Valerie Curtin

Becker (1998) s01e18 – Saving Harvey Cohen

The episode plays like writer Eric Cohen really likes “Becker.” Everyone in the cast gets something to do; even if it’s a little subplot, it’s a complete one. The main plot has Becker (Ted Danson) reluctantly caring for a sick stray cat, including some really obvious stuff when he takes it to the vet and gives the vet the same complaints about tests a patient has given him but it’s fine because it’s cute. Danson reluctantly caring for a sick alley cat equals cute.

It’s a fairly gentle main plot, mostly played through in dialogue—the cat’s only in two scenes and doesn’t do much, presumably because finding a cat who’d consent to being lifted around awkwardly isn’t a cat who’s going to then do tricks—so the episode gives literally everyone else a subplot.

Alex Désert has been having sex dreams about Terry Farrell, which Danson initially uses to embarrass Désert—which is still the easy ableist joke since Désert’s blind, but at least Danson’s not directly mocking Désert for his lack of seeing (a series trope)—but then turns into Farrell and Désert teaming up to torment hilarious scumbag Saverio Guerra.

At the doctor’s office, Shawnee Smith has decided to violate HIPAA and celebrate the patients’ birthdays whether they want to or not. It gets a few scenes and some solid smiles if not laughs, though it’s still a network sitcom so of course they cut deep on single scene guest star Valerie Curtin for being a woman in her late forties.

Hattie Winston’s story line involves her trying to find a vacation for curmudgeon Danson, which is definitely the least of the plot lines but it’s something at least.

Other significant single scene guest star? Lance Guest. It’s like old home week for early eighties movie supporting actors who didn’t make it, though Curtin is in a different class than Guest. Guest’s fine, but Curtin’s an Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

It’s a very, very busy episode but an entertaining one—Andy Ackerman’s direction helps, not to mention the lack of abject cynicism.

Three’s Company, the first unaired pilot (1976, Burt Brinckerhoff)

What a difference a cast makes. It’s hard to determine the real star of the first attempt at “Three’s Company.” It’s either Valerie Curtin or Susanne Zenor, both of whom are–to the best of my recollection–very different from the similar characters on the eventual series.

Curtin has these fantastic one liners from writer Larry Gelbart; she’s able to sell being incredibly witty and self-aware. But she doesn’t do well with her regular lines.

Zenor, the blonde aspiring actress, is strong as what’s actually the straight man. She doesn’t have zingers. She just has to hold it all together.

Eventual regular cast members John Ritter, Norman Fell and Audra Lindley are all here. Ritter’s okay; he plays well off Curtin (really laughing at a couple of her jokes), but Fell and Lindley are awful. Fell’s already obviously embarrassed.

Brinckerhoff’s direction is terrible; Curtin and Zenor make it worthwhile.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Burt Brinckerhoff; written by Larry Gelbart, based on a television show created by Brian Cooke and Johnnie Mortimer; lighting director, Truck Krone; edited by Lou Torino; music by Joe Raposo; produced by Don Van Atta.

Starring John Ritter (David Bell), Valerie Curtin (Jenny), Susanne Zenor (Samantha), Norman Fell (Mr. Roper), Audra Lindley (Mrs. Roper) and Bobbie Mitchell (Zoey).


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