Deadline
Daniel In The Lion's Den

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Heathen: D | Grade It Now!
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Who Am I? I'm Jean Valjean!

A man sneaks into a bathroom at JFK Airport. The Murphy Brown graphic doesn't specify, but since the bathroom is both the size of my shoe and completely empty, I assume it's JFK Airport in Arkansas and not the teeming mass of humanity in NYC. The man is clad in the kind of off-white suit that suggests he doesn't know Don Johnson no longer needs a body double for Miami Vice. I'd suggest he have "Smuggler" tattooed onto his forehead, but I think the cream suit and fedora combo telegraph that better than any permanent black ink ever could. Surreptitiously, the man clutches his hanging suitcase and darts sideways into a powder-blue stall. The stall door slams. His eyes bug out. Unzipping the suitcase, he yanks out three thick bundles of Cuban cigars and sniffs dreamily before stuffing them back inside. One furtive glance. Two furtive glances. Yeah, the stall is still empty. Then he grabs the suitcase and strolls calmly out toward a pack of camerapeople and reporters, all of them anxious for "Mr. McClane" to comment about the latest polls. "I've been on a fact-finding mission, as you know," he begins lamely. "I've seen the polls and am confident..." Just then, three customs officials charge through the cluster and demand that McClane drop the bag and surrender. McClane stammers, blinks, and bugs his eyes out. He learned that trick on Talk Soup one lonely weekend after his three concubines passed out atop his hashish pile. Flashbulbs pop as the customs men thunder toward the faint McClane. He's flustered, feeling threatened. Silent-movie drama ensues -- any second now, the customs men will boom, "You must pay the rent!" McClane swoons. He falls. A group of photographers catches him, dumps him to the floor, and immortalizes the moment as he lies there, twitching. I have a similar Polaroid commemorating my reaction to this show's pilot episode.

Si enters the daily meeting, and the Circle of News is complete. Nikki doesn't have much, other than one education story, a killer pirouette, a set of pipes that would make Liza Minnelli weep. The schools story details reading scores among New York students, which are shockingly low. "So they'll need a paper with pictures in it," Si half-jokes. Another editor pitches an upcoming impasse on the city's environmental budget, which totally bores Nikki. To save the day, Brooke sails in with news that Cooper McClane got caught at Kennedy with a suitcase full of Cubans. I can't believe he was too cheap to buy them a seat. Oh, wait, she's talking cigars -- although, my current President has taught me cigars can be just as companionable. Si notes that any idiot knows to take the bands off the cigars before trying to smuggle them. "The shock of discovery gave him a mild coronary," Brooke grins. Nikki is thrilled, makes a mental note to donate five bucks to the American Heart Association, and then gleefully hopes aloud that his condition is severe enough to warrant a front-page piece. With three weeks to go, McClane will drop out of the congressional race. Brooke mocks Nikki's nose for news as they simultaneously suggest getting a photo of McClane smoking a cigar, under the heading, "Up in Smoke." Nikki glares at Brooke, because there's only one Emmy winner in this room and it bloody well isn't the woman who had to do a love scene with Oliver Platt.

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