Charlie Hoover (“Happy Anniversary”)

Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: November 16, 1991 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 6.2 million viewers, 4.0/7 in Households

I watched the pilot a while ago, hoping to get into television shows that are completely forgotten at this point in human history, but the pilot was annoying and forgettable enough to drop the entire show. Well, it turns out I had a bit of time before the next episode of GENERAL HOSPITAL, and I never deleted CHARLIE HOOVER off my hard drive. Does it mean I should keep crappy television shows in handy, just in case I am a little bored? Could it mean that I can discover actually good episodes of television like this? Because to be perfectly honest, this episode wasn’t such a manic disaster at all. It may have started like that, as it made fun of a colleague jumping to his death and Charlie’s co-workers not giving a damn after they made slight fun of that successful suicide attempt, but when Charlie was in the middle of his double date with his boss and clients on one table, and his wife on the other, the episode became quite enjoyable. Plus points: Hugh was barely screaming during these 22 minutes, and when the writers were already toning down the most annoying aspect of the series, then it must become a better one, right?

Before liberals hated Bill Maher, he was an asshole on a FOX sitcom.

Not so fast. Hugh is still the most annoying aspect of the show, and its titular character continues to behave like a 16-year-old teenager in the body of a 40-year-old suit who is currently going through a midlife crisis. Charlie doesn’t seem to have control over his life, and this episode has proven that he doesn’t have courage either, as he lied to both his boss Mr. Culberton and his wife Helen that he has them double-booked during his anniversary, when it could have been so easy for Charlie to just bite into the sour apple and tell Helen that work came between them and they have to reschedule for the following night. Charlie already said it, they could have celebrated their anniversary on a different night (it would not have been an anniversary though), and rescheduling it to the next night would have been no problem. But Charlie was too scared to live through the fallout of disappointing his wife like that, which makes him a weak person who is being directed by the personified voice in his head — is such a character even good and interesting enough to be the titular character of a primetime sitcom? The answer to this question is “No.”

But like I said, the episode became somewhat enjoyable at the restaurant, when Charlie was both having his business dinner and anniversary dinner at the same time. It may be a cliched sitcom plot any show could have brought and probably did bring, but Charlie managed to keep up appearances and he has proven himself not to be such a huge failure at all. He told his boss what he thought of Elliot’s shampoo, he walked out of that business dinner like a boss and joined his wife in celebration of their marriage, and he ended the night on a high note. Charlie might be having a midlife crisis, but at least he isn’t like Ed, the guy who jumped out of his window during the cold open of the episode, proving that FOX didn’t know how to do subtle comedy.

She is quite happy to hear what their anniversary night will look like.

Noteworthy was Bill Maher’s guest appearance in this episode, and he was as much of a dick here as he is an asshole on his HBO show. Sucking up to the boss, and then when he loses the game he goes home crying, begging everyone not to tell his sweet mama. I can only hope this was his only appearance in CHARLIE HOOVER, but if not, it’s probably a good thing that there are only five episodes left of this half mess of a sitcom. After two episodes I can say though that it’s a sitcom made for FOX of the late 1980s. There is a reason the network never came out of fourth place in the ratings during the first years of the 1990s, and it’s because of the insistence to do shows like these — insensitive, almost cruel to a certain group of people (in this case: suicidal office workers), annoying.

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