Charlie Hoover (“Two for the Road”)

Season 1, Episode 3
Date of airing: November 23, 1991 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 6.9 million viewers, 4.4/8 in Households

My body didn’t know if it was supposed to get entertained or fall asleep, as CHARLIE HOOVER becomes more of a schizophrenic show than I would have imagined. There are some great ideas behind the episode storylines (okay, the suicide from the previous episode is still utter bullshit), but if this show only would have had writers to write funny scenes, then maybe CHARLIE HOOVER would have been an endurable show. But instead it’s a male-driven show that wants to make fun of women through hypocrisy, and it has characters that don’t belong in a show like this. Hugh definitely deserves to be in a show like this, since it’s a crazy and annoying show and Hugh is a freaking crazy and annoying character, but Charlie is too nice to be part of a typical early-1990s FOX sitcom, his wife Helen is way too much of a loving and supporting wife to be her own character in a broadcast television sitcom, and the kids barely have screentime, which makes me wonder if they actually are regular characters on this show. I think I just figured out another reason CHARLIE HOOVER did not make it past the seventh episode: It focused too much on a character that should have been part of a comedy drama premise. If Hugh is the only character here who makes actual funny jokes (okay, Helen had a zinger for her son that was the highlight of the episode, but more to that in a minute), but he is actually the imaginary character of the bunch, then you definitely have a problem here.

Her face says that he just had a great idea to make her life easier.

The good idea of this episode was the question whether or not Helen was pregnant, and if Charlie was about to become a father for the third time, experiencing the joy of parenthood while in his forties. I did like the premise of a married couple in their forties, with two kids already, talking to each other about having another child or not, and what the decision to cut off their reproductive supply could mean to them as a person in the long run. Granted, only Charlie was facing the fear of getting his tubes tied (apparently Helen did not allow herself to do the same, or at least talk about it?), but he was reminiscing about a life yet to come for him, and that showed the writers were interested in at least a little bit of character drama. If you decide to get a vasectomy, does the idea of never having any (more) kids bother you into depression or are you going to be happy about it, feeling free to never having to deal with teething, crying and screaming, and changing diapers ever again? It’s generally an interesting story, but the episode failed in making a bigger deal out of it for Helen, who just needed to show up to the clinic to tell Charlie that she was unhappy with the decision they made together. Then again, the ending of the story created momentum for Charlie and Helen to expand their family, and that could have quite been the story for a FOX sitcom in the early 1990s.

Imitating your daughter while waiting on the vasectomy.

But yeah, the comedy level of this show is atrocious. Like I said, I was almost falling asleep, but Helen’s zinger about duct-taping her son when he was screaming and crying as a baby had me chuckling for a portion of a second. Other than that, I have to say that Tim Matheson was completely and hilariously miscast for this show. A character like the one he plays here could have been okay for a sitcom or a general comedy television show, but as the lead he is a failure. It’s his way of being too charming and nice for a FOX television sitcom, and it’s his approach on life which he takes with caution that make Charlie Hoover a boring character. CHARLIE HOOVER is a show that wanted to define itself via the premise of the personification of Charlie’s inner voice. Turns out that’s not enough to justify the existence of a sitcom.

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.

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.