Season 1, Episode 12
Date of airing: January 11, 1997 CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 14.2 million viewers, 9.0/15 in Households
I always remembered this episode for some reason. Maybe it’s because Gary was generically wandering from one place to the next, helping someone out. Maybe it’s because the writers managed to put Gary’s heroic adventures into display and turn it into a dramatic story of Gary not able to be someone else, doing something else. Maybe it’s because Chuck has been the worst of his character in this episode. Or maybe it’s because this episode turned the show more into a fantasy, creating a whole different aspect of the paper that comes to Gary, and making it something of a tool to save him, instead of a tool for Gary to save others.
It has become clear by now that the paper likes to change headlines, so that Gary notices them later, the plane crash from “The Choice” being the most prominent example. Gary hasn’t even affected anyone, yet the paper changes into something big, and he springs into action. It’s probably the paper’s way to lead Gary to places, to have him notice those headlines, and have him think about things a certain way. And maybe the paper continued to “form” Gary this way, by leading him towards the runaway kid, and not towards the people who need saving. Like Marissa said, the paper wanted him to be somewhere at a certain point in time, and a normal newspaper usually doesn’t have a place for runaway teenagers’ deaths, as told by the desk sergeant, which begs the question if the paper decided to give Gary the burned news clipping, because Gary needed to be there for the kid especially, and not because it was just another life he needed to save. It begs the question if the paper is actually the paper of tomorrow, or if it’s just the future Gary needs to see to interact, no matter whether it was ready to be in tomorrow’s newspaper. It’s certainly a question to ask yourself this, although it makes the show extremely convoluted, and almost a bit too complex, maybe. After half a season, maybe it’s not a good time to ask yourself if the paper is actually a newspaper, or the work of a higher being to form Gary into whoever he must become.
Maybe the writers wanted it to be the latter, because the show simply couldn’t just be about a guy who receives tomorrow’s paper today. Who knows, maybe Gary was about to be turned into a superhero and protector of the world, because he will be the only one able to stop the nuke from exploding (or something like that), and maybe it’s the way the writers approached this show at this point — maybe Gary wasn’t just a random person receiving the paper, but he was destined to become the recipient, and had to go through all the annoyances and frequent denials, before accepting the hero complex. Because if you consider yourself the hero, would you then become a real one by stopping big and even bigger threats? In this episode, Gary was saving a runaway teenager — is he gonna fight terrorism in the next season? Well, so much for using the word “maybe” maybe a little too often.
Back to Chuck. Yes, the guy was an asshole, and I imagine it was intended for him to become an asshole in this episode. But the way he became unlikable in this episode was beyond any reasonable understanding. All I wanted was for Gary to punch his “best friend” in the nose, but no, this is Gary we’re talking about, and he has a hero complex (which could have been a bigger plot device in this episode, but it seemed to have been a running joe during the opening minutes only). Of course Chuck needed to contradict Gary’s behavior by being the absolute opposite, so Chuck had to be angry about his own mistake of leaving his fish in the toilet. But every once in a while, all I want is for Chuck to disappear and not give Gary this kind of trouble. It would mean there is one less comedic foil and asshole in the show, and it would mean Marissa gets some more screentime, which might be necessary. Having a blind character accompany Gary in his hero complex deeds might be more interesting, just because of the obstacles. Besides that, isn’t it one of those well-liked television tropes that the blind character sees the most? It was established in this episode as a fact, when Marissa knew that Gary would go out, before he said it out loud.
Fun fact: Sometimes I freeze-frame the articles in the paper and I start reading the texts under the headline. The first time Gary saw the article of the pedestrian struck by the car, some of the text was about Pritchard’s murder. I’m weirded out by the way the props are handled for this show, and it’s a certainty that EARLY EDITION will never receive an HD master, because then those faulty articles will be all over the internet and they would make the show look a little more ridiculous. Which is a shame, because I would love to see Chicago in HD.