Becker (1998) s01e19 – Truth and Consequences

Marsha Myers wrote this episode and Myers has been one of the only reliable writers this season. So high hopes for it. And strange disappointment because Truth and Consequences does succeed but it doesn’t have much to do with Myers’s script. It succeeds because it’s got Richard Schiff in a sitcom guest spot. He’s Ted Danson’s accountant cousin who ends up crashing with Becker (Danson) and visiting with the regular cast. It’s great, but because it’s Schiff. Schiff doing sitcom comedy like he does here would be insufferable weekly, but for a guest spot? It’s glorious.

Not to mention the other guest with the most to do is Marvin Kaplan. He’s an old man patient of Danson’s who wants to get busy with the ladies. He’s got a younger woman; she’s sixty-five. There’s a great moment where Danson—mind you, the episode’s from 1999—tells Kaplan a woman’s pleasure is important too now. Kaplan says, “The rules have changed.” Danson replies, “The rules haven’t changed; they’re just enforcing them now.” So that moment does stand out in Myers’s script. It’s not a spectacular moment for the show itself—Danson’s character on the show avoids female characters for romance presumably because it’s too inconvenient to respect them—but it’s a good moment in the script and episode. Kaplan—who is a very familiar TV character actor guest starrer—is right in the scene and Danson’s good enough in the moment.

There’s also a great one-liner from Danson (and Myers) later about how alcohol kills pain and cigarettes relieve stress. So some good moments, but the episode’s all about Schiff’s guest spot. He’s very funny and very good.

Linda (Shawnee Smith) and Margaret (Hattie Winston) get a subplot involving a buff stud medical waste inspector (Matt Battaglia). It doesn’t go for long—it’s like the episode flips between its regular guest cast, Smith and Winston in the first half, then Terry Farrell and Alex Désert in the second—but it’s a good showcase for Smith.

The episode probably just needed a better director. There are lots of solid pieces for the regular cast and then Schiff flawless with whatever he’s got. It’s a very good sitcom but not a great showcase for “Becker,” the show itself. Better direction would’ve made the difference.

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