Not quite halfway through this episode, I had a flash of insight into how the two stories in this weak and shapeless episode were going to be connected. On the one hand we had the death of Harlan Boyt, a good guy, an environmentalist, killed in a hit and run accident when he was out cycling, but maybe not quite so accidentally. And on the other we had Lou’s relationship with office designer Jessica (Dixie Carter) suddenly going sour when he discovers she’s been ‘involved with’ this big, wealthy, married property developer for the ast seven years and all the time she’s been ‘involved with’ Lou. There wasn’t the least thing to connect these two stories but after nearly five full seasons of Lou Grant, not to mentions hundreds, even thousands of episodes of American network TV, I know how scriptwriters’ minds work. Our environmentalist hero would have been putting obstacles in the way our our developer villain’s latest plans and been killed to remove such an obstacle.
And, ladies, gentlemen and readers, I was talking total bollocks. Though I do think my idea, cliched as it was, would have made for a stronger story.
For the last dozen episodes or so, there’s been a tall, skinny, curly-haired and fresh-faced young reporter hanging around everything, Lance Reineke (Lance Guest). I haven’t mentioned him before because he’s just been part of the newsroom, much as I don’t mention Allen Williams as Adam Wilson: neither are central to any stories. This time, however, Lance takes front and centre stage and uis the principal Guest Star.
Chance brings him to Boyt’s death and he pursues the story, always seeing more to it than does Lou. He’s weirded out by having to break the news to Boyt’s live-in fiancee, who provides the first serious clue. Boyt was an experienced cyclist, with strict self-set rules about safety: he never went out without his cycling helmet. But he died of head injuries and the helmet was nowhere to be seen…
This was where my suspicions were aroused but no. Instead, that side of the story slid into a massive disaster of an idea, namely that fine, upstanding, forever helpful Harlan Boyt, whom everybody loved and respected, environmentalist and all-round good guy… was secretly a well-organised and intelligent pimp. with schedules on a computer.
Not only was that crash and burn time, all hands lost at sea, it also had a painfully nasty racist basis. The hookers were black, their bog standard pimps were black, stuff-strutters and violent with it: it took a white guy, professional and intellient, to run the business on sensible and time- and profit-maximising lines, pimping the little black girls to his white friends and circle.
The story on that side was of Lance’s confusing his job as reporter with that of detective, ordered off the story multiple times, feeding what he finds to the Police but stillsticking his oar in when it looks like they’re not taking the case seriously enough. which leads to him staring down the business end of a switchblade knife before the Cops intervene because, no, they haven’t been as dull and ignorant as he thinks they were.
As for Lou’s side of things, first he dumps Jessica, then Charlie prods him into fighting for her, then the show intimates that she’ll choose him exclusively, but it’s far too much time for a B-story that’s about two molecules deep, if that. Or maybe that’s just me: if I found out someone I was seeing was sleeping with someone else all the time, I wouldn’t take her back, no matter how much I cared about her.
Then there was three.