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Still Crazy After Just One Hour

Traffic. Land Rover. Dr. Bobby (there's a vehicle theme in the Banger family) rehearsing a rebuttal to potential statements from his wife concerning an inability to separate work and family. He plans to call for eliminating emotion and looking at the situation objectively. Back at the hospital, a lazy-eyed patient sits on a bed, staring at a fetching pair of plastic sandals, as a small rhinoceros slowly emerges from behind one of them. It shuffles along the floor, providing our very first peek at the hallucinations of the mentally disturbed. A mini-rhino? What a letdown.

As the music swells, people bustle to work, Abe's albatross sits smoking in bed, and Wendell Rickle introduces himself. Obviously bonkers (thanks! to the shaky-cam), wandering the city streets at quite a clip, he discusses his problem with "eyeball pressure." He can tell, he says, "because the burning up inside of my shoulders, both of the hot spots where my transmitter and receiver are packed in." Wendell is losing it fast (he's riding the Tram from Roosevelt Island, which explains a lot) as he launches into a dandy spoken-word riff on the psycho's alphabet -- addiction, beta blockers, compulsion, delusions, electro convulsive therapy, and so on, all the way through Y (yellow-bellied head shrinkers) to Z, which is for, of course, Atlas. Because Wendell is crazy and backwards is forwards and if I have to sit through forty-five more minutes of this heavy-handed symbolism, I'll combust. Anyway, Z is for Atlas because, like Wendell, Atlas must bear the weight of the entire world because he sided with the Titans in their battle against Zeus. So maybe Z is really for Zeus. Whatever. While Wendell practices for his SAG card, everyone else is walking to work, and Wendell is walking among them (this is an inner monologue, you see), and somehow all of the people we've been watching in all these different slice-of-life vignettes suddenly converge on the sidewalk and they're all walking to work together, which is really funny since that exact same thing happens to me almost every day. It's a breathtaking urban moment. Or a weird flashback to It's A Living.

In another breathtaking urban moment, Wendell pulls out a pistol and starts shooting in Times Square. And then, finally, mercifully, comes the first commercial break.

What the hell is Prilosec? Can you advertise a pill on TV without saying anything about what it does?

Civilians down, police and paramedics on the scene. Bobby strides into work (where it's all about beige and cell-like bars) and is greeted by a little round ball of a woman, who turns out to be the mother of one Mr. LaPinta, and she wants her son back at Rikers. This must be one crappy hospital. Nope, says Dr. Bobby, we need to determine his competency. Why? "Because, Mrs. LaPinta, your son bit off your finger. He bit it off and he ate it." Oh, well, there you go. Dr. Lecter in the house! It was an accident, claims Mom, and raises her voice and starts speaking Spanish, so you know she's pissed, but Bobby walks out of the room and flags down Dr. Neil, asking if he can take his 1:30 competency ("the guy that cut his grandmother years ago" -- do they have a special matricide division?). Bobby has to go to another "competency thing," where he will endure the humiliation of playing with his kids under the observation of a court-appointed psychiatrist to determine if he gets the prize. Oh, the irony. Mrs. LaPinta refuses mollification; she keeps yelling while Bobby assures her that her son -- who he calls "mucho finger bandito" (I wonder if this Latin bandito wears tube tops as well) -- will get his meds but that he will not go anywhere. Turning to a small black boy inexplicably perched on a chair, Bobby asks, "Why aren't you in school?" "Shut up, Banger," shoots back the wise urchin, to which Bobby manages, "That's Dr. Banger to you." Do they hand that one out with the diplomas? Mrs. LaPinta continues her fruitless tirade as Bobby steps into his office, closes the door, and sighs.

In the admissions area, a nurse in latex gloves combs through a bag while explaining to a frightened-looking guy that he is being admitted into Rivervue Hospital's Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEC -- the first acronym!) and that she needs to ask him a few questions. Name? Ronald Reagan McDonald Giuliani, says he. What brio! The cops reveal they found him in the Lincoln Tunnel -- he must have been down there trying to steal cars from drunk drivers.

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