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.

Lou Grant: s05 e21 – Suspect


When you discover something you don’t want to

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.