Lou Grant: s05 e24 – Charlie


Parting is such sweet sorrow, but all endings are arrivals at places we want to reach.

Lou Grant‘s final episode was a low-key affair, of multiple stories, a warp and weft seeing the series into oblivion. If it centred upon anyone, it centred upon Charlie Hume, the LA Tribune’s Managing editor, as the episode title indicated, and it left behind a mystery never to be solved.

Oddly enough, Lou himself barely featured. He’s having physical therapy from last week’s shooting, but that’s practically all of his role this week, that and to refuse to let Billie Newman be considered for the Sacramento Bureau, now there’s a vacancy: Ted’s in with a good chance of a manager’s job there, and they have a shot at a life that’s spent mostly together. Billie thinks it’s Charlie who’s stymied her – their – ambition and gives him a hard time, threatening to leave the paper to follow this up.

Charlie’s getting it in the neck from all sides. Rossi and Abby are considering moving in together. Charlie allows them to partner on an assignment that proves they can maybe live together but not collaborate, and ends up having to effectively order Rossi to make things up between them.

Art Donovan’s been seeing an air stewardess for several months. They’re both happy with what they’ve got, but suddenly she’s ducking him, and Art is convinced she’s pregnant. he wants children, he wants marriage, but the actual truth is she was pregnant… and is no longer. The A-word is not to be mentioned, and her calmness, plus her refusal to let him have any say in the decision, almost certainly destroys the relationship.

Young Lance is going off half-cocked about a story concerning military weapons buried in the desert, seeing it as bigger than it is, until Animal gets him to see sense. Along the way, he blows a date with Charlie’s new secretary, who prefers to ask Lou out instead.

The biggest aspect of the story is the tale of Charlie firing two inadequate reporter, one for persistent alcoholism, the other for accepting payment from a subject to write a white-washed profile. Both go over his head to Mrs Pynchon who reinstates them, until Charlie loses his temper over the second-guessing of his role, and they’re finally out. Everything’s back to normal, everyone’s gone home,Charlie’s going home but Donovan needs to talk to him, so they go into Charlie’s office and whilst a slow, bluesy, downtempo version of the theme plays, the camera retreats along a night-time City Room, until they’re gone in the background, and it’s done. Not with a bang, nor yet an actual whimper, but the end of another day.

Originally, Lou Grant ran on Saturday nights on ITV, at 9.00pm, filling in the slot before Match of the Day quite seamlessly. I believe it was dropped after, probably, season 3 over here: it had not been on for some time when I read about its cancellation, on supposedly political grounds, in 1982. I have a very vivid memory that is nevertheless clearly a phony one, about some kind of feature on the end of the series, of a scene where Edward Asner and one other member of the cast were looking at an empty City Room, its people gne, its computers removed, the paper having gone bust. It would have made for a clear ending. So where does that memory come from? I’ll never know.

Instead, it’s the steady state ending. They all wake up tomorrow and come in to work. We just don’t join them any more. Given the nature of the series, it’s probably the most workable ending. Edward Asner is still with us, as are Robert Walden, Linda Kelsey and Daryl Anderson.

There’ll be something else in this slot next Thursday afternoon. I’m not likely to be watching anything quite this long again any time soon. Though the series lost itsway over the last two seasons, when it was good it was very very good, and it’s for that that the past two years plus have been worth it.

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