Tuesday, July 5, 2011

WHICH DOOBIE DO YOU BE?  Last night, as Michael McDonald and the Roots serenaded hundreds of thousands on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (seriously: great concert -- especially the Boyz II Men surprise appearance -- and great coverage on Channel 6), my thoughts went to one particular place—somewhere in this crowd, Freddie "Rerun" Stubbs is trying to record this show. Based on my Twitter feed, I was not alone in summoning up this particular memory.

Yes, we've talked about the two-parter "Doobie or Not Doobie" before, and we can do that again, but I want to summon up a more basic question: why is it that two- and three-parters of classic (and not-so-classic) sitcoms seem to stick with us more than ordinary episodes? Because I can tell you every detail of the Brady Bunch trips to Arizona and Hawaii, the Diff'rent Strokes "Dudley Almost Gets Molested" Very Special Episodes, or the Happy Days demolition derby episodes centered around the dreaded Malachi Crunch far more vividly than I can the traditional runs of the shows. (Seriously: I don't think I have any other specific memories of What's Happening!! other than the episode in which Dwayne's NFL gambling run is based on his helmet color preferences.)

So what is it about sitcom two-parters? How large was the market for bootlegging Doobie Brothers concerts in the late 1970s? And how great is the irony that these episodes can now be viewed in their entirety on YouTube?


  1. Meghan10:18 AM

    At least with the Bradys, the change of scenery adds a lot, I think.  Sometimes the events were so big in and of themselves that they stick out.  I mean, if the usual set-up is Hijinx Ensue When Cute Kids Do ___, then any variation from that will stand out more.

    I did not remember the Doobie Bros episode until I saw it on your twitter feed last night.  RIP Rerun.

  2. Jim Bell11:08 AM

    Richie gets drunk. (72)
    The What's happening gang consult on a television show that is supposed to be about kids like them.

  3. I disagree with the premise - I have the same level of recall for regular episodes of What's Happening, Brady Bunch, etc. But I do love the Doobie Bros. episode.

  4. For me it's generally because the stakes are often raised in two-parters, via whatever Very Special Events are taking place.  I can probably do a one woman show of Sports Night's Draft Day two-parter from memory; even though there are SN episodes I enjoy more, when I need a concentrated dose of external drama/comedy, those are my go to episodes.

  5. I think Meghan hit the high point- that the two-parters were typically the bigger, grander episodes with new locales and heightened consequences. Also, though, is there anything to be said for the week's worth of anticipation between episodes? Especially with 70s/80s television, where the end of each episode was a return to the status quo and held no influence on the next episode. I suppose the test of that would be if two-parters that you have only seen back-to-back stand out as much as cliffhanger waits.

    Along with many other examples, I can give you every detail of the Perfect Strangers 'Flooding Basement' two-parter, if need be.

  6. Sure: the Brady trip to King's Island (where are the blueprints?) was a single episode, but memorable.<span> </span>

  7. Joseph J. Finn7:58 PM

    Richie goes to a burlesque show (with bubble machine!) and sees his father there with his fellow lodge members sticks in my mind.

  8. Paul Tabachneck5:45 AM

    Conversely, though, I don't remember, say, any two-parters that Silver Spoon did, nearly as well as I remember the "dine-and-dash" episode.  Ditto for Perfect Strangers' "Bibibobpka" debebabcle.  Maybe some writing staffs just excel when given more scope to work with?