Season 1, Episode 11
Date of airing: December 21, 1996 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 9.1 rating in Households
Here is another example of how the show was turned into a weekend family entertainment product: The story of a serial bomber turned out to be tamed and toned-down, just so it can be part of a PG-rated show, and the tension of the story (a mad bomber terrorizing Chicago) was anything but utilized, especially when the premise was relocated from random places in Chicago to the standing set of McGinty’s, where the mad bomber not only showed up for some inexplicable reason, but also turned out to not be mad at all — just crazy, with a bomb, and with the inability to actually pull the trigger and blow everyone up with him in the center of it all. Any other show would have turned this idea into an hour-long thriller, but on EARLY EDITION, a show for the entire family, the premise of a mad bomber was a way to make Detective Crumb look like an asshole and a fool by not listening to the tips of a concerned citizen, and to make the scene in the bar more ridiculously hilarious and weird than horrific and tense. Also, the mad bomber seemed like a nutcase himself, only bringing pain and torture and fear to the people for whatever reason, because the writers decided to forego his motives, because this is still a family show, and delivering any kind of motive would turn this episode into something else that isn’t suited for families.
In a way, this hour wants to be an episode that wants to be on your Christmas must-watch list, because the spirit of the holiday still somewhat comes over thanks to Chuck’s weird prison break story with a Santa Clause who is either real or just another nutcase of Chicago, Illinois during the winter time. But at the end of the day, this seemed like an episode pushed to become the first-best EARLY EDITION Christmas episode, because this is the first season of the show and this is the first Christmas episode of the show, but it also happened to be a weird Christmas episode.
The execution of the story was the thing that made the hour weird. Gary and Crumb were like oil and water, so I’m not so sure this was even close to comfort for the writers if they ever planed to bring realism to the show and have the events depicted in it be grounded in that always usable realism. The way Crumb was negative about everything Gary told him became annoying quickly, and at one point I wished for the absent Mayor to just fire Crumb’s ass, since he wasn’t doing his job. Gary came along with a tip and some worry in his face, but because Crumb was pissed for whatever reason (the holidays, probably — notice that he was at a bar on Christmas eve, and not with his family, making me wonder if the guy even has a family), the whole story turned into a “Gary wants to help, but Crumb wants to not listen to this crazy fool” story, in which there wasn’t even an interesting or funny back and forth between the two, just to push the narrative of a unlikely duo in a buddy cop film. Maybe Crumb was the character of the story here, since Gary always managed to stay calm and not flip out, but then again we need to remember that the mad bomber wasn’t given a motive or a reason why he followed Crumb. If Crumb would have been the center of the story, the writers would have delivered a motive. But hey, at least Gary was in the heat of the situation for once, including what he thought was a bomb, which he took in his hands and threw away. A few more of these, and Gary is an action hero.
In the meantime, Chuck went through all the necessary weirdness, making this show super annoying for an hour. First of all, he doesn’t give a damn about the hundreds of parking tickets he has gotten over what maybe the past few months? He did not expect to be caught at some point? He did not realize he might be in a bit of a legal pickle? It sounds to me like Chuck was even dumber than the real or fake Santa Clause and the mad bomber combined. It doesn’t help his character though, as Chuck has gone through yet another episode in which he was not given an opportunity to be a hero himself, or to at least be a little less of an egoistic asshole. And let’s forget Santa Clause, because this surely wasn’t a character from any of the magical Christmas stories in existence.
This was an episode that wanted to deliver the Christmas spirit, but all it did was go far away from what EARLY EDITION has been for the first ten episodes and instead become something else. I guess the writers were still experimenting here and there, but this episode wasn’t working out for me. And please, can we do something about Chuck?