Thursday, July 4, 2013

Deputy D.A. Alvin

Happy 4th of July, to all fellow American readers!

I have finally got hold of the first half of season 9! It should arrive at the end of the week, and I will happily start viewing the episodes I have never seen uncut. Comparison posts will definitely follow.

A friend of mine has recently developed an interest in character actor Kenneth Tobey. This in turn has caused me to sit up and pay attention to something I was vaguely aware of but didn’t really stop to think about before.

Kenneth appeared in three Perry episodes, always as the same fellow. And that fellow is Deputy D.A. Alvin! Say Hello to another deputy D.A. who was around for more than one episode.

Here’s where things get even more interesting. Alvin is the first deputy we meet in season 4. He appears twice, in The Ill-Fated Faker and The Clumsy Clown. Then he vanishes and we hear nothing more of him, just as is the case with almost all of Hamilton’s season 4 assistants.

Only Alvin resurfaces, very briefly, in season 6’s The Weary Watchdog. As far as I know, he is the only deputy D.A. to appear in more than one season.

As the very first of Hamilton’s season 4 deputies, Alvin bears some similarities with Hamilton. His approach in court seems to generally be very professional, yet personable and kind. He treats the witnesses with dignity and respect, and tries to be gentle when they warrant it.

Then on the other hand, he has some very Hamilton-ish outbursts and defensive comments when he doesn’t like what Perry is up to and when he is trying to defend something he’s done that Perry doesn’t like. Of course, all of the deputies have dialogue written for Hamilton, but even in the way Alvin speaks in these intense scenes is quite a bit like Hamilton. Kenneth does, however, try to add his own touches whenever possible, such as in some of the gestures he makes when emphasizing a point. I do not recall Hamilton ever slamming his fist into his palm, as Alvin does at one point in The Clumsy Clown with gusto.

Alvin also looks a bit like Hamilton, with the same basic face shape and, especially in his first appearance, curly/wavy hair. Considering that he was the first of the season 4 deputies, I’m wondering if the casting director was deliberately looking for someone who resembled William Talman, in case he would still end up replaced.

I find it particularly fascinating that they brought him back two seasons later for The Weary Watchdog. His part is extremely minor, as he prosecutes C.C. Chang for grand theft, and pretty much the extent of his scene is strenuously objecting to Perry appearing as a friend of the court and having witnesses brought in before the judge rules on Perry’s motion.

Why didn’t they just bring in some random guy to play some random prosecutor, to be seen once and never again? Why did they choose instead to revisit the Alvin character, especially so briefly? Was it that Kenneth Tobey was available and someone thought “Hey, let’s use him again; he’s great”? Was it that someone liked the idea of showing one of Hamilton’s old deputies again, as a bit of continuity? Was it both of the above and more? Something else?

In any case, I’m always excited when an old television show has continuity. And it’s nice to see that a deputy with whom we are already familiar is still around two seasons later, still doing what he can to help Hamilton in the cause of justice. I can’t deny that it makes me long all the more that we had seen Sampson other times, but I’m happy to see another of the deputies too.

It’s a bit hard for me to decide what I think of Alvin as a character, since he is so much like Hamilton. I love Hamilton, but for me there's only one Hamilton and I like the deputies to be different. Kenneth does a very good job with the material he’s given, but especially in things such as The Weary Watchdog’s brief scene, Alvin seems more like an echo of Hamilton rather than his own person.

A lot of it has to do with approach. With each of the recurring deputies, the actor has his own interpretation of the similar lines and actions and brings them to life accordingly. We have Chamberlin’s businesslike, detached attitude. Bill Vincent’s overconfidence and blundering. Sampson’s absolute passion. Alvin’s professionalism.

After examining Alvin’s scenes more closely, I feel that he is the deputy probably most like Hamilton, followed by Chamberlin. Even with their different approaches, some lines and aspects of their characters remain very much like Hamilton, including Alvin’s kindness to the witnesses, his outbursts, and Chamberlin’s stubbornness that parallels Hamilton’s season 1 attitudes.

Sampson will probably always be my favorite. His supercharged approach intrigues me, particularly how he comes across as overconfident yet mature, completely unlike Bill Vincent. Sampson has experience that Bill lacks. It seems like every time we see Bill, he’s bumbling his way through a court case, except for when he questioned Hamilton on the witness stand in The Golfer’s Gambit. Other times, he’s stopped by Hamilton or chewed out by the judge.

By contrast, Sampson takes control. He builds some of the best cases the prosecution has ever been allowed to build throughout the series. He’s young and blunt and sometimes blurts things he probably shouldn’t, but overall he knows better what he’s doing than Bill does.

Now that I have fully noticed Alvin as the recurring character he is, I will likely want to introduce him into my stories somewhere along the way and flesh out his character. I’m still having a bit of trouble getting a handle on Chamberlin, so trying to take control with Alvin should be an interesting challenge.

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