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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This reminds me of a story I've never found the right place to tell, so why not here ... ?

In 1985, Jackie Gleason and Art Carney reunited for a TV movie titled Izzy and Moe, the "based on a true story" exploits of Isadore "Izzy" Einstein and Moe Smith, a pair of former vaudeville actors who used their talents and wiles in the service of the U.S. Bureau of Prohibition in the 1920s, busting speakeasies. It was most memorable for the stunt casting, as it didn't even bother to tell the rather fascinating story of these gents -- but any excuse to put Gleason and Carney together again is a good one, right?

There was a bit of a tussle over billing, however. Gleason was expecting to get top billing and a bigger paycheck, but it was important to Art Carney that he get equal billing AND salary parity, because even though Gleason was arguably the bigger star, Carney had a number of accomplishments in his own right. This included an Academy Award and five Emmy awards ... which, after all, is one more Oscar and five more Emmys than Gleason had. The producers worked it out by giving them equal billing but letting Gleason write the theme and score, which was excuse enough to pay him a bit extra.
ClarkKent_DC said:
Travis Herrick said:
On of my favorite bits from Friends was when Chandler and Joey bet Rachel and Monica that they knew the girls better than the girls knew them. The bet eventually escalated to if the guys won they got the girls' apartment, and if the the girls won then the guys had to get rid of their pet chicken and duck. Ross is the one who hosts the game show and creates all of the questions. Of course the game is really close, and the girls can only keep their apartment if they answer the last question right. That question was, What is Chandler's job? Naturally, they didn't know. The game was also a nice way to learn about the characters in a quick hit format.

Later, Rachel pleads with Mnica to talk to the boys into getting their apartment back. She comes back later just walks by Rachel and says,"I lost our beds."

So ... what is Chandler's job?

Uh, I forget. Like they said in that episode, something to with numbers.
Another favorite: The first crossover of Law & Order and Homicide: Life On the Street.

It wasn't a full-fledged pairing; it was a two-minute bit before the opening credits in the third-season episode "Law and Disorder."

NYPD Det. Mike Logan comes to Union Station in Baltimore and hands off a prisoner, played by John Waters, to Balto PD Det. Frank Pembleton, and the two men banter a bit over which city is better. Interesting that Pembleton put on such a strong defense of his adopted city; Pembleton originally is from New York.

Courtesy of You Tube.
This is a recent favorite, from The Good Wife:

The episode begins with the acquittal of an Army reservist, who was charged with the murder of his wife. However, the prosecution persuades the Army to try the man in military court, which doesn't violate the stricture against double jeopardy.

Military court is a whole different sandbox, and Alicia and Will are flummoxed when the no-nonsense presiding judge hustles things along -- even so far as seating a juror who admits bias because his sister was a battered spouse. "If I order you to be impartial, will you be, Corporal?" the judge asks. "Yes, ma'am!"

Anyway, Alicia and Will are helped by an Army lawyer who helps them navigate the military procedures, although the defendant still wants them to take the lead; after all, they got him off in state court. Said lawyer, a lieutenant, doesn't inspire the greatest confidence. As a soldier, he's first rate -- he has a Silver Star for single-handedly fighting off a convoy in Fallujah -- but in the courtroom, he's more mild-mannered.

But at one point, Alicia has to get a bunch of files from an evidence locker, and, being a civilian, gets no cooperation from the corporal behind the counter. She needs it today, but she needs permission from the major in charge, and he's away and won't be back until Monday and no, I will not contact him and no, there isn't anybody else you can ask and, no, no --

"Corporal! Is there a problem?"

"No, sir!"

"Then give her what she wants!"
ClarkKent_DC said:
This is a recent favorite, from The Good Wife:

"Corporal! Is there a problem?"

"No, sir!"

"Then give her what she wants!"

Chuckle! As you probably fathom, I can identify with this type of scene more than most. In fact, it reminds me of one of my favourite anecdotes after I returned to active duty after my five-year interregnum.

I had met and married the Good Mrs. Benson during that interval, and the most she had had to deal with was my occasional two- or three-week stints of ACDUTRA as a reservist. Now, I was back to fulltime active duty, and since we had a house and she had a good job, we were going to work it out as being geographically separated. This created the circumstance of her suffering all the travails of being a Navy wife, but enjoying none of the benefits. So after I put on the silver oak leaves of a commander, we decided that she should take a week's leave from her job, come to Norfolk, and see that there were some good things about being married to a Navy officer. (The DESRON staff to which I was assigned was also throwing a Mardi Gras party that upcoming week-end, which is a separate tale all its own.)

After the GMB got to the base, the first order of business was to obtain her Navy dependent ID card. Fortunately the building which housed the PASS office (which handles that sort of thing) was right across the street from my officer's quarters. We had all of the paperwork in order, so before I left for work, I instructed the GMB on where to go and whom to see about getting her ID card.

When I got back that evening, I asked her if she had gotten her ID card. No, she told me. She told me that, when she got to the PASS office, she had been blown off by the person whom appeared to be in charge. By her description, that person was a female personnelman second class. I asked the GMB if she had told the PN2 that she was a commander's wife. No, she said, adding what difference would that make?

A great deal, I replied, and the next morning, I accompanied her to the PASS office.

Now, as it developed, that morning was a Friday of the last week-end before a carrier group was deploying to the Med, and there were dozens of sailors already waiting to get their personnel details handled before leaving CONUS for eight months. In fact, there were sixty-two sailors waiting ahead of us, because the take-a-number counter was at "63".

When the GMB saw how many people were ahead of us, she turned to me and suggested we come back another time; that it wasn't that necessary that she get her ID card, now. I told her that's not how it was done. I took her by the hand and walked to the front of the line. I was fervently hoping that the PN2 who had stonewalled my wife was sitting at the desk. Instead, it was a very young sailor who couldn't have been more than eighteen or nineteen, and from the two half-chevrons on his sleeve, I could tell he was a seaman apprentice and probably hadn't been in the Navy for more than seven or eight months. The poor fellow looked frazzled and he must have felt worse when he saw a commander standing in front of him.

"Yes, sir?" he said, his voice cracking a little.

"My wife was here yesterday to get her dependent's ID card, and the petty officer who was here then blew her off," I explained. "I want to make sure we don't have a similar problem to-day."

"Sir," the SA said uncomfortably, "the photographic equipment isn't working. We can't issue any ID cards right now."

"You aren't grasping the situation," I told him quietly. "I don't care how you do it, but my wife is getting her ID card. Now."

Without another word, the young SA turned to his counter, to do whatever he had to do to make things happen.

The GMB turned to me and said, "Look, he said the photograph equipment isn't working and he can't do anything about that and we really don't have to do this right now----"

"Would you stand over here, please, ma'am," said the SA.

"---and there are all these other people waiting and it's not fair. They were here first and---"

"Would you turn your head this way, please, ma'am."

"---we can come back Monday after the carrier deploys and I really don't want to---"

Click!

"---spend the whole day standing around here waiting for them to fix the machine. Why don't we---"

"Here's your ID card, ma'am."

"What?"

I took the card from the SA and gave it to the GMB, and smiled.

"That's what difference being a commander's wife makes," I told her.
Commander, please write a book. Even if it is just a collection of your online columns and stories, I would buy it and I'm sure that I'm not alone.
I'll second that!
Getting back to favourtie moments on TV - and I saw it again as I always do a few weeks ago - the last ten to fifteen minutes of Blackadder Goes Forth, as it slowly dawns on you this time, there is no way out.
Steve Martin performing "King Tut" on Saturday Night Live (1978), on what many still regard as the best single show SNL ever did.
There's a great old BBC series called Edge of Darkness which they are showing on Australian television these days. I'd always heard it was good, but having watched the first 2.5 episodes I'd have to say it's suberb. Willy Nelson's Time of the Preacher is used to great effect in both the 1st and 2nd episodes. Both episodes are low-key, scene-setting stuff, but the references to the song obviously tells us that there's going to be an almighty reckoning later on.

Elsewhere, someone mentioned the 'hook' that a series needs to convince the viewer to stick with it. This scene was the hook for me. It's obvious that those involved have such deft control of their craft, and that you're in the middle of a well thought-through story.

Check out Bob Peck's wonderfully inexpressive hawk-like features in that clip too! (The character is thinking about his much-loved, recently murdered daughter while saying those lines.)

It was recently remade as a Mel Gibson movie, to little acclaim.

(Sorry about the Iranian subtitles!)
The other day I recalled a particular in-joke I saw decades ago on a television programme, and as I enjoyed the recollexion, it also occurred to me that, should someone of a later generation catch that same bit in a rerun to-day, he might completely miss the allusion.

The late Gene Barry's first regular television gig was portraying the western marshal Bat Masterson. The show made good use of Barry's debonair persona, outfitting Masterson in late-nineteenth century sartorial splendour. As the theme song related, "he wore a cane and derby hat." One of the set pieces of the show was when Masterson would stroll down the street casually twirling his silver-capped cane.

Jump forward a few years, and now Gene Barry's next regular television job is playing Amos Burke on Burke's Law. One can see how the show was pitched to the network, with the fabled one-sentence high concept. Amos Burke was a captain of homicide for the Los Angeles Police Department, and he was also a millionaire. He arrived at murder scenes in his chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.

Like Columbo, Burke's Law was a stylish murder-mystery series. Captain Burke and his staff never seemed to investigate murdered drug dealers or wives bumped off by their abusive husbands. His victims were always the rich, the influential, the famous.

And like The Love Boat and Fantasy Island a decade later, the guest-star cast was made up of a parade of current and former movie and television notables.

All of which is to familiarise you enough to describe a cute little in-joke that appeared in the Burke's Law episode titled "Who Killed Alex Debbs?", first airing on 25 October 1963.

The victim, Alex Debbs, is a Hugh Hefner analogue, owner and publisher of Debonair Magazine (the script's version of Playboy). Debbs was found dead in his Debonair Key Club, with an ice pick stuck in his back. Among the suspects are some of the employees of the club and of the magazine.

One of these was portrayed by Sammy Davis, Jr. He played Cordwainer Bird, humour editor for Debonair. (The script was written by Harlan Ellison, hence the name of Davis' character. But that's not the in-joke.) Before getting into the editing business, Bird was a song-and-dance man on the Vegas circuit.

Bird arrives in Captain Burke's office to be interrogated, and he appears in brightly polished tap shoes and carrying a silver-headed walking stick. During the interview, Bird annoys Burke by constantly tap-dancing around the office, including on top of his desk. The captain finally turns things serious by taking away Bird's cane and shoving him in a chair.

After finally getting some straight answers, Burke sends him on his way. Bird goes to the door, opens it, and stops to make a parting wisecrack. Then the cop says, "Wait a second. You forgot this."

Burke picks the cane up from the desk and with a flourish, twirls it in a very familiar fashion before handing it to Bird.

"Wait," spouts Bird, "Aren't you----?" Then he shakes his head. "Naaaaaahhhhh!"
Commander Benson said:
Like Columbo, Burke's Law was a stylish murder-mystery series. Captain Burke and his staff never seemed to investigate murdered drug dealers or wives bumped off by their abusive husbands. His victims were always the rich, the influential, the famous.

Speaking of Columbo, every criminal he busted was some rich, arrogant, elite member of the upper crust who regarded the scruffy lieutenant as unworthy to breathe the same air. But Columbo methodically did his job, with that "Oh, just one more thing" schtick, letting them know he's not as stupid as he looks.

One of my favorites: "A Friend in Deed." It begins with one Hugh Caldwell murdering his wife during an argument and then, in a "what have I done?" moment of panic, calling his buddy, Mark Halperin, for help. Halperin is at their men's club, and he instructs Caldwell to join him and then make a great show of getting on the phone and pretending to call his wife.

While Caldwell fakes the phone conversation, Halperin stages a burglary at Caldwell's home. He dresses Caldwell's wife's body in a nightgown taken from the closet and steals some jewelry. Then, back at his own home, talking to his own wife, Halperin pretends to see someone running from the Caldwell home and tells his wife to call the police.

Columbo quickly concludes that something is not right with Halperin's tale, that a cat burglar who had hit some other houses in the neighborhood -- Bel Air, don't cha know -- must have killed Mrs. Caldwell. One, her fingerprints aren't on the telephone. Two, it was the maid's routine to leave a nightgown for Mrs. Caldwell under her pillow, and it was still there. Three, when he checks with her jeweler for an inventory of the missing baubles, he learns they were all fake; she'd been selling them back to the jeweler for cash to finance affairs with her lover.

Halperin doesn't want to hear it, insisting it must be the burglar, and he holds a press conference to announce an increased police presence in the neighborhood, mentioning that he and his wife saw someone running from the Caldwell home.

Oh, did I tell you that Halperin is a deputy commissioner on the L.A.P.D.? Which means, he's Columbo's boss.

Halperin later drowns his wife as she takes a bubble bath. And at Mrs. Caldwell's funeral, Halperin tells Caldwell it's time for him to return the favor of covering up his uxoricide.

That night, Halperin is in a police helicopter when he spots someone running from his own house. It's his buddy Caldwell, dressed in Basic Burglar gear -- black turtleneck sweater, black trousers, black crepe-soled shoes, black leather gloves, black woolen ski mask -- carrying Mrs. Halperin. He dumps her into the pool and runs off. Halperin has the helicopter pilot fly over the pool, and he dives in and makes a great show of "rescuing" Mrs. Halperin and pretending to give her CPR.

But Columbo still isn't convinced ... especially as the lab report shows Mrs. Halperin did die from drowning, but they found soap instead of chlorine in her lungs.

Dutifully, Columbo reports to Halperin that he thinks this a frame, and Halperin insists that his wife was murdered because he let slip that she saw the burglar, and orders Columbo to catch him. So Columbo consults with the guys in Robbery (back in those days, Robbery and Homicide were separate specialties at the L.A.P.D.; they've since consolidated the two) and learns that, omitting the two murders, the other burglaries bear the clear trademarks of one old pro named Artie Jeffers. Columbo then finds Jeffers, who will cop to the burglaries but won't take a murder rap. He and Columbo cook up a plan ...

Caldwell gets a call demanding money for Jeffers' silence. They meet at a pool hall, and Jeffers surprises Caldwell by declaring the money is only a first installment, and he wants regular payments. Halperin tells Caldwell not to fret, he'll fix this.

At police headquarters, Halperin encounters Columbo, who has Jeffers' records strewn across his desk -- mug shots, last known addresses, arrest reports, etc. He tells Halperin he putting all his effort into finding the burglar. Halperin thumbs through the case file and tells Columbo he's doing a good job.

The next day, Halperin and some uniformed officers execute a search warrant at some apartment, looking for the jewelry stolen from the Caldwell home. Columbo comes along and lays out the whole thing -- the nightgown, the fake gems, the lack of fingerprints on the phone, the soap in the lungs -- and flatly says he thinks Caldwell and Halperin murdered their wives and helped each over with a cover up.

Halperin glares at him, and says, "You just lost your badge, my friend." Then he "finds" the stolen jewelry.

Columbo asks a uniformed officer to open the door, and there's the burglar! Columbo asks him if he had put these items in his home, and the burglar says ...

"I don't even live here."

Halperin is gobsmacked, but then Columbo drops the bomb:

"That's right, sir. I live here."

"I just signed the lease this morning. Those clothes in the dresser? Those are my clothes. Those pictures on the mantel? Those are my nieces and nephews."

And then he spells it out: When he was studying the Artie Jeffers case file, he changed one detail on one document -- the last known address. And only one person would have seen that wrong address, and that's Halperin, whom Columbo quietly leads away.

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