Sunday, December 27, 2015

KNOTS LANDING Episode 013 of 344: BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE: PART TWO



Season 01, Episode 13

Episode 013 of 344

Written by John Pleshette

Directed by Roger Young 

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 27th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary and Richard get drunk. A drunken Gary takes an unconscious Richard home. Gary passes out and Laura offers Gary some coffee. Gary wants a drink and is very aggressive towards Laura. Laura calls Val as Gary tries to break into Laura's liquor cabinet. After Gary slaps Val in the face, she commits him to a detox ward. Kenny has an affair with Sylvie and his marriage with Ginger is strained. They make up at the zoo as Kenny turns up in a gorilla suit. Gary escapes detox and goes to the bar for a drink. He is reminded of the doctor's trick when she made Gary choose between having a drink or Val. Gary decides to go to AA.

 

                You wanna know why I’m so excited to discuss Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two?  The answer lies within the man who penned the script for today’s episode of discussion.  See, even though this is our second Gary-centric episode in a row, the script was actually written by Richard Avery himself, Mr. John Pleshette!  I’ve already talked at some length about how much I enjoy the character of Richard and The Plesh’s brilliant acting and charisma, but this is the first time we’ve had an episode he also wrote!  In addition to acting and writing, he will even be directing some future episodes, starting with Homecoming in 1983 and concluding with Simmer in 1991.  Interestingly, his directorial efforts on KL all occur after he left the main cast of the series.  It’s nice to know he continued hanging around enough to write and direct episodes even as late as the 12th season, no?  Anyway, I love The Plesh and I love all the episodes he writes, including some really great ones coming up in the next few seasons, and this is his very first script for the show, so can I say hallelujah?

                Before we get started with the episode, we have one of those hilarious recaps where the narrator, rather than just saying, “Previously on KL,” instead says, in an extremely slow manner, “Here are some scenes from the first part of tonight’s story.”  Then we get a long recap (I think over a whole minute?) and then, “In a moment, this story will continue.”  I do enjoy this old fashioned style of storytelling for the dramatic nighttime series, I must confess; it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

                Now, before we get back into our drunken Gary saga, we gotta spend some time with my two very favorite characters, Kenny and Ginger!  See, Kenny is having another groovy party (with another groovy public domain record blasting from the speakers) and Ginger is having none of it.  Actually, maybe this isn’t one of Kenny’s groovy parties after all, is it?  I think the scene concludes with Ginger saying she is “Going home,” which tells me this party is happening elsewhere, not at the Ward house.  Anyway, she is grumpy and leaves, which obviously plays right into Sylvie’s hand; now she has all the time and privacy she needs to seduce Kenny! 

                Next up, Richard finds drunken Gary hanging out in some dive bar.  Now, I do have some questions about this scene, specifically regarding how Gary is paying for all this alcohol.  We saw the street toughs (Jason Voorhees, remember?) stole his money in the previous episode, yet he’s drinking at this bar and appears to be well on his way to blackout drunk.  How has he been paying?  I have a hard time believing that the bartender would let him get this drunk without seeing any money first.  Is he really just letting Gary keep a tab going?  Or did he perhaps become privy to the fact that Gary comes from the famous Texas Ewing dynasty?  Maybe he assumes the money will be coming because the drunken mess in front of him is a rich drunken mess?  In any case, I suppose it’s not all that important; what’s important is that Gary is here and he’s still drinking and he’s still very, very drunk.

                Who comes wandering in to take Gary home a moment later?  Why, it’s Richard!  Unfortunately (but rather comedically), things don’t exactly go as planned because Gary convinces Richard to have a drink with him and, well, the next time we see them, Richard is passed out on the counter of the bar.  Again, I remind you that The Plesh wrote this episode, and for him to immediately present his own character as such a shit, to the point that he can’t even get the hardcore alcoholic home safely without getting drunk himself, well, I love it.  This shows such insight into his own character, such understanding, and he makes no bones about writing himself as a real heel.  I love it! 

                There’s also a bit of misdirection in this scene.  See, Gary steals Richard’s wallet out of his coat and uses it to pay the bar tab.  Next, he grabs his car keys and heads out, and obviously I’m thinking he’s gonna take the car for a joyride and crash it or something.  No, instead, Richard gets tossed out on the street by the bartender and Gary comes rolling up in the car to pick him up and the two miraculously make it home safely. 

                They both stumble drunkenly into the Avery household, where Laura is a little alarmed to find the two of them in such a state.  There’s a lot of wonderful authenticity in this sequence, such as Gary losing the keys and then realizing he left them dangling in the doorknob of the house, hah hah.  He’s also crawling around, trying to figure out how to unlock the Avery liquor cabinet, while Laura is running off to the kitchen to prepare some black coffee (that’s a myth, by the way; what you really want to get for a very drunk person is lots and lots of water). 

                This is a very intense scene, actually, and I even gasped a little at one point.  See, Val comes running in, and at first she’s relieved that Gary is alive and, I guess I’m not gonna use the word “well,” but she’s relieved that he’s alive, in any case.  But Gary is having a hell of a time trying to get that liquor cabinet open, and while Val is sorta hovering over him, trying to get him to come home and go to bed, he just punches right through the glass of the liquor cabinet, cutting his hand up, and then he sorta punches Val, which I did not remember and which legitimately shocked me.  I guess it’s not a huge punch, but damn, we’ve never seen Gary get physically violent with Val before and I don’t think we ever do again; to my knowledge, this is an isolated act of violence.  Anyway, she goes flying backwards onto the ground and spends the rest of the episode sporting a nice big black eye.

                Some medics arrive to take Gary away, and Val tells them he needs to enter a rehabilitation center if he’s ever gonna get better.  At first, the medics are like, “It has to be voluntary, it has to be voluntary, blah blah blah,” but they mention how they could commit him if he had attempted suicide.  At this point, smart Laura jumps in and says he did try to kill himself.  “Look at his arm,” she says, insisting that Gary was cutting his wrists and trying to off himself.  Thanks to Laura’s clever lie (she thought up a lie and she thought it up quick), the medics haul off Gary and send him to a rehab center.

                Back over in Storyline B, Kenny is continuing to cheat on Ginger but she hasn’t quite realized it yet.  I do have one rather significant compliment to pay to an early scene featuring the two toxic bores of Seaview Circle.  See, it’s during another boring “Are you having an affair?” scene, but there’s this really artistic shot that struck me, something far more artistic than usual shot compositions on early ‘80s television.  See, Ginger is mad at Kenny, and she sits down at her big-ass mirror, and there’s like a total of three mirrors, okay?  So you have Ginger framed in the center mirror, but you have a reflective image of two Kennys being framed in the mirror on the very left and the one on the very right.  I actually paused this shot and turned to My Beloved Grammy and was like, “Look at this shot; it looks like something out of a Brian De Palma movie!”  I became very excited about this shot, which is framed like this great work of art and really elevates a terribly dull scene into something much more interesting.  I note again that KL was unafraid to display a little more cinematic flair than its parent series, which always tended to be shot in a very bland, very flat way (sorry, Dallas).  So hats off to the director of this episode, Roger Young; you actually made a Kenny/Ginger scene visually interesting to watch!

                Later, Kenny is staying late at the recording studio to record a “hot” new album with Sylvie.  The only problem is that her singing is awful.  At first, I wasn’t sure if her singing was supposed to be awful (after all, Afton Cooper’s singing over on Dallas was dreadful, yet everyone acted like she was this great singer on the level of Bette Midler or Karen Carpenter), but I quickly realized this was intentional.  She hits her high notes in a very painful way, and we get some shots of Kenny cringing along with his record-spinning pals, and then they finally give up for the night.  However, Kenny and Sylvie hang around the studio after everyone else is gone and, you guessed it, start to screw.  They don’t get very far, however, before Ginger comes walking in and catches them red-handed. 

                I’ll confess this scene was not that bad, and there was even some moderate intensity, although My Beloved Grammy did turn to me during it and say, in regards to Kim Lankford’s “acting” abilities, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen acting so bad.”  So as you can see, not only do the toxic bores of Kenny and Ginger annoy me and send me into a coma, but they are hardly the favorite characters of My Beloved Grammy, either, and she’s a smart lady and knows her shit!  I’ll confess that I actually found her indictment a little harsh.  True, neither Kim Lankford nor James Houghton are fantastic actors, but this scene was okay.  Follow me along, here.

                See, Ginger immediately rushes home and does what women tend to do when they’re mad at their man: destroy all his most valuable possessions.  She runs in and just starts destroying his record player, the stereo, his collection of amazing public domain records, all of it.  He comes running in after her and is like, “I can explain!”  Obviously this is just rhetoric, as Ginger caught him without his shirt on (and I think without pants on) attempting re-entry on Sylvie; it’s kinda hard to back out of that one once you’ve been caught.  But anyway, as he runs up to her, her big old bug eyes just bulge out (rather frightening) and she turns red and screams, “GET OUT!”  Again, I don’t care and the acting leaves something to be desired, but I’d still rather watch this storyline act out versus, say, the exciting story in Home Is For Healing where Kenny wanted to throw a party and Ginger didn’t want him to.

                Let me focus for a minute on why this entire storyline ranks so low for me.  First off, as I’ve stated ad nauseum, Kenny and Ginger just aren’t very interesting characters, and I’m starting to think it’s a combination of their limited acting abilities mixed in with the writers barely even attempting to turn them into interesting characters.  No matter what their story is, they always feel isolated to me, like you have this cul-de-sac full of interesting, richly drawn characters, and then there just happens to be this one couple who are unbelievably boring.  In addition, the third player in this little drama is also just not interesting.  That’s right, I’m looking at you, Louise Vallance as Sylvie!  Sylvie is such a boringly generic bitch character.  She’s wicked and she’s conniving, but she’s not wicked and conniving in an interesting or a fun or a campy way.  Remember Katherine Wentworth over on Dallas?  Now that was a wonderfully wicked character, pure evil all around but so deliciously campy and fun to watch.  In contrast, Sylvie is just sorta a bitch; there’s no fun in her performance, just the same boring evil shenanigans that we’ve seen in a million other shows.

                However, you sure won’t hear me complaining about Storyline A, which heats up nicely as Gary is committed to a little rehab center run by a friendly Transmorpher.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the rehab center is run by Dr. Kramer, played by Diana Douglas.  I note with interest that she was, from the years 1943 to 1951, married to the legendary actor Kirk Douglas, but I also note that she appeared in the 1983 Dallas episode entitled The Letter.  She will also be back on KL for one more episode, one coming up pretty shortly entitled Remember the Good Times (season two, episode three). 

                Anyway, Dr. Kramer has some, um, questionable methods of alcohol detox, I must say.  See, we get to a certain point in the episode where Gary is speaking with Dr. Kramer about his problems.  The thing he doesn’t know is that he’s being recorded and Val is in the other room, watching everything.  Dr. Kramer pulls out what she claims is a small bottle of whiskey (it’s actually tea, spoiler alert) and then a dime.  She says, “You can have one of these: A sip of whiskey or a dime to call your wife; which will it be?”  The music swells and there’s this really agonizing couple of seconds in which Gary has to decide where his priorities lie, but finally he just yanks that bottle out of her hands and guzzles it down before spitting it out and hilariously yelling, “IT’S TEA!”

                When that line came up, I almost peed my pants laughing, and I had to explain to My Beloved Grammy that I am not laughing at Gary.  I care for Gary and I want him to get over his drinking problems and improve his life.  The reason I laugh is because pretty much every time my brother or I prepare a cup of tea, one of us will take a sip of the tea and then scream “IT’S TEA!!!!!” really really loud.  So, when Gary delivered that amazing line, I just thought of my brother drinking tea and it made me laugh really hard.  Oh yeah, I also laugh because it’s a bit of campy, over-the-top delivery, but again, I remind you that I say all those things with love.  I love KL for lots of reasons, but the campy nature of the stories and acting is a huge part of that, and when I point out campy acting, I am always pointing it out with love.

                To be serious for a moment, however, I do think this little display is almost crippling for Val.  She has now seen first hand that Gary is so deep in his bender that he would rather have the quick fix of a sip of whiskey versus a relationship with her.  With all their history together and their long love affair, at this moment in time, it’s more important to Gary to have a sip of whiskey, not to attempt to rebuild a relationship with Val.  In all honesty, watching this scene, it feels like this may be the moment that they break up and get divorced, but surprisingly that doesn’t happen until 1982 and the conclusion of season three (thanks in no small part to Abby’s interference, of course).  I suppose Val is smart enough and knows Gary well enough to recognize that this behavior is a manifestation of his disease and not a true reflection on his feelings towards his wife.

                Next up, we have Gary shooting pool with this black guy.  What’s the deal with this black guy?  Can someone please explain it to me?  The guy’s name is like Mohammad or something, and he’s speaking with Gary as if he’s some wise old sage, like Yoda or something, all about how he conquered his own drinking problems and blah blah blah.  Okay, that’s all well and good, but then why are you here?  The guy is dressed in a robe just like all the other patients of the rehab center, and he appears to be in the same boat as all of them, yet he speaks as if he conquered all his problems decades ago and has since moved on.  So is he a patient or is he just a guy who hangs out at the rehab center cuz he likes wearing the sexy robes?  Well, I certainly can’t figure him out, so any information on this character would be appreciated. 

                Sid comes to visit Gary while he’s playing with that black guy in the pool room.  At first, Gary is kinda hostile towards Sid, I guess feeling like he’s only receiving a sympathy visit from Saint Sid, but when Sid is about to give up and leave, Gary is all like, “Guess what; I’m going to my first AA meeting tonight!”  Now at first, I thought he was just making that up as an on-the-spot-lie to make Sid think he’s improving.  Turns out I was sorta half right; Gary made up the AA story, but he fully intends to escape from the institute in a few hours rather than attend the meeting and admit to his problems.

                Our next scene is Gary’s Great Escape.  As tends to be the case with television shows of this era, his escape is remarkably easy.  All it requires is for him to put on a business suit underneath his robe, wait for the lady working the front desk to get distracted, and then sneak behind the desk to steal some keys (as well as a bit of cash from the lady’s purse).  Using the keys, Gary unlocks a back exit and escapes into the night.  He returns home to Val, acting more like someone who’s just done a few lines of coke.  He’s hopping around, acting way too excited, and he’s all like, “Oh Val, I feel great!  Everything’s gonna be great!  I’m so happy!”  When the phone rings, he’s all like, “Don’t answer that, Val!”  Val is sharp enough to recognize what’s going on, that he wasn’t released from the rehab center; he escaped. 

                Since KL was originally conceived as, essentially, Scenes From A Marriage set on a cul-de-sac, sequences like this are very important.  Here we have Gary and Val experiencing real marital turmoil, and this is, for me, when the show really shines.  Throughout the fourteen seasons, maybe that original conception of the show dissipates, but it never disappears completely.  Here we are seeing two people who are struggling.  Val is struggling with her love of Gary, a love that goes back to pretty much the first time they ever met, along with her feelings about his behavior, his drinking, his temper, all that crap.  On the other side, Gary is struggling to be an independent person without help from his rich Ewing family, but now he’s disappearing back into his old, bad habits, and he’s not yet ready to admit that he has A PROBLEM.  At this point, he’s still telling Val that he’s got his problems licked, that all it takes is his own self motivation.  Again, she is smart enough to not accept this, instead telling him that he needs to return to the rehab center to deal with his issues.

                The Gary storyline is coming to its conclusion, at least for the confines of this episode, but hold your horses, cuz we have at least one more scene between Kenny and Ginger that, I suppose, we need to discuss.  See, at this point Ginger has thrown Kenny out of the house and told him she never wants to see him again.  How do you deal with a marital spat like that?  If you answered, “Dress up in a gorilla costume and harass your wife at a zoo,” then you win the secret prize!  You see, Ginger is taking her kindergarten class (including that super cute black kid who I love, last seen in the episode The Constant Companion) out for a field trip at the zoo.  As they observe the monkeys, Kenny enters the scene dressed in a gorilla costume.  Endearing?  Mmmm, not so much.  Ginger tells her entire kindergarten class to just, um, sorta run off, which is a questionable decision for a teacher of small children in a busy public zoo, but whatever.  She and Kenny have a little talk and she tells him she just can’t see it working out; that probably they should get a divorce now.  Boy, how nice would it be if the two divorced and moved off the cul-de-sac right now and we didn’t have to look at them anymore?  Sadly, we still have three more years with them, but don’t worry, cuz then they go away and we have ten, count ‘em, ten glorious years without them!

                How is the episode going to end?  Don’t worry, cuz we’re almost there, and like I said, we don’t end on a cliffhanger the way that seasons two through thirteen will.  Gary goes to a bar, but he’s not drinking anything stronger than club soda.  He’s sitting there, sorta introspective, reflecting on things, holding a dime, clearly thinking of calling up Val or something.  From there, we cut to a fun filled session over at Alcoholics Anonymous where a very depressing middle aged woman is talking all about her drinking problems.  Val is there, as well (which kinda confused me; isn’t the AA rule that you can only attend if you are, yourself, an alcoholic?), looking sad and forlorn.  Anyway, things are about to wrap up at this session when none other than Gary Ewing himself enters.  He walks into the room, there’s a long, drawn out silence, and then he announces, “I’m Gary and I’m an alcoholic.”  Everyone starts to clap, Val is extremely relieved, and our inaugural season of KL comes to its conclusion.

                Pretty fucking great, huh?  I’m so glad that our season finale for the first season was allowed to be a two-parter, because it definitely helps to make it feel a little more epic, a little bit more the part of some grander story.  At the same time, I noticed lots of fascinating talking points regarding these two episodes as the conclusion of the season.  For one thing, I got the strong sense that the writers were covering their butts and making this be, possibly, the series finale. 

Again, Dallas finished the 1979-1980 season ranking at #6 in the ratings (and it would jump up to #1 during the next season), while KL finished at #30, just barely making the top thirty by an inch.  Because of that, I definitely think the writers, producers, and creators probably were unsure whether they would even get a second season, and that’s probably why this season doesn’t end on some grand cliffhanger but rather with a sense of some resolution.  Pretending that KL just ended here, there really aren’t a lot of dangling threads, are there?  The only one I can think of is that of Kenny and Ginger and Sylvie, but nobody cares about that, anyway.  The Gary and Val storyline actually feels like it reached some conclusion at the end of this episode, that they will work out their problems and try to move on. 

Thank God we got thirteen more seasons, by the way, because we would be missing out on so much classic television without those.  However, now that we’ve finished the abbreviated first season, I gotta say I enjoyed it much more than I remembered.  Yes, I think I would rather take later seasons over this one easily, but I really found myself loving this first season almost all the way through (with the glaring exception of Land of the Free, of course, although that one still made me laugh a lot).  Seriously, this was a delightful surprise; even while starting the series, I warned My Beloved Grammy that the show doesn’t really get good until the fourth season, but then as we started working our way through the first season, I was like, “Well, that episode was great, and that episode was great, and so was that one.”  Maybe it’s just the warm and fuzzy feeling I get from visiting with my friends on the cul-de-sac?  That feeling of seeing these people for the first time and knowing what wonderful adventures they are about to embark on?  I dunno, but something about this first season changed for me upon this viewing and I just thoroughly loved it. 

Now, next week I am gonna post "A Reflection on Season One," where I kinda give my thoughts on the season as a whole (I plan to do this at the end of every season), and then before we proceed with the second season of KL, we’re gonna return briefly to the land of Texas and all the wheeling and dealings over on Dallas.  That’s right,  it’s time for another two “Brief Dallas Interludes.” 

See, while Gary was getting drunk and going on a bender, J.R. was getting shot and television history was being made over on the parent series.  In my research, I found that before KL started its second season, Gary and Val crossed over for two episodes of Dallas to make sure J.R. was alive and well (and, of course, to remind viewers of that series that there was now a spinoff on Thursday nights that they could also enjoy).  So, please join me for two Dallas eps in a row when we discuss both No More Mister Nice Guy: Part One as well as No More Mister Nice Guy: Part Two.  After that, we’ll get started with the second season of KL and meet a lovely new neighbor, Miss Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner (although when we first meet her, she is just Abby Fairgate Cunningham), with the KL double whammy of Hitchhike: Part One and Hitchhike: Part Two.  Talk to you then!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas From KNOTS BLOGGING/Brett's Ultimate Christmas Wish


MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM KNOTS BLOGGING/BRETT’S ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS WISH

QUICK WARNING THAT THERE MAY BE A MINOR SPOILER OR TWO CONTAINED WITHIN THIS POST, SO READ ON WITH CAUTION!

                Welcome to the very first bonus writeup from Knots Blogging.  At first, my original conception of this blog was pretty rigid, in that I just wanted to focus on the episodes, put up one-episode-per-week, and that would pretty much be it, but then I thought to myself: Why not throw in little bonus write-ups or thoughts of any KL related news that might come up during the course of my rewatching? 

When you think about it, this blog is really still in its infancy, as we are just about to finish the first season (the very short first season of only 13 episodes, made to look even shorter when compared to later seasons that consist of 30 eps) and then we’ll have an enormous thirteen more seasons consisting of a total of 331 more eps to go.  So even though I’m getting prepped to put up Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two and thinking, “Wow, you’re almost done with the first season,” well, we’ve still got a lot of places to go.  Also, if I really stick to the one-per-week style (spoiler alert: I’m considering switching to two-per-week at some point in the future depending on how many people seem to care about this blog, how many comments and views I get, etc., but for now I’m fairly comfortable with one-per-week), it will take well over six years for My Beloved Grammy and I to reach the final episode.  With all that in mind, I started to think of all the KL related news or events that will occur within those six years.  From there, I started to think of the possibility of something occurring that absolutely needs to occur, and preferably sooner rather than later.

Today is Christmas and I wish a good day to everyone out there who is taking the time to read these words.  If you celebrate the holiday, I hope everything goes swimmingly, and if you celebrate another holiday, I hope that goes well, too.  If you boycott the entire holiday season, I might actually respect that the most (the gluttony of consumerist culture is really starting to get to me and make me dread the holidays every year, in all honesty).  But in any case, I’m getting older and, hopefully, a little wiser, and this year when my folks asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I really didn’t have anything on the list.  I kinda had to rack my brain to think of something, and I came up with only three things (in case you’re curious, they are the last two seasons of Mad Men on BluRay and an espresso machine for the kitchen, so I can make sexy lattes and cappuccinos when I have boys over).  But as I was walking along the other day, I realized what my true ultimate Christmas wish really is, and here it is.

I wake up every day screaming because KL is still not available to the masses.  I throw up before bed every night because KL is still not available to the masses.  Sometimes I have nervous breakdowns and wet my pants in the middle of the day because KL is still not available to the masses.  My point is that it actually hurts me that KL is not available to the masses.  I love KL about as much as anything in the world; I cherish it as much as I cherish the important people in my life and I love it about as much as any TV show I’ve ever seen (I will admit it still comes second for all-time favorite show to Twin Peaks, but that’s becuase Twin Peaks is just high art so far beyond the reach or ability of any other television show).  I legitimately feel that my life is much richer for having seen all 344 episodes of KL and, in the spirit of giving, I wish that everyone else in the world could experience that same joy, yet most people can’t. 
 
I had to go out of my way to do research and find that perfect seller with the bootleg copies of all the eps in order to see them.  To a regular human being walking around, they can go get seasons one or two on DVD and that’s it.  Also, those seasons hardly represent the show at the peak of its powers (although I definitely think this blog is showing that these seasons and early eps are far from bad; they are just probably the weakest segment of the series as a whole), so it hurts me more to think that someone could maybe watch just those two seasons, stop, and never know just how truly amazing the series gets.  Also, the very idea of someone reaching the point of Sid Fairgate plunging off that cliff and then just having to, you know, stop watching the show; that idea hurts me maybe the most of all.

Thanks to my research on the amazing SoapChat forum for KL along with some of the lovely comments left here by some of my lovely readers, I know that our friends in the United Kingdom are lucky enough to watch KL on one of their channels, start to finish, two eps per day.  This is a beautiful thing and I’m glad that people in the world are getting to re-experience the magic or, perhaps, discover the magic for the very first time.  At the same time, it sounds like all the eps are being edited to some degree or another, and I’ve heard a lot of them are significantly shorter than original broadcast and missing some important footage.  I remind you that this is just what I’ve heard; I don’t live in the UK and have not seen the versions being aired out there currently.  So even though the UK is getting to experience the series, I can’t help but feel that they are also missing out on the complete package, the full extent of the brilliance.  However, they’re getting a hell of a lot more than folks in the US are getting, which is just those first two, maybe-not-quite-as-impressive debut seasons followed by a whole lot of nothingness. 

I think you can all see where I’m going with this.  My Christmas wish is that KL be available to the masses, and I’m really not too picky about how.  I simply refuse to believe that in the next six years, KL will remain dormant while all fourteen seasons of Dallas, six of which aren’t even good at all, are readily available on DVD for anyone to purchase.  Even Dynasty and Falcon Crest are out on DVD (just to show my ignorance, I’m not sure if they’ve released the entirety of either show, but I’m just making a point here) and my friend just alerted me that Dynasty is now available on, I believe, Amazon, for instant streaming.  But what about my cherished KL?

All fourteen seasons of KL need to be out, to be readily available.  With the incredible takeoff of instant streaming services in the last ten years, I just can’t believe that not one of these services will pick up KL within the next six years.  NetFlix has fucking Melrose Place available on streaming, and what was that series if not a blatant KL ripoff (that I still watched all 226 episodes of)?  Imagine you’re scrolling through your NetFlix instant and you see that you have the choice between Melrose Place, the trashy 90s FOX network ripoff of KL that had the soapy shenanigans without the characters and the heart and the great writing, or the original, the true, the one, the only, the majestic KL.  Which one are you gonna watch?  If NetFlix won’t put it up, then there’s Hulu or Amazon or any of these other streaming services that are so popular nowadays. 

However, one caveat that I want to add is that I want all 344 episodes complete and uncut and as originally broadcast.  I can’t even guarantee that my bootleg copies are that (they come recorded off of the SoapNet network and are not recordings of the original CBS broadcasts, and for instance, the very last episode is shown as two separate eps instead of a two-hour incredible experience of bittersweet brilliance and amazingness).  If KL suddenly pops up on NetFlix one day and I cum in my pants a little bit when I get the news, only to discover that they have removed Lisa Hartman’s songs or the other music throughout the series, I am just gonna freak.  Likewise, if they have just sliced out scenes here and there for no reason except to slice them out, I am gonna freak some more.  I know it’ll probably cost money to get the rights to those songs, but fucking fork it over and get it moving; if The Wonder Years can finally be released and contain 96% of its original music (and remember that there was tons of music in every episode of that show from start to finish), then there’s no reason the same can’t be done for KL.

But do you all wanna know my ultimate wish?  My true ultimate big Christmas wish?  The one that probably will never come true but I’m throwing it out there and hoping that, somehow, my positive energy and good spirit and hope for the future on this special Christmas day will make it come true?  I like streaming as much as the next guy, and I watch a fair number of shows or movies through NetFlix, but I still love the hard copy.  I still believe in DVD and BluRay (I’ve been converted into a full-time BluRay buyer at this point) and I still like looking at my big, beautiful shelf of movies and grabbing a hard copy off the shelf to watch (why, just the other day I enjoyed my BluRay of Jackie Brown).  My ultimate Christmas wish is all 344 eps of KL not on DVD but on BluRay, remastered and looking good and sounding good, with some commentaries and some documentaries and the Block Party that aired before the finale in 1993 and the 1997 mini-series Back to the Cul-De-Sac.  I want it all, damn it!  I recognize that this may never happen, mostly because of the “low sales” for the first two seasons on DVD (I’m putting that in quotes cuz I’m not sure I completely buy WB’s excuse for not bothering to release the next twelve seasons of the show on DVD).  So dear God, Jesus, Buddha, whoever is up there and is maybe listening to me, that is my ultimate Christmas wish, and I would really like for it to happen soon (like before January 1st of 2017, for instance).  I am just one little gay boy on the internet who has a dream, and I would like that dream to come true.

That about does it for my little Christmas wish list, but before I go, I want to express my deep appreciation to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog, to leave comments, to show their support.  I am really truly grateful that there are people out there in the internet universe who give a shit about what I have to say, and I am even more grateful to those who take the time to say so by leaving comments or writing me nice messages.  I hope I don’t miss anybody, but I wanna give a special shout out to David Dolbear, to vik850, to Thomas Figueroa, to Anthony H, to Jade Minear, to Robert A. Davis, to Ewan GC, to Rachel Lucas (who was even nice enough to put my blog up on her own page under her “Blogs I Follow” list; I was truly touched!), to Jonathan Williams, to E-Julian, to Ali888, and to Michelle.  All of you have taken the time to leave at least one comment on my posts and I’ve read all of these comments with excitement and joy and have always been very touched that you have shown support.

That’s all I got for this little Christmas bonus essay.  Next year I was thinking about maybe doing some sort of a ranking of all the different Christmas episodes of KL, but we’ll see what I decide when I reach that 365 days from now.  Until then, Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!  Oh yeah, and, if you have the ability to do so, keep watching KL!
 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

KNOTS LANDING Episode 012 of 344: BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE: PART ONE



Season 01, Episode 12

Episode 012 of 344


Directed by Roger Young 

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 20th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Alcoholic Gary goes off the wagon after he celebrates his promotion at Knots Landing Motors by drinking champagne.

 

                Ah, now here’s an episode, or perhaps I should say episodes, that’s really rich with discussion and talking points.  For today we have reached the finale of season one of KL…sorta.  This is a two-part episode, but it’s not one of those two parters that airs as a big huge two-hour block of television and then is later split up for syndication.  No, rather it’s a two-parter in which both parts aired a week apart.  This is hardly the last time we will see the show do this; in fact, we will pick right up in the second season with another two-part episode right off the bat (Hitchhike: Part One and Hitchhike: Part Two).  So I guess technically this isn’t the season finale; that would be our next episode, Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two, but it’s sorta getting warmed up for that, isn’t it?  Let’s dive in.

                For eleven episodes now, Gary and Val have seemed remarkably stable and happy, but there’s been a ticking time bomb for all eleven of those episodes, and when you start an episode entitled Bottom of the Bottle, I think you pretty well know what’s in store for the characters.  See, it’s been established since Gary was first introduced back on Dallas that he is an alcoholic and has a history of letting his life be ruined by too much drinking.  Having an alcoholic character as part of your main cast is pretty much a must for any nighttime soap opera.  We obviously had Sue Ellen over on Dallas, and every time she got drunk and went on a bender, disaster would strike and people would die.  Well, over here in KL, we have Gary, and ever since Pilot when he sat in bed with Val and said, “I know what I am and I know I can’t take a drink,” we’ve been waiting for that moment when he finally slips and does so.

                This is one of those episodes where I really wish the little intro didn’t spoil so much.  You all know what I’m talking about, right?  Just like on Dallas as well as lots of other shows of the same era, all the episodes actually begin with a little preview that lasts thirty to sixty seconds and gives you some hints of what the episode is going to be about.  Sometimes I find these very charming and they work to make me even more excited about the upcoming episode.  For me, though, this particular preview gives away way too much about the episode.  It seems to go on longer than the previous episodes, and it really just seems to walk you through the whole episode, spoiling everything.  In a way, I’ll be glad to move on to the season two DVDs, because they just completely removed the previews from that set.  It’s a tradeoff, I suppose, cuz I like to try and see the eps exactly as viewers saw them way back when, but I also get annoyed when the previews are so completely full of spoilers that there are no surprises in the following 48 minutes, you know?

                But anyway, after the preview and the opening credits, we come in on a happy party at the Fairgate house.  For a two-parter that’s going to descend into darkness rapidly and extremely, we actually start at a very joyous moment.  See, Gary is getting nice and established in Seaview Circle as well as at Knots Landing Motors, so we start with Sid giving him a big promotion to being, like, vice president or something, basically the second-in-command after Sid himself.  Everyone is overjoyed and then the champagne bottles start popping open and, before he knows it, Gary has a drink of champagne in his hand.

                At this point, I searched my brain to see if any of the other neighbors knew Gary was an alcoholic yet.  The answer is no, actually.  Yes, in Pilot there was an awkward moment during the first happy neighborhood barbecue where Richard was mixing drinks and Gary said, “Just club soda for me,” but that was it.  He didn’t say anything like, “I can’t drink,” or “I don’t drink,” all he said was he would like a club soda.  And in the other ten episodes of the season, at no point did he stop to tell his neighbors about his past and his problems with the bottle.  For me, though, Gary’s alcoholism and his eventual ability to get past it is such an ingrained part of his character that I forget others aren’t aware of it at this early juncture.  Again, it’s somewhat like Sue Ellen on Dallas.  In my mind, everybody on that show knows she’s an alcoholic who can’t go near a drink, but then you watch the first two or three seasons where she’s drinking all the time and no one is saying anything and you’re sorta like, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”

                Anyway, since nobody besides Val knows about Gary’s issues with alcohol, they pour him some champagne and hand it to him and it’s all very casual.  Gary looks at the champagne and tries to say no thank you, but Richard is like, “Oh come on, Gary, you can just jog ten extra laps tomorrow.”  Richard assumes that Gary’s non-drinking lifestyle is simply based on calories or even just a preference for a certain taste.  He also says, “This isn’t alcohol; this is champagne,” emphasizing the social pressure one sometimes feels to drink champagne for reasons of celebration.  Because of that pressure, Gary does, indeed, take a drink.

                Boy, it doesn’t take long for everything to spiral out of control for poor Gary.  At this point, I would argue that the glorious camp value of KL is on full display.  Please remember I say that with love; I love all things about KL, and the campy and often over-the-top nature of the stories is obviously one of the things I really love.  At the same time, I love these characters as if they are real people and I take seriously their issues and setbacks.  Therefore, I can laugh at the campy nature of Gary’s descent into drinking, but I can also feel bad for him and feel sad that he’s ruining his life.

                At first, things seem okay.  Gary has a few glasses of champagne and is in happy-drunk mode at first.  Gary and Val leave the Fairgate house and return to their own home, and Gary is in a good mood, like, “Oh boy, that was fun; can you believe I got that promotion?”  But Val is not having any fun; you can see the concern and fright in her face as she looks at Gary, and when she mentions to him that she doesn’t like him drinking, he flips out.  “I’m a grown man and I can handle a few lousy drinks!” he yells, and it’s our first time seeing drunken, angry Gary.  Even in those previous Dallas eps we discussed, he almost drank back in Reunion: Part Two, but he didn’t actually end up doing it.  So far, Gary’s drinking has been discussed but never shown, but now we’re seeing it, and it ain’t pretty.  He immediately turns into a yelling, mean man who screams at Val and frightens her before he goes running out of the house and takes the car away for a nice drunken joy ride.

                I gotta say the casual drinking-and-driving really brings me back to an older time.  See, the Fairgates come running out to see what all the commotion is about, and Gary is barreling out of the driveway like a madmen, and nobody says one thing like, “Oh, drinking and driving is bad; I hope he doesn’t get in a crash!”  Nope, that’s not the main concern at all.  Val is worried because he’s drinking in the first place, but nobody gives a crap about his intoxicated use of the motor vehicle.  In fact, Sid is very casual about it, saying, “Oh, he’s probably going to an all-night movie; that’s what I used to do!”  At this point, Val finally admits to everyone what’s going on, explaining that this isn’t just a regular thing where Gary had a few too many, but rather that Gary is an alcoholic and needs to never drink or else horrible things happen.

                Gary runs off to the nearest bar, and I had a big old grin on my face when I saw who was playing the bartender: Jerry Hardin.  Does the name not ring a bell?  Well, that’s okay, cuz you’ve probably seen this guy in a million movies or TV shows and just never knew his name.  I would say his most known role (certainly the one I immediately know him from) is playing Mulder’s first informant, Deep Throat, in really early X Files episodes, like the very first season.  In addition that that, he’s been in lots of movies like The Firm, Big Trouble in Little China, and one of my very favorite movies, Cujo.  Finally, looking at Mr. Hardin's IMDb page, I also find that he is a Transmorpher!  In addition to appearing in this episode of KL (as well as another episode much later in the series, playing a different character in the 1992 episode The Torrents of Winter) he also showed up in not one but two episodes of Dallas, once again playing two different characters!  He showed up in the 1981 episode Making of a President as Elroy Askew as well as a 1987 episode where he played Judge Loeb.  So not only is he a Transmorpher, but he’s also, like, a Super Transmorpher cuz he showed up on both shows twice, playing different characters in all four different episodes! 

                Anyway, Jerry is rather excellent in his small role here, offering some sage advice to Gary about how hard he’s hitting the bottle.  He explains to Gary the difference between having a few drinks to have a good time and drinking strictly to get drunk, which is what Gary is doing.  Of course Gary is more than a few drinks deep, so he is dismissive of the wise bartender’s advice.  Too bad, too, because if he listened to Mulder’s informant, things might turn out different for him.  See, next up is some whore who saddles up to Gary and offers to show him a good time.  Intrigued, or perhaps just too drunk to even know what’s going on, Gary takes her up on her offer and disappears with her.

                Things are going along absolutely swimmingly with this episode….and then the B story kicks in.  Oh boy, talk about a boring storyline, mostly because it features, you guessed it, Kenny and Ginger.  Okay, so obviously Kenny has been having an affair for awhile, right?  We met his little hussy, Sylvie, a few episodes back, I believe when Lucy Ewing came to town in Home Is For Healing.  Well, the hussy is back again, and she’s gonna be back until about mid season two.  Anyway, Ginger is laying in bed and Kenny comes sneaking in deep in the wee hours of the night (technically the early hours of the morning, probably).  He’s trying to be all covert about it, but Ginger knows what’s up.  Kenny is screwing Sylvie, but we have to suffer through a lot of Kenny/Ginger footage before this is finally proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Sigh.  Let’s return to the actually interesting story, shall we?

                Val and Sid team up to track down Gary, wherever he may be.  Val’s had experience with this before, presumably back in like 1961 in Texas when they were first married and living with the Ewings on Southfork.  Therefore, she is smart enough to know where to look for Gary: Every bar and liquor store in the area.  So they head off and find the same bar Gary was just at.  Mulder’s informant tells them that Gary was here and that he was drinking hard, and then he acts ever the gentlemen and pulls Sid aside to tell him that Gary went off with the whore.  Pretty decent, huh?  He doesn’t want to say such embarrassing and incriminating things in front of Val, so he has a little man-to-man with Sid to keep him informed.  It’s a small detail, but I like it.

                Mulder’s informant’s, um, information (forgive my wording) leads Sid and Val to a crappy apartment complex where the whore lives.  The whore tells them that Gary pretty much had no interest in sex and was only interested in finding more liquor.  Apparently he sold his car to her for a measly 400 dollars, enough money to stay good and drunk for a little while longer.  The whore concludes her tale by saying, “That man doesn’t care about anything but his next drink.” 

                Coming up next is a very epic fight in some seedy bar that Gary is now haunting.  He puts some country music on the jukebox and these two other drunk guys are like, “Hey, your music sucks,” and then angry, drunken Gary is like, “This is the music of America, man!” and then he attacks both dudes and things quickly escalate.  Before you know it, Gary is going after them with a pool cue, breaking glasses and lights and everything else in the vicinity, although the two gentlemen pretty efficiently take care of him and he winds up on his back, all bloody and beat up, and then the cops show up to take him away.  Just as they’re yanking him out of the bar and into a police cruiser, Val and Sid pull up and are just in time to see Gary getting taken away.

                If you were hoping to see Gary get butt raped in prison or something, you’re gonna be disappointed because the next scene is him being released.  I feel this scene is significant because, at this point, Gary is no longer drunk, but he’s still behaving like an asshole towards Val.  They come home together and go upstairs so he can shower and get to work.  When Val tells him he probably shouldn’t be going into work, he’s like, “Don’t tell me what to do!”  I think it’s interesting to note that Gary’s temper flairs up so violently even though he’s not drunk at that moment. 

                He heads to work at Knots Landing Motors, and obviously things are a smidge awkward between he and Sid.  Gary is doing the uber-hyper, super happy, “Oh, it was no big deal” thing, but when he mentions he’s going out to lunch with two dudes for some sort of business deal, Sid tries to intervene, but to no avail.  Gary is gonna prove that he’s still got it together, dammit!  Therefore, he goes off for the business lunch all by himself, leaving Sid quietly worried.  At this point, I still don’t think Sid has registered how serious Gary’s problem is; he thinks he had a little setback but he’ll get over it.  A little later, the whole block will see how big Gary’s drinking problem really is, but not quite yet.

                Obviously the alcohol is flowing at this business lunch.  The two forgettable middle aged white guys are guzzling martinis as if prohibition is gonna be reinstated the next day, and obviously Gary is feeling some pressure from them.  He’s trying to be a good boy and just sip his coffee, but the temptation builds and builds and when he sees the waiter preparing two delicious gin-infused martinis and plopping some olives in them, he simply can’t resist.  “Make that three!” he yells out, and we all know what’s gonna happen next.  Gary returns to work slightly drunken, which does not please Sid.  When Sid brings this up, Gary throws a hissy fit basically telling Sid he doesn’t need this job.  He storms out and, for the time being at least, is jobless.

                Since I suppose we must talk about it, we return to the B-story of Kenny, Ginger, and Sylvie, but only briefly.  We finally get to see that he’s having the affair, as he’s in bed with Sylvie and is getting dressed, going on about how, “I’m a married guy and you knew that going in!”  While I’m increasingly bored and annoyed by this story, I also must point out again that I appreciate the writers’ abilities to establish that things have been going on for awhile without having to show them.  Remember how they did with Richard’s financial troubles in our previous episode?  Well, same thing here; through simple dialogue, we know that this affair has been going on for awhile (probably since Home Is For Healing, and that was like six episodes ago) even though we haven’t been physically seeing it until this very moment.  Anyway, this little affair scene between Kenny and Sylvie is mercifully short, and then we can return to our main story.

                This is our first two-parter of KL, so don’t be alarmed when the episode doesn’t wrap up with a little bow the way our previous eleven did, for the most part.  See, Gary stumbles into a liquor store being run by a surly black man with a gross looking little cigar dangling constantly from his lip.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this, but I wanna make note of the fact that Gary had his money stolen while drunkenly wandering the beach.  See, this gang of toughs comes up to him and starts harassing him, and when they realize how drunk he is, they sorta sneak his wallet out of his pocket and run off.  Why do I mention this specifically?  Well, because one of these toughs (I’m really not sure which, but he’s listed in the ending credits as “Tough”) is played by Ted White.  I know, I know, you’re probably saying, “Ted who?”  Well, get ready, because Mr. Ted White gets to join Kevin O’Brien from our last episode as someone who appeared in a KL as well as a Friday the 13th movie.  Not only did he appear in one of those films, but he actually played the man behind the mask!  That’s right, he is Jason in the fourth installment of that classic franchise, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (that title is a lie, in case you were wondering). 

                Anyway, Jason Voorhees steals Gary’s money, so therefore he has no money when he gets to the surly black guy’s liquor store.  He is desperate for some bourbon, but all he has is a few measly cents!  The surly black guy tells him the coins are enough for a bottle of wine, but that’s not good enough for Gary; he wants that bourbon at all costs!  When he tries to just steal it, the surly black guy produces a pistol and holds it right at Gary’s throat.  Debating between the merits of the bourbon versus the cons of being shot in the face, Gary decides to leave without any alcohol.

                The last image of the episode is one that pretty much makes you want to go and kill yourself right away.  See, Gary is now completely lost and isolated, hanging out under a bridge in front of the ocean with only a passed out homeless guy and a really scrawny dog as his company.  In a real ROCK BOTTOM moment, Gary sneaks up to the sleeping wino and yanks his bottle away from him (I think it’s wine, but it could be some harder liquor).  The wino is all like, “Hey, don’t take my bottle,” but Gary chugs the entire contents of the bottle in about two seconds flat, before very politely returning the empty bottle to the wino.  I gotta say this whole scene made me gag a bit, just imagining Gary putting his lips on the same bottle that was being used by this disgusting homeless guy.  Gary crouches down on the sand and we go out on that image, him just sitting there on the sand, a completely drunken mess.

                As we get wrapped up on this episode, I wanna take a moment to note what makes this double-whammy series finale very different from all finales to follow, and that is: No cliffhanger.  If I recall correctly, all of the remaining seasons conclude with some sort of cliffhanger, sometimes a whole bunch at once, leaving you eager to tune in next fall.  I think if this episode (or episodes) had been done in a later year, this image of Gary under the bridge would have been the final shot of the whole season; we the audience would be left in suspense about how things will turn out for him, having to wait all summer to find out.  However, in this case, we still have one episode of the season left, and I don’t mean to spoil it too fast, but it sorta ends the season with a feeling of closure versus the “I gotta tune in next season” feeling that all the future seasons will give. 

                Since this is a double episode, I’m sorta tempted to wait until I finish my write up on Part Two to give me thoughts on the eps, but at the same time, these were two separate episodes that aired one week apart, so I think I’d better give my thoughts on this episode now.  Well, I like it.  I could live without all the Kenny and Ginger stuff (as always), but the Gary stuff is solid.  It’s pretty incredible to watch Gary, who has been a mellow man and a good husband all season long, descend so quickly into drink and violence and shameful behavior.  In a way, it’s almost funny that all of this transpires over the course of, what, three days?  I will say that’s a bit exaggerated, obviously for dramatic effect, yet at the same time there are many little facets of this episode that ring true.  In particular, the fact that Gary’s entire descent begins with one simple glass of champagne I found rather truthful.  For your serious alcoholic, that really is all it takes; once they’ve had that alcohol, even just a tiny glass, they are off that wagon and things are not going to be pretty.

                I would call this an “Action” episode, really, in that it gets started right off the bat and it doesn’t let up once throughout the show.  As soon as Gary has that first drink, he’s off on a horrible, drunken adventure, and there’s really no time to breathe throughout the course of the episode.  At the same time, even though the episode is relentless in its pacing, it’s still a character-driven story, one of the first episodes of the series to focus hard on Gary and just Gary.  We finally see just how bad it truly gets for him if he starts drinking, and this in turn tells us more and more about Gary’s general feelings of self-worth and his place in the world and in his family, specifically.

                Where is there left to go after Bottom of the Bottle: Part One?  The answer, of course, lies in our first season finale, aptly titled Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two.