Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: September 28, 1996 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 16.0 million viewers, 11.0/20 in Households
Once it was my mission to know everything about 1990s television, considering I am a kid of the 1990s. I watched a lot of television back then, and all throughout the early to mid-2000s, because I was a lazy high school student with no friends and other hobbies to speak of, which means television shows became my hobby. EARLY EDITION happened to be one of the shows uniquely and perfectly situated in my days, as most of the show aired after I came home from school, ready to drop my butt on the couch, turn on the television and watch my way through dinner and then bed. EARLY EDITION was a show I followed before I even knew that I was a television junkie, but the show was never a big success on German television – it changed networks twice, it aired episodes for the first time in a random fashion (in primetime, then weekdays afternoon, which is where I found the show, then on weekends only – talk about not being able to find a show that way), and publishing the show beyond the means of television never seemed to be in the cards. But hey, EARLY EDITION is also one of the first shows I ever imported the DVDs from another country of, s there is that.
Now it is time to watch the entire show though. The complete show has finally been released on DVD, and I am almost sure EARLY EDITION is being syndicated somewhere. After all, it is one of the shows you could randomly drop in to watch, as it never had an overall arc going from one episode to the next. Recurring characters it certainly had, but if you are expecting to get a major story out of a show about a guy receiving tomorrow’s newspaper today, maybe you should look somewhere else. Also don’t look at SEVEN DAYS, which is also a “drop in and say hi whenever you want” kinda show, despite it’s time travel science-fiction genre.
For a show from 1996, the pilot episode stands the test of time quite well. Yes, it certainly has the uplifting 90s morale of the week theme, and being a family-friendly show, there is not one ounce of violence or a drop of blood (the most gruesome thing of this episode might in fact be Gary looking into the barrel of a pistol), but with all the dark and gritty and violence cable and premium channel dramas, EARLY EDITION is almost like a fresh breeze in the wind – a show that calms you down after you witnessed the murder of a third of the main cast in GAME OF THRONES. A show which gives you a smile when you witness that Gary didn’t just win all the race track money for himself, but went there with a good-hearted purpose, and made a happy woman out of Marissa, who needed a break herself, and got it in the form of Gary Hobson. It’s a show that gives you what you might have been looking for after the series finale of LOST, as the writers said “No way” to the obvious mysteries of the origins of the Chicago Sun-Times from tomorrow, and didn’t even bother to make it an important question in this episode. Yes, Gary, Marissa and Chuck were wondering out loud where the paper comes from, but was Gary ever interested in the answer? Most likely not. Although he probably would have accepted an answer to his question if it meant he wouldn’t be getting the paper any longer.
EARLY EDITION is a simple show, and it comes with a simple premise for its pilot, and less than a handful of main characters to follow. The newspaper from tomorrow in today’s hands – what would you do with it? Gary speaks to the viewers through voiceovers at the opening and closing of the episode, and it’s definitely a thought one might chase through his or her head, because knowing the future a day in advance is one of the easiest fantasies to come by, to think about, and to discuss its meaning or what you would do. Making a quick buck seems quite obvious, and it’s not like Gary has never thought about it when given the chance, but what the episode did surprisingly well was to ask its audience whether they would try to become a better person. Whether they would have a change of heart about the paper after seeing someone you consider a friend (or someone you love) get hurt, and you could have prevented that from happening. Would you become a hero under these circumstances? Would you listen to the voice of moral that is Marissa, and overcome the voice of temptation that is Chuck?
By the way, how is it even possible for Gary to consider someone like Chuck as his friend? Granted, there is a possibility that Chuck turned into an annoying person when he realized he had access to a ton of cash via the paper of tomorrow, which turns him into an egoistical maniac, but that behavior doesn’t just come out of nowhere, especially when it concerns stockbrokers. Chuck is supposed to be the comic relief of the show, but it turns out he is the comical annoyance you wouldn’t mind slapping senseless every once in a while, and maybe even think about forgetting his home number, after he dared to steal a page from the paper.
Best part of the episode: The “animals being bros” moment on Gary’s bed, while he and Marissa were arguing about the paper. This is only the first episode, but Gary’s cat and Marissa’s guide dog are already the best of friends, and I am here for it.
Worst part of the episode: Without a doubt, it’s Chuck. We might have met him late in his life, and as a stockbroker he could be a good dude, but damn, dangle money in front of him and he becomes a rich New Yorker. I had some serious urges not to assemble a device that plants me directly into the show, so I can hit Chuck over the head.
Weirdest part of the episode: Detective Tagliatti and her colleague making fun of Gary, who was here to be a good citizen, is so beyond reasoning, it deserves the award for worst detecting at a police station. It was a plot device to have Gary prevent the bank robbery by himself, but the writers didn’t do themselves any favor to make Felicity Huffman’s character look normal in this episode.
Player of the episode: The Chicago Sun-Times. Did the subscriber count rise in 1996, after the show premiered? EARLY EDITION must have been some wonderful product placement for the company. Somebody with resources should check that out and see if the show made any impact for the paper in real life.