Monday, April 5, 2010
Television Review: THE LETTER PEOPLE, EPISODE 23- MEET MR. G (1974, Thomas McDonough)
I've decided to skip ahead a bit in this ongoing retrospective to THE LETTER PEOPLE: EPISODE 23, which contains the 18th letter person to be introduced- Mr. G. One of my all-time favorites, Mr. G and his gooey gum have been series regulars in my nightmares to this very day, and I, for one, am proud to call him 'friend.' The sleazy announcer, as always, does his best to make the letter at hand sound as unsavory as possible (...meet Mister Geeeieeee....), and we're off–
Episode 23: Meet Mr. G.
Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 15 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Written by Gayle Waxman, puppets and sets by King Hall.
We begin with a quandary– Gordon the Green Grocer discovers that all of his good green grapes are gone (grabbed by some ghoulish galoot), and he is reassured by a trembling Mr. M who's wearing a goofy sideways ballcap for no apparent reason. (Perhaps he's trying to cover up that terrifying toupée?)
Mr. M desired said grapes for some kind of a creepy solo picnic, and he does his best to make Gordon the Green Grocer feel better, but Gordon is inconsolable. As the trembling continues, it becomes unclear if Gordon is simply frightened or suffering from a bout of the DTs. Regardless, Mr. M is assuredly not the ideal companion in such a situation.
Mr. M- the apotheosis of restraint.
Thankfully, the snooty Miss U appears to relieve the tension, but none of the three can make heads or tails of how best to recover the purloined grapes. Suddenly- an eerie, dissonant jingle reverberates from beyond the wilds of Letter People Land. An ominous portent of things to come, delivered by xylophone, bass, and guitar... It's Mr. G.
My gorgeous gooey gum is getting stuck all over the place.
Gooey, gummy, I am Mr. G.
Golly, my gooey gum got stuck on the garden gate.
Good, now I can go again.
Goodness, gracious, I am Mr. G.
Oh grasshoppers, my gooey gum just got stuck in the green grass.
Good, now I can go again.
Great Scott, grapefruit, I am Mr. G.
Oh goose feathers, my gooey gum just got stuck in the garbage can by the garage.
Good, now I can go again.
Gooey, gummy, goodness, gracious, Great Scott, grapefruit, gee.
I got stuck again.
I'm Mr. G,
I've got gooey gum all over me.
Now you can watch it all here, but it's really quite unnverving, so I must warn you in advance. Mr. G is kind of a purple, hunched-over ghost whose hands- like many a letter person's- seem to work independently of his brain, flitting here and there, playing with random fabric, or swooping up to accentuate words that aren't actually being said.
Atop Mr. G's head is a crown constructed from a bounty of gum. One large piece in particular, however, resembles the hilt of a black switchblade- no, Mr. G is not to be trifled with. What lies behind those googly, vigorous eyes? Benevolence? Malevolence? It's not immediately clear. His teeth are equally off-putting, cut from the same cloth as Mr. T's ginormous chompers- and lolling about within his gaping maw, like a rigid tongue, is yet another (still packaged) stick of gum. To top it off, Mr. G is generously garnished from head to toe with gooey, pre-masticated gum, which means he has a frightening proclivity toward getting stuck on anything and anyone who crosses his path.
Furthermore, his singing voice resembles that of a nefarious English professor, yet his speaking voice is straightfoward and heroic. This juxtaposition of deliberate, measured villainy and all-American straight talk makes his mere presence all the more disquieting. Not to mention his propensity for the phrase, "Oh, Grasshoppers!"
So Mr. G, Miss U, Mr. M, and Gordon get to gabbing about the glorious green grapes which are, for lack of a better word, gone. There's a lot of talk about this gallivanting ghost who loves all things "G" and lives in a greasy old garage- he's the culprit. Now I assumed at first that Mr. G was somehow the actual culprit because HE IS A GHOST WHO LOVES ALL THINGS "G." Is that such a ridiculous conclusion to draw? I don't think so. But I have to tell you that he's not the thief... It's another G-luvin' ghost named 'Godfrey.' Of course, this begs the question of whether or not Mr. G is in fact intended to be a ghost or if he is simply some regular dude who happens to look like a ghost because he has lathered, bedaubed, and encrusted himself in several layers of chewed-up gum and saliva, which is actually way scarier than a ghost, conceptually, so I'll keep pretending that he's a ghost, even if he's not. You may debate this in the comments section.
Anyway, the gang heads out to Godfrey the Ghost's greasy, grubby, grimy garage in the hopes of getting back the good green grapes. Godfrey sounds a lot like "(Gol-ly, Golly!") Jim Nabors, in yet another one of the Letter People's many celebrity references.
Mr. G proves himself to easily be the most headstrong, assertive letter person, and he commences to tell the ghost what's what. This scene in Godfrey's garage goes on for, oh, about ten minutes (you can watch most of it here), and for every excruciating second of its duration, a theremin is in the background going absolutely hog wild so that we'll have that patented 'ghostly atmosphere.' It's nearly unendurable. Anyway, G begins to negotiate. For starters, to foster a sense of goodwill, he hands over upper and lower case version of his own letter-
"Godfrey, here's a little gift. You can hang them on your wall and give your garage a little class." I'm not sure where Mr. G keeps those letters, but that's probably one of the least disturbing unanswered questions pertaining to Mr. G.
Gordon the Grocer tries his hand at compromise, and offers to pawn off his own Grandmother. Despite the prospect of trading a few grapes for a captive, live human being, Godfrey decides to turn down his generous offer.
Sorry, Granny- you are expendable.
"Well, Granny," explains a defeated Gordon, "I guess we won't be needing you."
So what did we learn today, kiddies? Well- we learned some shit about the alphabet, the letter G specifically, and we learned that grapes can be more valuable than human lives- specifically, the human lives of useless old people.
It must also be noted that Granny has no lines, and, like Mr. M, shivers uncontrollably for the entirety of her performance, which really makes the whole affair kind of depressing.
There's a great moment in puppeteering when Godfrey the Ghost feeds himself an actual grape, then (as he does not have an actual esophagus) surreptitiously tries to pull it back out of his mouth so that the audience won't notice.
Nice try, Godfrey, but I totally noticed.
I guess my question is- why even feed him a real grape? Why not just pretend via sleight of hand? Well, folks, this is the Letter People. We got real puppets doing real things- live with it.
After a failed attempt to placate Godfrey with a guitar,
they play the 'catching game,' and the reason why Mr. G, Miss U, and Mr. M have been called together becomes all too apparent– they are needed to spell "G-U-M." ...Which they do.
Gordon declares, "this ghost is a real gasbag," and Godfrey is gifted with Gwendolyn the Goldfish, with whom he promptly falls in love.
Then he gives the grapes back. At this point, you're so happy to just close the book on the Godfrey storyline that you're completely willing to forgive the whole 'falls in love with a fish' plot development. Finally, Mr. M greedily intones two words which will haunt you for years to come: "PICNIC TIME!"
Then there's a cartoon about a Gorilla named Gort that frankly made me kind of uncomfortable. It feels tacked on, and it cheapens the entire story arc which we've just witnessed.
Still- four stars. Until we meet again...
A compilation of prior Letter people reviews can be found here.