One of my favorites: "A Friend in Deed."
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.
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.
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 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.
“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?”
“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?”
“But you did strike him.”
“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---”
“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: