blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Becker (1998) s01e02 – Take These Pills and Shove ‘Em

So if “Becker” is going to get on more solid ground, post-pilot, it sure isn’t happening with this second episode. It exacerbates the problems from the previous episode, without offering much in the way of improvements. Sure, Terry Farrell is a little better, but Ted Danson doesn’t get a good doctor arc. After however many years of being an asshole to his patients, he finally runs into two patients who react poorly to him being an asshole. The episode is him obsessing over one of the patients—an untreated diabetic—while dealing with a hypochondriac (a muted and strong Lin Share). Subplots have blind Black guy Alex Desert going to a sculpture class to meet women and office assistant Shawnee Smith being too honest with patients about the scare factor of their tests.

The Alex Desert stuff gives him a chance to act, even if it’s all incredibly problematic—he’s a smooth, soulful Black guy in his seductions—but he’s still just a plot prop. Differently utilized, but still a prop.

Smith’s thing is a decent showcase—much better than anything Hattie Winston gets this episode, unfortunately—and it’s definitely better than Danson’s A plot, but it’s still not particularly good. There are a handful laugh out loud moments, but mostly sporadic. They just haven’t figured out how mean to make Danson and have it work. The pilot humanized him while this episode is more than comfortable having him be a caricature. There is a funny running joke with an airhorn though.

Danson’s opening rant is fine, but far from memorable this time, especially since it segues into him making fun of Desert’s blindness.

Oh, the nineties.

The show being on shaky ground two episodes in isn’t concerning—I distinctly remember it getting much better—but it’s weird to have such a lackluster second episode. Or maybe it’s not. I can’t remember… were nineties second episodes better than pilots or worse than pilots.

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