Doris Roberts and G.W. Bailey
My first order of business in previewing the next episode of Major Crimes is to thank Tim Conway, Paul Dooley, Ron Glass, Doris Roberts and Marion Ross for lifting this entry of our series onto the list of our most memorable. Our entire cast of regulars was thrilled to host these legends from, respectively, McHale's Navy and The Carol Burnett Show, Breaking Away and Grace Under Fire, Barney Miller and Firefly, Remington Steele and Everybody Loves Raymond, and Happy Days and Brooklyn Bridge. Also appearing, the dynamic Paul McCrane (of E.R. fame), as an ICE agent with a curious (one might even say horrifying) hobby.
Now to write just a few words about our story, which revolves around an all-too-familiar aspect of an individual's identity. To state the obvious (I am a television writer, after all!), people change as they age. At some point, we revisit that period in our lives when who we are links up to where we are. My father's house, for example, reminds him of when our whole family raced through the halls, of morning journeys to school, of piano keys banging in the front of the house while football played in another, of holidays celebrated in our dining room, of card games played with my mother, whose laugh still echoes down the hallway to his bedroom. My father's address is not merely a house number; it is a construct for his memory. To give up his home at this late date would forever change who he is.
This is why the residents of the Lost Horizon Apartment Complex feel compelled to band together, helping the Major Crimes Division of the LAPD solve the murder of a hateful man who became their landlord, the infuriatingly awful Ed Dagby. These five older tenants, all of whom worked together on a seventies detective show called "Prognosis: Homicide," hoped to live out their retirement together in peace and harmony. Ed Dagby's abrupt ascendency to manager of Lost Horizon allowed him to steal all the gold from their golden years. Worse, Ed exposed the Lost Horizon's residents to a dangerous bald man with a red moustache (whom they nickname Scarface), a man they unanimously deem suspicious. Can these former crewmates rally for one last production meeting? Will the team that did over a hundred episodes of "Prognosis: Homicide" find the wherewithal to help solve one, last murder? A re-enactment of the crime reminds us that we all love reruns. Don't we? Safe to say the tenants are not the only ones struggling to maintain their place in the world. The fight for home carries through in the struggles of Lt. Provenza to stay on the job, and the ongoing saga of our material witness, Rusty Beck.
The slyly constructed, seventies-style script by Duppy Demetrius highlighted our genre antecedents, and practically demanded that we cast actors who could make that period pop back to life in a vivid way. The table read of Duppy's teleplay occasioned shower after shower of applause as we announced the name of our attending guest stars. Cheers for Tim Conway, who immediately stood up and riffed for a few moments, allowing for effortless comparisons to Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams. Ron Glass entered with his character so completely in place, we were only sorry not to have the cameras rolling as he spoke. Paul Dooley inhabited the former teamster he was playing as if he had been managing vans and trucks and hungover drivers for the better part of his life. And Miss Marion Ross proved, once again, that she possesses the kind of effortless genius that makes all writers sound like Thornton Wilder or Neil Simon. Because she was working another show at the time, I didn't get to meet Doris Roberts until the next day. But our encounter in costumes was notable for how happily she reunited with G.W. Bailey, her friend of many decades. As they chatted about their pivotal scene together, I was reminded that, no matter how old they are, great actors always swing for the fences.
Leo Geter directed "No Place Like Home" with genial grace and spirit, managing to create a tone that dramatizes all the dilemmas, challenges and joys of growing older without ever dipping into farce or slipping into tragedy. Yes, age changes everyone but, with luck, it will do for us what it has done for Mr. Conway, Mr. Dooley, Mr. Glass, Ms. Roberts and Ms. Ross. In addition, I should say the cast was thrilled to finally perform on screen with Paul McCrane, who has for years been an extremely popular visiting director.
Next week, in the next-to-last episode of our summer season, Sharon Raydor faces a unique challenge (and a furious judge) as she carefully retraces her steps on the way to trapping a criminal who has already confessed.
Until then. — James Duff