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 really like Columbo. Levinson and Link, his creators, also worked on Murder, She Wrote, so when some episodes of the latter were repeated here earlier this year I took a look at them to see if I'd like the show more than I did way back when. It just didn't have the same zing for me. Perhaps it's too cosy.

For some reason Columbo stories make me think about how the killers should have gone about solving their problems.
ClarkKent_DC said:
One of my favorites: "A Friend in Deed."

That Columbo episode is one of my favourites, too. For all of the interesting elements you cited, CK, and more.

For one thing, it was my favourite performance by Val Avery, who portrayed "Artie Jessup". While the part was little more than a variation of his usual blue-collar rôles, Avery brought a certain nobility to Jessup's character. When I was a cop, I knew a few crooks like Jessup. You could almost call them professional in their attitude. They had their specialties---second-story man, drug trafficker, thief, whatever---and they understood and accepted as part of the cost of doing business that my job was to catch them.

And in that acceptance, there were lines that they would not cross. They would use any trick they could to avoid detection and capture, but they would not resort to violence against a cop. Once they were caught, they were caught. And there were certain criminal actions they would not tolerate---the vicious, savage stuff---and often, if they had knowledge of such things, they would be the first to pass along information about it.

Consequently, it generated a strange form of mutual respect. If I could nail one of them to the wall, I would---and they acknowledged that and respected it. By the same token, if I was after different game and went to them for what information they could provide, all I had to say was that I was not after him, and it was understood that a truce was temporarily in effect that neither of us would violate.

I remember one case in particular, from several years ago, of course. It involved the theft of three valuable reticulated pythons. (Yes, I said pythons---the snake kind.) The culprit had---stupidly---managed to involve one of these "professional" crooks in the periphery. The pro had caught up to the amateur thief and detained him while he notified the police, which turned out to be me, since I came up on the situation while he was calling it in.

Professional crook and professional cop immediately sized each other up, and we both understood. When I got two different stories----one from the pro and one from the amateur---I knew which one I could believe.

It's hard to describe, maybe impossible for someone not in law enforcement to understand. I'm not saying the pro was a good guy. On any other given day, out of 365, I would be more than willing to take him to jail, if I could, legitimately. But there were unspoken rules involved, and in this case, he was following them.

As soon as a back-up officer arrived, I had him take the amateur into custody. Then I turned to the pro and said, "I guess you know why I believe your version of events is the truth."

He nodded. "Yeah, I do."

I indicated the amateur, now being handcuffed, and said to the pro, "You could have handled it yourself."

The pro nodded again and said, "I might have, but I figured you guys would know what was what, once you got here."


It began to dawn on the amateur---a young fellow who, in a drunken, impetuous act, had taken the reptiles from their rightful owner---that being arrested was the better of two probable outcomes, and he confessed to the whole thing right then and there.

With that, the pro asked me if I needed him any more.

"No," I said. "I'm done with you---if you're done with him."

"You got him," he said. "It works for me."
Another classic SNL bit: the "Final Days" sketch (1976), with Dan Aykroyd as Nixon, wandering the White House halls and talking to portraits.

"You were lucky, Abe -- they shot YOU!"
Luke Blanchard said:
For some reason Columbo stories make me think about how the killers should have gone about solving their problems.

Columbo stories always make me think these rich, arrogant, elite upper crust bastards aren't as smart as they think they are.

Commander Benson said:
ClarkKent_DC said:
One of my favorites: "A Friend in Deed."

That Columbo episode is one of my favourites, too. For all of the interesting elements you cited, CK, and more.

For one thing, it was my favourite performance by Val Avery, who portrayed "Artie Jessup". While the part was little more than a variation of his usual blue-collar rôles, Avery brought a certain nobility to Jessup's character. When I was a cop, I knew a few crooks like Jessup. You could almost call them professional in their attitude. They had their specialties---second-story man, drug trafficker, thief, whatever---and they understood and accepted as part of the cost of doing business that my job was to catch them.

And in that acceptance, there were lines that they would not cross. They would use any trick they could to avoid detection and capture, but they would not resort to violence against a cop. Once they were caught, they were caught. And there were certain criminal actions they would not tolerate---the vicious, savage stuff---and often, if they had knowledge of such things, they would be the first to pass along information about it.

Consequently, it generated a strange form of mutual respect. If I could nail one of them to the wall, I would---and they acknowledged that and respected it. By the same token, if I was after different game and went to them for what information they could provide, all I had to say was that I was not after him, and it was understood that a truce was temporarily in effect that neither of us would violate.

(SNIP)

It's hard to describe, maybe impossible for someone not in law enforcement to understand. I'm not saying the pro was a good guy. On any other given day, out of 365, I would be more than willing to take him to jail, if I could, legitimately. But there were unspoken rules involved, and in this case, he was following them.


I can understand, to the extent that a guy like Artie Jessup may choose to be on the wrong side of the law, but he's no monster, psycho or sociopath; he's simply a working stiff out for a dishonest buck. There once was an episode of Hill Street Blues in which Belker caught a guy like that, a jewel thief played by Michael Tucker, who later starred in L.A. Law.

Likewise, Barney Miller did a story in its first season featuring one Charlie Jeffers, played by the regal Roscoe Lee Browne, who kept breaking out of prison -- I forget why he was in there in the first place, and so did he -- just because he was bored. Harris is inspired to write his book just because of this gent.

There's some other bits of business going on in the episode -- there always is in a Barney Miller show -- and at one point Barney notices that Mr. Jeffers is not in the cage and is nowhere in sight! The detectives begin to panic, and then Mr. Jeffers calmly, casually strolls out of the men's room, drying his hands, strides up to the cage, enters, and closes the cell door behind him, singing all the while.

"I didn;t want to bother anyone," he said.
George said:
Another classic SNL bit: the "Final Days" sketch (1976), with Dan Aykroyd as Nixon, wandering the White House halls and talking to portraits.

"You were lucky, Abe -- they shot YOU!"

I loved Dan Akyroyd's Nixon. Remember the bit when he was dictating his memoirs? "I was born in a house my FATHER built ..."
ClarkKent-DC said: "I loved Dan Akyroyd's Nixon."

More from the Final Days sketch:

"You -- John F. Kennedy! Having sex with women in the White House! That NEVER happened when Dick Nixon was president!"

Then they cut to Pat Nixon, writing in her memoirs: "Never, never, never, never, never ..."

(Al Franken and Tom Davis reportedly wrote that sketch under the influence of LSD.)

I always loved this bit from A Charlie Brown Christmas: "Jingle Bells"

I revived this thread because I just recalled one of my favourite bits from television and, better yet, I just found it on YouTube.

 

I’ve talked about this before.  You have shows in which one regular or recurring character is a source of grief for the star/hero.  The cop who hates the private eye.  Or the boss who is a total SOB.  Or the co-worker who’s an idiot.  Hawkeye and Major Burns from M*A*S*H is a classic example.

 

One of the ways one can distinguish how good the writing of a show is lies in how layered the writers make this antagonist character.  Is he a completely unredeemable?  A total nimrod?  (And not meant to be a villain.)  Or does the show take the time to give such a character dimension, depth?

 

It’s easy to make the antagonist character completely negative.  The problem is it doesn’t take too long for the situation to grow thin and get tiresome.  (Which was the problem with Hawkeye and Burns.)  It’s much more appealing when the antagonist character shows moments of decency or competency or sympathy.

 

This leads to one of my favourite moments from the show Perry Mason.  Mason’s most frequent adversary in court was the district attorney, Hamilton Burger.  As essayed by William Talman, there was no doubt to Burger’s competency.  But in court, Burger constantly turned shrill, argumentative, and apoplectic when dealing with Mason’s courtroom tactics.  You could practically see Burger burst a blood vessel every week, and he delighted in the occasions, usually in the early stages of the episode, when he was able to get one up on Perry.  They were totally contentious, in court, at least.

 

But there are moments when the viewer has to reëvaluate Mason and Burger, and the 1964 episode “The Case of the Nervous Neighbor” brings one of them.

 

The accused, Charles Fuller, has been charged with murder.  The state believes him to have killed a man named Henry Clement.  Clement had cheated Fuller in a business deal; on the night Clement was killed, Fuller had visited him and, during an argument, assaulted him.

 

Fuller has retained Perry Mason as his attorney.  D.A. Burger goes to the jailhouse to interview Fuller and, of course, Perry is present.  Perry advises his client to not answer any questions; he also advises Fuller not to take the stand and testify on his own behalf during trial.

 

Fuller protests.  He’s innocent.  He didn’t kill Fuller.  He wants to answer Burger’s questions and he wants to testify at his trial.  Perry advises strongly against it, but Fuller is adamant---he didn’t do it and he wants the chance to tell his side of the story on the stand.

 

“Charles, have you ever been on the receiving end of a cross-examination?” asks Perry.

 

“I don’t care,” replies Fuller.  “I want to testify.”

 

Burger looks at the two other men and a look of concern casts over his features.

 

(It’s long, but the best way to illustrate this moment is by the dialogue itself . . . .)

 

“Mr. Fuller, did you hate Henry Clement?” Burger asks him calmly.

 

“No.  Not enough to kill him,” replies Fuller, also calm.

 

“Really?  You knew he framed you,” says Burger.

 

“Yes.”

 

“You knew he tricked and coërced your mother into signing that contract.”

 

“Now, wait a minute, Hamilton,” interjects Perry.

 

“Be quiet, Mr. Mason,” says Fuller.  “I’m not afraid to answer him.”

 

“As a matter of fact, isn’t Henry Clement the man who robbed you in the first place?” says Burger, “the man who stole from you the position that was rightfully yours?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“That man was the cause of all your trouble, wasn’t he?  The cause of all your mother’s trouble . . . .”

 

“Uh, yes, I guess . . .I . . .I . . . .”

 

“And yet you say that you didn’t hate him?”

 

“I . . .I . . . .”

 

“You went to that house that night to kill him, didn’t you?”

 

“No.”

 

“But you did strike him.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Did you strike him once?”

 

“That didn’t . . . I . . . .”

 

“No.  As a matter of fact, you didn’t strike him once or twice, did you?  You just hit him and kept on hitting him.  Again and again---”

 

“No!”

 

“---And again!”

 

“No!”

 

“And then you finally picked up that desk knife and stuck it in his chest!”

 

“I didn’t kill him!  I did not kill him!

 

“But you did hate him!”

 

“I already told you that---”

 

“And you wanted him dead, didn’t you?”

 

Yes!” shouts Fuller angrily.  He leaps to his feet.  “Yes!  I hated him!  Yes! And I wanted him dead!

 

There’s a pause, as Fuller realises what, in his rage, he has just said.

 

 

“Do you still want to testify, Mr. Fuller?” asks Burger, his voice calm once again. 

 

Burger goes on.  “I suggest you be a little less concerned with what you want to do and a little more concerned with what your attorney tells you you ought to do.”

 

 

It’s a subtly great moment for Hamilton Burger.  It shows that, despite all of his professional contention with Perry Mason, Burger believes in the ethics of our criminal justice system.  Even though it would hinder his own prosecution, Burger took it upon himself to demonstrate to Fuller that he was making a severe mistake in disregarding his lawyer’s advice.

Here's a similar moment from Homicide: Life On the Street, from the episode "Black and Blue": H:LoTS 2x03, "Black and Blue"

 

The context is that, in the previous episode, a man has been killed in a drug bust and a police officer claims his weapon discharged when he fell, but he won't consent to a search. It turns out that his service weapon is not the one that fired the fatal shot. Detective Pembleton begins investigating the officers on the scene, to the irritation of his commanding officer, Lt. Giardello.

 

In this episode, the detectives canvass the neighborhood and one resident turns in her grandson, thinking he may be involved. Pembleton doesn't believe the grandson has anything to do with it, but Giardello, as we see in the clip, tells Pembleton he needs to choose which side he's on. So Pembleton promptly pressures a confession out of the grandson just to prove he can -- but also to prove that just because he can doesn't mean he should.

The reference to the pilot episode of The Rockford Files over here brought to mind this thread, and a moment from L.A. Law that's been on my mind lately (I recently started a new job that calls for me to read news about the airline, travel, and hotel industries):

Senior partner Douglas Brackman plans to fly out of town on a day trip to meet a client at some other city in the state, someplace like Sacramento or San Francisco. Back then, flying was far less of a hassle, so it was feasible to fly there and back within the day, rather than spend several hours driving.

Unfortunately, back then there were still delays; the plane was positioned for takeoff, but didn't move, for an hour. Then an hour and a half. Then two. Then two and a half. Brackman becomes increasingly fidgety, and then concludes that if they don't get moving, he might as well rent a car and make the drive anyway. A while longer, he actually leaves his seat and tries get off the plane! Naturally, the flight attendants stop him, but he says he just wants them to open the door and let him walk back to the terminal. They tell him they can't let him do that. 

Their argument brings the captain, who will brook no nonsense: "By the authority invested in me by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Geneva Convention, I have the authority to do anything to secure the safety of this aircraft, up to, and including, having you shot dead

"Now get back in your seat."

The captain then explains that they are waiting for some part for the aircraft to be delivered and installed; once that's done, they'll be on their way.

So they wait another hour. Does Brackman take this lying down? He does not. He borrows a phone from his seatmate (it was the '80s; back then, everybody didn't have a phone in his pocket). He then places a phone call to the law firm and dispatches associate Jonathan Rollins to go to the L.A. County Courthouse, find a judge, and get a court order to make the plane return to the terminal!

(For his trouble, he's promptly arrested when the plane reaches the jetway.)

A couple years ago, the USA Network started carrying reruns of Modern Family, and kicked things off with an all-day weekend marathon. I hadn't watched the show before then, so I caught several episodes.

This moment, with Phil Dunphy and father-in-law Jay Pritchett, had me laughing so hard, I fell off my chair:

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