Charlie Hoover (“Happy Birthday to Hugh”)

Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: November 9, 1991 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.1 million viewers, 3.6/6 in Households

When I rebooted by review blog I thought it might be a solid idea to get a little heavier on shows before my time. Shows that have been forgotten, because so few episodes exist that they eventually got lost in the mids of the public. Shows that might explain why certain trends existed or why they were killed off only a few months later. Or maybe just shows that are so bad and short-lived, they might actually be good again. CHARLIE HOOVER could be part of the latter category, as it’s a show almost entirely forgotten out of existence, but back in the Fall of 1991, FOX hoped to get a few more viewers to their network with more raunchy sitcoms — those who don’t have to follow the norms of the family sitcom genre of the major three networks, and those who can find the humor in the things kids usually find funny, making CHARLIE HOOVER a show about a now-promoted vice president of a random company who has entered his 40s and is about to go through a major midlife crisis, which is written for a youthful audience who loves it when people yell bullshit, use PG-rated cuss words, and are as sexist as they can be, because this is the 1990s after all and people were anything but politically correct.

CHARLIE HOOVER being a midlife crisis sitcom for a young audience is something of an oxymoron already, as I believe not one single teenager or twentysomething was interested in the premise of your inner voice turning into life and annoying you day in and day out. First of all, Charlie’s inner voice with the name Hugh has already carried the “most annoying character of 1991 television” medal when he appeared on screen for the first time, and secondly, it doesn’t help the comedy when one of the major characters of the show is always yelling, even if it’s for the greater good of the character who is being yelled at. Hugh’s attempts at straight-talking Charlie into taking the courage to do specific things might be a good morale for the show and each episode, but where exactly is the humor in a dwarf yelling at his human-sized alter ego all the time, especially when more than half of the things Hugh has been yelling at Charlie wasn’t even remotely funny?

If only the gnome would shut up and Charlie can work in peace.

Now, this being a show from 1991, some of the humor could have simply been aged and of that time, and the comedy could have simply gone lost in the close to 30 years since the show aired, but it usually ays something when I’m not even chuckling one single time during the episode, and it’s not like CHARLIE HOOVER has a completely failing premise. Having to live with your alter ego slash inner voice, who nobody else can see is definitely a premise to work with, and I can imagine it being revived for future shows at one point (if it hasn’t already), but Hugh is just bananas as a character, and definitely one of the wrongest ways to approach a main character for a television sitcom. When he looks like a streaker, talks like a streaker with coke in his pockets, and doesn’t even respect people around Charlie, then one can ask why Charlie is even listening to Hugh in the first place. And since Hugh is Charlie’s alter ego, one can also ask if Charlie is as sexist in secret as Hugh is out in the open — looking up under Doris’s skirt like he is Tom Sizemore’s character in HEART AND SOULS, spying on stewardesses who are just waking up in the building across the street, and thinking about how wives are supposed to make good-smelling sandwiches instead of being their own people. Hugh has the mind of a man in the 1950s, begging the question if Charlie has the exact same mind.

That didn’t come over in this episode though, which means the writers have already failed to deliver the premise of the show in its very first 23 minutes: Hugh and Charlie are supposed to be alter egos of each other, but they are already different characters, having nothing in common, sharing absolutely no emotions, let alone having entirely different dreams. Hugo is supposed to be Charlie’s inner voice, so why would Charlie have to explain his dream boat to the little gnome, when Hugh should have known all about it already? What I do find funny though is how the pilot managed to subvert the family sitcom trope immediately, by having the Hoover family forget about their patriarch’s birthday, and were only interested in getting some money from him, as it always seems to be the case on raunchy FOX sitcoms. So, I guess CHARLIE HOOVER is not a family sitcom, and Charlie’s wife and kids are just there to help along his midlife crisis?

Wen the boss and the secretary were about to do it in his office…

Best part of the episode: There is a sense of a narrative with the help of Doris, Charlie’s secretary. She obviously has a crush on him, maybe even loves him. There is hope for the show yet, although not a lot, since only six more episodes of it exist, and there is no chance that any form of an ongoing narrative will be told over the course of the short-lived show.
Worst part of the episode: There was no humor here. I couldn’t find it. I need to hire some private investigators to find it.
Weirdest part of the episode: I was watching a low-quality copy of this episode, so consider me confused when Charlie’s daughter was not portrayed by a young and still growing Jennifer Love Hewitt. There were some similarities between Hewitt and Leslie Kendall, but now I’m all disappointed that I didn’t just discover a television show with one of my favorite actors in it I didn’t know existed before.
Player of the episode: The award goes to any potential viewer of the show who didn’t even bother tuning into the pilot in the first place. They didn’t miss anything. In fact, they were spared a yelling gnome who was about to crack everyone’s cookies.

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