I’ve been ramping up my Comedy Podcast Listenership lately, and one show I’ve been digging a lot is Comedy and Everything Else. Hosts Jimmy Dore and Stefane Zamorano interview funny people at length (often as long as two hours) about, well, comedy and everything else. I got turned on to it thanks to a two-part episode where they grill Paul F. Tompkins and Tom Scharpling. The total running time clocked in at close to four hours, and yet it still left me wanting more. I highly recommend checking it out, unless you hate hilarity.
So like everything else I discover, I’m trying to burn myself out on it as soon as possible by listening to as many episodes in as short a time as I can. Last week, I was listening to an installment with guest Jen Kirkman, and the conversation turned to the heady subject of 9-11 conspiracy theories. It then drifted briefly into the somewhat related territory of Pearl Harbor conspiracy theories. (If you’re not familiar with them, long story short: some folks believe FDR knew the attack on Pearl Harbor would happen, but allowed it to occur because it would pull America into the war as an victim rather than an aggressor and pull the country out of the Depression.)
As this was discussed, my mind traveled, as it often does, to a terrible show I used to watch as a kid. In this case, Charles in Charge. Because I have a very vivid memory of seeing an episode of this show in which Pearl Harbor conspiracy theories are discussed in a class Charles is teaching. The reason I remembered this is because it was effing Charles in Charge, which had as much business broaching such a subject as Kim Kardashian does discussing the Goldman Sachs scandal.
Why did I see this show in the first place? Because it used to be on WPIX. If any show was run or rerun on WPIX or WNEW from roughly 1987 to 1994, I watched it. It didn’t matter if it was terrible. It was on. That’s why I have seen the entire series run of Charles in Charge. And Benson. And Good Times. And Small Wonder. And 21 Jump Street and What’s Happening and The Brady Bunch and a dozen other shows. And I haven’t even mentioned any of the hideous cartoons I slavishly watched as a kid.
So I asked online friends (via Facebook) if they remembered this. No one did, with several folks implying that I may have just imagined this. NO, NO, I insisted, THIS IS A THING THAT HAPPENED AND I CAN PROVE IT.
Luckily for me, the entire run of Charles in Charge is available via Netflix Instant. So I scanned episode descriptions on Wikipedia and found one that seemed to fit the bill: “Teacher’s Pest”, from the show’s fifth and final season.
Netflix Instant (mostly) validated my memory. I originally thought Charles was teaching a high school class, but the episode in question had him substitute teaching a college history class (because colleges totally have substitute teachers). He convinces Mr. Powell, grandfather of the kids he watches and a World War II vet, to take his class for some reason. Of course, Grampa’s new preoccupation with college life makes him “neglect” the grandkids, who are supposed to be teenagers and yet resent not being able to hang out with their elderly grandfather. So they beg Charles to fix this mess (despite the fact that they’re all pushing 30 years old by this point in the series).
But the bigger issue is the class’s textbook, which insists (in a way no textbook would) that FDR knew all about Pearl Harbor and let it happen. Mr. Powell is bothered by this assertion, and writes his paper for the class insisting otherwise. Charles–who seems neutral on the issue–asks that he rewrite the paper to reflect the textbook; otherwise, he has to give him a failing grade. Mr. Powell refuses to do so, as it would violate his principles.
The episode ends with Charles telling his class that the guy who wrote the book “needed glasses”, and that it should have stuck to facts rather than “crackpot theories”. Mr. Powell returns in full naval uniform to school the students on what really happened in World War II. Then Buddy Lembeck does something stupid. And, scene.
So I was more or less right, and briefly felt vindicated. But then I realized I was more or less right about a terrible syndicated TV show in which arch-conservative/reputed arsonist Scott Baio acted out some grudge against egghead professors. I don’t think I can call this a victory any more than the nerds on Deadliest Warrior can can declare real victory over anything, except getting laid.
It reminds me of an old Foghorn Leghorn cartoon, where the old maid hen can’t get Foghorn to give her the time of day. So the nameless dog who hates him offers to help the hen by dressing up as a rooster vying for her affection. Driven to jealousy, Foghorn bests his imaginary rival. The cartoon ends with Foghorn and the hen getting married, after which Foghorn leaps triumphantly in the air screaming, “I won! I won!”
Then he stops, rubs his chin and wonders, “There musta been some way I coulda lost…”