Lou Grant: s04 e04- Sting


I’m at a loss to decide whether my general lack of interest in this week’s Lou Grant is down to me and feeling incredibly dull,or to the story being slight at the best, and uninvolving.

The plot attempts to be complex but is actually very simple.Fed-up of a two-hour freeway drive to work each day, Charlie Hume moves himself and his wife Marion into an apartment in town that’s 15 minutes away by bus and rents his house out to a ‘Mr and Mrs Thatcher’. The Thatchers make extensive changes, have visitors all of the time and generally act suspiciously.

Instead of being crooks, they turn out to be Law Enforcement. Charlie’s house has been fitted out with elaborate, concealed but comprehensive surveillance and is being used to offer bribes to City Councillors and Zoning Commissioners to vote a certain way over prestigious undeveloped land.

There’s a degree of confusion over the truth of this, necessary only to extending the story to last 46 minutes and doing little to puzzle the audience over what to actually believe (or, in at least one case, interest the audience enough to care all that much), but ‘Thatcher’ is not ‘Thatcher’, nor is he ‘Dylan’, as he claims to be when he shows the upset Charlie and Lou what they’ve done to keep Charlie from voiding the Lease, he’s actually Collins of the State’s Attorney-general’s Office, not LAPD as he let them assume.

Lou Grant being Lou Grant, it had to have it’s liberal viewpoint, here represented by Rossi, angry over the whole concept of Police entrapment. It’s a valid point: on the one hand, Law enforcement believes these people are dirty and willing to go on the take, and are setting out to get hard evidence of that, on the other these people have only committed bribes because Law enforcement has offered them the money. Would the crime exist if the ‘Police’ hadn’t sought it out?

You’re not going to get answers here, and it’s infuriating to have a question like that, which is a serious issue in a modern society, being raised in such a wishy-washy fashion, with one simplistic argument on each side and withdrawing with a determination to to reach a conclusion.

The show does try to hint at where its instincts lie but in an oblique manner that doesn’t begin to work. at the top of the episode, Rossi is sent out to Hollywood Boulevard after a sighting of a missing woman. Trying to get information, he speaks to a long-legged, blonde-haired, short-dressed woman who’s actually an undercover Policewoman. So he’s sensitive to the appearance of malfeasance that might not actually be malfeasance, but rather be unfortunate circummstances.

Which is then echoed, ineffectually, at the bottom of the episode when Rossi interviews the soon-to-be-indicted Councilman Garvey, who presents his intended defence as his having heard of corruption and been conducting his own investigation, taking the money to help iidentify who is behind this. It’s ineffectual because we see Rossi fall into the sting innocently, but Garvey only comes up with this excuse after he’s denied things utterly, and John Considine plays him as shifty.

Speaking of actors, Thatcher was played by Larry Linville. I very rarely recognise guest stars’ in the credits but Larry Linville played Major Frank Burns in the early series of M*A*S*H*, so it was nice to see him again.

So, no, not for me this time. And I think it was the episode that’s at fault, not the blogger.

Lou Grant: s02 e15 – Scam


White collar criminal

Maybe it was just the day on which I watched this, but for me this was one of those episodes of Lou Grant that has just not weathered the intervening years well. It was both earnest and dry, and its subject, which might have been expository in 1978, is too well worn now to be the kind of crusade the show was about. Though you can hardly say it’s not got a contemporary element to it.

The show’s initial hook was that Lou was being taken out for a meal by his son-in-law to whom, in the early years of marriage to his daughter Lou had helped out financially to the tune of over $5,000. The man had done good and, over Lou’s protestations, wanted to repay him, with interest, threefold: $15,000.

Lots of people had advice for Lou on what to do with this windfall, with Charlie insistent on introducing Lou to his financial adviser, a real wizard named David Milburn (guest star John Considine). Next up was Dr Jack Barnes, one of ultimately over 70 doctors accusing Milburn of being a crook and a scammer.

Finacial stuff is inherently dry, and Milburn was just that little bit too obvious a slimeball to be interesting. It was all one PONZI scheme, but the body of the show revolved around Charlie digging in his heels, refusing to accept Milburn could possibly be a crook, and only being convinced when the man did a runner.

Then it was self-recrimination time, which was the only part of the episode where the show escaped its didactic edge. Charlie’s lost practically everything he’s worked for over thirty years and is blaming himself left, right and centre. he’s feeling itall the more because his wife Marion (Pegy McCay playing her usual, sensible supporting role) won’t blame him. He wants to make himself feel better by having her call him all the names he’s calling himself, but she won’t give him the satisfaction, not out of some sadistic sense of game-playing and punishment, but becaus she is a wifewho loves her husband and is genuinely glad to still have him. It’s an altogether human moment in an episode that, try as it might, can’t escape from its theme.

Milburn’s smug self-satisfaction is hardly dented when the Judge goes against the prevailing trend of wrist-slapping and gives him ten years, nor when he tries to pull the smarm to Charlie over how this is all a horrible mistake and he will make restitution. The show is better when Charlie tell’s Milburn he doesn’t want to know what Charlie’s thinking than in Charlie’s overly quick recovery of his normal, easy-going temperament. What the episode needed was more sense of human drama than the adopting of convenient roles it offered.

As for Lou’s money, that was offered up in a quasi-comedic close, showing Lou had bought a baseball team – a Little League team and a pretty inept one, very Charlie Brown-ish – and gotten very worried about th cost of rreplacing lost balls at $2.50 a pop.

Like I say, on another day, I might have been more sympathetic overall. This just wasn’t the best episode to watch this week.