I'm a little surprised this thread didn't carry over from the new old board (you can find it here), but the other night I ran across one of my favorites: the episode of Hill Street Blues in which Officer Joe Coffey is killed.

I was a devoted fan of Hill Street Blues; from Day One, I never failed to watch it, even once, during its first six seasons on the air -- and that was without benefit of a VCR. I wasn't so lucky during the seventh and final season; I've seen most of those, but to this day, there's one I haven't seen, the one in which Henry Goldblume gets carjacked while on his way to a camping trip and begs for his life.

In any event, the one in which Joe Coffey is killed is, like all the other, full of day-in-the-life stuff; his partner, Sgt. Lucy Bates, has become the guardian of a teen named Fabian, but still has to contend with his junkie mother, who keeps demanding cash. Joe overhears Lucy borrowing money from desk Sgt. Stan Jablonski the day after she borrowed money from him, figures out what's going on, and insists they put an end to it. So they confront the mother and tell her this is truly the last time she's getting any more money out of Lucy. Later, Joe presses Lucy to go to City Hall, file the papers and finalize the guardianship. 

After the end of shift, all the guys plan to attend a poker night. While Lucy is shopping for potato chips and such at a neighborhood grocer, Joe tells her the store is out of Garcia y Vega cigars, so he's going to stop in at Al's Smoke Shop up the street. He opens the door, says, "Hey, how you doin'?" to the man behind the counter, and asks if they have any Garcia y Vegas. The man curtly says "No." Joe says, "I think you do -- I see them, in the back." And as he looks toward the back of the store, he sees a pair of feet on the ground, protruding behind the counter. He looks up at the nman behind the counter, looks down again, and before he can reach for his sidearm, the man behind the counter lifts his right arm and fires one shot into his stomach from a large-caliber revolver.

Joe stumbles backward, spins around, and presses his face into the window set in the door, and the man fires a second shot into his back. This shot forces him through the glass and onto the front stoop.

Lucy hears the shots and heads up the street, calling for Joe with her walkie-talkie. Some pedestrian tells her he heard something at the smoke shop. She calls in shots fired, officer down and catches a glimpse of the shooter just before he gets into a van and drives off.

Cut to: a while later, as the sun begins to go down and there's a touch of snow in the air. Detectives Neal Washington and J.D. LaRue are investigating, and Joe's still on the ground, and Lucy complains that he hasn't been covered. Captain Furillo -- who has been on disability because he got shot fairly recently -- comes by, and he and Lucy share a wordless embrace.

One thing about this episode was, at the time, there was a lot of hype and hoopla about Ed Marinaro leaving the show, so I never got to watch it with any surprise at what was going to happen; instead, I could only watch it waiting for it to go down. Which, I suppose, is a legitimate experience, but I might have liked to have been genuinely shocked.

Any how ... anybody have any favorite TV bits of their own to share?


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I've got lots of them from Barney Miller, but I'll offer this one quickly, from the one in which Wojo's latest girlfriend made brownies, and anybody who ate one started acting weird. Especially Yemana. ("Let's go down to the harbor, and shoot some clams.") And Fish -- perpetually tired, grouchy Fish, who went on a burglary call with Dietrich and chased the suspect up the fire escape and across the rooftop and tackled the guy to the ground!

Barney, concerned, holding the box of brownies, says they need to be checked out. So Harris reaches into the box and eats one.

Barney: "Not THAT way!"

Harris: "It's hash, Barney. It's hash. I know, because of how I feel."

Barney just looked at him, with this shifting mix of Did he say what I think he just said? and I don't want to know look on his face.
This, from Homicide: Life On the Street: The Electrolite Neutron Magnetic Test.
Classic

CharlieKweskill said:
Reverend Jim's driving test on "Taxi". Bobby tries to help with some of the answers on the written test.

Jim to Bobby - What does a yellow light mean?

Bobby to Jim - Slow down.

Jim to Bobby - Whaaat dooees aaa yelllllow liiight meeean?

Bobby to Jim - Slow down.

And they do this 3 or four more times, Jim reading the question slower each time. Reverend Jim was one of my favorite characters on a show that had some of the best secondary characters ever.
On a different note, there was an early episode of M*A*S*H* where a reporter friend of Hawkeye is shot and dies, despite Hawkeye's best efforts to save him. Then Henry Blake, the buffoon, the ineffective leader, tells Hawkeye what he was told in Command School:

"Rule Number One: In war, young men die. Rule Number Two: doctors can't change Rule Number One!"

To me, that changed the whole complexion of the series from a screwball comedy to a funny, touching and thought-provoking milestone.
ClarkKent_DC said:
I've got lots of them from Barney Miller, but I'll offer this one quickly, from the one in which Wojo's latest girlfriend made brownies, and anybody who ate one started acting weird. Especially Yemana. ("Let's go down to the harbor, and shoot some clams.") And Fish -- perpetually tired, grouchy Fish, who went on a burglary call with Dietrich and chased the suspect up the fire escape and across the rooftop and tackled the guy to the ground!

Barney, concerned, holding the box of brownies, says they need to be checked out. So Harris reaches into the box and eats one.

Barney: "Not THAT way!"

Harris: "It's hash, Barney. It's hash. I know, because of how I feel."

Barney just looked at him, with this shifting mix of Did he say what I think he just said? and I don't want to know look on his face.

Fish: "Whaddaya think, you're messing around with KIDS?" Still one of the funniest scenes I ever remember from ANY TV show...

xoxoxo
x<]:o){
To be honest, I have never thought of M*A*S*H* as a screwball comedy - mainly because, as has been discussed elsewhere, when first shown in the UK the BBC removed the laughter track.

Having said that, the closing moments of the last episode with Henry Blake in charge was a classic scene...

Philip Portelli said:
On a different note, there was an early episode of M*A*S*H* where a reporter friend of Hawkeye is shot and dies, despite Hawkeye's best efforts to save him. Then Henry Blake, the buffoon, the ineffective leader, tells Hawkeye what he was told in Command School:

"Rule Number One: In war, young men die. Rule Number Two: doctors can't change Rule Number One!"

To me, that changed the whole complexion of the series from a screwball comedy to a funny, touching and thought-provoking milestone.
Mike Williams said:
To be honest, I have never thought of M*A*S*H* as a screwball comedy - mainly because, as has been discussed elsewhere, when first shown in the UK the BBC removed the laughter track.


I didn't know that, so how did it play over there as a drama with some sort of weird humor?
Mike Williams said:
To be honest, I have never thought of M*A*S*H* as a screwball comedy - mainly because, as has been discussed elsewhere, when first shown in the UK the BBC removed the laughter track.

Having said that, the closing moments of the last episode with Henry Blake in charge was a classic scene...


Famously, that scene was filmed without the actors -- save Gary Burghoff, of course -- being told what Henry Blake's future was going to be, the better to get fresh reactions on film.
Ye gods, I could add a hundred different things to this list, dozens and dozens of moments that I remember from my years of television watching. I don't even know where to begin, so I'll go with the first thing that came into my mind.

It's a television series I don't get to talk about much, anyway---The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, or simply called Burns & Allen.

It ran from 1950 to 1958, for a total of 291 episodes. I know I don't have to tell any of you who George Burns was. If you saw him as an old timer, you pretty much saw how he was squarely in the middle of his middle age, except he was taller, a bit sharper in timing, and wore a much better toupée,

But some of you may not be familiar with his wife and show-biz partner, Gracie Allen. They began as a vaudeville stand-up act. Burns was the straight man, and Gracie was . . . well, it's hard to describe Gracie if you never saw her or heard her on radio. Much of whatever commentary you may read about Gracie Allen in character describes her as zany or scatterbrained or ditzy. She really wasn't any of this. The on-stage Gracie could possibly best be described as being slightly out of step with the rest of the world. Her logic was slightly off-centre. If you knocked your brain off-kilter for a moment, you could tell how her logic worked.

For example, on one occasion, Gracie returns home from visiting a sick friend in the hospital, and she is carrying a huge arrangement of flowers.

"Gracie, where did you get the flowers?" asks George.

"I went to visit Mabel," she replies.

"Yeah, so?"

"Well, you told me to take her flowers."


The premise of their television programme was elegant in its simplicity: it depicted the at-home, off-stage life of George and Gracie---with the conceit that Gracie's on-stage persona was the same at home as it was in front of an audience. The situations developed from Gracie's misunderstandings or from George's or someone else's misunderstandings of what Gracie said or did.

Gracie was the source of the humour, but George was the foundation, the rock, that anchored it. While Gracie flummoxed everyone around her, including their next-door neighbours, Harry and Blanche Morton, George remained calm and unflappable through it all.

Think of George as "the Stage Manager" from the play Our Town and you've pretty much got it. He was the guide, the voice of reason, that kept the audience straight on what was going on and sorted things out in the end. In fact, like "the Stage Manager", Burns frequently broke "the fourth wall", even in the middle of a scene, to make commentary. The show even verged into the surreal. Sometimes George would walk off the set, the camera following, in order to deliver an anecdote or make exposition for the audience. Once done, he would return to the set, where, apparently, the scene had continued without him. In the last couple of seasons, George would even retreat to his den to watch television; he would tune in Burns & Allen so he could follow the events that happened in the scenes that didn't include him.

One striking instance of how the show broke the fourth wall is, without doubt, one of the most memorable ways a television show has ever replaced an actor in a rôle.

In the show's third season, actor Fred Clark, who portrayed the acerbic next-door neighbour Harry Morton, left the show due to a salary dispute. In the middle of Clark's last episode, Harry is walking through his back door to enter his kitchen. The permutations of the plot have his wife, Blanche (played by Bea Benaderet), angry at him and standing on the other side of the door, ready to brain him with a vase or some such object.

Just as Clark-as-Morton steps in the doorway, George Burns walks onto the kitchen set and calls for the action to stop. With George is actor Larry Keating. George addresses the audience at home. "Fred Clark is leaving the show to go on to other things," he explains. "Larry Keating will now be playing the part of Harry Morton." Clark and Morton shake hands and wish each other luck. George orders the action to resume. He walks off the set with Clark, and Keating takes his mark in the doorway---to be bashed over the head by Blanche.

What made this kind of thing work for Burns & Allen was that there was no "wink, wink---aren't we being so clever?" attitude about it. It was all done matter-of-factly. George knew that the viewers would know that a different actor was playing Harry Morton so why be coy about it?

There were a few running gags. There was the postman, Mr. Beasley, who always tried to deliver the Burnses mail without being stopped for a chat by Gracie, and of course he never quite succeeded.

And there was the living-room coat closet. In almost every episode, at some point, a male visitor would be overcome by Gracie's inane doings, sputter out some excuse, and make a hurried exit. Always leaving his hat behind. Gracie would take the hat and put it in the coat closet. Over the seasons, the number of hats in the closet continued to grow. Eventually, Gracie started inserting a card with former wearer's name on it, before putting it with the dozens of others.

But my favourite of all the running gags is the thing which I first thought of when I saw this thread.

In the first few seasons, at some point in most episodes, when someone saw how unperturbed George remained in the wake of Gracie's off-kilter lunacy, that person would ask, "George, how can you live with Gracie and remain so calm?"

"Because I love her," he would reply.


By the middle seasons of the show's run, that exchange would go like this:

"George, how can you----"

"Because I love her."


And by the end of the series, it became:

"George----"

"Because I love her."


The audience got it. On both counts.
Travis Herrick said:
Mike Williams said:
To be honest, I have never thought of M*A*S*H* as a screwball comedy - mainly because, as has been discussed elsewhere, when first shown in the UK the BBC removed the laughter track.


I didn't know that, so how did it play over there as a drama with some sort of weird humor?

As very, very black comedy
M*A*S*H* was played as a farce for its initial season, trying to match the lunacy and irreverence of the movie. Thankfully this changed.

As for George Burns and Gracie Allen, when they asked George for the secret of his success, he always answered, "I married her!"
One thing I found odd about M*A*S*H: I belatedly saw one of the first-season episodes -- for all I know, it might have been the series debut -- in which Corporal Klinger first tries the bit about wearing dresses as a way to get a discharge. So psychiatrist Sidney Friedman is brought in, and he just hands Klinger a document, confessing that Klinger is a homosexual and a cross-dresser. Sign that, and you'll get your discharge, Klinger is told.

Klinger balks. "I'm not any of those things. I'm just crazy," he says, and slinks away.

When I saw that -- admittedly out of order -- I just thought ever after that Klinger persisting with the dress-wearing throughout the series made no sense at all, because it no longer served any purpose.

But then, Klinger -- who in the first season was only a recurring character, and not yet a full-fledged cast member -- was different and a little harder-edged. In one of those early episodes, Major Burns is rude to him, and Klinger got a grenade and was all set to frag him. Lucky for Burns, Father Mulcahy (also then not a full-fledged cast member) talked Klinger out of it.

That whole business reflected M*A*S*H's sympathies; although set in the Korean War, it was an anti-Vietnam War screed all the way.

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