Early Edition (“Frostbit”)

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’s too cold to read the paper with your mouth uncovered.

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.

Chuck is best at stopping traffic where there’s no traffic.

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.

Early Edition (“Christmas”)

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.

Maybe Chuck could get locked up forever and spare me with his arrogant and greedy behavior.

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.

He always has to ready the paper, even when he’s lying on ice.

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?

Early Edition (“The Wrong Man”)

Season 1, Episode 10
Date of airing: December 7, 1996 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 15.1 million viewers, 10.0/18 in Households

The show started with the inexplicable separation of Gary and Marcia. It was fascinating, because either the writers never cared to give a reason why the divorce happened or they didn’t give a reason on purpose, because every once in a while, not having all the information is better. Also, maybe Gary didn’t even know why he was divorced, and this was all just a plot to get into the head space of the character during the pilot? Yes, the throwing out of Gary’s belongings in the pilot doesn’t fit into the narrative at all, but at least now you could think about how Phil might have been the reason for the divorce. Who knows, maybe Marcia and Phil had a thing going during the last few months of her marriage with Gary, or the fact that she fell for Phil was the reason to divorce Gary and go with Phil. Or that might just be me bullshitting here, and there still isn’t a reason why Marcia and Gary split up after three-or-so years, but this episode gives you a few bullet points and you can form your own thoughts about what really happened here. Even if EARLY EDITION is clearly something of a show not giving a damn about a timeline or character-based mythology.

Ex-lovers still have arguments way after their relationship has concluded.

This episode was quite good. Instead of Gary Hobson, guardian angel, this episode was all about a character arc for him, and considering how the show started, it might have even been necessary and important, although the divorce didn’t really come through and made Gary unhappy or confused or distraught or sad every time the writers didn’t mention Marcia or the divorce. What currently screws up his life is the paper, which means he has a good chance of getting over Marcia immediately, while still being emotional about being the recipient of the paper, as well as being lonely because he doesn’t have a wife (or anyone else he could be in love with) to fallback on when things get a little too hard every once in a while. Still, it was a good-enough hour of television to just have Gary get over Marcia and maybe turn her into a forgotten character after this. After all, she has been a recurrence in the show and in Gary’s life since the premiere, and maybe the writers planned something with the character, yet the show turned out to be a little different, so the character needed to be retired properly. The fact that the writers care this much shows you how good the show actually is. Normally you wouldn’t waste an entire episode just to write out a recurring character who hasn’t even had more than three minutes of screentime before this. Then again, all of this could have been on purpose, to show the viewers that the writers still care about Gary’s character arc every once in a while, and that he isn’t saving lives in every episode without moving forward with his own life. Does it mean a new job will come soon, as well as a move out of the hotel room?

Pritchard under fire.

Phil Pritchard was a terrible character though. I’m drawing a blank as to what Marcia would see in him, and I have no idea why the guy needed to be like a Nazi around his staff. One can only hope his entire staff was making it like Harrison and quitting after this, otherwise Phil will have to watch over his shoulder eight hours a day for the rest of his life. It was fun to see Gary handling the gun at the end, even pointing it at Phil, and seeing the car explode, although it’s pretty much getting weirder when it becomes clear that Sam wasn’t the only one interested in offing his boss. Hell, two staff members had thoughts of murdering the hell out of Phil – the guy should be running out of Chicago, not looking back ever. But yeah, it was obvious that Harrison wasn’t the one about to murder Phil. The “anonymous” part of the news clipping prepared the story, especially after Harrison was already predicted to jump to his death, and since the episode only introduced Sam as another character in the office, there was no surprise at all that he was standing above Phil and ready to put bullets into Phil’s body. I guess you could file that under “lazy storytelling,” but is it really when the majority of the episode was about Gary moving on?

At the end of the day, even the bad guy has a lightbulb go on in his mind about how bad he was.

I would have hoped for Gary and Marcia to have had a talk at the waterfront instead of Gary and Phil. Maybe with Marcia it would have made the story more permanent for the both, especially since it was Marcia who was involved in Gary’s life and Phil was just here for the episode. Who knows, maybe with Marcia by his side he would have been abler to move on from her, but then again, it might have just been another moment on purpose. Maybe Gary was supposed to have a guy moment with his greatest enemy? Even when his ex-wife turned out to be something of an enemy in this episode as well?

Best part of the episode: Wonderful, there was no B plot that had Chuck involved in any kind of shenanigans. I suddenly feel much more refreshed, sort of like Sam after deciding he would quit the job as day trader and forever be freed from the Nazi that is Phil Pritchard.
Worst part of the episode: Seriously, how did Marcia see something in Phil to consider marriage? Phil is anything but a desirable bachelor in Chicago – does Marcia have certain standards that took her away from Gary for some reason and then pushed her to Phil of all people?
Weirdest part of the episode: It was just a vision thingy, but Phil’s staff celebrating his death with his body in his office chair was freaking morbid. I am not so sure if a scene like that belongs in a family show like EARLY EDITION.
Player of the episode: Marcia wins, simply for the reason of not having to marry the guy that is Phil. She got lucky. Or who knows, maybe her standards just weren’t ready to go down for a guy like Phil. Maybe Phil is the player of the episode?

Early Edition (“His Girl Thursday”)

Season 1, Episode 9
Date of airing: November 23, 1996 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 16.4 million viewers, 10.3/17 in Households

Here is an interesting thought: CBS wanted EARLY EDITION to be their less fantastical and supernatural version of TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, but the writers said otherwise, so they brought Meredith back for another episode, because no hour of EARLY EDITION is always over after it ends, and things or people actually come back to haunt Gary. It turns out the writers really wanted to build a pool of supporting characters who might have a shot at returning for an episode or two, and that sort of makes the show a little better and might even become something more than just the guardian angel thing Gary is pushing on himself, because he happens to live out someone else’s version of fate. Then again, Meredith wasn’t really an interesting character during “The Paper,” thanks to the fact that Gary and Meredith needed to lock lips immediately, making Gary this show’s James T. Kirk. A love interest is never anything more than a love interest, which makes it even more intriguing that Meredith returned to be given a bit of character depth

Girlfriends always take away your paper.

The writers must have noticed exactly this, because she was a different kind of character in this episode. Maybe actually in love with Gary, maybe conflicted about her job, and maybe even supposed to receive the newspaper at one point, just so she can make the decision to move to Washington, D.C. and leave Gary to his own devices. As Marissa said, the paper was not stolen by Meredith, Meredith was stolen by the paper. Which is an interesting thought process, because it might in fact be true. Whatever brings Gary the paper, it knew that he was about to lose sight of it, so it decided to “course correct” the situation Gary currently found himself in, forcing Meredith to think about a change. That gives the paper a whole different kind of power, one Gary might not have even realized in this episode – Marissa said it out loud, but who knows if Gary listened, or if the writers decided to make it part of the back story of the paper, whatever it might be. One can only hope this episode becomes a focal point in Gary’s life. He couldn’t trust Meredith with the paper, and he definitely can’t trust Chuck with it. At this point in his life, Gary should never ever trust anyone with the paper. The fact that he only trusts himself with the paper makes him a bit of an egomaniac and a paranoid reader of the Sun-Times, but it’s not like he hasn’t been wrong about the paper manipulating everything and anyone around him.

Chuck between two people who don’t like people winning and losing money within 24 hours.

As always, the writers used cheap tricks to advance the plot of the story. The paper said something about the arsonists on a roof, and Meredith decided to make it her own story, but that never happened, because Meredith was kind of busy falling to her own death. Maybe it was the paper’s attempt to lead Meredith to that roof, which means the paper can create false stories to lead characters to certain points in their day, but I don’t think that should even be an option for the show. If the paper can create its own stories and headlines, then Gary shouldn’t even trust the paper, and that led to an entirely different storyline. So I’m gonna file that one under cheap plot twist, and it’s not like that happened for the first time. “The Choice” suddenly had the story of the plane crash on the title page, and that’s not the page Gary received at first — so, it’s a fact that the paper changes, and sometimes it changes randomly.

Meanwhile, Chuck’s story was idiotic. He must really be a dumb guy when he thought he could get away with making millions and millions of money, although I was a bit surprised that the SEC made it to his office within minutes. Chuck was even dumber when he decided to get rid of all the money, thinking he could get away with it again. I really would have loved to know how he talked his way out of that one, because any way he would have put it, it would have sounded ridiculous, and nothing would have explained Chuck’s behavior if the reason was not insider trading. Way to not care about the story and make Chuck look like an idiot fool here, although one can only hope he learned something and will never touch the financial section of the paper ever again. He will most likely not have learned a single bit.

Hanging by a newspaper thread.

Best part of the episode: I liked the framing device of the tornado in the country, and how it connected to Chuck losing his pretty car that he recently bought. The tornado story might look like it has been randomly put into this episode (and who knows, maybe it was), but it still shows that the episodes don’t just have Gary be in the center of a specific story — he is still saving lives here and there.
Worst part of the episode: Chuck, as always. That previous paragraph says almost all of it.
Weirdest part of the episode: How can Meredith ever forget there is a man out there (whom she had sexual relations with) receiving the newspaper from tomorrow? Especially in the world of D.C., it must be a must-have plot, just to get your fill of power over there.
Player of the episode: Whoever or whatever sends Gary the paper deserves this internet point, as it manipulated Meredith out of Chicago and out of Gary’s life. Now it can have its brave man all to himself again.

Early Edition (“Gun”)

Season 1, Episode 8
Date of airing: November 16, 1996 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 17.7 million viewers, 11.3/20 in Households

This is how you write an episode involving a shooting and domestic violence without going too deep into the moral side of things. If you think about it a little bit, this might be one of the better episodes of television in general, because it wasn’t on either side of the political spectrum, even though both sides of the political spectrum of the story would have given you every chance in the world to be as partisan as possible. Guns were already an epidemic, before it became a worldwide American-problematic problem, before this episode came to be in 1996, before the news hours were filled with images of the Columbine massacre, and Americans know it. The writers could have written an anti-gun episode here, or at least went straight into the moral of the week of guns being necessary, but still an evil thing in the world. And then the whole thing turned into a story about domestic violence and not gun violence. ER always made a topic with a social commentary out of beaten wives, partners and kids, and EARLY EDITION could have done the same — a dramatic story with an initial bad outcome, but because Gary Hobbs is now officially a guardian angel, therefore the show could have easily crossed over to TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL at one point (in fact, it’s quite easy now to have both shows set in the same universe, and both shows happened to be straight family entertainment), and the result is that everyone lives to see a happy end. Maybe even Kurt, who might have come to realize that his violent tendencies almost killed his kids. Will the almost accident at the end of this episode have changed his life for the better?

He helps his city, and the thanks he gets is a kick in the butt.

Gary is getting into the thick of things. Now he’s even pretending to be someone he isn’t, just to be the guardian angel he is destined to be, making me wonder if the paper is actually redefining Gary as a person. Yes, the show only had a few minutes of Gary before he got the paper, but I would have loved to see what Gary really was before, when he was still married, when he was still at his boring and disgusting tradings job, when he had no worries in the world because he knew he would get home at night and have wonderful sex with his wife. Now he gets the future a day in advance and because his moral is high up there, he decides to cut down on his life and help others. And now he has even gotten as far as creating an impromptu personality, just so he can be around the fateful people to begin with.

And it became noticeable how he didn’t even create the guidance counsellor character himself — it was all about how Nikki perceived Gary, believing who he was, because that’s who she needed him to be at this particular time in her life. If the episode would have gotten a little deeper into Nikki’s emotional minefield of a world, maybe this hour would have been able to leave the familiar field of light drama and become a little PG-13 rated, due to the mature content. In fact, maybe EARLY EDITION wasn’t a family show just yet, and because of the content of this episode, some viewers might have had a few minutes of worrisome feelings about what the episode could turn out to be, after it was promoted as a family show.

One of the American epidemics the legislative does not want to tackle.

There was one impressive thing about this episode, and it had to do with Tommy. The boy knew where the gun was, he knew what it was and what he could do with it, and he knew that his father was trouble. When Kurt came to the house the first time around, Tommy saw him and ran back upstairs immediately, believing in an instant that he would be abused in a minute or two. And considering the thinking process inside Tommy’s mind, it must mean that Kurt was more than just the abusive husband, who believed that his wife was taking his sons away from him. If a little kid like Tommy believes that his father is the devil, then you can definitely believe the guy was never loving and caring. And Tommy knew this much about it, he knew the only thing that could help him was the gun. He even knew how to put bullets in it. When Tommy was shown with the gun for the first time, the scene turned out to be a WTF moment. When he was shown loading it with the bullets, it was yet another WTF moment. This kid has been traumatized, giving the story a whole different angle on domestic abuse, which was impressive to watch. It made the episode more important, and almost even timeless with its attempt at going into the premise. The gun epidemic and domestic violence are evergreen problems everywhere around the world. Which makes this episode an evergreen hour of television.

Another one of American’s epidemics no one seems to be bothered by.

Best part of the episode: Tommy really hoped that Gary would marry his mother. That’s how much he was looking for a positive father figure and influence in his very young life. Damn, when you continue thinking about it, Tommy’s story is the one that hits the most.
Worst part of the episode: Nice try, writers, but Chuck’s attempt at being friendly with the magic cat was nothing but a bore of a story. This episode is an example of how Gary’s friends are a bit of a pain in the ass in this stand-alone episodic drama, in which Gary is supposed to be the only one in the focus of the camera’s attention, but because the show also has two more characters, they have to get screentime as well. And then they get meaningless stories like Chuck giving a cat a flea bath. It wasn’t even working for the sake of comedy.
Weirdest part of the episode: Kurt might have been a bit too villainous for the sake of the story. For the climax he comes into the house and the only thing he could think of was abusing his ex-wife. Damn, Kurt really must have been a sociopath in the making. This really is a family show?
Player of the episode: This time it’s a negative award, because everyone believed that Gary was employed by the city and came to help Nikki and her kids. No one checked up on the guy until Nikki apparently had the time to do so. The award goes to all the people who didn’t check out Gary’s credentials.

Early Edition (“After Midnight”)

Season 1, Episode 7
Date of airing: November 9, 1996 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 14.5 million viewers, 9.5/16 in Households

And this show has become even more a supernatural version of TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL. It could not have escaped anyone that Samantha’s story and the general premise of each of the TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL episodes are eerily similar, even going so far as to almost making me sob, when the “climactic” part of the story begins and Gary has to do a little more than just turn someone’s life around — he actually has to save it. When Samantha was already one leg over the railing, ready to jump into the cold water, all I could think of was how Monica would have been standing on the bridge as well, her head and hair lighting up in soft and warm orange light, giving one of her “life is beautiful” monologues. But this is EARLY EDITION, and Gary ain’t no angel, but he does know the future, and he is here to prevent tragic fates from happening with the help of his two closest friends. Gary is basically not much for talking, he just let the emotions play out, which actually makes for a compelling TV show and great entertainment. And every once in a while emotional stories like those Samantha went through during this hour are needed for that heart of mine, which sometimes does need that kitsch.

Chuck likes to flirt with women who are busy otherwise.

As dramatic as Samantha’s story was, it was also a good one. One might roll their eyes a little bit when it comes to her suddenly showing up at Gary’s hotel room door, after the two only exchanged a minute or two at the bus stop, but here she was, in desperate need of help and support, without saying it out loud. It makes for a nice and quick character arc, but it became noticeable midway through how the story wasn’t having much of an outcome or leave a lasting impression with either the characters or the viewers, since Sam’s story was kind of generally generic and not unique enough to be wholly impressive or tragic. But then again, every once in a while you stumble upon throwaway stories and filler episodes that impress you so much, they do indeed leave something of an impression. The season one episode of PERSON OF INTEREST with Linda Cardellini is one of those examples (and of the few episodes I saw of that show, this one has been most memorable for me), and although I don’t think that this episode of EARLY EDITION will leave the same kind of impression, it was at least a good and solid hour of television, and one that might deserve to be on the list of should-be-watched because of the nature of the emotions, and how it can be great and wonderful and life-saving to have a random connection with someone at a bus stop. Next time, when you are about to cry your soul out in the rain, sitting at the bus stop, having no family to fall back to, and a person comes up and seems to want to help you… Maybe it’s just another Gary Hobson. Are you going to talk? Do you reach out to that person for the help you so desperately need?

The mother, her baby, and the evil man.

Chuck’s story could have been cut out of the episode, since it has even less meaning than everything that happened in this episode, but it’s at least nice to know that Chuck is able to be sort of a good creep, albeit a creep nonetheless. I didn’t know what to say about what a date looked like in his eyes (telling the woman to wear a black dress that cost her an arm and a leg? What’s so wrong about shirt and jeans and a fast food joint?), but I was rolling my eyes into another dimension — then again, he really tried to not sound like an asshole, although unfortunately he still did, which means Chuck still needs lesson of how to talk to women and how not to look like the inevitable creep when he finds the opportunity to talk to a woman. Why Lenore was still interested in going out with him is beyond me though, but maybe Chuck just needs a girlfriend for an episode or two. Maybe even someone like Chuck deserves to be happy, even if that happiness is only defined by a woman at his side.

After this episode, one might ask though if Gary is still interested in finding a job, or how he is able to pay the rent for the hotel room. He seems to be getting better at handling problems, even going as far as stealing Samantha’s father’s business card out of her wallet (okay, she actually had his business card? That definitely was a tad bit convenient). Yet he is still somewhat of a loser when it comes to a private life. No relationship, no income, and the paper is still defining his life, and pretty much his day 24/7. If he wouldn’t have had Chuck and Marissa, would he have gotten crazy by now?

Sometimes there is no way out but down a bridge.

Best part of the episode: There is a back story the writers teased, but never really delivered on, which happened to be perfect for this hour Sam’s trouble with her parents was the plot device bringing her father’s mind into overload, but you could see and hear what the parents might have gone through with Sam the troubled young teenager. Sometimes just an assumed back story is better than the writers hammering it in to make things super obvious for the viewers with a short attention span.
Worst part of the episode: When Sam came back to her room and couldn’t find her baby, one of her floor neighbors was starting to unbury the load of being a bad mother to Sam. As tragic and emotional as this scene was, that woman was freaking terrible to Sam. Instead of screaming that someone is a bad mother, why not thinking about why someone is that kind of mother?
Weirdest part of the episode: Why does Chuck always have to “stick it to the man,” when he gets the opportunity? Talking smack to the cops who confused him for a bum was a bit dumb of him, and once more he did not learn one of the previous lessons of his life, still making him an annoying character.
Player of the episode: Respect for Gary to turn into Monica the angel with this episode. She might not have had time to take care of Sam for this episode, so Gary took over her duties, and splendidly so!

Early Edition (“Hoops”)

Season 1, Episode 6
Date of airing: November 2, 1996 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 16.0 million viewers, 10.1/18 in Households

This was a solid episode, and one example of EARLY EDITION being a perfect little family television drama that can. Get your entire clan together and watch this for an hour a week, because there is a great morale of the story in there, and with Marissa walking Gary through her old Chicagoan neighborhood, you even get a sense of realism in the characters’ back story, even if Marissa’s back story sort of felt forced into this episode, just so Gary can be led back to Connie, and both men can continue to talk into Michael and save his life. It’s especially noticeable since Marissa kind of disappeared after her tour of the neighborhood, and her potentially romantic back story with Connie seemed like it was kept in the episode because it came in a minute short during post production. Then again, I didn’t mind at all that it was Marissa who turned into Gary’s sidekick for the second half of the episode, and how it became noticeable that Chuck was pretty much written out of it halfway. Maybe because someone realized that dealing with African-American characters in this episode needed the touch of the lone African-American regular cast member.

High school basketball coaches are dicks for not listening to concerns.

The story was good. I might have wondered what Michael and Gary’s “lucky guess” talk was about at Michael’s place, but maybe it was just another one of those conveniences the writers helped themselves with to bring the story along, and to begin with giving explanations why Gary would insert himself into the lives of strangers to save them from the ultimate doom, and the guest characters won’t have to ask themselves repeatedly what this stranger with the paper is doing in their lives. Fact is that Michael was an interesting character facing a life-or-death dilemma, making an understandable decision that might cost him his life, because the reward on the other side is so appealing for him and his little brother. The writers maybe could have gotten a little deeper into Michael’s back story, including what kind of heart problem he really had (although in the sense of the story you didn’t need to know the exact medical term, but with ER being my all-time favorite show, I kind of needed that question answered), but I loved seeing the kid slowly developing into a steady character in this episode — from the cool hotshot boy with a money-banking future in the beginning of the episode to the calculated, soft, loving older brother, who just wants to keep his younger brother out of trouble. I’m sort of a sucker for those stories, and they happened to work well for shows in the vein of EARLY EDITION. I’m pretty sure there is a similar story hiding somewhere in the TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL TV franchise, and it kind of makes me want to watch that show as well, just to get through the emotional 45-minute-long short stories and get my tear duct opening up. I can remember that when I watched TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, as it aired on a daily rotation on German television, I tend to cry during a few episodes. Maybe that was because of Monica’s monologues under the orange halo light shining on her beautiful hair.

Duel of the fates.

The episode decided to bring a twist midway through, when it was revealed that the little brag stealing Chuck’s car tire was in fact Michael’s brother, and that Connie the car mechanic, who was nice enough to put the tire back on Chuck’s car, was also friendly with the brothers, and was able to help Gary out with his savior story of the week. It turns out it worked quite well in this episode, as both Robbie and Connie were separately introduced to the viewers, before they became involved in the main story about Michael. I would consider it great writing, and I would even say it’s rare writing, because I don’t see that happening very often in proceduralized television with characters who come and go on an episodic basis. Besides that, the episode kind of began with an A plot and a B plot — the A plot being Gary’s efforts to save Michael, while the B plot turned out to be the perpetrator of Chuck’s lost car tire. There was no way for EARLY EDITION to employ the two-story structure this early in the show, especially for a series that was intended to be entertainment for the whole family, and giving the entire family a complicated structured narrative after only six episodes of a show that hasn’t been fully established yet was a no-go for 1990s television. But the writers still tried here, and the A plot created two different characters with the same back story, but a potential of turning into separate figures in the story. Robbie was the brat, the kid who turns Chuck into a racist by calling Robbie a criminal, and Michael was the helpless older brother who couldn’t see that his efforts to make bank and get his little brother out of the hellhole that is the Chicago suburbs was leading him towards death.

Even in this version of Chicago, black kids must be thieves.

And Gary got in the middle of it all and became the angel in Michael and Robbie’s life. EARLY EDITION turned into TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL with this episode, and judging by the look of the show, that was an intended effort. Although it’s gonna be interesting to learn whether the writers came up with that by themselves, or if the producers were told to get the feel and tone of the show with angels from Heaven and copy it for the show with the guy who gets tomorrow’s newspaper today.

Best part of the episode: That scene with Connie and Michael on the basketball field was powerful. It was an entire scene with two guest characters, no input from the main characters, and sorely here to give a powerful message and showcase the acting abilities of these fine guest stars. It’s something you don’t see often in episodic television either.
Worst part of the episode: Chuck’s racism was ridiculous. Someone should have told him to cut it down, but it looked like Gary wasn’t interested.
Weirdest part of the episode: The turn from Chuck to Marissa as the right-hand man in Gary’s mission to save Michael’s life. It was too drastic and it made the hour look like it was rewritten on the fly during the shooting of this episode.
Player of the episode: Robbie is a talented and sneaky little kid. The way he stole Gary’s magic paper from his back pocket, and Gary didn’t notice any of it, made me think that if Michael had died on the court, Robbie would have turned into a master thief.