Newsradio (Season 1, Ep 6): Luncheon at the Waldorf

Welcome back to recap of and reaction to Newsradio. Spoilers through the current episode. You have been warned.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

Bill invites Beth to a fancy Broadcaster’s Luncheon at the Waldorf. Lisa becomes concerned that Bill has bad intentions at this lunch. After, though, we find out that it was Beth who sexually harassed Bill.

While this is going on, Dave – against Mr. James’ advice – sets out to discover why the station is $6,000 over budget. He learns that almost the entire staff abuses the station financially. Matthew makes long distance personal calls, Catherine charges her expensive hair appointments to the station, and Bill uses the station to pay for personal limo service around NYC. But the worst abuser of the budget is Mr. James. The budget issue is resolved when Mr. James, rather than ceasing his abuse of the station’s budget, tells Dave to raise the budget to accommodate his expenditures. This is what he told Dave at the beginning of the episode. Dave’s efforts throughout the day were largely irrelevant.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

Bill comes out of the booth and asks Beth to attend the annual Broadcaster’s Luncheon at the Waldorf with him.

Lisa is listening. After Bill returns to the booth, she asks Beth why she is agreeing to go on a date with Bill. Beth does not believe Bill meant it like that. Matthew overhears the two of them and jumps into the conversation.

Matthew: Uh huh. Bill’s finally making his move, huh?
Beth: What move?
Matthew: Oh get off it, Beth. Bill has been eyeballing you since the Christmas party. Remember when you were wearing that blue dress? [gestures with his hands across his chest.]

Beth insists that Bill is harmless. Dave walks through the room in the background. We see him stop and turn to join their group.

Could you guys just pretend to work when I walk by?

Dave finally enters his office. Mr. James is there and on the phone. He says to whoever he was talking to “I thought that was illegal?” Then after a big laugh, he says he has to go.

Dave: Who was that?
Mr. James: Your mother. I accidentally hit your speed dial.

Dave comes in and sets his coffee mug on his desk. Mr. James then picks the mug up, stands up, and tells Dave to make it fast.

Dave: It’s about the budget.
Mr. James: Don’t I pay someone else to think about that?
Dave: That would be me.
Mr. James: Then why am I thinking about it? You’re not giving me much bang for my buck here Dave.

Dave tells Mr. James that WNYX is over budget. When Mr. James’ solution is to increase the budget, Dave says instead that he wants to figure out where the budget problems exist.

Dave: Sir, the station is $6,000 over budget.
Mr. James: $6,000? Wow. That takes me back to when $6,000 was a lot of money to me.

On the way out of the office, Mr. James runs into Bill. Still holding Dave’s coffee mug, he hands it to Bill who sets it by the coffee station.

Bill approaches Beth and suggests that she wear the blue dress from the Christmas party.

Bill: Devil with a blue dress on? [pinches Beth’s cheek] More like an angel.

Lisa complains to Dave about Bill hitting on Beth. Dave points out that they are merely going to lunch and that he and Lisa go to lunch. She replies that they go to lunch in her apartment and that they do not eat.

Dave is still trying to figure out the budget. He asks aloud what 17% of 4,300 is and she replies offhandedly 731. He then quizzes her. 27% of 539? One hundred and forty-five point five something.

I’m a big hit at parties.

She asks what he is doing and when he tells her that is his inquiring about the budget, she asks him not to snitch on her co-workers. Dave realizes immediately that a name has popped into her head. She gives him a hint to check the phone bill. She further says the guilty party’s first name starts with an M.

Dave approaches Matthew’s desk with a paper in hand. Matthew is on the phone. He holds his hand over the mouthpiece and asks Dave if he needs something. Dave mentions that Matthew makes a lot of long distance calls. Matthew says that they are for work. Dave asks him to tell whoever he is talking to, at the moment, that he will call right back. Matthew then reluctantly tells someone, in French, that he needs to speak with his supervisor.

Matthew says that he is not the only person who abuses office privileges. Dave asks him who else and Matthew says, “Catherine. Hair Salon. Corporate Account.”

Bill runs into Dave as he walks away from Matthew’s desk. He is now wearing a tuxedo with a flower pinned to the lapel.

So. How fantastic do I look?

Lisa asks Bill if Beth is really the person he should take to this Luncheon and he accuses her of being jealous.

Show me a woman who isn’t jealous of another woman and I’ll show you a man.

Dave prevents Lisa from punching Bill in the head by directing her away from him and asking her to calculate the square root of 2000. She responds instantaneously with 44.722 but walks away.

Bill: College girls.

Just then, Beth walks into the office in the aforementioned blue dress. It is simultaneously low cut and very short. [I do not know how to describe this dress but it reminds me of what you might get combining a gymnastics leotard and a prom dress.]

Beth walks over to Lisa and says that she is not sure she wants to do this anymore. Lisa tries to pull Beth’s dress a bit lower and is informed by Beth that it does not go any lower. Bill approaches the two of them with a corsage in hand. The two leave together. Dave and Lisa watch the two of them leave.

Dave: So, uh, you want to go for lunch?
Lisa: No, I’m not in the mood today.
Dave: So you want to get something to eat then?
Lisa: Sure.

By 3 o’clock that afternoon, Bill and Beth have not returned. Lisa brings this up with Dave. He jokes that he should go out on the porch and wait with his shotgun. He then sees Catherine and asks her about the salon that does her hair. He tells her that she will have to begin paying for her hair appointments out of her own pocket. Catherine dismisses the idea. Before Dave can follow her, a disconsolate Beth walks into the station alone wrapped in a blue shawl that matches her blue dress. She says “I don’t want to talk about it” to both Dave and Lisa before going into Dave’s office to lie on his couch.

Bill enters behind her quietly. When he is asked why Beth walked in on the verge of tears…

Bill: Maybe it was Rush Limbaugh’s keynote speech? Women… they’ll cry at anything, right fellas?

At this point, Matthew and Joe have joined Dave and Lisa and they are are now glaring at Bill, too. Lisa begins interrogating Bill again when Beth emerges from Dave’s office.

Beth: Bill did not make a pass at me. Bill was a perfect gentleman. So leave him alone, okay?
Bill: [Long pause] I’m sorry, Lisa, you were saying?

In Dave’s office, Beth agrees to tell Lisa and Dave what happened. She says that the luncheon was great, and “on the way back in the limo…” Dave interrupts her. Upon hearing that Bill had a limo and that he takes them all the time, he goes back to his budgeting work.

Beth: I leaned over, grabbed Bill’s head, and shoved my tongue down his throat.[…]
Lisa: Did he kiss you back?
Beth: No.
Lisa: Are you sure?
Beth: Lisa, it was like his tongue disappeared. I got nothing but air.

Matthew, Joe, and Catherine come in to ask what happened and they speculate that maybe Bill “slipped her some Spanish Fly or something.” With everyone inside his office, Dave tries to redirect the focus of their attention to his budget work. Everyone but Beth leaves immediately. Dave says that there are 93 magazine subscriptions going to the station and Beth claims that they are all ordered by her because she is trying to win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes.

Dave: Beth, I know you’ve had a rough day, I know this has been very hard on you. And I know you’ve heard this before but I’m going to say it again because it’s important, alright? You do not have to subscribe in order to be eligible for the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes.
Beth: You are so naive, Dave.

At the coffee station in the main part of the office, Bill fills up a cup of coffee while Lisa tells him that she owes him an apology. Bill stands next to her desk until she actually apologizes. Once Lisa apologizes, then Bill tells her that no apology is necessary. Lisa asks Bill if he is okay.

Bill: I’ve never felt so deeply and hurtfully violate din all my life.
Lisa: W-w-what exactly happened?
Bill: She Frenched me, Lisa.

Bill analogizes the situation to taking one’s daughter to the fair, winning her prizes, and buying her cotton candy, only to find out that said daughter wants to make out on the Ferris Wheel. {Eww.]

Bill: Why would she do that to me, Lisa. Why would she [pause] French her Daddy?

Lisa speaks for everyone when she tells Bill that she is getting uncomfortable with that metaphor. Dave interrupts and says that Beth would like to speak with Bill in his office.

Dave mediates between Beth and Bill. Beth apologizes to Bill, takes all of the blame, but also says that she is not at fault. She then blames the perfect moment and says that it was not him. Bill refuses to dismiss the situation so easily and argues that he might not feel safe alone with Beth in the future.

At the end of the day, Bill is waiting by the elevator. Beth approaches and apologizes again.

Bill: You know, in a way, this is my fault. I guess I’m just guilt of being me, which isn’t a crime, but maybe it should be.

As the two get on the elevator, Bill dramatically stops the doors from closing and states that they would be safer if he took the stairs.

Dave and Mr. James are in Dave’s office discussing the budget. Dave tells Mr. James that there is one budgetary glitch he has not resolved. He says that the station is way over budget on fuel for the traffic helicopter.

Dave: I talked to the pilot and he chalks it up to an increase in round trips from the roof of this building to a private residence in Litchfield, CT.
Mr. James: Litchfield… Hey! That’s where I live! Okay, you got me Columbo.

Mr. James tells Dave to increase the budget for helicopter fuel. On his way out the door, he also congratulates Dave on the phone bill and blocking those 976 numbers.

Dave: Hey, how did you know I did that?
Mr. James: I’ll see you tomorrow, Dave.

REACTION:

This episode was primarily an effort to take a serious sexual harassment episode and make it comedic via a gender swap. It just did not really work for me. Part of the problem is that so much of the episode exists in the build up to the gender swap. We start from Beth’s perspective that this is not a big deal. Then we find out that Bill has been planning to “make his move” on Beth for a while. Then we learn that Bill in particular likes a dress she wore at the Christmas part. Then he asks her to wear it.

Bill is just… creepy. The visual of Beth in a low cut, small, blue dress, and the visual of Bill giving her a corsage as though she is going to prom, then we see her walk back into the office as though something horrible had just happened to her… it all just accentuated the sense of growing unease. Normally I believe that tension works in comedy. The surprise break of tension leads to laughter. But not all tension is equal. In this episode, when we find out that Beth harassed Bill, rather than the other way around, there is not surprise leading to laughter. There is just a sense of relief.

Making it worse, Bill’s metaphor of Beth as his daughter was again creepy and gross.

Lisa’s “human calculator” trick was not really comedic in an of itself. But it did set up one of Bill’s best moments in the episode. After hearing Lisa give the square root of 2,000 to Dave, Bill leaned closer to Dave and said, full of favorable meaning, “College girls.”

There were some really good moments in the subplot of this episode. Dave catching Matthew on the phone, speaking French, was hilarious. Mr. James’ quip about remembering the time when $6,000 (the amount the station was over-budget) was a lot of money to him was also really funny.

I enjoyed the baton hand-offs of Dave’s coffee mugs. But it felt almost too subtle.

Mr. James’s eccentric billionaire persona continues to be one of my favorite aspects of this show. Stephen Root manages to give us a Mr. James who seems (believably) to be both a micro-manager and aloof simultaneously. He is both Southern mogul and Connecticut dwelling billionaire. He is on the edge of laughter and on the edge of anger at all times. Instead of that character feeling like a psycho, Root’s Mr. James almost feels like a father figure for Dave. His insanity always feels – to me the viewer – like it’s for Dave’s own good. Dave seems to pick up on that, too, and attributes a lot of what Mr. James does in that same way.

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