Becker s01e08 – Physician, Heal Thyself

It’s distressing how little writer Ian Gurvitz handles Alex Désert’s Jake character. Last credited episode he didn’t do anything with except make blind jokes. This time Désert gets more to do, but barely—we see his apartment, partially, for the first time—and it’s not funny. And I think there’s an opening blind joke because when I saw Gurvitz’s name I made a groan and had it almost immediately validated by something in the script.

But then something happens—the show starts getting really, really funny. Becker (Ted Danson) has a hurt back and he doesn’t want to go to the doctor, because of course he doesn’t. It gives the show a chance to literally knock Danson over and laugh at him. And it’s really good at laughing at him. Even more, Danson’s really good at being laughed at. He’s really good playing the obnoxious stooge. He keeps throwing his back out and needing help from the rest of the cast—I suppose, technically, they’re on their way to being “friends” but… Weird thing, he doesn’t call Shawnee Smith, which is too bad. When he throws out his back the worst, he tries Désert (for his one shot subplot), Hattie Winston (who’s got a strange, problematic subplot about her workplace flirting with fellow married John Cothran, which ends up giving Smith funny moments but not Winston), and, finally, Terry Farrell. Farrell, who drags Becker to an acupuncturist for the big punchline scene.

The show’s definitely improving. So is Farrell. She’s still having trouble with her comic delivery, but her timing is a lot better. She’s a lot more likable, which also might be because she’s not stuck behind the literal counter this episode.

And who knew Danson would be so good a sitcom slapstick. He’s fantastic this episode.

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