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S1x09: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

March 26, 2010

AIR DATE: 3/24/1993
DIRECTED BY: Wayne Ewing
WRITTEN BY: Tom Fontana & James Yoshimura
GUEST STARS: John Waters

It’s not Charm City without props to its favorite son – John Waters, who makes the first of two appearances on H:LOTS. This also the first episode written by JAMES YOSHIMURA who is my favorite of H:LOTS’s writers. Don’t get me wrong; I adore them all, but Yoshimura has such an ear for dialog and makes great use of the silence between words.This episode has some of the defining moments of the show: The “Non Smoking Section Field of Dreams” convo and, of course, the infamous “Electrolyte-Neutron Magnetic Test” as administered by Munch and Bolander. If you haven’t figured it out, H:LOTS is not L&O type procedural drama. It is a character driven show with the homicide squad room as the setting. It probably frustrated many a viewer that cases overlapped, dragged on, went unresolved or had all kind of deus ex machina new hotness. Yeah, very little happens in the way of straight forward policing as often seen on other cop shows where there only seems to be one crime happening in any given city at any given time. That probably explains why the killers were so easy to catch. Many cases are carried forward over multiple seasons without fanfare or hand wringing. And with that, we wrap up season one of H:LOTS.

BOLANDER and MUNCH
Four words: Electrolyte-Neutron Magnetic Test

PEMBLETON and BAYLISS
Frank is frustrated with Bayliss who has decided – along with Howard – to quit smoking. Nothing more stressful than a born again non smoker and Bayliss is no exception. In addition to soapboxing to Frank, he joins forces with Howard to work a case and work Gee’s last fucking nerve. In that wasn’t enough, Howard subjects Pembleton to a TMI rundown of her relationship with Danvers. When Pembleton thinks it’s TMI, you better believe you passed TMI about ten exits back.

LEWIS and CROSETTI
Lewis has no woman so clearly it stands to reason he would bring in pictures of various car parts. He feels are just like having children and Crosetti questions his sanity. Not a strong position to take given that Crosetti spends at least three minutes per episode in engaged in Lincoln assassination chow chow. In terms of battle of the crackpot, it seems like a tie at this point. As an aside, Clark Johnson, the actor who plays Lewis, is doing some of the finest work of the season in this episode. People often assume if an actor is doing a lot of shouting, crying or emoting they are engaged in quality craftsmanship, when nothing could be further from the truth. Any moment you’re aware of the “acting” there goes the ballgame. Johnson is great at seeming off the cuff and casual, which generally is the mark of an actor who is dedicated to craft. Again gotta give props to Yoshimura for writing the words and Johnson for bringing them alive.

HOWARD and FELTON
Howard quits smoking and armed with her new found self righteousness hassles Felton and a murder scene witness. Then she storms into Gee’s office – with Bayliss – demanding accommodates for her new life style choice. Unfortunately, Gee is not about to let two newly liberated former smokers turn his squad into a room full of twitchy angry people with GUNS, he kicks them out of his office with a tart retort and a wave of his hand.

GEE
OSHA’s sniffing around, interrupting suspects being question and Gee wants some answers. His questions are brushed aside with assurances of everything being fine, but this is a foolish tactic, since this man is the shift commander and a DETECTIVE. So when he detects a lie in response to a question he’s apt to launch an investigation. As expected, Gee uncovers major assclownage from the BRASS who are overseeing a secret asbestos removal job without knowledge of the rest of the building’s occupants.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2010 8:40 am

    What I love about these reviews is that, rather than acting as spoilers, they make me want to watch the episodes I haven’t seen. Belzer has been a favorite comic actor/comedian of mine for a loooong time, so now I really want to hear the words “Electrolyte-Neutron Magnetic Test” from his mouth.

  2. March 26, 2010 12:49 pm

    It is definitely a hilarious scene. Belzer and Beatty had wonderful chemistry. It’s clear that Beatty is a gracious actor! He makes Belzer better in every scene and lets him have a moment. It’s a real shame the only person rewarded with an Emmy was Andre Braugher. Everyone on this show was at the top of their game.

  3. leviramsey permalink
    May 30, 2010 9:29 pm


    If you haven’t figured it out, H:LOTS is not L&O type procedural drama. It is a character driven show with the homicide squad room as the setting.

    By the same token, I think the best thing about H:LotS is that for the episodes where they wanted to emphasize police procedure, those rank among the best police procedural episodes from any show ever. In the episodes where Danvers took center stage, H:LotS was a better Law & Order than anything from Dick Wolf. In the episodes where they focused on the ME (mostly Cox) and forensics, they were better CSI episodes than CSI. When they wanted to do social statement episodes, I think they at least matched The Wire in that regard. When they wanted to do a Nash Bridges-style shoot-em-up and chase extravaganza (“Fallen Heroes” is exhibit A) it was better than Nash Bridges. When they went with the squad-room soap-opera angle (e.g. the Falsone-Ballard arc) they did that better than NYPD Blue.

    Being able to change direction successfully like that is, IMO, because of the strength of characterization (and the acting). But at the same time, I think there’s a lot of people who like some of those directions and viscerally hate the others (especially the last two, which is why I think the last couple of seasons are so disliked by many fans), and the changing of gears from episode to episode probably led to people tuning in for a red ball action-packed episode and then having the next week’s be one of the more mundane episodes (no doubt because the budget and shooting schedules required that sort of alternation!) and losing interest.

  4. May 30, 2010 9:48 pm

    When they wanted to do social statement episodes, I think they at least matched The Wire in that regard. When they wanted to do a Nash Bridges-style shoot-em-up and chase extravaganza (“Fallen Heroes” is exhibit A) it was better than Nash Bridges. When they went with the squad-room soap-opera angle (e.g. the Falsone-Ballard arc) they did that better than NYPD Blue.

    I kind of love you. You know, I’m not one for Falsone-Ballard, but your framing of their story arc – a la Bobby and that chick on NYPD Blue is spot on! I agree with everything you’ve written. I think H:LOTS could be whatever it wanted to be (within the police show universe) and often was. Evoking the grit of Hill Street Blues, the cheek of Barney Miller and authenticity of NYPD Blue. Thanks for a fantastic comment.

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