Sunday, August 4, 2013

Misinformation on the season 8 case

So yesterday I had the first chance to actually see one of the season 8 sets for sale in person. I didn’t buy it, because it was at the horrifying price of $49.99. But I did notice a very interesting and rather amusing bit of misinformation on the back.

It turns out Andy is indeed mentioned on the case for Volume 1. But very strangely, he’s listed as a member of Perry’s team, working feverishly to help clear the innocent clients! Of course he’s working towards the ultimate goal of justice from where he is, but he isn’t on Perry’s team and certainly isn’t working to clear the clients, unless he has ample reason to believe they’re not guilty. Considering how uptight Andy can be, and how he seems to shy away from any interaction with Perry and company that isn’t necessary, I’m not sure that he would be too pleased with the DVD case’s description!

Also, I noticed that in person, the colorized picture of Andy on the front doesn’t have as dark of hair as it looks in the online stock photos. But it’s still darker than it’s supposed to be.

Well, even with the goofy misinformation and wrong color of hair, I’m happy Andy finally gets acknowledged, since he isn’t for the other three seasons in which he appears. Perhaps it’s because 8 is his only completely solo season, without Tragg there even once—sadly due of course to Ray Collins’ illness and eventual death mid-season. Andy has to take complete center stage for the police department (a role that he had almost taken over by necessity in season 7), and hence, it makes sense for him to be mentioned at last on the DVD case.

Upon thinking about it, I believe it’s only in episodes that Andy carries by himself when he’s uptight, in any season. When Tragg is there too, Andy adopts more of the easy-going nature that people always seem to remember him most for. That isn’t to say that every time Andy carries an episode he’s uptight (that definitely isn’t true, and episodes such as season 6’s The Prankish Professor show that), but only that I’ve only noticed it happening in some episodes where he is carrying on alone.

In some other episodes, Andy tries to maintain a strange balance between being uptight and being more relaxed. He approaches The Case of the Golden Oranges with rigid determination, yet finds time to admire a lovely suspect with Paul. This was an angle not used often; either he seemed to be fairly easy-going throughout an episode or fairly uptight.

Occasionally he would show another interesting side, that of visible reluctance to go through with his job, such as when he has to arrest the judge in The Witless Witness. I’m not sure there is another episode where he shows such reluctance. It’s a very powerful scene, attesting to Andy’s obvious feelings of deep respect for the judge, and it’s a nice glimmer into his personality that parallels, to some extent, his agony over possibly finding evidence to prove Jimmy guilty in The Hateful Hero.

I would be curious to know if it was mostly the writers who portrayed Andy with the more uptight mannerisms or if it was Wesley Lau who thought of at least some of it, wanting to give the character a bit of spice. It’s certainly an approach that makes him different from both of his counterparts. Wesley Lau was a wonderful actor who could take on any role. I’m not sure, however, how much freedom he was given with Andy’s characterization, considering his frustrations over the formulaic nature of the show and of what Andy did within the episodes.

Even if, however, Wesley was allowed some measure of decision in how Andy reacted to various situations, it would still be limited control in a very formulaic environment. Andy would still largely only be able to appear, investigate, arrest people, and testify—and occasionally be frustrated with Perry or agree to help him with a new angle. He only really had the spotlight in The Hateful Hero, and while I love it, I wish there had been more episodes like it. One of the few things I appreciate about television shows today is that most likely, Andy would have been allowed more character-defining episodes. Writers and producers today seem more willing to acknowledge the importance and appeal of the entire cast and try to allot time to develop each one.

Another thing about television shows today is that Tragg and Andy never would have been able to vanish without a trace. There would have been a mention of what happened, at least, or even, depending on the situation, an entire episode devoted to what happened. I can’t say I would have liked an official episode acknowledging Tragg’s death after his actor passed away; I prefer to think of Tragg still alive and kicking (and still on the force). At the same time, though, I don’t like how characters could vanish from classic television shows without so much as a mention, even if they were critical to the main plot. It’s interesting how television writing has changed in that respect; in the old days, I think only shows such as The Andy Griffith Show and M*A*S*H were really good about acknowledging vanishing characters.

However, I’ll admit that the one good thing about a character disappearing with no mention is that anything goes. Whatever you want to have happen to the character can happen; you don’t have to face a canonical declaration of a death or a retirement or whatever you most don’t care to envision happening to the character. I appreciate the workout that can give to one’s imagination.

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