Saturday, August 26, 2006


As I prepare to watch and review the Emmys and scan through the sad list of nominees I’m reminded of a show that never got its due and should have been in Emmy contention every year – BECKER.

Okay, disclaimer: I worked on the show but that’s not the point. I also worked on CONRAD BLOOM and ASK HARRIET.

BECKER spent years on CBS never getting any attention. All it got were ratings. No matter where they put it. Still, somehow, no one ever knew the show existed. Now it’s in syndication, airing at 2 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon and people are discovering it as if it were brand new. (What does that say about CBS marketing?)

Ted Danson was flat out wonderful in the part. He was HOUSE without the limp. His supporting cast, notably Shawnee Smith and (in later seasons) Nancy Travis were every bit as Emmy worthy as Jackee.

Behind the scenes, the writers hailed from CHEERS, WINGS, FRASIER, MURPHY BROWN, and DUCKMAN. They later went on to the SOPRANOS, FRIENDS, BERNIE MAC, and such feature films as FAILURE TO LAUNCH. Andy Ackerman, who directed most of the episodes, directed most of the SEINFELD episodes as well.

What did the show have to do to gain some recognition?

If you haven’t gotten into BECKER, give it a shot. It’s probably on KDOC Channel 56 in Orange County or your local equivalent right now. Watch a few episodes. You might be surprised. BECKER is a smart, funny show. The best new comedy of the year may be seven years old.


Alan H. said...

You're absolutely right. I stumbled across the show a few weeks ago and gave it shot. I had never heard of it, but I try to watch it when it comes on.

Anonymous said...

"Becker" is in an unfortunate class of its own.

I don't remember how or when I stumbled across it but I loved it. I still watch it from time to time...when I stumble across it...and I love it.

When I set up my Tivo for the week it never occurs to me that I should punch up some "Becker." I love it!

Maybe it's not the network's fault. Ever meet a gorgeous woman but ten minutes later you can't remember her name or what she looked like?

How does this stuff happen?

Anonymous said...

I am not "anonymous!"

I despise anything written by people who haven't got the guts to sign their opinions. Won't read 'em. Sure as hell won't write them.

I wrote that last comment -- I'm not anonymous! I'm just a blogging idiot!

Dave Williams

Anonymous said...

I tried watching some "Becker" recently--a few months ago maybe--and the laugh track seemed too intrusive...

I don't know. I'm slowly watching all of "Cheers" and I loved Danson on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but that laugh track just killed me.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

My writing partner just couldn't get past the fact that Ted Danson wasn't playing Sam. I called him an idiot and pointed out the writing, the jokes, the characters... and the fact that Ted Danson was in fact absolutely wonderful in it, often carrying a joke in a way no one could. He just shrugged and didn't try again.

I must say I loved Bob too. Extreme, but wellhandled.

There is so much to say about this seriers... I hope you will do so.

Brent McKee said...

I know exactly why I came to Becker - it was because I loved Terry Farrell from her time on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It didn't hurt that I also liked Ted Danson from Cheers and even Ink (and where did IMDB come up with that cast list). The things that drove me away from the show was in part Farrell's departure but far more the way that CBS treated the show, moving it around as if to hide it.

Anonymous said...

My mother, a perfectly intelligent woman, couldn't get past the "he's not playing Sam" thing, either. Call it the curse of starring in a long-running, hit TV series, I guess.

Mechanism8 said...

I've been an avid fan of Becker and though I thought it was really hillarious and Ted performence was really good I gotta disagree with you that it's sorta like House. House is just plain bitter, in a good way of course, a sarcastic twat but mostly audacious. Whereelse i found the character of Becker to be more uncertain, sarcastic and cocky, again in a good way.

ps.thanks for the good read. nice post.

Anonymous said...

AMEN Ken, you are preaching to the choir. But I have to disagree with one point, I didn't care for the character of Chris, played by Nancy Travis. Can't explain it except maybe it's because she wound up replacing the fabulous Terry Farrell whom I also enjoyed in DS9. I watch the show which plays back to back for 2-3 hours weeknights on TBS. Ahhh, don't ya just love syndication.

Anonymous said...

Ted Dansen... I personally have watched all those sitcoms he had tried, and I even today get to see them occasion here in Europe, where Cheers and Becker are in reruns. be honest, I think the evidence is he is just dated, if not generally overrated in sitcom comedy as a lead. He had one character, period. Same problem with his movies. He just belongs forever on "Cheers", as he really couldnt rework his body language, his acting skills - whatever that "it" is that actors can get, to make him somehow more warm and appealing (and even if the character calls for some other attributes, these have to be delivered from somewhere we find an interest, like Archie Bunker for example) and he can't carry a sitcom without the surrounding business of a LARGE ensemble.

I listened to an interview (over the internet at the Television Archives) with Carl Reiner, and he mentions how the success of sitcom projects required a good "foreground" - he meant the actors - regardless of how good the scripts are. I don't feel Dansen is that - and for that matter, neither was Shelly Long. Therefore it was other Cheers actors who got further on than they did.

I did see Dansen acting in that odd drama with Jack Lemmon as his dying father, and there, in that tearjerker, hard and somewhat odd storyline (father has second imaginary family etc..) Dansen was excellent! At first I didnt even recognize him. It was there I thought then, maybe he is a straight man for ensemble comedy, and in fact always wishes to do something else, and we as audience start to feel his discomfort in those sitcom roles.

At any rate, a wonderful blog and I continue to enjoy reading!

Anonymous said...

I always liked Becker, even though it was usually on my late shift night, and I had to hurry home to see it. He had that misanthropic thing going on, like House, but funny, and I thought I was the only person in the world who loved Shawnee Smith as Linda the self-absorbed slacker.

Anonymous said...

Still, I gotta go with Joe Santos as the best Becker on TV.

Anonymous said...

I always felt that Becker was underrated; for all the character's supposed unlikability, he was good at his job and genuinely cared about his patients, at least in my mind. Maraget and Linda were wonderful foils.

I think where the show faltered IMO was outside of work; Reggie was never particularly interesting, and played by an actress I've never liked too much. Bob was a walking collection of hustler cliches that was just annoying. Jake benefited greatly from Alex Desert's deadpan, but otherwise was just there to snark at Becker.

But when the show was on, it was seriously on and Becker was a fun guy to watch, and Danson gave 100%.

Anonymous said...

Here's the problem with Becker: yes, the writing and acting were superb. But it was unrelentingly unhappy. Therefore, in order to "enjoy" the writing and acting, I had to be in a good, energetic mood. If I just wanted to plop down on the couch and be entertained, this was not the show to watch. Sure, there were funny lines and zingers, but the overall tone was quite depressed.

But what do I know.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Like W.C. Fields ("It's a Gift"), "Becker" had the sheer chutzpah to make jokes at the expense of a blind man. For that alone, I'll stay up till 2 am. Of course Jake, like Mr. Muckle, gave as good as he got.

I also liked Jason and Randy Sklar as the two guys Linda was briefly dating.

Anonymous said...

I've gotten familiar with Becker through the syndication. Not familiar with "Cheers".

I appreciate Becker's relentless non-sentimentality (don't care much for cheap sentimentality myself), and the writing has some good spots. Isn't he playing the same character with white hair this season?

I saw the repeat of the season finale of House (first I've seen of it, though Laurie was of course great in Jeeves and Wooster and Black Adder) a couple of weeks ago, and it seemed very silly. So calibrate yr opinion of my opinion appropriately. Does it count that I really enjoy certain (typically early) episodes of Monk? And see Fawlty Towers as overrated?

merlallen said...

Becker was a great show.

Anonymous said...

I adore Becker, which I did not appreciate in its first go-round but have come to love in the 5:00 am to 6:00 am time slot it runs here (two episodes! Yay!) The writing is terrific, Shawnee Smith absolutely great, and Danson is as far from "Sam" as he can get--a really grat acting job. Great, great, show.