorney than he does his clients, and about the same amount of sympathy, cuts a deal. The suit is dropped, in return for the withdrawal of the petition (even though it’s dead in the water by now) and the disbandment of the Citizens Action Committee. Cheer up people, the lawyer says, you won. but that’s just as much a lie as everything else a lawyer says and does.

But it spurs Mr Gruber into creating the 14th Street Committee, Headquarters his store, membership, him, because someone has to stand up.

Corner number three involves Charlie, Mrs Pynchon and the Trib’s Attorney Ryan Lindstrom (Richard Sarradet). Lindstrom’s a good, clever lawyer wjo’s immersed himself in the Trib’s business these past two years, and done very good work. But he’s only an Associate with Bauman & bauman, the firm on retainer. And he and some like-minded colleagues are considerung setting up themselves and Lindstrom is not very subtly touting to take the Trib with him. Charlie’s coldly disgusted at the open lack of loyalty towards Jacon Bauman, who’s given Lindstrom his opportunity, though Mrs Pynchon unwillingly concedes that Lindstrom has a point in saying the Trib is not Bauman’s biggest client, but would be in his firm.

The whole thing’s settled over lunch with Bauman himself (Barlett Robinson), admitting that a lot of his clients have gone with Lindstrom’s team, so much so it sounds like his very successful practice is being cut in something like half. And Mrs Pynchon is contemplating… But Bauman is an old friend, and besides he’s offering his personal attention and, if after a year she’s not satisfied, a return of half his retainer. Deal done.

Lawyers, what can you say, eh?

But I said there was a fourth corner. Rossi’s only got a minimal part in this episode, assigned a human interest story about a dying boy given his heart’s desire, to visit Disneyland. And the follow up about heartwarming donations. And the second follow up, about the dicovery that he’s not dying after all, it was a misdirection.

Then the third follow up: about the parents suing the Hospital for $6,000,000…

Lawyers, what can you say, eh? The dripping tap was apt.

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