Sunday, November 1, 2009

Classics: Early Edition 1:1 – Pilot

This series will be a bit of a departure from our usual fare. Early Edition is a G-to-PG rated, explicitly family-friendly fantasy, and as such, its stories tend to be more simply told. It is, however, a very dear, dear favorite of mine for its sense of humor, its optimism, its gentleness, and its unapologetic spirituality, all of which will become apparent, I’m sure, as I progress through the canon.

Plot Synopsis:

What if you knew, beyond a doubt, what was going to happen tomorrow? Sure, I know it's crazy. But, what if you did? Whether you'd be rich or poor; a hero or a loser; lucky in love, unlucky in life. What would you do? What if, by some magic, you found the power to really change things? People, events, maybe even your life? Would you even know where to start?

For Chicago stockbroker Gary Hobson, life isn’t quite lining up with his apple-pie dreams. His wife, Marcia, has kicked him out of their house (on their anniversary, no less!), his tyrannical boss is breathing down his neck, and, overall, he’s lost his sense of purpose. Thus, when a miraculous Sun Times is delivered to his doorstep the first time – accompanied by a mysterious tabby cat – Gary, distracted by life’s vicissitudes, misses its significance and tosses the paper – labeled with tomorrow’s date – in the trash. It’s an unusual event in the stock market that finally forces him to take notice; Gary and his best friend, Chuck Fishman, try to catch up to a passing garbage truck to recover the paper, but ultimately are forced to admit to defeat.

Chuck is certain Gary has just blown a once in a lifetime opportunity – but the following morning, the paper comes again – and again, it is tomorrow’s paper. Gary’s mood is instantly lifted. Empowered, he quits his job at the brokerage and takes blind receptionist and friend Marissa Clark to the local OTB parlor. There, he makes a tidy sum betting on the horses, after which he turns around and gives the money to a befuddled Marissa so she can purchase a seeing-eye dog. Chuck can hardly believe this; he urges Gary to use the paper to get rich, but Gary is not biting.

Later that night, Gary and Chuck come across an accident scene; the gentleman who runs the newsstand Gary visits every morning has been seriously injured. Gary looks down at his paper, and, realizing that he could’ve prevented the accident, he immediately feels guilty. A concerned Marissa pries Gary’s secret out of him the next morning, then encourages him to use the paper to do “whatever you can.”

Gary reluctantly reads the paper and finds a headline foretelling an attempted bank robbery and hostage situation that leaves nine dead. Marissa insists Gary tell the police; Gary tries to do so, but it goes less than fantastically. Marissa then goes to the bank herself, and Gary’s headline changes – it now reports ten dead. Gary chases down Chuck to retrieve a crucial page that Chuck surreptitiously stole, takes Chuck’s betting haul (which Chuck had accrued by using the information on the page in question), and goes after Marissa. At the bank, he stops Frank Price, the foretold “desperate” bank robber, from pulling out his gun and is taken hostage. He and Frank have a heart to heart, and Frank realizes the course of action he was considering would have been disastrous for his struggling family. Gary and Frank finally decide to dump Chuck’s money onto the street below.

For Gary, this is clearly quite enough excitement for one lifetime. In an attempt to escape the paper, he packs up and moves to a remote cabin - but the paper follows him there. It appears he’s stuck with this burden for the time being.

The Ratings:

Overall: 7.8 – This is an enjoyable episode despite its somewhat broad characterization. A good first attempt!

Writing: 7.5

As is generally typical for a pilot, the principal supporting characters are very unsubtly defined. Chuck’s acquisitiveness and cynicism and Marissa’s moral righteousness are written without the additional dimensions that both would acquire with time. The straightforwardness of the characterization is understandable – the writers’ goal is, I’m sure, to establish the main three as a Freudian trio of id, ego, and superego – but it renders the characters slightly less interesting when lined up against their later incarnations. We also see the aforementioned broad brush applied to the characterization of Gary’s antagonists, Marcia and Pritchard. Both seem randomly and needlessly cruel; likely, the writers were trying to establish instant sympathy for our hero, but doing it this way seems the easy way out.

On the other hand, Early Edition’s characteristically adorable sense of humor is very much in evidence here, even if in proto-form. In particular, the skepticism – and later, confusion – of the police force regarding the events at First National is hilarious.

Acting: 8

Whoever is responsible for casting this series is a genius. All of the regulars and the soon-to-be-semi-regulars – Kyle Chandler, Fisher Stevens, Shanesia Davis, and Ron Dean – fit perfectly into their roles. I suppose the only real weak spot was Tom Noonan’s portrayal of Frank Price; I can’t tell whether it was due to the writing or the actor, but Frank’s hard-luck story comes off rather flat on re-watch.

Message: 8

A liberal may come away from this episode with the impression that the writers are anti-capitalist, but I think that’s a selective reading. More accurately, this episode conveys the message that money isn’t everything; it is a tool used to help friends (and strangers) and build a comfortable, loving family life that shouldn’t be prioritized over the well-being of said friends and family. That’s a very Catholic view.

The Benevolent Hand:

Also present in this episode – in the entire series, actually – is a strong sense that a Benevolent Hand is guiding events. As a matter of fact, starting now, each review will include a section dedicated to pointing out evidence of God’s presence in the story.

In this episode, it is most telling that Gary is forced to go to First National in person to confront Frank Price. Going to the police doesn’t change the headline. Marissa’s warning the bank makes the headline more dire. Events push Gary to be on that roof. Why? Because what Frank needs is not to be run down by the cops; he needs a sympathetic person – someone who is also having a run of bad luck – to talk him down. This is clearly God’s mercy at work.


Credit to Earlydues for the transcript segments!

CHUCK: “Gar, this thing is not some kinda toy, ok? It’s a very powerful tool.”
GARY: “A tool?”
CHUCK: “Yes! For getting very rich.”
GARY: “No, no, no. No.”
CHUCK: “This is opportunity with a capital ‘O.’ You can't just let it whither on the vine. It goes against nature.”
GARY: “Oh, who's nature?”
CHUCK: “Mine!” – Chuck is Gary’s id.

MARISSA: “Where's it coming from?”
GARY: “The hallway.”
(Gary takes the towel Marissa proffers and wraps himself up.)
MARISSA: “That's not what I mean.”
GARY: “Can you...could you, ah...”
(Gary gestures for Marissa to leave so he can dress – which is cute considering that Marissa can’t actually see his unmentionables. :) )
MARISSA: “Maybe it comes from God.”
GARY: “Oh right, yeah. Yeah, God's a cosmic paperboy.”
MARISSA: “Look, if God can be a burning bush, He can be any damn thing He likes.” (Yeah!)
GARY: “You don't really believe that, do you?”
MARISSA: “World's full of miracles, Gary. You don't always need eyes to see 'em.”
GARY: “Yeah, well. I'm not too big on miracles right now.”
MARISSA: “Well, that's too bad, being as its happening to you.”
GARY: “Well, yeah. Why me? I'm just an ordinary guy. I'm no Superman. What, am I supposed to run around in a little red cape and save the world?”
MARISSA: (smiling) “You might look good in a cape.” – Marissa is Gary’s superego.

GARY: I wanna report a crime.
TAGLIOTTI: “Well, lucky for you, you're in a police station. Sit down. When did it happen, today?”
GARY: “No, not exactly.”
TAGLIOTTI: “Yesterday? Last week?”
GARY: “Ahem. Well, it hasn't happened yet. But, but it's going to unless you stop it.”
TAGLIOTTI: “Domestic dispute?”
GARY: “No. No, it’s a robbery. Well, at least it starts out that way, at the First National Bank. It...well, you see, at least it's gonna be.”
TAGLIOTTI: “Uh-huh. Do you have any ID?”
GARY: “Yeah, uh, the guy's name is Frank Price. He's out of work. He got turned down for a loan, and, ah, he's a very desperate man.”
TAGLIOTTI: “Ok. Let me get this straight. We've got a guy, a bank, a loan, some kind of robbery?”
GARY: “Well, no. It's not a robbery yet. But it's-”
TAGLIOTTI: “Just for the record, not that I doubt you, you know this because....?”
GARY: “Oh, I can't tell you that.”
TAGLIOTTI: “O'Grady, have you heard of anything over at First National Bank?”
O’GRADY: “Yeah. Flyin' saucers.” – Gary learns very quickly that the police are not always going to be of help in his situation. :)

GARY: “Frank, you sure you wanna do this?”
(Frank threatens Gary with his gun.)
FRANK: “Shut up!”
GARY: (immediately cowed) “Ok. No problem.” – LOL! The guy with the gun makes the rules.

MARISSA: “Get your hands off of me!”
CRUMB: “You're arresting a blind woman?”
COP: “We think she's the lookout.”
CRUMB: (scoffing at the cop’s obvious idiocy) “The lookout!” – Hee!

CRUMB: “First shot you get, take him out.”
MARKSMAN: “Which one?”
CRUMB: “How should I know? Shoot the bad guy!” – But of course!

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