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Mr. Novak, NBC TV Series 1963-65.

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Flashgear, Jul 11, 2017.

  1. Bert Greene

    Bert Greene Supporting Actor

    Apr 1, 2004
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    I'm up to the "Death of a Teacher" episode, which I found to be a particularly strong, effective drama. There was a little extra ring of sadness about it because long-time character actor Frank Albertson, who played the 50-year-old teacher who bites the dust, happened to pass away in real life, all too young, shortly after appearing in this episode. Always figured he had another twenty years in him, continuing his portrayals of staid businessmen, town elders, and eventually grandpa's, which his career path had been comfortably taking (similar to Regis Toomey's). I usually think of Albertson back when he was a golly-gee-whiz 'juve lead' in things like the fun Universal serial "The Lost Special" (1932). So anyway, it was strangely sad to see him take a grim exit in "Novak" which actually bordered reality.

    Several other episodes I found quite impressive. "A Boy Without a Country" initially seemed like a contrived premise, but the script was very, very good, and Walter Koenig really sold it with his excellent performance. "Love in the Wrong Season" with Patricia Crowley was also especially strong, as was "Pay the Two Dollars." I particularly liked how the episode "A Thousand Voices," with Frankie Avalon, didn't telegraph at first quite where it was heading. I appreciate writing like that, which keeps me guessing for a while. Didn't care as much for "He Who Can Does" with Edward Mulhare as the famed writer. Seen these stories of boorish, famous characters a few too many times, and I thought adding the past relationship with Miss Pagano was a bit too cute by half. The episodes that have impressed me 'least' usually tend to be the ones involving troubled, misfit dudes, like "My Name is Legion," "Private Life of Douglas Morgan Jr.," and "The Exile" (although this latter one wasn't without merit). There's always been a limit for me as to how much empathy I can muster for moody, inwardly-vexed oddballs and the rabbit-holes they always fall into.

    The only episode I found a bit too soapbox-ish was "Hello, Miss Phipps," although I've long adored Lillian Gish, and she delivers a fine performance. My problem was that the script struck me as a bit dishonest, in the way it muddied the waters. The writer obviously wanted a story in which a teacher is teaching sex education to her students, and the parents learn of it and try to get her fired. But here, the catalyst for this is some singular male student's writing (or drawing) in his notebook, in which it is admitted was NOT part of some lesson, but something he did of his own initiative. Just what it is, remains mysterious to the viewer. The teachers themselves are shown to find it completely untoward and out-of-bounds as well. Yet from this single student's extracurricular drawings or writings, the parents consolidate into a one-minded mob and blame the old-lady health/hygiene teacher? To quote Robby the Robot, it just doesn't compute. I didn't buy it. It's obvious that the script's desire was to champion sex education in school, but the route to the conflict struck me as unbelievable (as was the presentation of the parents as dunderheaded lemmings). But anyway, these are the type of things that invariably sink 'issue' oriented dramas for me. Too constructed, too heavy-handed.

    Although I've inadvertently found myself zeroing in on a few isolated negatives, the series as a whole has been very solid and enjoyable. Better than I remembered. And, oh yeah, I'm getting a big crush on Miss Scott! Open your dang eyes, Novak!

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