Saturday, July 06, 2013

Television Review: QUINCY, M.E. - "Jury Duty" (1981)




QUINCY, M.E.: THE HILARIOUS YEARS  


Number 5 -- "Jury Duty" (1981 NBC-TV/Universal) 




Starring Jack Klugman, Robert Ito, John S. Ragin, Val Bisoglio, Garry Walberg, Joseph Roman.  Special Guest Stars Joan Darling, Robert Alda, Sam Groom, Morgan Stevens, Joe Maross.  Directed by Georg Fenady.


JURY DUTY opens with a car coming to a stop in a secluded area on a dirt road.  A young couple, parked on a balmy night under the stars, arguing.  Arguing?  The feather-haired guy is dating the "precious daughter" (his words) of the Reverend, who apparently doesn't want her married yet.  Based on what ensues, the Rev has a point: she definitely comes across as too immature for it.  She bolts from the car and declares she never wants to see him again (I take that as a "no" to the proposal, Bud).  The proposer chases her to the edge of a cliff, grabs her....and we dissolve to Quincy's office.

Quincy is livid about being billed for a call to Nigeria.  A phone scam from pre-Internet days?  He's even more perturbed about a $48. charge for an overdue book, but excited to be accepted for jury duty.  Astin reminds him of the hardship they'll be under at the morgue, but Hell, the Big Q spends enough time away from the office trying to push legislation and do Monahan's job for him, so what's a few days in court Doc?  Astin can't even entice Q to avoid his civic duty with a curse of a case.  While we all start wondering just how many vacation days Quincy gets in a year (I'd put the over/under at 212) the action takes us to the courthouse.

"C'mon Quincy, I'm serious!  Could you please work at least 2 days this week??"
Quince is so determined to get away from the corpses for a few days that he's there despite being only a third alternate.  In court, prosecutor Sam Groom lays it out, calling boyfriend Frank Munson a stalker, rapist and murderer in quick succession.  Granted, he did chase after her, but she was with him willingly on the drive out, and unless he raped her at the base of a cliff while they were both clothed, I think two of Groom's florid accusations are going to be pretty hard to prove.


However, Groom's charges do take a toll on Munson's father, who steals this episode's first Outrage! from the Big Q, sweating profusely....

Careful, dude, you'll blow a gasket!

....which is followed by chest pains and a collapse.

Too late!

Hmm.  Is D.A. Groom a murderer now?  Or at least an involuntary manslaughterer?  The judge quickly clears the jury, but Quincy remains, working to save the life of the stricken father and reduce Sam's workload by one.

Who says I'm not doing my part for the boys at the morgue?
Naturally, while a man's life hangs in the balance, our lawyers (Groom and Robert Alda, sporting a really bad combover) have a far greater concern, whether or not Quincy's actions will prejudice the potential juror.  Way to enhance the public perception of your profession there, guys!

Robert Alda's combover: a 6.5 on the Zero Mostel scale
Despite the potential contamination of juror Quincy, the Big Q insists it won't affect his judgement.  Damn, the guy really wants to stay on jury duty!  Anything to get away from Astin and the dead bodies?   Also of note is judge Darling's fierce defense of the coroner, who she "knows" to be honest.  Hmm.  Sounds like our Casanova Coroner has a shot!  Then again, in the Quincyverse, does he ever NOT have a chance at a little hey hey?

Watch it, Hal!  I'm a judge you know....
Sam tells us he's at 36 hours and holding, and after an office pool update its back to the courtroom.  Alternate Quincy asks plenty of questions while the chosen twelve sit there like lumps.  Jack Klugman isn't surrounded by any angry men this time, but we are down one alternate (flu).  A Lieutenant is on the stand.  No, not Monahan:

THIS toupee? A minus-2 on the Raymond Bailey scale.
But he's no more competent than our beloved LAPD answer to Hamilton Burger, and his toupee actually makes Alda's hairstyle choice look downright spiffy!  The cop notes two large scratches on the suspect's left cheek, and taking the man into custody within an hour.  Alda successfully points up the man's inexperience with homicides (three) while Quincy keeps asking questions.  Quincy's most pointed question implies that the evidence may have been contaminated by the many bystanders.  (I wonder if anyone from O.J.'s Dream Team was aware of this episode?)

"As the star, I insist on the remainder of this trial's questions, your Honor!"
There's only time for a quick lunch at Danny's before Q is due back in court, during which we hear about another juror being excused.  I'm thinking this courtroom has to be more cursed than Asten's enticing case at this point.  Once we're back in court, Quincy questions the coroner on the stand, Dr. Morris, who admits he doesn't know how long it took to get the evidence to the lab.  More shades of O.J.!

Groom is getting nervous, and despite her crush the Judge admonishes the Klug Man.  "No more questions based on your special knowledge, Dr. Quincy!"

Hey, relax, Doc.  Quincy even makes Columbo look like a moron

I have to ask--why not?  Quincy is asking questions that the defense attorney should be asking.  I'm not baffled as much by the DA's protests as I am the lack of any input from Alda at this point.  Then again, by simply doing nothing, Alda is letting Q pick apart the DA's case.  He's either incompetent or damned efficient.  I just can't figure out which one, yet.

I'm also thinking that those dinners at Danny's are far more convenient for Quincy than his co-workers.  Think about it.  This episode clearly establishes that Quincy resides and votes in a different county than the one he works in (presumably Los Angeles County) since he's eligible for the jury.  A different coroner and police Lieutenant worked this homicide--and the latter actually makes Monohan look good.  (No easy task.)  Yet Danny's is close enough to the courthouse for the Big Q to hurry up and eat lunch.  Interestingly, while Quincy leaves, Monohan and Brill (with no lines, as usual) show up. 

I could waste a lot more space figuring out who lives where and why Quincy is apparently the only qualified coroner, homicide investigator AND defense attorney within at least a hundred miles of L.A., but we've still got over half an episode to go, so I'll move on.

"Should I hit on the Judge, or her?  Decisions, decisions...."
The question craze reaches a peak when the female juror pictured above asks the coroner (the one on the stand--not Quincy, believe it or not!) if he's married.  When the Judge restores order, the tissue expert is next up, telling us there's "no doubt" that the defendant fired a handgun on the night in question.  He also goes into detail about the human semen test.  At least he did use the human test, so he may be our most competent expert witness to date.  Quincy tries to ask another question that Groom doesn't want, and finally gets shushed by the Judge. 

At recess, the Big Q phones Sam about that human semen test.  He gets the answer from Sam, proving that yes indeedy, the "tissue expert" missed something.  "Quince, if this is about the trial you're on you could get in a lot of trouble!"

While Quincy is breaking the law in order to preserve it, we finally hear something substantial from Mr. Alda.  The combed over attorney has something to say alright--to his agent, about a lack of exposure for his book, as The Big Q glumly looks on.  Probably wondering why he has to do everyone else's job.  There's no time for this though, as Quince is off to the men's room.  He needs an accomplice to get his questions asked now, so he talks to a tax attorney about becoming Scofflaw # 2. 


Your Honor isn't convinced when he asks the first one.  She goes to questions in writing beforehand.  Yes, teacher--I mean Judge.  But despite this public display, during the next recess we see that Quincy's professional curiosity is having an impact on Judge Darling.  The dropouts now have our coroner officially on the jury, but also arm in arm with the Judge(!) and bantering about his questions(!).  Then, there's that look she gives him before the fadeout.


Yep, Quince, I'm thinking you're a Slam Dunk this week.

Whether it's the joy of the chase or the warning that our heart attack victim provided earlier, JURY DUTY seems very light on Outrage!s at the thirty minute mark.  The defendant himself takes the stand after the commercial break.  He is calmly adamant about not firing a gun, not having sexual relations with the deceased (they were waiting for marriage) and not killing her.  His calm demeanor doesn't last, as the next witness is one of her exes, who testifies about her instability.  While the defendant is perturbed, but under control. 

That is, until he finds out that the victim wasn't a virgin--from her ex.  Thus, our second Outrage!  I spoke too soon.


The defendant is furious and frustrated, but no moreso than our star juror, who after all this time is ready to disqualify hmself.  "There is evidence being accepted that has so many holes in it it looks like swiss cheese!" 

Judge Darling doesn't seem to disagree with The Big Q, but she doesn't want a mistrial after all this effort.  She gives Quince a classic 'open ended' answer:  "You do what you have to do and I'll do what I have to do, and we'll let the chips fall where they may!  They're going to be very heavy chips, and if they fall, they're gonna fall on YOUR head!"

On Quincy's way in, the baliff is doing his job.
Conveniently, when Quincy leaves, the bailiff who was present when he arrived has stepped out, giving him the window of opportunity needed to steal the coroner's report and other evidence on his way out.

To paraphrase Al Bundy, it's only stealing...if you get caught.
And with this evidence securely snatched, we are treated to something that was increasingly becoming a rarity by this sixth season, at least after an episode's first five minutes.  Quincy is back at the morgue!

Only I get to go on dates, Sam, not you!
Sam is trying to go, he's got a date!  (Again?)  But Quince has work for him to do.  We've got to analyze semen from a crime committed out of our jurisdiction with a trial already in progress that will be a mistrial if I get caught and.....oh, Hell, you get the point.  Big Q has really gone out of a limb here. 


Remember, he's been handling semen.
The next day in the Judge's chambers with Groom and Alda present, Quince is called in asks for a mistrial.  After Sam's tests and a study of the lab report he swiped, Quincy believes the defendant is innocent.

At least Combover is pleased.  For now.

 If Groom looks unhappy, well, just wait until The Big Q starts tearing him and his case apart.  Allowing numerous people "from a bar" to "mill around the crime scene like a Chinese fire drill".  And, as expected, the scientific evidence that wasn't destroyed "didn't fit with what my experience had taught me".



"Months of work, thousands of taxpayer's dollars" is Groom's frustrated response.  But as usual, Quincy is allowed to continue, and to point out the numerous mistakes made by coroners and analysts not named Quincy and Sam.  Anti-human semen test doesn't work inside vagina (but it does work on clothing, we learn.  So Bill Clinton wouldn't have wanted one).  In addition, the contamination of the specimen has been known to "produce a false B blood type" in tests. 

You don't question me on MY show, got it???

"Nothing stops you, does it Doctor?"
"Not when I'm looking for the truth!"

And with THAT out of the way, let's talk about that toupee....
The case won, and thousands of taxpayer dollars from a potential second trial saved.  But there's still one bit of business for the Klug Man to attend to: berating Alda, the defense lawyer who was more interested in his book than the life of his clients.  Hey, Quincy's entitled--after all, he just did Alda's job for him.  "No one is born with arrogance--they cultivate it along the way."  Maybe Quincy should write the book for him too?  He could certainly do the promotional tour with all his vacation time.

Judge wants to go out with the Big Q.  Hubba hubba!

Under the robe all along!
The explanation at Danny's is used to exonerate Quincy on the many laws broken during the course of his jury service.  One thing that isn't explained: why the Hell doesn't Sam bring one of those dates he's always forced to break to these wrap-up dinners?  Since Quincy is always on a date of his own here, it's the one place that Sam might be safe from The Big Q's constant cockblocking.


Classic superhero Quincy this time out: he's DA, EMT, homicide detective, pathologist, prosecutor, juror AND moral conscience rolled into one, but so damn humble about it.  And can't we look past the tampering with evidence, stealing of said evidence, discussion of the case outside of court and eavesdropping considering that there's just so much damn incompetence to overcome?  Hell, even the Judge is willing to bend the rules for Quince, despite the fact that she's only gonna be a one episode girlfriend for our heartbreaker in the brown station wagon.  That's the power of Q!  (**1/2 out of four)

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