Thursday, October 28, 2004


I've only seen a handful of episodes from 'The George Lopez Show' - Those that had some kind of impact for Toobworld. It's certainly not a ground-breaking show, but it's not all THAT bad. The updated entry for Earth in 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy' could be used for Lopez: "Mostly harmless".

Of course, it doesn't help when Lopez blasts a hole through the fabric of the TV Universe with an episode full of "dream zonks".

Dream zonks happen during a TV character's deep sleep cycle, where his dreamscapes have other TV shows as their settings. It happens more often now that TV shows are being written by those who were raised on Television and use it for their cultural touchstones. Older shows involved people of a different generation, a different mindset. For instance, Rob Petrie dreamed his way through a particular marital problem with a silent movie motif.
(Considering his admiration for Stan Laurel, this should probably have been expected.)

I should also mention that that particular episode of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' is considered, by Van Dyke himself among others, to be the worst episode of the series.

In the last decade or so, lots of TV characters have slumber-stumbled their way into recreations of other TV shows. 'Roseanne' Conner and 'ALF' both ended up on 'Gilligan's Island' where they could escape the pressures of whatever problem they were facing in the waking world.

'ALF' also found himself hosting 'The Tonight Show' with Pope John Paul II as his guest. This isn't a zonk at all, however. Talk shows, variety shows, news programs, and game shows can exist both in the real world and in Toobworld; and therefore they can be legitimately used in other TV shows.

At any rate, the dream job of hosting 'The Tonight Show' put the Melmacian in good stead to host his own talk show on TV Land.

Here's another example: Ross Harper ('Day By Day') envisioned himself as a member of 'The Brady Bunch', thinking them to be the ideal family; at least, better than his own.

Those 'Perfect Strangers' of Chicago, Larry and Balki, found themselves in Bensonhurst, courtesy of a dream about 'The Honeymooners'. One would have thought portraying Ed Norton might have been easy for Bronson Pinchot, but it was Mark-Linn Baker who nailed the impersonation of Ralph Kramden. Also, my hat's off to them for the way they even recreated the type of gitches found in "One Take" Gleason's show.

Then there are the shows where characters aren't happy just skewering one TV series in their dream fugue state. No, they have to have multiple dream sequences in one dream and blast even more holes through the TV tapestry.

When a perfumed envelope arrived from Connecticut which was addressed to Charles and marked "Private and Personal", his ex-wife Allie struggled with the moral dilemma as to whether she should open it. So after falling asleep while watching late night TV, Allie slipped into the worlds of those TV shows she was watching; TV shows which should have been integral - vital! - components of her own world.

When it came to Allie's particular problem, - opening the envelope - the scenario was perfect for 'I Love Lucy'. And Allie and Kate appeared as Lucy and Ethel, appropriately enough.

The actual scenario and its fallout were played out on 'Here's Lucy' as well, with a memorable bit by Gale Gordon as Theodore Mooney. For those who think Jane Curtin as Kate was better as Ethel and could never portray a man like Mr. Mooney, stay tuned.....

In the next dream vignette, Allie saw herself in the WJM newsroom as Mary Richards from 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'. And this time, Kate showed up as Lou Grant!

As disturbing enough as it was to see Jane Curtin with a bald head like Ed Asner, we can only thank our lucky stars she never took off her shirt to show how far the follicle impersonation actually went!!!

And now here's 'The George Lopez Show', where George struggled with his fears and issues over life insurance and
Death by falling asleep in front of the TV. This time, he found his situation reflected in his own versions of such TV classics as 'Leave It To Beaver' (hence the episode title: "Leave It To Lopez"), 'The Munsters', and the most intriguing of the bunch, 'The Jetsons', those futuristic visionaries from um... 2002.....

Like I said, the show's not ALL bad and there was plenty to like in these dreams. 'Leave It To Beaver' is always an easy mark, and George's son did a good job of capturing the essence of the Beav. It's too easy to fall into the trap of parodying 'The Munsters' and they did, relying only on the toonish qualities of the characters. And even then, it was (painfully) obvious that George Lopez is no Fred Gwynne.

But at least it was saved by a dream where the toonish aspects actually helped; even Mr. Sprocket and Rosie the Robot were represented by cast member impressions of 'The Jetsons'. All that was missing was the scene of George walking Astro on that slidewalk. But at least they did get him sucked into a machine to accentuate the underlying theme of his fear of death. And he got to use the line "Jane, stop this crazy thing!" so I had no quibbles with it, even if it does wreak havoc on my vision of Toobworld.

My opinion wasn't shared by all, however. Here's what David Bianculli had to say that morning in the New York Daily News:

"For Halloween, the cast of this sitcom takes on the personas of three other TV families: The Cleavers, the Munsters and the Jetsons. The last family, not usually seen in three dimensions, is the closest thing to a reason to watch. Remember, though we're talking about 'George Lopez'. In 40 years, will anyone on TV be dressing up as the Lopezes? (It's a rhetorical question.)"

How are we supposed to splain away dream zonks? The main problem isn't the dreams themselves, it's the fact that the characters drive it home before they go to sleep that their inspirations will be coming from old TV shows. With the dreams, at least they can be dismissed as either the ravings of the sub-conscious mind, or they could be supernatural entries tapping into aspects of other lives in Toobworld.

But when they're actually identified by the characters as being inspired by old TV shows which by all rights should exist in the same universe as they do?

I just want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head!


1 comment:

jimmo said...

Actually, "The Nanny" had also done a dream sequence utilizing "The Dick Van Dyke Show," made all the more poignant by the fact of having had Ann Morgan Guilbert in their cast as "Grandma Yetta," who even self-deprecatingly talked about how she heard "that Millie Helper" was difficult to deal with on the classic TV show.

For the record, "Everybody Loves Raymond's/"Till Death's" Brad Garrett does the most authentic Fred Gwynne as "Herman Munster" impersonation I've ever heard & seen.

Also, your reference to "Theodore J. Mooney" as being a character on "Here's Lucy" was inaccurate. It was on "The Lucy Show" that Gale Gordon's banker (& Lucy's boss) was a character, Gordon having played "Harrison 'Uncle Harry' Otis Carter" on "Here's Lucy." On "Here's Lucy," Gordon as "Uncle Harry" was "Lucy Carter's" brother in-law, uncle to "Craig" & "Kim" (played by Miss Ball's real-life kids, Desi, Jr. & Lucia Arnaz) & again her boss, but at the "Unique Employment Agency."

It should be noted, however, that on CBS' "Dennis The Menace," where Gordon played the second "Mr. (John) Wilson," after the first ("George," played by Joseph Kearns) had died, there WAS a character named "Officer Theodore J. Mooney," played by George Cisar. This was only one season before Gordon joined the cast of "The Lucy Show," also on CBS.

Perhaps that is from where Gordon/Desilu lifted the character name of "Theodore Mooney," who was initially "Lucille Carmichael's" trust fund manager at the "Danfield First National Bank" & eventual boss at the "Westland Bank," when the show shifted formats after season three of "The Lucy Show," having the "Lucy" character move from "Danfield, Connecticut" to San Francisco, CA?