“The New Actor”

6 September 1997
[Jeff and Hilary are bound in matrimony.] Written by Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Joanna Kerns.
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The lights go up on the AMC diamond marquee proudly announcing that playing next is "Remember WENN XXX". With some eagerness, I await the show.

As Marie posted, the "When last we met..." segment was quite well done. Concise, yet covering a lot of ground. Plus, excellent intercutting displaying the wonderful structure of the episode. I suspect this was not done by the persons who do the promos (who gave us a generic one for next week).

The "Sam Dane, Private Eye" show seems to be pretty popular. Of course, it has all the rock'em sock'em energy Mr. Acton (one of the sponsors who inadvertently helped to create the character) wanted: Sam's already put 5 thugs in the morgue that night and when 4 more goons show up, he tells the first one that he'll get out of this jam over the thug's dead body.

"The only thing worse than a cheap crook is a cheap crook who sells out his country." Interesting. Postshadowing? Well, Scott could have been considered a cheap crook (red cent-less/embezzler). But that'd be more of a broke crook and he did the opposite of selling out his country. The infamous Mr. Holstrum of "Magic" fame did "sell out his country". But he wasn't a crook (except by virtue of selling the country out) and he didn't seem particularyly cheap. So we haven't seen anyone that really fits the bill properly.

Foreshadowing? I wonder if we can look around the station and find anyone who we would say is cheap? (Rodney tries to look down the station hallway, but his view is blocked by an obstacle. Suddenly, the stench of curdling milk drives him away.)

Probably it's just a heads-up for the viewers of Jeff's concern for the war effort.

Once we hear Hilary introduce the musical question of "What do you mean, 'What do I mean?' ", we have the radio retuned to a station on the shortwave that seems to be putting out a lot of wattage. It obviously wants to be heard. I didn't make out "This is Jonathan Arnold" (sounds more like "This is Chinaman Orville") at first, but it soon became apparent who it was. The transistion interestingly mirrors the one in "In the WENN Small Hours..." where Eugenia comments on Jonathan "Benedict" Arnold and we cut to Victor speaking. Here, Jeff comments on Victor Comstock and next we hear "Arnold" speaking.

I guess I was expecting something more quieter, sedate and undermining like the lady they would hear in "M*A*S*H". Instead, it sounds like they're giving electric shocks to a cowboy. However, books and articles I've read over the years have said that, as late as the sixties, the image Europeans had of us was the old West. If someone wanted to do an "Amercian" accent, they'd do a cowboy accent. Remember, there wasn't a world wide TV broadcast until 1967 or so (this was the broadcast that included Beatles premiering "All You Need Is Love"). So their images came largely from films...and we cranked out the westerns.

Still you can see the effectiveness of it in the way that a heckler can get under your skin. Interestingly, it sounds like it's also effective in a way the Nazi's didn't plan, but Victor did. While it's probably demoralizing to the Brits because they can't help but agree that the U.S. isn't going to enter the war, the taunted Americans are accused of just "sitting this one out". And that's likely to get a few Amercians more willing to go to war so the US image isn't one of lazy bums.

Jeff's reaction initially caused me to consider this as a scene that, along with the nightmares, lends evidence against Jeff being the one who "knows all about" Jonathan Arnold. However, the bombing did occur and Jeff would've have thought Victor dead. Regardless of what he learned later, it would still have a traumatic effect on him. Hence, there's no need for him to "not" to have nightmares just because he knows Victor's alive (don't trip over the double negative). Nor does he need to be "acting" his nightmares.

So what about him mentioning that Victor Comstock gave his life? And questioning whether Arnold's even an American? Second question first: if we go on the supposition that Jeff does know, we shouldn't forget that he takes his acting VERY seriously ("Valentino Speaks!"). And he has one of the highest motivations to "stick to the script" that an actor could have--Victor's life. Asking whether they think he's an American is a way of polling Victor's effectiveness. Now the first question: the statement that "Victor Comstock gave his life" is true! He's giving his life everyday on a thread that might snap at any moment. In fact, the irony of the statement seems to push me even more in that direction.

[I probably should have handled the Jeff clues in a separate post, but I want my main posts to be chock full of crunchy surprises. It occurs to me however, that the nature of honest writing would tend to have this "contact" be someone already introduced on the show. I think there are scores of scenarios where other members of the WENN crew could be the contact. And further, I think (remembering a certain "seasonal" post) that...MIKE!...would be a good one to make a post about this. (Rodney hands off to Mike.)]

And how 'bout that Mr. Pruitt? "The artistic fulfillment that you seek in your profession here will serve as your Christmas bonus come winter." What!? No lump of coal to go with it?? Man, that's cheap.

Mr. Pruitt is NOT a people person.

Back in the green room, "Arnold" continues pointing out America's lack of entering the war. Again, Jeff's reaction could indicate either way. Arnold's getting under his skin AND being right about America's isolationism...OR...listening to Victor having to spout out this stuff ("If Victor's doing so much, I should be contributing, too"). I wish we knew whether this "contact" knows that Betty knows. I suspect the contact doesn't. But if we knew either way, it might give the identity of the contact away.

If we knew whether the contact knew, we would evaluate differently Jeff's lack of amazement at Betty's statement ("Maybe he has some good, personal reason for being like that") and then instantly distracting the others from it (a quick 3-word reply to Betty's astonishing speculation immediately followed by getting Gertrude out of the room before she has time to wonder about Betty's statement.) Could this indicate that Jeff is the contact and knows that Betty knows about Victor. Or is annoyance keeping him focused on doing some work for the Beeb (BBC).

Notice that we DID NOT get facial reaction shots after Betty's initial "No". There was a pause before she went on that is typically where reaction shots are inserted. But we weren't allowed to see the immediate reactions. Interesting...

Which takes us to Maple. Look at our belated reaction shot of Maple's face as Gertie walks in front of her on the way to the switchboard. She's not going, "Whatara? Nuts?" Instead, she's intently curious. If we knew the contact didn't know, wouldn't it more strongly hint that Maple is the contact and is realizing that Betty might know? After all, "didn't that Cutter guy claim to have seen Victor a couple of weeks ago when Victor was in the country?" And at first glance, Maple would seem to be a dark horse since she didn't even arrive at the station until after Victor died. It seems like it would make her a less likely candidate before you realize that the "contact" was probably chosen by the Government and not Victor. Gertie did say she'd make a good Mata Hari.

There's such a myriad of maddening series of possibilities that Rupert has presented in his plots. Either that or I'm flunking one of the biggest Rorshach blot tests of all time! :)

Next there are two great scenes centered around Hilary and Mackie. The people at #WENN already know what effect Hilary had on my spaghetti dinner.

This is followed by the shirt folding caper. Jeff does a horrible job folding the last shirt. A shame considering what a great job he did the first four times he folded it.

Maybe because I've seen the gag a few times over the years, maybe because of a certain scene in "Magic", but when Hilary requested Jeff to close his eyes I knew what was coming next: HANDCUFFS! Just when I was being impressed by Hilary's last minute support of Jeff. "Too bad. Don't care."

As Betty rushs into the studio to tell the others of the predicament Hilary has created, the door swings back and you can visualize someone off camera grabbing the door to keep it from closing again. Considering the speed at which they film these, it's surprising there aren't more gaffes like these.

A nice pan of one half of the set as Jeff makes his escape. And, of course, the instant classic: "Pum-kin-inn-inn-inn!" (followed by "Oh look, the pumpkin vendor selling his wares!")

And in the aftermath, Elizabeth (Hilary) screams for all to hear, "My secret is something that no one else must ever hear!"

Mackie loses track of his accents next. I particularly like the Parisian accent.

I kind of liked the mime in the tryouts. But you have to consider the others and his miming would have driven the staff mad.

I definitely liked Mr. Eldridge giving the mug (or is it the thug?) a "one-way knuckle sandwich on his dental plate" and the "Eyeshadow him night and day, they told me."

In light of what occurs next, it's interesting that Mackie chose just that time to need a breather (and to emphasize the desparation of their plight by having Mr. Eldridge read). Now, all those with good freeze-framers, go to the scene where Betty cuts off the radio and announces that they must take "the next, halfway-decent actor they find". As she walks away from the radio, look at Mackie's face, his eyes, his grin. Does that look like someone collapsing with relief that because relief is near? Or does that look more like someone who likes to see a good plan come together? (Also look at Hilary's nervous looking back-and-forth, Eugenia's and Gertie's joy, Maple's surprised look and contrast that with Mackie's NEUTRAL face when Scott walks in.)

Next, right on schedule, reenter Mr. Scott Sherwood! Betty's face looks troubled. She'd hoped that troubled part of her life was gone. Yet here he is and he's obviously the best one to try-out yet.

She has to wonder about his motivations. Another get-rich scheme? She points out the big salary dive. He doesn't seem bothered by it in the least. I mean he really, really doesn't. Well, getting rich at WENN doesn't make sense anyway. At this point, Betty's intelligence and moral compass points out to her that she'd second guess the fairness of any decision she makes...so she puts it in the lap of the others.

Eugenia, Maple and Gertie go for it, but Hilary has to consider. In her own way, she's very kind when she says, "Well, we need an actor badly. I'm sure Scotty can act as badly as anyone we've seen today." But Scott immediately goes on to remind her of how he used to lord it over her and she had to take it (by calling her by a name she can't stand). To have that from him now would be unbearable and she makes him aware that his status on the pecking order would be much lower. "It would have to be Hilary." Scott, without rancor, accepts that.

The man is practically glowing. It's possible it would have been nicer for him to come clean with the others, but that might be like starting life in a new house by pouring mud in the entranceway. Although I think Hilary might know better. Perhaps his simple "I'm looking for work. Got any?" made the situation clear to her and earned him some sympathy. (I'll let Linda handle a particular aspect of his answer to the "NBC" job question.)

This way, his path for a new start has been cleared. I tell ya, the joy of unburdening his soul to Betty and trying to take life on honestly insteading of looking for the next "opportunity" seems to have done him a world of good. He'll take what they'll pay and have respect for his co-workers (Hilary). He positively seemed to be floating!

No doubt, Betty can sense the change in him. She knew he'd hit rock bottom and it took a lot of courage to enter that room. His sincerity seems, well, sincere. None of my alarms went off. (And a googooplex of attaboys to Kevin O'Rourke for being able to set them off before and not set them off now! Luckily, attaboys are massless or they'd take up too much bandwidth to send.)

And now Betty even owes him...for giving her an opportunity to safely stick it to Mr. Pruitt.

"The forecast is stormy, with periods of sunlight." ROTFL. I didn't catch this first time around.

Yes it is stormy. Betty's glad that Scott is picking himself up by his bootstraps. But she's also aware everyone can have relapses. And she's sharply aware of his feelings for her. Hardest of all to deal with are the feelings that had been building up inside her for Scott. She spontaneously kissed Scott in "Close Quarters" (two episodes before she uncovered his embezzling in the yet-to-be-reaired "The First Mrs. Bloom"). I can't speak for anyone else, but every woman I've ever fallen in love with, I still have some feelings for.

In closing, I'd like to apologize if there are any gaping goofs in this post. For these weekly big posts, I usually do a thorough proof-reading. Also apologize if I tread ground already taken by someone else since Sunday morning, the last time I downloaded posts from the newsgroup. But, as I look at the time, it's past midnight and my leave has ended, so I'm out of time to review this post and recent newsgroup posts.

BUT, before I go...

I thought it was a stunt voice I was hearing, but I waitied for the credits...sure enough, there was the name: John Bedford Lloyd (John Bedford-Lloyd in the mid-eighties, wonder what the change was about?).

I'd expected, after the 2nd show, for us to hear occasional voice work by JBL. But here in the 4th episode, only 2 episodes later, his voice is already showing up! It made me wonder if we're not going to have more JBL than I expected.

Also, something very, very intriguing. I don't know why I didn't think of it once Josh made his successful post predicting Scott's return would be via the "New Actor" with logical reasons that stuck (Go, Josh, Go!). I guess my mind was set on Scott somehow re-occupying the station manager seat once Pruitt is bounced.

But the NUMBER ONE reason why we couldn't have JBL and O'Rourke on the show at the same time was that both characters fulfilled the same main function: the role of the station manager.

Now, I never watched the show myself, but I remember when the two guys on "The Dukes of Hazzard" held out for more pay or something and refused to show up. The studio simply hired two more guys to play the characters' cousins (or some such). The press pointed out that things would probably be worked out by the next year and the two regulars would return. Wouldn't it be rude to dump the two new guys then; after all, they honestly accepted the roles and were doing their best. The studio reassured the press of their fairness, "Well, we'll just have two Hazzard boys in the front seats and in the back." Needless to say, after that season, the "cousins" weren't heard from again.

At approximately 9:30 PM on Saturday, as I saw JBL's name in the credits, just after Scott Sherwood's role became that of an on-air actor, IT HIT ME!

Scott doesn't HAVE to take back the station manager role. Victor can return and resume the job. Scott can remain an on-air actor. Viola! The story hurdle to JBL's return vanishes and in fact, the romantic triangle becomes far more active with all three present.

For studio-side stuff, well, again, AMC/WENN has been wildly flexible as opposed to other shows constrictions. Perhaps I haven't realized how flexible.

Anyway, it's almost 1 AM! What do you all think?

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