Becker: Season 2
Actors may seem to have a glamorous profession but they share one important thing with those of us in the masses; the need for consistent employment. To be lauded with prestigious awards is icing on the cake but the true measure of an actor is to have a place to work. When an actor has been part of a successful film franchise or hit television series he may become type cast. Directors and producers are unable to see beyond his past performance and place him in a different role. Part of this is the fact that the audience is often reluctant to move past the previous character associated with the actor. For eleven years Ted Danson played the likeable and belabored Sam Malone on the mega hit TV sit com ‘Cheers’. He was so good at that role that many of the loyal fans saw him as that character. He was in many ways trapped by his own success in that beloved series. He was nominated for an Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for each of the eleven years of its run winning twice. What is often overlooked is the reason why an actor becomes so popular and successful is they have talent. This is the case with Danson, he had a long career in television before and after ‘Cheers’. It was only natural for a network to want to recapture lightening and place him in the familiar sit com format. The result was the series under consideration here; ‘Becker’. While it was not able to garner the praise or longevity of ‘Cheers’ it did last for six years; which is far better than most shows of this format. CBS Paramount has been releasing to DVD shows that we have loved ranging from those that impacted our culture to solid entertainment like this one. In ‘Becker’ Danson played against the likable type of Sam and gave the audience a gruff doctor who always had a chip on hi shoulder. He did so in a way that was always fun to watch and the series may not be as famous as his previous one but it is an excellent show that you and you family will have fun watching.
The most important thing in creating a sit com is how the characters are presented. IN the case of this series it is the usual quirky bunch of misfits. What helps to separate this from the more mundane representatives of the format is the characters here are well written and provided with back stories that help the audience identify with them and understand their motivations. The titular character is Dr. John Becker (Danson). He is actually a brilliant man having graduated from Harvard Medical School. Although those credentials would place him on staff at any major hospital in the world he chose to work in a broken down solo practice in the Bronx. Becker is a misanthropist who’s acerbic manner is insulting to everyone around him, He is highly opinionated and more than a little self righteous and never sees himself as being in the wrong. His saving grace is the fact that he is a brilliant diagnostician and excellent physician. Despite hating mankind in general he truly cares about his patients. The nurse who keeps the practice running and Becker on track is Margaret Wyborn (Hattie Winston). She is sensible, kind and caring; the polar opposite of Becker and one of the only people with faith in him as a human being. Also working at the office is Linda (Shawnee Smith). She is a brunette version of a blonde joke constantly messing up and getting gin trouble. Although she has extremely rich parents she wants to be on her own and working for Becker is her form of rebellion.
In a series such as this you need a place for everybody to gather outside of the workplace. For this show it is a coffee shop near Becker’s office. The owner of the diner is Reggie (Terry Farrell). She inherited the place from her father having given up a career in modeling to take it over. Reggie is ill prepared to run an eatery as she is a notoriously bad cook. Working in a newsstand inside the coffee shop is Jake (Alex Désert). He is blind and this series did have more than the usual number of politically incorrect jokes at his expense usually from Becker. He is the closest thing Becker has to a best friend. Also hanging around is the slimy Bob (Saverio Guerra). He is constantly looking for any way to make a quick buck few of which are technically legal. As if his personality in general is not annoying enough Bob always speaks in the third person.
The stories for many of the episodes are al little risqué for all members of the family although none go over the edge to bad taste of being too explicit. Sex is a common central theme for an episode made possible by having all the characters but Margaret single. Most episodes being as the characters start their day. Usually Becker comes into Reggie’s complaining about something that ticked him off that day. As Jake sets up the newsstand Becker goes to the cash register, opens it and pulls out a pack of cigarettes for his morning smoke. He has been trying to give up smoking for years and tries to accommodate this by not carrying the pack with him. In one episode Becker is determined to finally quit and Reggie introduces him to old former model and roommate Amanda (Marjorie Monaghan). It turns out that she was once a heavy smoker and has the perfect way to stop; replace cigarettes with sex. The next thing you know the scene shifts to them in aftermath glow. The series may have an individual’s name in the title but this is a true ensemble show. Each of the characters gets their own story lines typically rotating between them from week to week. In one Linda tries to give back to the community by becoming a big sister but the girl turns out to be a manipulative brat. Reggie dates a patient of Becker and the doctor butts in. Another has Margaret finally getting fed up with Becker and quitting. There is the usual sit com high jinx such as when Becker discovers that Reggie is dating one of his patients and gives him advice in order to prove that Reggie’s perfect man is actual him.
In all this is a light hearted comedy that is more than enjoyable. The writing is quick paced and sharp with a humor that most of us will readily get into. The cast is perfect. There are a few connections to the science fiction world. Farrell is best known as a regular on ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ and Désert was a cast member for the short lived ‘Flash’ series. Together they work extremely well together as the constant barbs fly between them. This is a series that is so much better than most sit com faire on the air today.