Lou Grant: s03 e07 – Gambling


Gambling only pays when you’re winning

All the Lou Grant episode titles are one-worders, though they are often somewhat oblique in their reference to the subject of the episode. ‘Gambling’ is flat and prosaic, and so, unfortunately, was the episode.

That starting point is the Turner-Landis Proposition, a California State Government proposal to legalise gambling, not merely in the form of betting on the horses, but also casinos, the proceeds of the tax to go to Education. Ok, decent topic, lot of meat in there (though as there seemed to already be a well-established betting industry, including the Trib’s ‘in-house’ bookie, for playing sports, there was a subtlety to the question that, not being an American in 1979, I’m completely missing).

What crippled the episode from the beginning was its refusal to take a stance. It should have been a straightforward Gambling is Bad to have a moral centre (Gambling is Good, or Gambling is Neither One Thing Nor Another doesn’t make for a story). Instead, it thoroughly confused the issue by splitting the episode between Mort Farber and Mac McIvor.

Mort was the story’s gem. An elderly man, played by Charles Lane, a lifelong track follower who spent every day of his life studying horses, their trainers, owners and vets, Mort is the expert of experts. He’s also gruff, irascible and completely unconcerned about whatever other people think. He’s befriended by Lou after he gets into Lou’s car to snatch a ride towards the racetrack, not only as an expert on the gambling question, but as a guy you just had to like.

And you liked Mort. He had devoted himself to one area of study, he was eccentric but clued-up and whilst you had to admit he was an addict, he was an addict who was in control, who would not bet for the sake of betting, but only on his own, highly accurate perceptions.

At the end, bedridden with near-pneumonia, Mort gets Lou to place a total of $1,500 at his direction on the unfancied Vespi, a 40-1 shot, who goes on to win. Only afterwards does Mort reveal the scam he’d recognised; Vespi was a different horse, a worldbeater, running under the wrong name.

Yes, Mort was smart, he was memorable and he was a winner, so any anti-gambling viewpoint was down in flames. Nevertheless, that’s what the show tried to dom, and spectacularly failed at, with Mac.

Mac, played by Michael Shannon, is a financial reporter at the Trib. More importantly, he’s holding hands with Billie Newman. Mac comes from a rich family, though in his case the spigot has been turned off. He’s the gambler with the problem, the opposite of Mort, because Mac loses. What happens to people who lose more than they have to pay was hinted at but in vague terms that left the audience filling in a pretty substantial gap.

So Mac goes and borrows $2,000 from Billie, on a sob-story about his mother needing money for an urgent operation. She’s not certain about it until Rossi advises her not to and then she hands him a cheque (sigh: complete silliness). Then Charlie inadvertently lets slip about Mac’s family, Billie feels let down and, even though Mac repayshalf the loan dead on time, she breaks up with him and is sad, and so are we because the ‘twist’  in this tale makes gambling look bad because it’s made poor, sweet Billie nearly cry, instead of something a lot more solid.

Cue closing ‘ironic’ gag. Animal has no interest in gambling, completely lacks the urge, is utterly confused by it, but now he’s bet on to football teams and won $25, and is going to invest half his winnings on another two games: “This is fun,” he twees whilst Lou and Billie share ironic looks and the bell goes to end this formless mish-mash.

Lack of conviction dogs the entire episode. Where is that immaculate liberal stance? A bit of polemic was what was missing and the result is dullness. Try again next week.

Lou Grant: s03 e03 – Slammer


Jury Duty

Most of this week’s episode was set in and around a prison, which gave me pause for reasons I’ll explain momentarily. The set-up is that Rossi has been teaching a Journalism class and inveigles Lou into being a guest speaker: the class is in a Maximum Security Prison and the students have been convicted of a variety of crimes, up to and including murder.

The problem is that, being a Maximum Primetime Series, the programme couldn’t go anything near the reality of a prison, nor the truth of the things that can be done by and to the prisoners. It’s big move to establish the regime’s harshness was a boxing match, being watched on TVs by the inmates, who are really into it, excited, shouting, blowing off steam – until a cruel and saditic guard who was trying to read switched all the sets off before the end.

I m no expert on prisons and will never pretend to be. The episode took care to avoid anyone enjoying such a status, especially not the genuinely decent  and would-be liberal Governor. But early in my legal career, when my field included criminal work, I had occasion to visit Manchester’s infamous Strangeways Prison to interview a client. This meant going inside E Wing, the remand Wing. This was the part of the prison that held prisoners waiting Trial, in short, those who were not convicted and who were therefore innocent in the eyes of the Law. From the moment the doors slammed shut behind me, my skin crawled, and I tried to defuse my feelings with a ‘clever’ joke, telling the guard who was leading us to the interview room that I wouldn’t feel comfortable until I got out, or else I looked down there and saw Ronnie Barker cheating at dominoes. Defensive or what?

So the episode could not give us even a fraction of that atmosphere, nor did it make any attempt to, which undermined everything it was trying to achieve.

The prisoners were taking a Journalism class but had no paper to print their stories in. When Lou took it to the Governor, he got a paper but then had to restrain the convicts over their urge to print the truth about what goes on. Lou was drawing the disincion between the truth as what can be proven and the truth as what they knew was the truth, and which one could be printed, though the convicts went behind his back, tried to print their story alleging one of their fellow students had been murdered by a gang inside, caused a near-riot, a lockdown and withdrawal of their project.

Of curse, Lou then goes into bat for them, blurring the reality with some Defence Attorney style sophistry that persuaded the Governor to allow them another go, giving the episode the required happy ending annd liberal conciousnesses their sop.

How you react to an episode like this depend on your pre-judgements about criminals. It was made plain that this prison was not about rehabilitation but about punishment. The inmates’ ‘leader’, JD (Kene Holiday), was presented as passionate, articulate and frustrated at the lack of outlets for the truth, conscious of the State’s right to punish, but chafing at the small cruelties meant to make prisoners feel humiliated or dehumanised.

But the episode, in a neat reversal of the usual Rossie/Billie roles, covered its bases by having Billie interview JD’s victim, pointing out that the criminal can serve his time and go free, but the victim cannot.

There was a sub-plot, a B-story about Mrs Pynchon undertaking Jury Duty, leaving Charlie Hume in charge at the paper, that folded into the A-story at the very last, Lou’s final departure from the Prison crossing the arrival of the dude convicted by the proprietoress’s Jury. But overall, despite its good intentions, and despite its cautious determination not to make the prisoners into absolute heroes, the episode failed from the start because it could not be nasty, grimy or sufficiently frightening enough to anyone with even the most peripheral experience.

Lou Grant: s03 e02 – Expose


A good woman doomed

Due to the nature of the story that introduced Lou Grant season 3 last week, it wasn’t really possible to bring in the new credits and theme music this year, without making an even more awkward segue than usual, but I can lead with that for this episode as the subject played a part in setting up the story.

Between seasons, the LA Trib has undergone an upgrade. Out have gone the typewriters, in have come the first computers, although they’re more likely to be word-processors, and not everyone is taking to them easily. As a consequence, the credit sequence has been completely reshot, with everybody playing the same role but from different angles, and different takes (all except Dennis ‘Animal’ Price, who has been given a more serious introduction, developing films in the dark room instead of goofing around with flashes). And the theme music has been reearranged to closer to the season 1 sound, elimination most but not quite all of that annoying guitar overlay.

I can bring this up because this upgrade helped spur one of the two stories this week that seemed to be of no relevance to each other, and which mde it hard to get an angle on which way the episode was going.

First in appearance was Rossi’s pursuit of Bonita Worth (Louise Troy), a very effective and down-to-earth County Supervisor with a substantial future ahead of her. Mrs Worth was straight-talking, a successful businesswoman, honest and open, in short a public asset. Rossi, constitutionally incapable of believing a public official can be all of those things, is worrying away looking for something that plainly didn’t exist. So Billie was brought in to interview Bonita, and produce a genuinely admiring piece. But in a cleverly unforced irony it was Billie who found Bonia’s achilles heel, her husband Mark (William Schallert).

Mark Worth ended up being the story, costing Bonita Worth her public career. Mark was a lush, a business failure, a racist and a fool. He was an albatross whose exposure in public and a drunk, and as openly unfaithful to his wife, left her te impossible choice of abandoning him and showing wifely disloyalty (a powerful thing, forty years ago) or abandoning her career. No wins either way: Bonita fell on her sword and resigned. A good public servant was lost.

You could look at Mark and find him a complete idiot, even despicable in some lights, and I wouldn’t argue with you. But Schallert took on a difficult role and, with the aid of some inspired scripting, rose to the challenge of making you see him in a different light. A clearly bombed Worth invades the Trib’s budget meeting to insult and carp at the way he has been made a public fool. It’s simultaneously embarrassing and painful, for Worth is a failure at all things, unable to do more than mouth empty threats, but worse, he is aware of this, and his bluster falls apart under his understanding of his own ineffectiveness, rage at the unfairness of being made a laughing stock in the Press and the unfirness of being unable to do anything aboout it. He ends in tears at his own humiliation, asking the question, “Why me? What did I ever do to you to pick on me?”

And the answer is the painful truth that everything written about him is true, but he is only news for how he may, and does, drag down the career of the woman he’s married to, a woman in a position of authority. The sexism inherent in this is alluded to but not rubbed in our faces, and could indeed have done with being a bit more openly expressed.

All this would have its parallel, in completely different form in the other half of the episode, which took a very long time to show its hand. It began with an argument between Lou and Mike Norvette (Richard Berstoff) over a line that wasn’t acceptable. Norvette was an asshole, seeing Lou as dictatorial, conservative, an obstacle to reporters like him, rewriting the rules, sticking opinions in unburdened by real facts. Lou was threatened by the every existence of Norvette, overturning every hidebound precept of his life and career.

So, when Mrs Pynchon was forced to trim staff to get the loan needed for all this new technology, Norvette was let go. He took it well. No, he didn’t, actually: the Norvettes of this world do not take anything like this as anything but personal, which it was in a way. Lou didn’t like him, but he fired him for not being a good enough reporter.

Which Norvette proved by immediately joined Pacific Magazine, a trashy, sensationlist magazine. We already knew about Pacific Magazine through the attractive, vivacious Barbara Benedict (Julie Cob), who thought Lou was ‘cute’, and had lunch with him, all attention and big eyes. The set-up led you to believe she was after a job at the Trib: it was a job alright but not the one you thought it was. The lovely Barbara was Rossi’s heavy date, she was having a meal with Donovan, had had a coffee with Charlie.

And everyone had talked, including Billie to Norvette, telling the stories you tell, the funny ones you share with colleagues. Except that the episode finally came into clear focus when everyone joined the dots of Barbara’s attentions and realised that Pacific Magazine was building up an expose on the Trib. When it arrived, everyone was in denial about saying what was quoted of them, and it took Animal too point out that they had said what they said, not as shaped here, in cold print. But the words were the same.

It took Mrs Pynchon to draw the two stories together. The hatchet job Pacific Magazine had done on the Trib was not far enough removed from what theTrib and others had done on Mark Worth. Lou and Charlie disagreed, and this viewer did too, but also saw the side of the coin that Mrs Pynchon was seeing: what was done to Mark Worth, hoever true, was going to bring down Bonita Worth, whose only crime was to have fallen in love with and married a weak man, years ago, and stayed loyal to him.

No, her crime was to be a woman in authority, and the show let you see that for yourself. It’s still not different enough forty years on. It would not take much adaptation to put that side of the episode into production in 2019. A superior episode with very strong guest performances.

Lou Grant: s02 e22 – Bomb


Joannie…
…meet Joannie

This was an interesting if somewhat standard episode, wandering between the polemic and the personal, but integrating the two elements of the story comfortably enough not to make either seem out of place.

The key to both parts of the episode was Joe Rossi. In one half, Joe’s starting to date an attractive, intelligent journalism student who seems to be in line with his thinking. There’s just one problem: her name is Joanie Hume and her Dad is the Managing Editor of the Trib, who does not like the idea of his adult daughter dating a) a reporter and b) this reporter.

This is like a running gag. Joe’s nervous and forever on the point of breaking up with Joanie out of fear of what Charlie will do, though ultimately Joanie, who can tell something’s up, talks him into taking things as they come and getting round problems when they arise.

There’s something different about Joanie since her last appearance. Oh, wait, I got it, she’s bbeing played by Dinah Manoff instead of Laurette Sprang (who was by now appearing in the original Battlestar Galactica). It’s difficult to tell the difference, what with Sprang having long, curly, very blonde hair and Manoff having shoulder-length, straight dark brunette hair, not to menion the completely different facial shapes, but apart from that it’s really hard to tell.

This is but the counterpoint to the real story. Rossi gets a letter from a mysterious young man (who even looks like your typical period white-guy turned terrorist fanatic) threatening to detonate an A-Bomb somewhere in LA if their demands are not a) published and b) met. This lot are for an independent Croatia (Jeez, that’s going back), not to mention the release of two Croatian prisoners and $10,000,000.00.

That lets us in for some fairly dry information alerting us the the public’s general ignorance about A-Bomb technology, i.e., that you can’t build one without a Manhattan Project behind you. The message is, you can so too, much of which is delivered by Bilie’s old college buddy, physicist Jack Ridgeway, played by Joe Spano (a second consecutive guest star role for a future Hill Street Blues star).

It’s delivered fairly painlessly, humanised by the increasing nervousness of Rossi, Lou et al over the realistic prospect of being blown up at any moment, an approach that’s no longer viable forty years on, when we’ve had too much of the reality rather than the theory of unexpected terrorist bombing for our own innocence to remain.

In the end, Rossi gets a secret message that leads him to the group’s headquarters, where they have a van. The FBI burst in and arrest everyone, Rossi included. The bomb’s real, they just don’t have any fissionable uranium as yet, so all’s well that ends with a couple of mild black humour jokes.

There are two episodes left in season 2 and I’m still decided on whether to plunge straight into season 3 or to refresh my palette with something different. Be here in three weeks to find out.

Lou Grant: s02 e20 – Convention


They didn’t have one of Amanda McBroom: why?

This was a much better episode than last week, plainly and simply because the show remembered that its characters were there to be people and not props for its mild indignation.

And the show deliberately downplayed its central threat, its theme, leading to a twist ending that I foresaw a long way out, and not just because this was one of those rare episodes that I remembered something about from forty years ago (I remembered the comic sub-plot).

The episode set itself up melodramatically, with armed police invading an isolated house. This was a headquarters of the Seventeenth of May Movement (which the episode thankfully abreviated to SMM, giving me the excuse to do the same). The SMM had gone ahead of the Police, not to mention Rossi and Animal, but they left behind something that was only wormed out to the audience after a long comic set-up of the main part of the story.

This was a Newspaper Convention in Palm Springs, andCharlie Hume was chairing it. Lou was being his predictably sarcastic self, but he’s jumped the gun: he’s going too. Mrs Pynchon has him chairing a panel discussion.

The imposition, and his obvious dislike for theConvention sends Lou into grumpiness overdrive. He won’t take anything about the Convention at all seriously, and he won’t take anything to do with the SMM seriously, despite Rossi and Billie’s interest in the story. Lou dismisses the SMM as three middle-class drop-outs, and despite the building evidence of something serious about them, he digs his heels in and refuses to take anything about the notion seriously, to the point of obtuseness.

Because the SMM’s plan is to kidnap someone at a Convetion. This Convention.

Security is high but Lou sneers at the very idea to the point of tediousness. He’s justified on one level because the guests include Jack Riley (Kenneth McMillan), the hoaxer who took the Trib for $5,000 in season 1. Riley’s representing himself as belonging to a paper that fired him two months ago, he’s signing Lou’s name to his bar bill, he’s after a job and wants Lou to reference him. Even when Jack correctly identifies a waiter as an escaped convict, Lou refuses to take him seriously.

There are two other guests of note atthe Convention. One is the smarmy Jeffry Nelson (Ivor Francis), proprietor of a Seattle paper. who’s always been making passes at Mrs Pynchon, even when her husband was alive, which necessitates Lou being Margaret’s ‘dinner date’ on the last night to keep him at bay. Nelson is also the only one interested in Jack Riley, leaving Lou desperately trying to avoid him as well, to the pointthat Nelson assumes the Trib is trying to steal Riley, and gives him the job: comic sub-plot A.

Comic sub-plot B is Lou’s ongoing encounters with Lois Craig (Amanda McBroom), a Sports Editor and a damned good-looking one, early-to-mid thirties, perfect hair, wide-open smile and perfect teeth, McBroom even turns up long and lissome in a strapless bathing costume to dive into the pool. Lou obviously fancies her, as who wouldn’t, but his old-fashioned assumptions war with his underlying decency about people with talent. He keeps trying to sound liberated but edoes itso badly that all he sounds like is soomeone trying, badly. Neveryheless, the pair have increasingly fractious encounters that are leading to a dinner date on the last night. Lou has to stand her up for Mrs Pynchon, and the punch-line is that he finally finds her after escorting Mrs Pyncon to her room, and his ‘explanation’ quickly bcomes otiose when Lois is trailing a hunky guy round about her age, who she’s clearly going to shag his brains out (lucky guy).

These comic sub-plots, together with Lou’s perfectly blatant distaste forthe Convention (and some poor supposed humour aboout his predecessor as City Editor) do dominate the Convention element, though everyone but Lou is treating the SMM plot seriously. The increased security, the Governor cancelling out doing the closing speech, the evident tension.

But the serious stuff is left back at the paper, with Billie and Rossi investigating. It turns out Billie used to know Sandra (Laurie Heineman), a Movement leader, having studied music with her for four years. Through this former link, Billie gets to interview the intense, determined and near-Messianic Sandra about the SMM’s goals and tactics. And here was the sting that I’d seen coming for some time: the SMM planned to kidnap nobody. Planted plans to start the hares running, all the publicity they could wish for and not having to actually do anything.

(I sensed the twist coming because I understand how the show thinks, and I worked it out from too much show-time elapsing without a definite move starting, meaning that any actual kidnap attempt but either be a pathetic fizzle of too easy a capture, or else so cheaply melodramatic as to crash the episode. Besides, Lou Grant doesn’t go for stuff like that.)

I did find the SMM a bit too unrealistic. They were, after all, middle-class drop-outs if Sandra was anything to go by, with no clear goals except to expose hos rotten Society is at its core. They wanted to overthrow the System, maaaan, with no ideas what to put in its place, but then a lot of people like that are exactly like that. At this remove, they look hollow and empty, and worse, they look like the fixed idea an older generation have of such small terrorist groups. But this is 1978, only a few years removed from the Radical Undergrounded of the late Sixties, and roups likethis were real, and not as innocuous as this lot were. Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army were fresh memories.

An example of both television’s overt decision not to be too representative for Saturday night prime time and time itself, flowing onwards to new argumentsand conepts. If the show can keep on using its cast as people, not prop, I will go sailing on into season 3, after the next four episodes.

Lou Grant: s02 e19 – Home


The watchword for this blog is ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’, which means that an episode-by-episode blog of a tv series has to go on, even if I’m not really enjoying it as much as I would like. Only extreme cases (remember Fortitude? I wish I didn’t) justify dropping it.

I used to love Lou Grant. It was a staple of the week’s viewing forty years ago, and my memories  of it are all fond. I still like the cast and their interplay, their intensity and integrity sitting alongside their plain human sensibilities. And the show’s virtues and passions aligned with mine, and I’ve not changed that much in the decades that have passed.

Perhaps its because of my age, ironically, that episodes like this one leave me cold ad, worst of all, bored. This is another of the crusading episodes, the exposure of a disturbing situation, alerting its audience to the injustices in society, whilst contriving a happy ending: two of them, in fact.

The theme was the aged in Society, care of the elderly. I’m not disparaging that, it’s clearly an important topic, in fact it’s Worthy within the show’s parameters. Unfortunately, this is another case where the approach is overly didactic. You could have replaced every member of the cast with someone else and the episode would have been the same, and that’s a problem.

The episode started melodramatically as a man wheels an elderly lady in a wheelchair, who’s obviously confused and frightened, into an office. He, John Bertram, owns a Home, she’s one of his patients, the Government hasn’t paid for her for six months and she’s now their problem.

That’s the cue for the Trib’s investigation of Homes in general and Bertram’s in particular. Billie goes undercover as an aide to see how horrific and uncaring the standard of care is. Bertram’s clearly only in it for the money, and out to maximise profits by minimising standards, though the show undermines itself by establishing twice that Bertram could get his money for Mrs Ford if he filled in certain forms: it was a major, logical inconsistency that was yet more lazy scripting, wanting the shock effect of the stark opening that should never have been happening.

At the same time, Lou’s morning jog in the park sees him palling up with Fred Horton (Jack Gilford), an active retiree, humourous, lively, optimistic, whose continually looking for a job in the face of  society that’s pushed him out. Fred’s a product of an age when the good guys worked and the ones that didn’t were bums: pychologically, he cannot shift his thoughts away from thinking he’s become a bum.

The problem with this episode, like others, is that the story can’t develop organically from the people: they are cyphers in the face of a series of moments that drop seamlessly into place, not with the remorseless inevitability of human existence but with the remorseless inevitability of a cheap script, hitting its numbers. Of course Mrs Ford dies from the shock of being used. Of course the Doctor doesn’t give a damn about Mrs Keaton’s serious pain at night.

And, of course, Lou finds a job for Fred as a surrogate grandad supervising kids in a playground, and of course Billie finds away for Mrs Keaton’s hassled daughter to give her mother a better standard of life, between Daycare in the day and Home care in the evenings. And equally of course, Bertram gets hit with multiple charges from the D.A.

All’s well that ends well.

I still like the series, but my enthusiasm is being severely drained by episodes like this. There are five episodes left in season 2 and I’m currently contemplating taking a break, if I can find something suitable to do on Thursday mornings. Just for a change of pace. We’ll see.

Lou Grant: s02 e14 – Vet


Despite the fact that, with 2019 eyes, the subject of this week’s Lou Grant has been chewed over innumerable times, this story of two Vietnam vets – three, in a beautifully understated way – remained a powerful one forty years later. I wonder how many people found it so effective in 1978, and how many people just wanted to shut their eyes to it.

1978 was only five years after the end of the Vietnam War, a war that America lost, a war that divided the country, and the episode set out to illuminate the experience of the Vietnam vet in the shape of two people. One was Animal, Dennis, whose behaviour had suddenly becom erratic: taking unnecessary risks to get photos of a hostage situation and refusing to enter a zoo cage to photograph birds in a rainforest setting.

The other was Sutton (Lionel Smith), a black guy with an outwardly cheerful demeanour but no job and no prospect of a job, a Vietnam vet with an Undesirable Discharge. You looked at Sutton, you saw the obvious chip that was equally balanced with his outward bounciness, and you saw someone damaged probably beyond repair: he didn’t see any way out of his situation and whilst his fatalism meant that he was undermining himself, nevertheless it was very clear that he was a casualty of an unwanted War who would never be allowed to break out of his condtion.

Lou wanted to help, Lou sympathised, tried seriously to break out of his own experience. Lou, you see, was ‘Class of 46’, a vet of the Second World War, whose own war experiences were just a little over thirty years before at that time. And those experiences could not be compared, as the episode set out to make plain. Lou fought a ‘good’ war, a necessary war, and came home to praise, acclaim and a country that wanted its returning heroes to thrive and prosper. Sutton fought a nasty war and was spurned: by older folk who saw the colour of his skin, his long hair, his compatriots’ beards and thought them freaks, by his  own generation who called him babyburner and woman-killer, and spat in his face.

You liked Sutton, you wanted him to heal, but forty-five minutes of prime time TV 1978 was never going to come anywhere near doing that, and the show had the courage not to pretend otherwise. Sutton fails the job opportunity Lou organises: Lou buys a second chance but Sutton has already moved on. He will always move on because there is nowhere to go.

The other story held in it the possibility, no, certainty of a resolution, because this was in house and it had to end well. This was Animal, a vet himself, a special photographic unit. The photographers worked in pairs. Animal worked with Sam, an older man with a bad back. They were approaching a firefight and Dennis sent Sam back to the jeep for more film. He stepped on a landmine. Sam was still alive, begging to be shot. Animal couldn’t do it. A kid in the unit did, ended Sam’s agony, and threw up. If this was a story that could be told like that on a prime time TV show, think what people saw that couldn’t be put before that audience?

But Animal’s being ppursued by Edith, Sam’s widow. Somehow, wherever he goes, she gets hold of his number (for once, the glossing over of how that was possible was fittting, not lazy), and she rings him, tells him she misses Sam, she thinks about him all the time, and she wants him to remember Sam. As if he could forget.

Everyone around Animal is moved, but everyone is helpless. He’s going to move on again, but Lou, challenging him in as gentle a manner as he could, leads Animal to finally confront his demon, to talk to Edith, to share their pain in a way that might help both of them.

These were the personal stories. They were surrounded by other stuff, some of it didactic. Rossi interviews staffers at Veterans Administration about the difference between the Second World War vets and the Vietnam vets (one gives his private opinion that the latter are crybabies), Billie a younger generation of helpers, more attuned to the Vietnam vets and their experience (one of them played by Joe Spano, later to star in Hill Street Blues), the conversations intercut. Charlie’s doubtful the public are interested iin Vietnam, five years on.

And here was that third story. I’ve not yet had cause to mention Adam Wilson, played by Allen Williams. Adam’s a recuring character, a Financial reporter, editor of the Finance section, conspicuously younger than all the other editors in the budget meeting, well-dressed, immaculately groomed, serious. Adam listens to the other editors debate the story, bringing their experience of WW2 into their discourse. Quietly, he admits to being a vet. Reporter? someone asks. Vet. Surely, another says, his being there belies everything in Lou’s series. Adam admits that he’s here. And says that maye one day he’ll tell them how close he came to being one of those guys. He says he feels like he knows all of hem. Then, without saying anything else, he gets up and walks out of the room, pausing only to tell Lou it’s a good series. And thanks.

It is a scene that, without another word, tells more than anything else in the episode and I can’t believe it comes from research alone. Writer Leon Tokatyan brought that from real life somewhere.