Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Becker (1998)

“Why do women always scream when they're surprised? Can't you just clutch your heart and drop dead like a man?”
— Dr. John Becker

Now that the internet connection at home has been restored fully (see earlier post), I thought I’d do a quick short piece for the Overlooked/Forgotten films and television meme over at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom. I saw a couple of fairly good films over the past few days, not counting Hitman, but neither of them fits in the above category (this one may not either).

I also watched a recap of the week’s episodes of Two and a Half Men and something about Charlie Sheen’s character, the self-centered Charlie Harper, rang a bell. I mean, he reminded me of someone I had seen on television before, in another entertaining sitcom. 

Not Frank Barone. The patriarch of the Barone family is cranky and obnoxious and openly critical of his wife Marie but he’s not egocentric in the way the lustful Charlie is.

It was someone else…someone with a medical degree and a stethoscope around his neck, someone who hated the world and made sure that everyone hated him. A description like that could only fit Dr. John Becker who one reviewer at IMDb aptly called a “misanthrope” — yes, he would be the original Charlie Harper minus the obsession with women and sex.

Becker, played by Ted Danson, is a good doctor and a cynical bastard and is convincing in the shoes of both the characters. He runs a clinic in the Bronx along with Margaret (Hattie Winston), his superefficient receptionist whose opinion of her employer is none too flattering, and Linda (Shawnee Smith), his assistant who has her head in the cloud and her two feet above the ground.

Dr. John Becker: The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know. 

But, Dr. Becker is a decent man who cares about his patients though he is also wont to send them off with a cure and a depression at the same time. 

After peppering Margaret and Linda with a liberal dose of his profound cynicism, Becker takes his misanthropic ways to his favourite diner across the street, to Reggie (Terry Farrell) who runs the place, his blind friend Jake (Alex D├ęsert) who runs a newsstand inside the diner, and the effeminate Bob (Robert Benito), the fast-talking super at Becker’s apartment who drops in frequently, to ask Reggie for a date rather than to order a meal. Reggie and Becker have a thing for each other but neither will admit it.

Dr. John Becker: If you and I were the only people on the face of the Earth, that would be the only thing we'd have in common.

John Becker, who smokes cheap cigarettes, hates his life and hates other people’s lives too and has a grouse about everything and everyone, a fact he doesn’t hide from Reggie, who is quite
exasperated by his attitude, and Jake, who takes his friend’s sarcasm in his stride. 

Ironically, Becker’s angst, about nothing really in particular, is what gives the sitcom its entertainment value. The thirty-minute serial, which ran from 1998 through 2004, is hilarious with deadpan Beckerisms coming at you from the start, as the mighty opinionated Becker takes on the world even if no one takes him seriously. Becker’s rile is so much bile but, hey, there’s a John Becker in all of us.

The tagline of Becker, created, written and produced by Dave Hackel, is “His bedside manner is no manners at all!” I’d modify that to “If you are happy and feeling on top of the world
, steer clear of Dr. John Becker!”

Dr. John Becker: Oh great, no cigarettes, the perfect cherry on this crap sundae of a morning.

Ted Danson is a talented and versatile actor and one of the best comedians to come out of Hollywood in the past three decades. I remember him most in his comedy roles, especially in Three Men
and a Baby and its sequel Three Men and a Lady, as well as the very touching film Dad alongside Jack Lemmon and Ethan Hawke, and Getting Even with Dad with Macaulay Culkin. He plays a father in the initial two films, a father and a son in the third, and once again a father in the fourth – roles that seemed to have been made for him. I have heard much about his long-running sitcom Cheers though I have never seen it.


  1. I knew Danson first in the series CHEERS, and that character as a not-so-bright skirt-chaser colors every other role I've seen him in. I don't remember seeing much of BECKER, and maybe for that reason. Your description reminds me of Larry David's CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM.

  2. I never really caught Becker, although I liked the episodes I saw. I wonder if House is channeling him a bit. I do like Danson.

  3. Ron, I look forward to watching CHEERS and I'm hoping one of the English cable channels will run it soon. BECKER was entertaining in a gloomy sort of way! Ted Danson is a good comedian. CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM sounds awfully familiar though I can't say I've seen it.

  4. Charles, the entire family used to watch BECKER as it did EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. Danson acts well in some of his films that I've seen though COUSINS alongside Isabella Rossellini nearly put me to sleep.