Sunday, May 8, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 028 of 344: MAN OF THE HOUR


Episode Title: Man of the Hour

Season 02, Episode 15

Episode 028 of 344

Written by Sara Ann Friedman

 Directed by Harvey S. Laidman

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 12th, 1981

 The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Jeff picks up the kids and Abby is afraid he has kidnapped them when she can't locate them. Jeff finally returns them and says they were camping. Ginger's sister Cindy visits, and gives Eric marijuana to hold for her. Sid finds it and is very upset. At a party, Cindy freaks out and runs into the ocean. Eric saves her, but she's in a coma. The doctor says the pot had angel dust in it. Eric is upset as everyone blames him, thinking it's his pot. Cindy finally wakes up, and tells everyone that it wasn't Eric's pot.more  

 

                I’ll just go right ahead and say that we’ve come to another bottom dweller of KL episodes, another one to join the dreaded Bottom Ten with such classics as Land of the Free, Kristin, and our previous episode, Moments of Truth.  This is another one of those “Here’s a one-episode stupid story that takes up about 48 minutes, everything gets resolved in the end, and everyone lives happily ever after” episodes.  The good news is that pretty soon we’re gonna get out of this mode of episode.  Once season four kicks in, no more of this nonsense; we’re gonna get full on sexy serialized soap storytelling and I like it!

                To provide a little context and remind people of how I am watching these eps, I should reiterate that I do not just watch one episode, take my notes, and then immediately write an essay on it.  Rather, when My Beloved Grammy and I get together, we watch an entire disk of episodes, which usually works out to about five.  In the case of our most recent visit, we watched the final four episodes of season two, spanning this episode, Man of the Hour, through the season finale, Squeezeplay.  Because of that, it is sometimes difficult to remember all the small details of the episodes, so forgive me, but also, it often slightly colors my view of an episode. 

                What do I mean by that?  Well, I thought Moments of Truth was a pretty lousy episode, and I think this is a pretty lousy episode, so you might think we’re on a bad roll of KL eps, but really we’re not, because I already know for certain that things pick up tremendously for the last three episodes of the season, and that makes it a little easier to forgive the writers, directors, and actors having a bad day and giving us a substandard episode because I know that they will immediately fix these problems and give us three great episodes of television in a row, boom boom boom.  So anyway, read on to find out everything wrong with Man of the Hour.

                Aside from a B-storyline that I had completely forgotten and that does, in fact, relate to future upcoming episodes and story arcs, Man of the Hour is completely self-contained and very disposable.  As a completist, I could never skip an episode of KL, no matter what, but to a first-time viewer, if I wanted them to not see the crummy episodes and form a bad opinion of the series early on, this is one I’d definitely say to skip over (sorta like with season one of The X Files; if you’re trying to rope in a new viewer it’s probably best that they not see Space or Fire or Roland).

                Man of the Hour is anti-marijuana propaganda straight out of Reefer Madness or something.  Now, I almost never use the term “dated” because I hate that term and I hate the way people throw that word around as a way to be dismissive about older works of art.  Honestly, movies and TV are indicative of the time in which they were made and that’s what makes it so special; that’s the beauty of art.  Nothing annoys me more than when I’m watching some movie from the 1970s with someone and they’re like, “Oh, this is so dated cuz nobody has cell phones!”  Yeah, NO SHIT, you stupid faggot*, because cell phones DIDN’T EXIST YET; GET THE FUCK OVER IT!  But anyway, I’m gonna do it now, so sue me; I’m gonna call this episode “dated.” 

                The basic plot of this episode (which would be right at home in a 7th Heaven episode) is that a joint mysteriously makes its way into the Fairgate house.  See, even though we all know how straight-laced (translation: Boring) Eric Fairgate is, one of his more rebellious friends hands him three joints (which are all yellow and look like someone pissed on them, by the way) and is like “Keep these safe for later!”  Well, of course Karen finds the joints and the whole house goes into turmoil.  Then, in a hysterical scene that has to be seen to be believed, Ginger’s boring and forgettable sister goes out running into the ocean and almost drowns.  Eric saves her and then she’s in a coma for the rest of the episode (Spoiler Alert that will surprise nobody: She wakes up at the end).  Anyway, the whole time she’s in a coma we get a lot of Sid and Karen arguing about what happened and whether mary jane is evil or not, yada yada yada. 

                The reason I say “Dated” is because clearly nobody gives a shit about pot anymore.  Perhaps I’m wrong, and please write to me if I am, but as a person who lives in Washington, where we’ve had legal weed for a few years now, yeah, nobody gives a shit.  Now, to be clear, I am not some stoner who sits at home smoking pot all day, and as of this writing I haven’t had any weed in quite a long time, but I do enjoy it and I have enjoyed it in the past and I’m sure I will enjoy it occasionally in the future.  Now that it’s legal, I think people are accepting that it’s pretty much the same as booze (I would argue it’s better than booze, by the way), in that you can have the occasional J and it’s cool, but nobody should become that sad “I smoke weed all day every day and I’m on food stamps and live in my mother’s basement” person.  I only present this long and annoying and opinionated rant to demonstrate why this episode just comes off as silly nowadays.  The reaction that is displayed when the J is found in Eric’s pocket (mostly from Sid; Karen is more mellow; we’ll discuss it) is almost like they found black tar heroin in his pocket, or perhaps opened the door to his bedroom and found a bunch of raped, dead, mutilated bodies.  It’s just so over-the-top and, yes, that’s indicative of a 1981 attitude, but it also makes for some hilarious  viewing nowadays.

                Anyway, this episode sucks and is one of my least favorites of the series, so let’s just talk about it  bit and then move on to some really really good episodes, okay?  Because trust me, things pick up tremendously in the next three episodes that conclude the season; this is just a bad stop off where nothing is going right.  We even pretty much start with the same way an episode of my guilty pleasure series 7th Heaven starts.  There is an early 7th Heaven comedy classic in which a friend of Matt’s gives him a J to hold and the J makes its way into the Camden house, opening Pandora’s Box and almost destroying the entire family.  Well, pretty much right near the start of this KL episode, goodie two shoes Fairgate son Eric is handed not one but three Js by some friend of his.  “Hold onto these until the wild 1981 party we’re having tonight!” the friend says.  “It’ll be so awesome!  Eric Stoltz is gonna be there!  He’s gonna go on to be an absolute nobody!  Isn’t that exciting?”  Eric is hesitant but agrees to hold onto the Js until that night.

                But wait, we’ve got a special guest character visiting the cul-de-sac this week in the form of Ginger’s boring and forgettable sister, um, what the hell is her name?  Oh, her name is Cindi.  For some reason, in my notes I constantly scribbled “Jill” and I have no idea why, I guess maybe because she’s such a non-character.  I also have to ask, have we seen this character before?  I’m flashing back to an early season one episode where either Ginger’s sister or cousin or someone came to town to visit and Eric went out on a date with her.  Anyone remember this at all? No?  Okay, moving on.  Cindi is played by the forgettable Susan McClung, who’s last IMDb credit is an episode of T.J. Hooker from 1982 (at least she went out on a high note).  Anyway, there’s nothing interesting or relevant about this character; she is merely a vessel to get the plot kicked into motion.

                The party we end up seeing is obviously ridiculous.  I know I’ve said this nine million times before, but I can’t wait for Lisa Hartman to get her ass onto the show and start singing some real songs, some covers of songs we know, have heard before, and probably cost a little bit of money to secure.  We are once again assaulted with some awful public domain…..something…..playing at this party.  As I mentioned, Eric Stoltz is there (I turned to My Beloved Grammy at this point and said, “There’s Eric Stoltz,” to which she replied “Who?” to which I replied, “Exactly”).  I actually would like to propose a theory here that Eric Stoltz is playing the same character here that he would play one year later in Fast Times.  Think about it, he’s got the same style hair, he looks exactly the same, and he’s playing a loser stoner, plus that movie was also set in California.  If only Anthony Edwards and Sean Penn were here to keep him company, my theory would be secure, but from now on I am going to assume that KL and Fast Times exist in the same universe like Cheers and Wings or whatever.  Anyway, this scene culminates with Jill (sorry, I meant Cindi) about to take a nice big toke off the J, and it’s at that point we go to commercial.  I guess this is still 1981 and I’m not sure if you could actually show a J being smoked on television yet  (I know that in 1993 when Roseanne and Dan smoked some pot together, we also didn’t get to see the weed being smoked, so who knows how these rules work).

                We have an interim scene where our beloved characters of the cul-de-sac are having a nice cocktail together (I do wonder if the writers are making some point about how the adult characters are enjoying their perfectly legal recreational drug at the same time the weed shenanigans are going on a few miles away).  This is the scene where Karen discovers the J in Eric’s pocket and oh boy, does that music ever pound in this scene.  It sounds straight out of a horror movie, really, way over-the-top.

                When we return to the party, things are getting freaky.  Stoltz delivers some line about how he “can seeeeeeee the music, man,” and then Cindi starts freaking out and going on and on about how it’s too hot.  At this point, we find out that somebody (I think Stoltz) laced the weed with PCP.  Uh oh.  Jill/Cindi goes running off towards the ocean and Eric chases after her to stop her.  We’ve got a 48 minute episode here and I’d say about 47 minutes are devoted to characters running after each other on the beach.  Seriously, this part goes on forever, because Eric starts chasing Cindi, then Sid and Karen arrive and start chasing them along the beach.  The whole time, the music keeps thumping and pounding (and this is probably one of the worst scored episodes of the series, I’d say).  It really starts to become comedic how long this scene goes on.  Finally, after a couple of hours and a lot of corny music, Eric heroically (?) pulls Cindi out of the ocean, but now she’s slipped into a coma!

                We jump to the hospital.  A black doctor comes walking out to tell us of Cindi’s condition and I said to myself, “Wait a minute, isn’t that the black doctor from Omen II?”  Well, I turn my phone off and put it away every time I’m enjoying any type of film or television show; I don’t believe in distracting myself when I should be focusing on the art in front of me.  So I had to wait a little while, but I went home and looked it up, and yes, I was absolutely right.  Oh wait, did I say absolutely right?  Sorry, I meant absolutely wrong.  Apparently I did the white person thing where I confused one black person for another, but I wasn’t all that far off.  If anyone recalls Omen II (or, to use its full title, Damien: Omen II), you’ll recall a horrifying gross out scene where a black doctor gets cut in half by some crazy elevator type wires (truly the scariest scene in that movie).  However, this guy also gets violently killed in a 1970’s horror movie, namely Brian De Palma’s celebrated Sisters.  His name is Lisle Wilson and he was violently stabbed to death by Margot Kidder about thirty minutes into that film.  So there you go, I wasn’t too far off.

                Lisle Wilson informs everyone that Cindi has slipped into a Plot Contrivance Coma.  He tells them not to worry, as she will surely come out of it in the last five minutes of the episode, but until she does so, everyone needs to freak out and start talking about ethics and morality and right versus wrong.  Everyone goes straight home to do so, starting with Sid and Karen, who enjoy a healthy debate about the evils of marijuana and whether Eric is a hero or not.  Karen takes an actually fairly progressive and modern view to the whole thing.  I’m definitely on Team Karen right here, as she points out that they all enjoy alcohol together (aside from Gary, of course) but they all know how to practice moderation and responsibility, and that she feels weed (or “Grass,” as they call it here) is pretty much the same thing.  Sid, however, goes into P.S.A. mode here and starts to list statistics about how it causes memory loss and Bob Loblaw.  Now, you all know I love Sid, I’m definitely pro-Sid, Sid Fairgate is surely a highlight of the first 33 episodes of KL and I am deeply saddened to know he will be leaving the series in just a few short episodes, but I have to say that in this episode he is really annoying me and acting like a total square.  I blame this not on the character of Sid but on the bad writing that is turning Sid into a plot device used to spout off about the evils of weed.

                Sid nearly disowns Eric in this episode.  He gives him the silent treatment the entire time Cindi is in her coma, and when Karen gives an awesome speech (it actually is awesome; I’m not being sarcastic right here; Michele gives a really powerful performance in this little scene where she pleads with Sid) about how he needs to be more forgiving and talk to Eric and release some of his guilt, Sid just says, “No,” and it’s actually a rather shockingly cold moment for Saint Sid. 

                Probably the piece-de-resistance of this episode comes in a really bizarre scene in which Ginger’s corny mom (who I think we only see in this episode and this episode alone) stops by the Fairgate house to take a big piss in Eric’s face.  Clearly the woman (played by an actress named Cynthia Harris who is apparently best known for the series Mad About You) is suffering from shock because she sorta wonders around the Fairgate living room like a zombie, and she makes sure to use the title of the episode a lot.  She goes on and on about how if Cindi lives and comes out of her coma, Eric will be “the man of the hour,” but if she dies, he will still be “the man of the hour,” but for very different reasons.  My Beloved Grammy spoke up here to say, “Oh jeez, what a bitch,” and at first I was like, “No, I don’t think so; she’s just in shock; she’s not herself,” but then Ginger’s mom goes to the door and looks at Eric and says, “It should have been you!”  At that point, I turned to My Beloved Grammy and said, “Never mind, you were right.”

                Let’s just cut to the damn chase.  While there’s about five minutes left in the episode, Cindi wakes up from her coma.  Nobody is surprised; we all saw this for the one-episode-story-arc that it was, and nobody cares.  Nobody cared in 1981 and nobody cares today.  But the real cherry on top of this shit sundae comes in the very last scene, a real “We all learned a valuable lesson” happy ending that makes sure to put a nice and tidy bow on everything.  This is straight out of not only 7th Heaven but also The Brady Bunch.  I almost expected Robert Reed to walk in and start giving a heartwarming speech.  Basically everyone sits around and says, “Well, what happened was scary, but now we learned why drugs are bad!”  To cap it off, Sid finally opens his arms up and gives Eric A Loving Embrace, and that’s how we freeze frame and end the episode, at which point I’m reaching for my handy little barf bag.

                Okay, so clearly the A-storyline of this episode sucks, but one thing I haven’t discussed yet that I did find significant and interesting is the B-storyline.  Now, I had totally and completely forgotten all about this.  In my memory, Man of the Hour was completely self-contained, as self-contained as Land of the Free, an episode you could absolutely skip and not miss a beat.  Turns out I was a little bit wrong on that count, and let me explain why.  Remember a few episodes back with A State of Mind and how we met Jeff Cunningham and saw how he disapproved of Abby’s lifestyle?  Well, he’s back in this episode, leading us closer and closer to a storyline that will end the second season and begin the third season, namely that of him kidnapping Brian and Olivia. 

                I didn’t remember this at all, but in this episode he takes the two kids for the weekend and then disappears.  Abby becomes worried because she can’t reach him by phone and starts to think he may have taken them.  I found myself thinking, “Oh, is this the one where he kidnaps them?”  No, it’s not, because he returns them at the end of the episode and says, “Why do I have to tell you where I’m taking them?”  However, there is a significant scene where Richard and Laura are working on their house and Abby stops by for some legal advice from Richard, inquiring about what she should do if Jeff does steal them.  Clearly the writers had this storyline all revved up and ready to go and were getting it accelerated here in Man of the Hour.  So there you go, thanks to the B-storyline, Man of the Hour officially can not be skipped, damn it; it does have some stories that pay off later on in the series.

                In any case, this is definitely a bottom dweller episode.  It’s not quite as bad as Land of the Free but it’s certainly in the same ballpark.  I might even prefer Land of the Free because it has more camp value.  This one’s not nearly as boring as Kristin, so I guess it’s better than that one.  But it’s gonna reside in the bottom ten of the series when all is said and done, maybe even the bottom five, I guess we’ll see when we get there.  It’s just a bad, boring, not-even-campy-enough-to-be-funny episode, and the “moral debate” storyline about weed (I’m sorry, I meant grass) just makes you roll your eyes nowadays.  However, it’s not a big deal; we’re still early in the series, the writers and producers and directors are still finding their groove, and the next three episodes should go along just swimmingly, so why complain too much about one bad apple when you have such a delicious and humongous barrel, right?

                Let’s move on to the return of The Other Paul Rudd in an episode that I had completely forgotten existed until I rewatched it with My Beloved Grammy, More Than Friends.

*Please do not write into me with angry E-mails about my use of the word 'faggot.'  I am as gay as they come, I like having sex with men, and I also like using the word 'faggot' cuz I think words only have the power to hurt if we allow them that power by keeping them FORBIDDEN and acting like the world will end if we say them.
 

2 comments:

  1. As always, I agree with your analysis, and think this is a bottom 5 Knots episode. On the other hand, we don't get too many Eric-centric episodes, and his character has always fascinated me. Yes, he was boring, but (to me) his character most represented the cul-de-sac. As the episodes got bigger, he stayed grounded and the same all the way through the end of the 80's when he married Linda. He kept a little of Sid around even after Don Murray left the show. So I am glad he got an episode...it was too bad it had to be this laughable anti-drug cliche of an after-school special.

    And yes, Jill was the other Ginger sister that played basketball with Eric in the driveway. Here is what we know about that family...the mother is a bitch, and she gave birth to three boring daughters that together have the personality of one healthy person. :)

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  2. "Lisle Wilson informs everyone that Cindi has slipped into a Plot Contrivance Coma. He tells them not to worry, as she will surely come out of it in the last five minutes of the episode, but until she does so, everyone needs to freak out and start talking about ethics and morality and right versus wrong." You topped yourself with that one.

    Eric is such a chore to watch. I'd rather eat my sneaker.

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