11 March 2005 | Danny_G13
Caustic, sharp, bitter, sweet, and nigh-on perfect
Razor sharp comedy starring Ted Danson might not appeal to everyone, given its focus on a cantankerous and highly grumpy doctor, but the script is incredibly strong.
Becker is a traditional style sitcom, much in the blend of the popular ones which went before it like Frasier and Cheers. Like Frasier, it stars a major actor from Cheers, in this case Ted Danson, but otherwise shares absolutely nothing with it and certainly isn't a follow-up. The only other thing the 2 share is that the star of Frasier, Kelsey Grammar, also features in a cameo in an episode of it.
The situation part of the 'sitcom' of Becker is that John Becker, a slightly bitter and abrasively outspoken doctor has set up a crummy practice in the middle of New York's Bronx. Suffering the 'morons' of regular society makes his attitude decline by the day and he constantly preaches his rants at Reggie's Diner where both his best friend Jake (Who's blind) runs a newspaper stall, and Bob the amiable pest hang out.
Becker also lives alone in a fairly seedy apartment where the rest of the block's residents universally loathe him.
Add his long suffering surgery assistant Margaret who's basically his rock, and the dipsy 'receptionist' Linda and you have the overall picture.
Sure, this doesn't perhaps sound all that original or even inspiring to any degree on paper, but bring it to life with a sharp script and quality actors and you have one of the finest comedies it's been my personal pleasure to witness.
To say Danson *is* Becker is the understatement of the year. He has created a character with complete life here, and embodies what he represents absolutely perfectly. His line delivery is totally spot on and he commands every scene such is his definite presence. Now when looking at him I see Becker, and not Sam Malone.
The other characters are pretty good as well, even Bob, who after simply getting on our nerves to start with eventually grows on you. Jake is extremely well played by Alex Desert as well, managing to portray a fairly decent level of vulnerability while trying to be as tough as possible. The only matter of taste with a blind character in a sitcom are the inevitable jokes at the expense of said blindness. Subsequently, it goes without saying that Becker is *not* PC - at times some of the gags can be slightly offensive, but nothing is ever truly over the score.
However, next to Becker the best character was the simply fantastic Reggie, who was played by Terry Farrel up until she was bizarrely fired based on reasons of 'creative direction' late on in the show's run by the producers. She gave the show a touch of glamour, but we identified with her because she never seemed to have anything go for her, and yet soldiered on in a state of light despair. Farrel captured her brilliantly, and her loss was felt big time. The replacement, Chris, was OK, but simply nowhere near in the league of Reggie.
However, this is an aside; the strength of Becker is and was the quality of the script. The dialogue was, at times, acidly delicious with razor sharp wit. In fact, most of the time it was like this. Becker's constant rantings might be repetitive, but they were always funny because we can actually relate to the aspects of life which got his goat up so much.
Furthermore, while he was shown as a cantankerous old git, Danson gave him plenty of self-deprecating moments too. Not only did we laugh at what he said, we laughed at his situations and the amusing body language he emitted regularly.
His practice was also a massive character in itself, with patients combining hypochondria and hemorrhoids much to the amusement of the viewer.
The other characters got plenty of hilarious lines as well, so this wasn't just the Ted Danson show, and consequently it was an extremely well-rounded show and not relying on any one character. But, as Farrel's absence later on showed, all of the main characters were vital. Bob was also written out for season 6, and his replacement Hector simply didn't fit in at all.
Despite these drawbacks, up till the chopping and changing, the show ran seamlessly and hilariously smoothly. It's a testament to the script that even *without* the main characters, although we didn't like their replacements, they still made us laugh.
Overall it's a superb comedy, and it's a rank pity it wasn't more levied by the Americans, many of whom seemed oblivious to its existence.
Said one: "Becker? The German tennis guy? I didn't even know that he had his own show," "Is it on BBC America or something?"...