Becker (1998) s01e16 – Limits & Boundaries

Limits & Boundaries refers to Ted Danson’s uninformed parenting philosophies. The episode opens with him yelling at a woman in the diner (Victoria Kelleher), who is sitting reading a book while her baby cries. Now, she’s not doing anything to get the baby to be quiet, which either is a nineties parenting in public practice I’ve forgotten or never witnessed. Or writer Dave Hackel just wanted to give Danson the opportunity to yell at a woman. The episode’s full of optics, including Danson being incredulous at having mixed race children; quite the flex given his infamous relationship with Whoopi Goldberg but also given it doesn’t seem in character for Danson. Meanwhile, the passive misogyny’s steady and culminates in a very deep cut at Terry Farrell for some reason.

Once Danson gets to the office, the main plot takes over—Danson’s going to have to babysit. The show’s only recurring patient, Robert Bailey Jr., is a kid living with HIV in the late nineties. His mom, Davenia McFadden, needs someone to watch him and sister Kyla Pratt and Danson’s the only choice. Danson, despite hating kids, agrees. Laughter ensues.

Sort of.

Some not great laughs with Danson trying to get everyone else at the office to watch the kids after he agreed to do it.

But then it turns out the kids are going to have to sleepover and all of a sudden the episode gets really, really funny. Because instead of being props for laughs, Bailey and Pratt (especially Pratt) get to run the laughs themselves, giving Danson a look into actual parenting.

The episode manages to be extremely funny and occasionally well-acted (Pratt, Bailey, Hattie Winston) without being very good. It also has the asterisk honor of a guest spot from Sy Richardson as a slow talking patient. Richardson’s not funny, the writing’s a combination of bad and mean, so it’s hard not to feel bad for Richardson, even though he’s not good in the part. Would a better performance make the part better? No, but it might make it funny.

When I saw Hackel’s name on the writing credit I got immediately apprehensive… he relies way too heavily on being mean instead of creative for Danson.

But the sleepover stuff is gold.

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