Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Will the real Howard please stand up

Time: 1981
Place: Atlanta. Georgia

When I first moved to Atlanta, I lived in a duplex with my sister Freda. We got along well as roommates. Often, we watched television together in the evening.

One night, we were watching Hill Street Blues. Neither of us was a huge fan of the show, but there was nothing else worth watching. I had seen the show enough to know what it was about and the names of some of the characters. Freda rarely watched the show, because she didn’t like programs that had ongoing plots. She felt shows like Hill Street Blues required too much commitment from her as a viewer. She preferred shows like Growing Pains, which featured simple, feel good stories that resolved by the end credits.

The episode of Hill Street Blues that Freda and I were watching had a scene where sultry Grace kisses the bald and virile duty sergeant Phil in an empty squad room. After the kiss, the two lovers have a heart-to-heart chat. I don’t remember the exact dialogue. This is close.

Phil: “Oh Grace, you can’t imagine how much I’ve missed tapping your ass. But, I don’t understand. I thought you and Howard were an item.”

Grace: “Howard meant nothing to me. I only went out with him to make you jealous.”

Phil and Grace laugh and then resume sucking face. The camera cuts to the door to the squad room, which has a window. On the other side of the door, Howard is at the window, watching and listening to Phil and Grace. Howard now knows that he was Grace’s tool.

“Poor Howard,” I said.

“Who’s Howard?” Freda asked.

“He was the guy looking through the window. He just found out that his girlfriend plans on dumping him.”

“What does he look like?”

“Hmm. He’s a white guy. He’s wearing glasses, he’s clean shaven, and he’s got short brown hair.”

The program goes to a commercial. When it comes back, there is a scene with a black guy. He has a big mustache.

“Is that Howard?” Freda asked.

“No,” I said. “Howard is white.”

The next scene has a bald Hispanic guy.

“Is that Howard?”


Then, a bald white guy.

“Is that Howard?”


Another black guy.

“Is that Howard?”


A white guy with no glasses and a mustache.

“Is that Howard?”


Another Hispanic guy.

“Is that Howard?”


Finally, I’d had enough.

“How on Earth, do you manage to watch TV by yourself?” I asked.

“It’s not easy,” Freda replied.


jessica said...

My favorite part of that show was the open, with the vagrant running through the station house yelling "I'mmmm NEKKID!"

That wasn't Howard, either. Didn't Howard end up being Doogie Howser's dad a couple of seasons later?

Mickey Dubrow said...

I believe you are right that Howard went on to become Doogie's dad. I loved the open to the show too. The music had a sad edge that made the series seem more poignant.