Monday, July 13, 2009

Episode 110 - The Most Unforgettable Characters

Season 5, Episode 110: The Most Unforgettable Characters
Original Air Date: 1/4/77
Written by: Ken Levine & Davis Isaacs

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

Radar has decided to take a correspondence course on how to be a writer, and his first efforts are with the daily report, where we hear him adding all kinds of purple prose to what is supposed to be a military report.

Col. Potter notices this and tells him that the daily report is not a place for "expressing yourself creatively." Radar assures him this course--"just $50, plus a $5 student activity fee"--is worthwhile, but Potter seems none too sure.

Radar moves on to the second assignment in the course, relating an amusing anecdote. He turns to Hawkeye and B.J. for a funny story, and Hawkeye tells one about learning how many bones are in the human hand (28) from a very erudite squirrel.

They turn to Frank for a story, but he's more sour than usual. After telling a terrible story about a childhood pal who lost control of his wheelchair and smashed into Frank's father's car, he blurts out that its his birthday, and no one seems to care.

Hawkeye and B.J., later on, decide to give Frank a present--fake a fight between each other, which they figure will entertain Frank to no end. They squabble in the Swamp, screaming and hitting each other with pillows. Frank is overjoyed.

But...there's a problem. Hawkeye is actually a little upset over some of B.J.'s supposedly fake criticisms, especially over B.J.'s observation that Hawkeye always has to get in the last word. This leads to a confrontation outside, where Hawkeye tries to prove B.J. is wrong, but nevertheless can't stop getting in the last word, leading B.J. to storm off in frustration.

Meanwhile, Radar tries one more time to inject a bunch of big words in the duty log. Col. Potter tears the paper out of Radar's typewriter, barking at him to knock it off. He tells him that he doesn't think much of Radar's writing, because its so inauthentic.

Later on, he wanders into the Swamp, looking for ideas for stories. Hawkeye and B.J. begin to snipe at one another for Frank's benefit, but its so well done that it makes Radar upset. He tells them that he finds their friendship inspiring, but seeing them fight makes his chest feel tight.

Hawkeye and B.J. reveal its all an act, a birthday present for Frank. Frank admits he loved it, and is mad at Radar for ending the charade.

Later, Radar gives up writing, instead taking up magic. He tries the old "smashing the watch" bit, but Frank takes over, destroying his own watch before Radar had the chance to slip it into his pocket. Frank chases him out of the Swamp, with Radar screaming "It was just a rehearsal!"

Fun Facts: A comment on not the episode itself, but the DVD: for each episode, there's a menu comprised of a still from the episode, with the four selections (Play Episode, Language Selection, etc.) worked in.

Some times, the list of choices is worked in very cleverly, none more so than this one: the list is put on Radar's daily report (like in the still above), except that the list is backwards, as if Radar and Col. Potter are looking at it typed on the page. Having worked in web design, I can tell you how tough it is sometimes to get something unusual like that past higher-ups who think it'll confuse the end user.

The scene with Hawkeye and B.J. arguing over Hawkeye's inability to let someone else have the last word is a classic, with Mike Farrell showing some real edge of genuine frustration with his friend.

Favorite Line: Klinger supposedly tries to kill himself by setting himself on fire (actually faking water for gasoline). He gives Col. Potter the chance to send him home, and warns he's serious: "Have you ever seen a Lebanese go up in flames? Its not pretty."

I love that joke, partly because as a kid I didn't get the idea that seeing a Lebanese person on fire would somehow be worse than anyone else.


What the Parrot Saw said...

Hawkeye's med school anecdote is an obvious shaggy dog story, but he pulls it off with such panache that I enjoy hearing it every time I view this episode.

This is another example of a sitcom cliche that, while not turned into something breathtakingly original, is well fitted to the characters and remains engaging. Radar's purpled prose is exactly the sort of thing a beginning creative writing student might write, given the (awful, canned) advice he cites from the correspondence course. A nice (alas, informed?) riff on these sorts of "draw tippy the turtle" operations, then and now...

The cutaway from Radar's voiceover to Potter's exasperation, tearing that very page out of the typewriter is funny, albeit using a jarring editing that the series seldom utilized.

A really fun (and funny) episode.

What the Parrot Saw said...

My favorite line:

[in the mess tent]

Radar: "...'what a provocative anecdote!'"

Klinger (dispensing chow): "Watch your mouth!"

Russell said...

I thought I had commented on this, but there was a glitch, so here I am trying again. Grrrr....

I have three favorite lines. One is when Radar is trying to impress Col Potter with his course and says it's run by professionals such as Hemingway, O'Neil, and Steinbeck. Potter picks up the brochure and reads the fine print; his deadpan as he reads the real first names (such as Ethel Hemingway) makes me laugh every time.

The other two involve Frank. He gets to the mess tent and confiscates Igor's tapioca pudding. He takes a mouthful and says, "Yum, with raisins!" and Igor deadpans, "No, sir... flies." Stop and think about this: poor Frank just ate some flies!!! Too funny. And the other line is when BJ and Hawkeye come clean that they are play-fighting. Frank, in frustration, cries out, "Another fine birthday, shot to hell!" I use that line every year (usually in jest, haha!)

Trivia fact: if Radar is writing about the previous day's report, Frank's birthday is June 14. If he's writing about the current day, it's June 13.

What The Parrot Saw said...

I was going to mention Potter's deadpan delivery of the "famous writers" in residence at Radar's writing school as well. :-)

Dr. Eric said...

My favorite line, that my Dad and I both quote often, is when Radar says he admires the way Hawkeye & BJ are such great friends, Frank says "Well, those days are over, get out!" Frank at his most insensitive!

Echo said...

My favorite line comes a few lines after yours: "Who put gasoline in my gasoline?"

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