There’s only five more episodes of Lou Grant remaining and I’ll be glad to see it done. Sometimes it isn’t difficult to tell when a show has lost its belief in itself, when it knows it is dying and is only going through the motions until the contract is up and it can let go. ‘Fireworks’ was a perfect example of this. It combined two not very related stories but let both of these drift towards an even more equivocal outcome than usual.
Both sprang from a common start. The Trib has run a very strong ten part series on health care that’s received high praise across the country and Mrs Pynchon is pitching for a nomination for a prestigious Greenwood Foundation Award. Not only is the Trib nominated, it stands a very good chance of winning. Everyone involved – Mrs Pynchon, Charlie, Lou, Rossi, Animal, Lance and Delgado – is up for it, on a high. Until Lou, for no apparent reason, starts looking deeper into Greenwood Universal, the fertiliser manufacturers who sponsor the Foundation, and starts getting cold feet. The Foundation’s a wipe-the-dirt-off-your-face endeavour, making Greenwoods look clean when they’re still openly selling highly toxic products, banned in the USA, in foreign countries.
The feelgood is undermined. Lou effectively undermines it, not wanting to enter (Mrs Pynchon drops out of sight before this happens, her opinion as Proprietor carefully stuck in a cupboard somewhere). Lou eventually leaves it up to the crew: let one of them anonymously stick the envelope in the out-tray and it’ll go. Of course, no-one does. Feelgood transforms into Feelflat.
The reporting team included Billie but she’s not here to play. Billie’s gone to Sacramento, the State Capital, partly to look at Lobbying as an industry, partly to look at Proposition 1452, for the deregulation of fireworks and partly to get within 30 miles of Ted so that they can at least get to eat dinner together (it may be taken that dinner has a euphemistic aspect).
She has the open support of retiring assembleyman Ray Elders (Parley Baers), an old charmer willing to be quoted, and who introduces her to one of Sacramento’s top lobbyists, Greg Serantino (Vincent Bagetta). Billie knows him only too well already: he’s her ex-husband. And he’s a sleazeball.
What else can you say? There are no shades of grey with Greg. He tries to avoid her. He blows her chance of meeting Ted by setting up a dinner-date-interview then stands her up, he tries to pretend it’s not him, personally, on behalf of the Fireworks Industry – who’d happily see a kid’s hand blown off by an unsafe firework, or set off hundreds of miles of fire, that lose money only selling safe fireworks: hey, this is America, land of the free (to be shat on) – and he persists right till the end in intimating Billie’s reporting to be ill-informed and biassed because she’s out for revenge on her ex-, rather than the truth.
Weak as gruel, full of cliches and not deserving of Billie’s last ditch attempt to get the pair to treat each other as human beings, when Greg’s clearly gone beyond all humanity. Elders points out that the Proposition might be dead this year, but it’ll come back next year, in some vampiric form, and Greg will have been there all years. Elders opposed it this year but, if he were running for re-election next year, he’d be talking to Greg, meeting the Fireworks people…
So, there you have it, Lobbying is inherently bad because it’s propaganda for the evil self-centred swine, but hey, if it gets you elected… Not much of a message. We’re fading all down the line. I’ll have something new to watch in mid-February: can I jump there now?