Rerun Junkie Guest Stars–Ron Masak

When Sheriff Amos Tupper (Tom Bosley) left Cabot Cove, there were some big law enforcement shoes to fill. Enter Ron Masak as Sheriff Mort Metzger.

Arguably the role he’s most recognized for, Ron Masak brought life to the New York City cop learning the ins and outs of a small town with a high murder rate on Murder, She Wrote. His interactions with the citizens of Cabot Cove while he tries to help Jessica Fletcher solve murders add a touch of humor to the rampant killings. And maybe it should be no surprise that he ended up fitting in so well. He had guest starred as two different law enforcement characters earlier in the series.

In addition to the role of Charlie Wilson on the short-lived series Love Thy Neighbor and a small recurring role of Woody on Webster, quite a few of Ron Masak’s 122 credits are on the small screen.

Mr. Masak has several memorable appearances on TV shows, sometimes in only a scene or two. One of my favorites is on Barney Miller. In the episode “Horse Thief”, a handsome cab owner has his horse stolen. In order not to lose any business, he steals a police horse. Mr. Masak plays the officer with the missing horse. The character is funny, odd, and maybe a little overzealous. In the end, he and the horse thief end up on the same side because as it turns out, the handsome cab owner took a different horse…which means another officer took his horse…and he uses spurs.

One of my other favorite guest spots is a second season episode of The Monkees called “Monstrous Monkee Mash” in which he plays The Count. Are the Monkees getting into shenanigans with horror characters like a Count Dracula-ish vampire, his niece, a mummy, and a wolfman? Absolutely. It’s a funny episode, bits of which have firmly implanted themselves into my brain. It’s also noteworthy to mention that the Monkees were a little more out of control during the second season, which could frustrate guest actors. However, Ron Masak kept up, kept his cool, and pulled off a fun and funny vampire. He would have made a fitting mentor for Vampire Davy Jones if he hadn’t been vanquished.

I will admit that his appearance blew my young mind when I realized it was him because until that moment, he’d always been Sheriff Metzger to me. Him appearing on a ’60s show didn’t seem possible to my young self.

Some other ’60s shows Ron Masak appeared on include The Flying Nun, Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, and The Good Guys.

He spied on Mission: Impossible, took a trip to the Twilight Zone, and visited the Land of the Lost; privately investigated on The Rockford Files, Magnum PI, Longstreet, Barnaby Jones, Mannix, Remington Steele, and The Law and Harry McGraw (a Murder, She Wrote spin-off in which he played yet another cop character); checked in on Marcus Welby MD, Medical Center, and E/R; visited Mayberry RFD and rode the Supertrain; tangled with the law on Police Story, Police Woman, Ironside, The Feather and Father Gang, She’s the Sheriff, McMillan & Wife, and Columbo; lent his voice to The Real Ghostbusters; hung out with some names on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Quincy ME, and Alice; he had Good Times and Diff’rent Strokes; leapt into action on Emergency! and Wonder Woman; enjoyed some Love, American Style; and got unexpectedly soapy on The Yellow Rose, Falcon Crest, and The Bold and the Beautiful.

Ron Masak made an impression on every show he guested on, be it a recurring role or only one scene. He had a way of taking a character, making it memorable, and adding a bright spot to every episode he was in.

And we’re lucky to indulge in his shining light.

Five TV Tropes I Hate

During one of our Eventually Supertrain discussions, Dan suggested I write “10 TV tropes I Hate” and I decided to take his suggestion. However, I chose to cut the number in half. It felt a little aggressive to do ten.

I figure I can make a series out of this if I am so inclined.

And given how many tropes irritate me…

So, here they are in no particular order.

Five TV Tropes I Hate.

  1. The Bickering Couple -Blame the societal standard that het couples should detest each other. Married or dating or unresolved sexual tension, this seems to be the go-to way to show that two people are meant to be. Look at how they bicker with each other! Sure, couples bicker. They give each other shit. But if this is their sole way of communicating, it’s fucking annoying. I complained about this during the discussion of the Tales of the Gold Monkey episode that inspired this post. Jake and former-lover-turned-nun Bridget spent most of their conversations bickering, to the extent that if one of them said the sky was blue, the other one would disagree. That’s not chemistry. That’s grating. It’s hard to enjoy an episode when you’re irritated the entire time.
  2. Will They or Won’t They? -I don’t care. I don’t care about the arbitrary obstacles thrown in the couple’s way to prevent them from coming together and drag out the unresolved sexual tension as long as possible. I don’t care how they’re obviously meant for each other and any other human they interact with is an agent of the devil sent to prevent this holy union. It’s boring and takes up valuable screen time that could be spent on something more interesting, including getting these two characters together in a more creative way.
  3. A Good Ol’ Miscommunication -You know what I’m talking about. If one person would just talk to another person, it would all be worked out. Granted, the episode would only be about four minutes long, but still. I wouldn’t be subjected to all of the justifications of why this simple solution hasn’t happened yet. Same with seeing two characters interacting from a distance and then jumping to a conclusion. If this person is supposed to be close with one or both, wouldn’t they just ask? Yeah, they would. Because assuming makes asses of us all.
  4. Secretively Bratty Children -I’ve already discussed how I’m not big on children in TV shows to begin with. I feel they’re written so poorly. But of all of the TV children I despise, the secretly bratty kids make me wish it were possible to reach through the TV and slap someone. I’m not talking about the Eddie Haskells, who are shit to their fellow young people, but kiss asses to the adults. Nor am I talking about the spoiled kids whose parents will always defend them. I’m talking about the kids who are shitty to one adult in particular and then an angel to every other adult, making those adults doubt the other adult. Yes, this is a very specific hate. This sort of trope is usually played for laughs, but I’m not amused. My blood pressure is elevated just writing about it. I don’t advocate violence against children, but seriously, throw those kids in the trash. You think they’re cute now, but they’re going to grow up to be your least favorite coworker.
  5. No Sunglasses When It’s Sunny -This is less of a trope and more of a petty hill I will die on, but I think it’s absolutely ludicrous that you stick characters in sunshiny locations and then deprive them of the appropriate eyewear. Especially when they’re driving. I don’t want to share the road with these people who are squinting so hard to see that they’re giving me a headache. I realize that the justification of this is so we can properly see the actors emote, but I will counter that argument with Darth Vader and the Mandolorian. They don’t seem to have a problem. Y’all make fun of Horatio Caine for rocking his sunnies, but you don’t see him squinting, now do you? No.

Are all of these dislikes a little petty? Yes. Will listing them out like this change the course of television writing? No. Writers are going to continue to execute these tropes to their dullest and I’m going to continue to roll my eyes and pine for the rare instances when writers choose to subvert or even all together avoid them.

Hope springs eternal and these tropes will no doubt last forever.

Book ’em, Danno–Episode 40

Book 'em Danno Podcast

Season 4 is just getting started. In “Wednesdays, Ladies Free”, we’ve got a serial killer going after women in order to fulfill a very specific fantasy. This results in the women ending up dead and made up like dime store drag queens.

And then in “3,000 Crooked Miles to Honolulu”, a faculty club is really a cover for a half-a-million dollar scam involving travelers’ checks. Remember those? Karl Malden does (I am really showing my age with that joke).

It’s Monte Markham, Soon-Tek Oh, Buddy Ebsen, and David Canary in some all-star shenanigans.

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Did you ever think you’d see Barnaby Jones having a chat with Adam Chandler? Well, now you have.

the professor and george

Rerun Junkie Guest Star–Joyce Van Patten

“I didn’t know Dick Van Patten had a sister,” my roommate said.

Now I could take that two ways. One, my roommate didn’t know who Joyce Van Patten was or two, she knew who Joyce Van Patten was, but just didn’t realize that she was Dick Van Patten’s sister.

It turns out it was the latter and that stands to reason. Joyce Van Patten has had quite the solid career, built upon her own fantastic talents. A little nepotism really wasn’t necessary in her case.

She was Claudia Gramus on The Good Guys, Iris Chapman on The Mary Tyler Moore Hour, and Maureen Slattery on Unhappily Ever After. And she has a slew of guest credits on a wide variety of TV shows.

Two of my favorite guest appearances of hers happened to be on the same show, Hawaii Five-O.

Miss Van Patten made her first appearance in the Season 3 episode “The Payoff”. She plays a woman helping out an old friend that she’s sweet on. The only thing is that her old friend was involved in a kidnapping for ransom that ended in murder and now he’s been gut shot by one of his co-conspirators. She’s desperate in multiple ways –desperate to help Jace, desperate to have Jace feel for her what she feels for him, and desperate to evade the law. Unfortunately, none of it works out for her and the scene in Steve’s office where she spills her guts has you aching for her.

Her second appearance came in the Season 5 episode “I’m a Family Crook–Don’t Shoot!” I picked this as my favorite episode of that season and with good reason. Joyce Van Patten plays the matriarch of a swindling, thieving family with Andy Griffith as her husband. The family pulls their bump and grab routine on a mob bagman and lets just say that it doesn’t work out well for them. These crooks are obviously the lesser of the evils in this ep, and even though they are crooks, you can’t help but like them. The way that Miss Van Patten plays both outlaw and doting mother is a unique blend that feels real. She is all about her family, it’s just that the family business is illegal.

She also tangled with the law on episodes of The Untouchables, The Defenders, Perry Mason, Men at Law, The FBI, McCloud, The Streets of San Francisco, Amy Prentiss, Columbo, Law & Order, and NYPD Blue; worked with Jack Lord on Stoney Burke and Andy Griffith on The Andy Griffith Show; checked in on Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare and Young Dr. Kildare, The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, Medical Center, and Diagnosis Murder; got laughs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Odd Couple, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, and Love, American Style; worked with Bob Newhart on The Bob Newhart Show and Bob; went west on Gunsmoke and The Virginian; went to jail on Oz and got in with mob on The Sopranos; privately investigated on Cannon and The Rockford Files; got spooky on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, and the 1960s Outer Limits; was family oriented on Family, Sisters, Touched by an Angel, and Judging Amy; made headlines on Lou Grant and disappeared on Without a Trace; went back in time on Boardwalk Empire and Brooklyn Bridge; and got soapy for several episodes on All My Children.

Joyce Van Patten has a charm that shines across genres, no matter the role or the show. She’s eye-catching in a subtle way, and compelling whether she’s making you laugh or pulling at your heart strings. Her older brother may have been pretty great, but she holds her own. As the paraphrased saying goes…thank God for little sisters.

Rerun Junkie Episodes–“The Duke of Squigman”

In case it escaped your attention, I guested on an episode of Night After Night to talk about this episode as Squiggy is my favorite. During our discussion of the episode, I said I could write a blog post about the tag scene.

This is that blog post.

Because I feel that the tag scene of this episode is a perfect example of how reruns should be viewed in two different contexts.

If you haven’t seen “The Duke of Squigman” and/or listened to me, Lisa, and Chris discuss it (why the hell not? you’re missing out on some good shit), the quick synopsis of the episode is that Squiggy has been sleepwalking and when he does, he adopts the persona of -you guessed it- the Duke of Squigman. It turns out the reason that Squiggy is sleepwalking is because he can’t accept the fact that some people just don’t like him.

I know. I find that hard to believe as well.

The episode does a fabulous job of balancing the funny, the sweet, the absurd, and the emotional.

And then there’s the tag scene.

After the emotional conversation between Lenny and Squiggy about the psychological motivation of Squiggy’s sleepwalking, the boys are at the Pizza Bowl and Squiggy is attempting to hit on a woman sitting at a table. Naturally, she rejects him. Squiggy consults with Lenny about whether or not his feelings are hurt by this and Lenny affirms that they are. Squiggy acknowledges this and decides that he doesn’t care. He then proceeds to kiss the woman right on the mouth.

It should go without saying that this has aged poorly.

In the time this show was set (late ’50/early ’60s) and the time it was filmed (mid-late ’70s/early ’80s), this type of mild sexual assault was normalized and typically played for laughs. Of course it was. We don’t want to think of our favorites as sex pests.

Watching this scene in the context of the now, it’s not the laugh that it’s supposed to be. It’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t necessarily spoil the episode, but it definitely ends it on a sour note. As a woman, if a dude I had rejected forced a kiss on me, it wouldn’t be funny. It’d be a felony. ‘Cause I’d be going to jail. Living in a society in which there is a constant struggle in regards to the entitlement men believe to have to women’s bodies, in which violations of these boundaries are categorized and graded and the acceptable responses to them dictated by a certain script that ultimately makes them easier to dismiss, it’s kind of difficult to find the humor in the joke.

However.

In the context of the narrative, it makes complete sense.

Squiggy has confronted the issue that makes him sleepwalk. When presented with his next rejection, he checks in with Lenny, acknowledges that his feelings are hurt, and then soldiers on. That’s growth. Not a lot of growth, but it’s the growth that you’d expect to get from a character like Squiggy. At least he’s acknowledged that the woman has rejected him and that, yes, his feelings are hurt. But he ultimately decides that he doesn’t care. Now whether or not this is another form of denial is another story. But for Squiggy, just acknowledging it is progress.

Could this be accomplished without the forced kiss? Sure. No doubt that Squiggy could have showed his little bit of growth before insinuating himself into this woman’s space without forcing affections, and probably could have been done in such a way that would have garnered the same volume of laughs, with the added benefit of retaining much of those laughs in future viewings.

However, in the context of when the show was set and when it was written, it makes perfect sense that this would be the gag used to convey Squiggy’s limited growth, especially given the established behavior of the character being just a little bit slimy with the opposite sex sometimes.

In viewing the episode in these two contexts, I’m able to both acknowledge the problematic content without condemning the entire episode. I’m not absolving it of its offenses, but I am putting those offenses into proper perspective.

This approach allows me to have a more enjoyable viewing experience.

Rerun Junkie Confession–I’m Somehow Not Big on Horror TV Shows

If you asked me what my favorite TV horror is I’d say Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

If you asked me to name my top five, I’d have to strain to do it.

For a fan of horror movies and horror stories and a writer of horror stories, you’d think I’d be attracted immediately to any television show with a hint of horror and as it turns out…I’m not.

That’s right. For whatever reason, I’m not a big fan of TV horror.

Once again, this confession is not a slight on the quality of such programming. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to be my bag…and it should be. These are the kinds of shows that should be tailor-made for me, and yet I find myself to be rather meh on the idea of even watching them.

The list of horror TV shows that I found has some questionable entries, but to be fair, much of the horror TV ends up crossing over with other genres, quite often with Sci-Fi. And there are shows like that -namely the ’60s Twilight Zone and the ’60s The Outer Limits– that qualify as both Sci-Fi and horror and in that case, they’d make my top five list. Thriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents are good, but to me they’re more suspense than horror and that keeps them off of my list even though you could argue that suspense is integral to horror. Somehow The Munsters and The Addams Family made the list and I just can’t accept that. Yes, one is a family of classic monsters and the other is the antithesis of suburbia, but come on.

I will accept Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, though. Maybe it’s a cartoon mystery, but some of the fake whatsits those meddling kids were dealing with were terrifying to the right age group. Kids deserve their horror, too. Put that one on my list.

I don’t think my disinterest has to do with the heavier censoring involved in most television. As much as I love slashers, my horror doesn’t have to have gore. I like the quiet, unsettling, psychological horror, too. Hauntings are a low-key favorite of mine. But make it 42-55 minutes for 20-30 episodes and I’m less than enthused.

That’s my only guess for why I’m not drawn to TV horror more. I must prefer it in one large chunk, be it movie or book or short story, rather than be repeatedly exposed to it over a number of weeks.

And I know what you’re thinking. “Just binge it!” I totally could. I did that with the first season of Stranger Things, which I enjoyed. But that was also apparently enough. I’ve never felt compelled to watch any of the other seasons.

By no means am I completely writing off this TV genre. It will perhaps take me a little more effort to find the gems in it that I like since I’m not naturally drawn to it. But I will find them. Most likely by stumbling over them on some late night rerun schedule, like I did with Night Gallery. That one can go on my list, too.

Like I said, it took some work, but I made my top five.

Book ’em, Danno–Episode 39

Book 'em Danno Podcast

Welcome to Season 4 of Book ’em, Danno and Season 4 of Hawaii Five-O!

Steve and the gang kick things off by investigating a couple of skeletons and a beguiling portrait in “Highest Castle, Deepest Grave”. And then in “No Bottles…No Cans…No People”, Five-O looks to put a stop to an up and coming mobster who throws away his enemies…literally.

Come to watch Steve fall in love with a picture, stay for the garbage education.

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Full disclosure: I didn’t feel the full effects of the portrait in question. What about you? Feeling some sparks like Steve?

steve and portrait

Rerun Junkie Guest Star–L.Q. Jones

When I think of L.Q. Jones, I usually think of him with a cowboy hat. Or a mustache. Or both. Maybe because the roles I associate with him most are cowboys. Maybe it’s because he’s a Texas native. Maybe it’s both. But Mr. Jones played more than just a cowboy and though his film roles might have been bigger, he’s always been around on the small screen as well. With 165 credits from 1955-2006, he had plenty of opportunity to do more than hang out on the range.

However, he did hang out there a lot as Belden on The Virginian and Sheriff Lew Wallace on The Yellow Rose. He also did a stint on the show Renegade, which sounds like it could have been a Western, but was really more of a “What if The Fugitive became a bounty hunter?” show.

My personal favorite guest role of L.Q. Jones is his appearance in the Season 4 episode of The A-Team, “Cowboy George”, in which he gets to be a cowboy villain in a decidedly non-Western show. He plays Chuck Danford who owns the “Floor ’em” where Face has booked Cowboy George to play. Little does Face know that a loophole in the talent contract allowing for substitutions results in Boy George being sent to play the country joint instead. Face is also unaware that the entire purpose of the concert is so Chuck’s associates can rip off the armored car carrying the intended audience’s payroll. It’s not easy playing a bad guy against The A-Team. After all, you’re guaranteed to lose. But L.Q. Jones pulls it off brilliantly. The ease in which he appears to be a good guy right up until he isn’t is great because you buy him as both. He could totally be an innocent business owner or a guy plotting to get The A-Team lynched for the crime that he orchestrated.

Mr. Jones didn’t have to have a big role to make an impression on me. He’s in two episodes that stick in my mind. One is called “A Purge of Madness” from Season 4 of The Bold Ones: The New Doctors. Ross Martin plays a man given to bouts of psychotic rage and the doctors decide to treat it through psychiatric neurosurgery. L.Q. Jones is one of the doctors (along with Milton Berle!) consulting on the case. A small, but integral role that he filled well.

Another one was in the Season 1 episode of Hawaii Five-O called “King of the Hill”. Yaphet Kotto plays a marine suffering from severe PTSD which leads to him shooting Danny before taking him hostage in a hospital room under the belief that he’s protecting a wounded friend and holding a hill until help arrives. Mr. Jones plays a colonel who helps fill in some of the blanks Five-O needs to resolve the situation safely. Again it’s a small role, but an important one. It’s not easy to give convincing exposition.

A natural in a cowboy hat, L.Q. Jones really did pop up on a lot of Westerns, including Alias Smith and Jones, Lancer, Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, Cimarron Strip, Branded, Rawhide, Hondo, Laramie, The Rebel, Have Gun, Will Travel, Death Valley Days, The Rifleman, Tales of Wells Fargo, Cheyenne, Johnny Ringo, The Rebel, and Wagon Train.

He went to the dogs on Lassie and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin; joined up on Men of Annapolis; tangled with the law on The New Adam-12, Columbo, Walker, Texas Ranger, The FBI, McCloud, Ironside, CHiPs, and Perry Mason; messed around with some good ‘ol boys on The Dukes of Hazzard and Enos; checked in on Ben Casey; privately investigated with Charlie’s Angels, Vega$, Matt Houston, and Cannon; wandered on Kung Fu and Route 66; time-traveled on Voyagers!; and hung on with Bill Bixby on My Favorite Martian, The Magician, and The Incredible Hulk.

Yeah, I don’t know how he missed The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, either.

With or without a cowboy hat, with or without a mustache, if you need a charming villain or a villain with a real mean streak -or both- or even a good guy with a Texas edge, then L.Q. Jones is your man. And we’re all so lucky to have him riding our TV range.

Weaving the Fabric of Pop Culture

I’ll be honest with you: I heard the phrase “Book ’em, Danno” long before I started watching Hawaii Five-O in my early thirties. Considering the show went off the year a few months after I was born, that’s pretty impressive. This one little catchphrase (which wasn’t even designed to be a catchphrase; in fact, Steve McGarrett goes the entire third season without saying it) became a thread that had itself woven into the fabric of pop culture. So has the term “Five-O” as a way to refer to the police. That entered the lexicon before the show even went off the air.

Not bad for a police drama.

I talked a little bit about this phenomenon when I confessed that I’d never watched Seinfeld. Some shows just get into the collective consciousness. Seinfeld was one of those. Intensely popular, I may have never watched an episode, but everyone around me did. Immersed in that situation, I absorbed the show via diffusion. Because the show became so cemented into pop culture, I know all about Festivus, Elaine dancing, George’s fiancee dying, Jerry’s puffy shirt, Kramer’s…everything, yet never experienced any of these things in the context of their episodes.

Much like people recognizing and/or using the phrase “Book ’em, Danno” but have never actually seen Steve McGarrett say it in an episode.

Some shows just get absorbed into pop culture.

A sunglasses-quip combo. “I’m so excited!” A nose twitch. “Hello!” Turkey Drop. “To the moon, Alice!” A ponytail flip. “Dammit, Jim.” Tapping the sides of your fists together instead of flipping the bird. “Who loves ya, baby?” The Monkee Walk. “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” The Bart Dance. “Dyn-o-mite!”

There is an excellent chance you recognized more than one of these. And there’s also a chance that you might not have watched all of the shows these came from.

Who’s to say why some shows find themselves a place in pop culture and some don’t. Popularity plays into it, naturally, but not necessarily longevity. Star Trek only lasted 3 seasons, but it’s impact has lasted a lifetime. Obviously, the fans of the show play a big role, not only in making the show popular, but also identifying what bits and pieces will become meme’d and gif’d in some cases decades later.

There’s no telling what show might catch on, or what bit of it might embed itself into the conscious collective mind. Not every super popular show finds its staying power. You never know what little bit people will discover and latch onto and blow up. Or who will latch onto it.

Say “How rude” or “Did I do that?” to a Gen Xer or older Millennial who lived on TGIF and you’ll get a different response than maybe a member of Gen Z who hasn’t discovered that bit of nostalgia yet. Some of these bits of fabric are truly generational, while other bits span the scope.

If I were an educated person, I might better be able to analyze this sort of thing. Pick it a part and understand how it all comes together.

But I’m not.

Instead, I just marvel at all of the colorful bits and pieces woven into the pop culture fabric.

Holy tapestry, Batman!

Rerun Junkie Character–Marty Morrison

I’ve written a bit about Marty Morrison before when I wrote about Barney Miller and The Pride of the Ol’ 1-2, but I always knew I was going to dedicate an entire post to the man because as characters go, Marty Morrison is pretty brilliant.

Portrayed by the fantastic Jack DeLeon in eight episodes, Marty Morrison makes his grand entrance in the second episode of the series having been arrested by Wojo for stealing a purse. The entire scene of Wojo booking Marty in front of his victim is nothing but a showcase of Marty’s wit.

Wojo: Okay, Marty. This is the second purse you snatched in a week. Now you’re getting bad habits.
Marty: Kleptomania is a disease, not a crime. Besides, I’ve thrown away better purses than that.

Mrs. Florsheim: I want that man in jail. And I’m not afraid of reprisal.
Marty: Oh, who would want to reprise you?

Mrs. Florsheim: You’re just lucky the police got to you before my husband did.
Marty: Same to you.

Wojo: Mrs. Florsheim, what time was the crime committed?
Mrs. Florsheim: I beg your pardon?
Marty: What he wants to know is when did you buy the purse.

Wojo: Was there anything missing from the purse?
Marty: Good taste.

At a glance Marty is a stereotypical catty, somewhat effeminate gay man. That’s how that first scene with him plays out. A catty, gay thief.

But he makes some good points. He’s had all kinds of jobs, even tried to get on the police force. But at the time, they didn’t allow openly gay men on the force. As Marty points out, “Why can’t there be gay cops? There are gay robbers.”

Later in the episode, he makes a vaguely suggestive statement to a man he’s sharing the lone 12th cell with. Naturally the guy doesn’t take it well. And naturally, Marty responds with his scathing wit.

As funny as the character is, he also does an exquisite job of highlighting the other characters’ prejudices, particularly Wojo’s. In the earlier seasons, Wojo is extremely uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality. The ultra-masculine former Marine has a tendency to be hostile towards Marty, and Marty has a tendency to throw that hostility back at Wojo in the form of his own clever insults or suggestive comments. Of course, Wojo’s growth over the eight seasons of the show includes coming to some sort of acceptance of Marty. As a plot devices go, he’s pretty great.

But Marty is more than just a plot device for another character’s growth. He’s more than just a token queer character. Marty gets to be a person, which was definitely more than what a lot of queer characters got to be on TV during that time period. In a time in which homosexuality was still viewed as a deviant choice by most, Marty gets to rise above much of that stigma. Why? Because we like him. He’s not like the deranged murderers that show up on other cop shows at the time. He’s a petty thief that’s been known to smoke pot. No different than any of the straight crooks and pot smokers that made their way through the 12th. Marty is harmless.

And being harmless allows Marty to help highlight the injustices that queer people faced. We watch Marty flirt with a Russian pianist seeking refuge in the United States from the oppression of his home country in “Asylum”. He also stands up for the man and offers to help him get to immigration since, according to the State Dept., no one with any official status is allowed to help and by Marty’s own admission, he doesn’t have any status.

While the cruelties of Russia were easy for an audience to absorb back in the ’70s, bringing that cruelty closer to home was more effective. In the episode “Discovery”, Marty brings in his friend Darryl Driscoll to get some help from the fellas at the 12th, something that Mr. Driscoll is sure will be their undoing. Mr. Driscoll was accosted by a man claiming to be a 12th precinct detective and had to buy his way out of trouble for $50. It’s only understandable that he’d think he was walking into a lion’s den. But Marty, despite his own frequent law tangles, considers these men to be his friends, and of course, Barney and his men -even Wojo- step up to take Mr. Driscoll’s complaints seriously. Marty, who is accustomed to the insults spit at him by many of the uniformed officers, had no doubt that they’d be treated like human beings by the detectives.

He’s been in enough trouble to know the 12th precinct pretty well.

In addition to stealing handbags and possessing pot, he once shoplifted luggage. Walked right out of the store and right into the 12th’s holding cell. It turns out that Marty’s get-rich-minded scheme of marrying a much older woman couldn’t deter his sticky fingers. And in another episode, Marty asks Barney to put in a good word for him with his probation officer as he and Mr. Driscoll are hoping to move to the much more gay-friendly city of San Francisco. Lucky for all of us, though, the duo stayed put in NYC.

Marty mostly cleans up his act by the time the show hits the finale, which is also Marty’s last appearance. Fitting that the man who helped establish the quality of characters populating the mug books of the 12th precinct would stop by to say goodbye to his friends and the place he made a mark on.

In a time when gay characters were scarce and often vilified, Marty Morrison was a funny, charming, likeable character that helped ease the stigma surrounding gay men, at least a little. Even if the character isn’t a perfect representation, he helped pave the way for the depiction of authentic, messy, queer humans that are more frequently (yet not frequently enough) seen onscreen today.