Sunday, February 7, 2016


Episode Title: Remember the Good Times

Season 02, Episode 03

Episode 016 of 344

Written by Diana Gould

Directed by James Sheldon

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 4th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):. Gary meets Judy Trent who wants his help in getting her husband support from AA. Abby begins to show her manipulative nature (Already?) as she takes advantage of Eric and tries to seduce Kenny. Karen confronts her about this.


                Remember the two episodes that formed the conclusion of season one of KL?  Of course you do, because they were Bottom of the Bottle: Parts One and Two and they were extremely exciting and memorable!  Well, we’re just a few episodes away from those, but it’s time to explore the issue of Gary Ewing and his alcoholism once again. 

                At the head of the episode, we have Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner lounging in her pool, “working on her tan,” in her very own words.  Can I just say that it’s moments like this that make me wanna just climb into the TV and live in the same world as these characters?  It’s the middle of the afternoon and Abby is sitting on one of those big inflatable water chairs that come equipped with a drink holder and everything.  She’s wearing her bikini, lying out in the sun, looking generally fabulous.  I think she’s even drinking alcohol, and if she isn’t, well, I’m disappointed. 

                Anyway, in addition to Abs working on her tan, we also find out that Gary has been going to AA five times a week.  Hmmm, five times?  I don’t know a whole lot about my AA, but how often is one expected to go if they are just starting to get clean and sober?  Doesn’t five times a week seem a bit excessive?  It’s no wonder Gary is shown to be bored and disinterested later at the meeting; if I had to listen to a bunch of depressing alcoholics five times a week, I’d get irritated, too.

                But anyway, we follow Gary and Val along to one of these lovely meetings, where we get to see, once again, Diana Douglas as Dr. Kramer.  You’ll recall that we last saw her in Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two, helping Gary along with that hilarious “IT’S TEA!” sequence.  I told you she’d be back for one more, and now here she is.  She tells Gary that she is an alcoholic, which I think is new information to the viewer.  Did she mention this in her last appearance at all?  I can’t remember, but I think it’s a revelation here in this particular episode.  Also at the AA meeting is a rather unattractive and somewhat lesbianic looking broad named Judy Trent.  SPOILER ALERT for all those new viewers out there, but Gary is going to start having an affair with Judy pretty shortly; it’s not in this particular episode, but it’s soon.  I have to ask what in particular draws him to this woman, as she is not particularly attractive in either her personality or her looks.  Judy is played by Jane Elliot, who I note is still a busy actress even up to 2016, apparently as part of the cast of General Hospital.  Good for her, but as far as women I would choose to have an affair with, Judy would not be making the top of my list (as everyone knows, if I was gonna have an affair, it would be with that luscious specimen known as Pat Petersen circa 1985 or so, mmmmmm).

                What’s Judy’s story?  Well, it’s pretty important to the events that unfold over the course of this episode.  Judy has a husband named Earl who has a serious alcoholism problem, yet he is still not in the stage where he can admit it or try to seek help for it.  She wants Gary to be his sponsor, to take him under his wing and help him deal with his issues.  Now, I again have to question the realism of this scenario.  As I said, I am no expert on the rules of AA, but I am fairly certain that you are not supposed to sponsor anyone until you have been clean and sober for at least twelve months, just like you’re not supposed to take on a significant romantic relationship within your first twelve months of sobriety.  Gary says right here that he’s only been sober for three months, so I don’t think he would even be allowed to do this.  At the same time, at no point do we see Gary speaking about this with his sponsor, so maybe he just decided to go on and do whatever the hell he wanted, all rules be damned.

                We meet Earl pretty fast, and he’s played rather delightfully by Paul Rudd.  Now, before you all perk up and lean forward to see if you read that name right, let me do some explaining.  This is not the Paul Rudd we’ve all enjoyed in numerous comedy movies throughout the last twenty years or so (the Paul Rudd who starred in such movies as Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers).  No, instead this is the other Paul Rudd.  This Paul Rudd actually died back in 2010, but he was a busy little character actor for years, and I’ve seen him in a myriad of random television work, like an episode of Murder, She Wrote.  Anyway, as Earl, this guy is a delight.  He’s one of those classic arty alcoholics that’s, like, trying to be a great writer but is too busy disappearing into the nearest bottle.  Everything he says is laced with a nasty, sardonic wit, meaning that I would not care for his company in real life, but in an episode of a nighttime soap, he’s perfect.  I wish I had written down some of his lines in my notes, because he really has a great acid tongue and puts it to full effect throughout the course of the show.

                Judy wants Gary to help Earl get clean, but it’s clear right away that Earl has no interest in that.  He’s not ready to admit that he is an alcoholic or that he has a problem.  However, a little later in the episode, Gary gets a call from Earl while he’s lying in bed reading Judas Squad.  I noted that because the camera seems to be making an effort to make it clear what he’s reading.  Is there any significance to this?  I’m not sure, but I did some research, and while Judas Squad offers absolutely no results on Wikipedia, I did find it available for one penny on Amazon.  The author is James N. Rowe and I guess it’s a book about, like, nuclear terror, or something.  There’s only one review of it up on Amazon, but it is a five star review and the reviewer seems very enthused by the story!  Perhaps I’m reading too much into this; perhaps the prop guy on set was reading the book and decided to have Gary use it as a prop during this sequence, who knows? 

                I think I might be getting a bit ahead of myself.  Really, the first thing to happen is that Earl comes drunkenly stumbling in to bother Gary at Knots Landing Motors.  From there, Gary takes him home to sleep it off and enjoy a nice dinner.  Rather than sleeping, Earl sneaks a bottle out of his shoe (clever boy) and manages to stay drunk.  When Val prepares a nice meal for everyone (including Judy, who is invited over), Earl kinda ruins everything with his drunkenness.  First he’s just mean and nasty verbally, but then he starts breaking things, including some plates that Val just purchased and was so excited about using.  Then he pretty much leaves the house. 

                Following all those events, it’s a little bit later that Gary is reading Judas Squad in bed when the phone rings.  Earl is hauled up in some dive bar or something, so Gary comes to rescue him.  The two go out for black coffee and Gary gives the memorable bit of advice that all alcoholics need to learn to drink a lot of coffee.  However, Earl will have none of it; he declares that (much like the title of the ep suggests) every good time he ever had in his life involved alcohol, and he’s “Not ready for the good times to end yet.”  Therefore, he ditches Gary and vanishes into the connecting bar, leading to probably my favorite scene of the episode.

                The director of this particular ep (James Sheldon, pictured below, who actually just recently died at age 95 in March of 2016) really does some great work towards making this bar look extremely frightening.  It’s lit all dark, with just that sorta red filter coming from all the light up signs, and it’s sorta shot in slow motion from Gary’s point of view as he enters, turning all the laughing, smiling bar-goers into something rather grotesque and upsetting.  He also keeps cutting to extreme close-ups of Gary’s anguished face as he tries to push through into the bar and rescue Earl.  In truth, the whole sequence probably lasts less than sixty seconds, but it’s one of those scenes that has seared itself into my brain ever since I first watched it.  It’s effective and it really makes me feel afraid to go near a bar.

                But wait, what’s going on with some of our other beloved characters on the cul-de-sac?  Well, not to say that Kenny and Ginger are beloved by anyone, but they do get some material in this episode, so I suppose we have to discuss it.  Basically, the two are still split up, as you’ll recall that Kenny was carrying on having an affair in the closing hours of season one.  Well, now he and Ginger are split up and he’s just fucking his whore, Sylvie, but you can tell he wants to get back with Ginger.  When we first see Ginger, she is returning from a date with some forgettable guy who also won’t take no for an answer.  Seriously, this dude wants to come into her house and he wants to come in right now.  It doesn’t matter that Ginger is not interested, and she practically has to slam the door in his face to make this potential rapist go away.

                Then the phone rings and it’s Kenny, asking her how she’s doing, blah blah blah.  Their basic storyline this week is that Kenny convinces Ginger to go out with him to one of their favorite restaurants, some corny Italian place where they, I guess, first fell in love.  For whatever reason, Ginger agrees, the two go out and enjoy a romantic dinner, and then they go back to her place and screw.  After the bop in the sack, Kenny is starting to get cocky (no pun intended), seeming to think that he’s in the clear, officially back in her life.  Well, that’s not quite so, as Ginger explains that their little physical displays from the night before do not mean he is now welcome back into her home as her husband.

                You guys already know this without me saying it, but I hate these characters and just can never possibly care about what’s going on with them.  We’ve gotta suffer through three more seasons of them, so I guess I can deal with it, but God damn if they’re not uninteresting.  Just to show that I’m not crazy, My Beloved Grammy has also confirmed that Kenny and Ginger are her least favorite characters on the cul-de-sac (and, for those readers who are curious, at this juncture she declares that Sid and Karen are her favorite characters on the show).  A lot of the material Kenny and Ginger are given to work with this season is classic nighttime soap stuff that could work and should work if it was handled by better actors.  Sadly, James Houghton and Kim Lankford are just so fundamentally bland and uninteresting to watch; no matter what material the writers throw at them, I’m always going to wind up bored and annoyed with it. 

                On the other hand, in the department of characters I could never possibly grow bored or annoyed with, we have Richard and Abs.  There is some deliciously risqué and flirtatious dialogue in this particular ep, starting with Abs asking Richard if he would like to come over and swim in her pool.  His response?  “Will I need my trunks?”  Oooh, baby, no sir, you won’t be needing your trunks!  However, throwing some of Abby’s decisions into question, she also expresses an interest in Kenny when he shows up, being rather flirtatious with him, as well.  My conclusion is that Abs is a new arrival on the block and she isn’t quite sure what she wants just yet.  I’m sure if she knew that Kenny was a boring block of wood, she would not pursue him, but how could she know that if she’s only been on the block a short time? 

                Abs has a date, so she hires Eric Fairgate to be her babysitter while she’s out painting the town red.  However, midnight comes and goes and there’s still no sign of Abs, prompting Karen to show up at 16969 Seaview Circle around 1:00AM to make sure everything is alright.  When Eric tells her Abs is still not home, Karen tells him to go home and says she will wait for their beloved aunt to materialize.  Now, the DVD box said that this episode features, “Karen’s first showdown with Abby.”  Yes, this is true, but it’s not really a big thing; mostly it’s setting up lots of future showdowns to come.  Abs does eventually come home in the early morning and Karen reminds her that she has two small children spending their first night in a new house.  A good mother would stay home and make sure they feel safe and protected.  Abs asks if the kids woke up even once in a fright and Karen tells her they did not.  There’s no screaming or yelling or cool lines about “You are such a bitch” or any of that stuff we’re gonna get a little later on, but it’s still a good little scene and Donna Mills and Michele Lee both play their parts just right.  You gotta pace yourself with this stuff, and we’ve got nine seasons of Abs to enjoy, so why rush things?  For the purposes of this sequence, we are planting seeds that tell us Abs is a bit of a village bicycle and that Karen does not approve of her general lifestyle.

                Okay, back to our main arc.  Eventually we wind up in a super sleazy, super dirty little motel room in the red light district (and the reason I know it’s the red light district is because there’s a constantly flashing red light going on forever and ever and nobody thinks to maybe draw the shades and block that horrifying red light out).  Earl is detoxing in bed, and he doesn’t look happy.  Once again, I reiterate that I’m not sure where this fits on the realistic category.  Detoxing can be extremely dangerous, particularly if someone is a really heavy alcoholic as Earl obviously is.  Generally, detoxing should be done under the care and supervision of a professional doctor, not in some gross red-lit motel room with only Gary and Judy around to supervise.  However, since this is still 1980, I’ll give the characters the benefit of the doubt and assume that they don’t know the dangers inherent in the dry detox.  Also, it works out fairly well for them, as Earl survives his detox and lives to face another day, as well as two more eps of KL (he will be returning later this season in the eps Breach of Faith and More Than Friends).

                The actual final scene of the ep is a little bit blah, but I’ll forgive it since I have the retroactive knowledge that this story will pay off later in the season.  If this was it for the saga of Gary and Earl and Judy, I would be very disappointed in the ep and would not feel satisfied with it.  However, since I know Gary and Judy are going to start having an affair very shortly, I’m more patient with the rather dull ending of this particular ep.  Basically, Gary and Val go walking off into the sunset and Gary is feeling really special because he helped out a fellow alcoholic.  He says something like, “I did it all by myself!” and we freeze frame on that.  Like I said, not particularly memorable, but have some patience, because this is all building towards something.

                Speaking of building towards something, there was one event in this episode that I did not remember at all and which I can only assume is building up to a storyline later in the season.  It’s a quick little scene taking place in the Fairgate kitchen, but it essentially involves Michael acting like a weirdo and making a big mess.  First, he pours his milk all over the table, pretty much missing the cereal bowl he was aiming for.  Now there’s spilled milk all over the table, right?  Karen tells him to clean it up, so what does he do?  He starts to just sorta…..rub it with his hand?  I don’t think this has ever been proven as an effective method of cleaning up any sort of spill, but whatever, Michael just rubs and rubs at the milk with his hand, only succeeding in expanding the spill exponentially.  Finally, he starts to mop it up with his shirt rather than, you know, a napkin or some paper towels.  At this point, Karen says she’ll clean it up for him and he goes running off and that’s pretty much the scene.

                I note this scene because a little later in the season (can’t remember the exact title of the ep, but we can’t be that far away from it), it is revealed that Michael has ADD and we have an entire episode devoted to his attention deficit problems.  Rather hilariously (as well as rather sloppily, which is unlike the usual quality of writing on KL), Michael’s ADD problems are mentioned I think one more time in the season and then completely forgotten about and never mentioned again in the next twelve years.  However, I can only assume that this bizarre little sequence exists to set up that later plotpoint, and I do give the writers kudos for setting it up so early.  Other writers would just say, “Okay, time for that ADD episode; let’s get cracking,” but here, they are setting it up well in advance, and I appreciate that.

                As an overall episode, this one is only okay.  I liked it fine and it went down easy and I was never bored (aside from when Kenny and Ginger were onscreen).  At the same time, the ep was only okay.  It was fine.  Despite many aspects I liked (such as Abs and Karen having their first little talk with each other and the wonderfully creepy scene of Gary entering the bar, not to mention the generally hilarious performance of The Other Paul Rudd as Earl), it was also just sorta there, if that makes sense.  The episode came and went and it was fine, but I don’t think it’s one that’s going to stick out in my brain for terribly long.  Make no mistake, this ep is heads and shoulders above say, Land of the Free or The Constant Companion (and I’d even place it above an episode we have coming up, the one entitled Kristin), but it’s not as good as either Hitchhike: Part One or Hitchhike: Part Two.  I like the fact that the episode is setting things up to pay off later in the season, but if someone watched just this episode all by itself, totally standalone, I doubt they would be all that impressed.

                However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, for episodes that blast through the conventions of television and achieve some special form of high art, we need look no further than our very next story, a wonderful episode written by The Plesh himself and featuring a fabulous guest star in Brian Dennehy.  That’s right, folks, next up is season two, episode four, the episode entitled Chance of a Lifetime.  Talk to you then!

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