“The Importance of Being Betty”

20 September 1997
[The gang listens to Betty's phone conversation.] Written by Rupert Holmes and Leon Seidman.

Directed by Michael Tuchner.
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At first, I thought the title was just a clever play on the title of Oscar Wilde's play, "The Importance of Being Earnest." But as I read a synopsis of the play, I was struck by some stylistic similarities to WENN. The play is a farce known for its sharp, witty dialog. It's plot revolves around two characters who pretend to be what they're not. (Hmmm, Victor as traitorous broadcaster; Scott as man sent by Victor to manage station.) The denouement finds surprising revelations about their relation: it's familial (are you listening, Linda?) like Betty's scripts "In the WENN Small Hours..." They're brothers (shades of Victor's "crazy cousin Hector"). Further, the one who invented the fictional "Ernest" actually turns out (to his surprise) to be named Ernest. (Scott seemed to pick up the skills of being a station manager.) I wouldn't read too much into this; it's probably just Rupert repeating themes. But gosh, isn't it interesting!

"I don't feel like I'm losing a granddaughter; I feel like I'm losing a grand!" LOL. Unless one has money to burn, I've never understood some of the outrageous sums spent on weddings. I'd hate to imagine what $1000 in 1941 money would be worth today.

I watched the scenes that followed trying to find something to comment on, but I keep getting swept up in the sharp, witty dialog. :) Mackie knowing that just when he needs it, Betty will deliver the pages (okay, that's not dialog); Scott spreading the malarkey others would buy as genuine but Betty sees through it right away, "You have just divided me in two!"; Scott's not being slowed down one second and pressing on to his goals (Betty and a new car); "There's a recess in your brain." "There's a recess in your genes."; and the need for Hilary to have a heart and Maple to have a mind echoing "The Wizard of Oz".

One of the biggest draws of "Remember WENN" to me is watching Victor make his dreams come true: to push the boundaries of radio, to use sound in a new creative way making a "Theater of the Mind". Equally attractive is Betty's urge to write, to create characters and stories to entertain and yet to be something more, perhaps even "Art". Any of us who have those yearnings, in whatever field, recognize our own "New Yorker" dream. We know the reality is that we might make it, but after a long time of hard work. (If memory serves me, Larry Niven wrote daily and collected over a hundred rejection slips before his first sale after two years.)

The...well...crucible of writing that Betty's been subjected to at WENN for the last two years, doing what simply cannot be done, churning out reams and reams of scripts, has advanced her skills better than she knew. She gets more than a story acceptance, she gets an offer to join the staff. As viewers, we're in the same predicament as the WENN cast: we want the best for Betty, but we don't want to lose her.

Next follows an interesting scene between Betty and Mr. Pruitt. We get a glimpse of complexity within Pruitt's character. (I think most of the watchers have been too quick to accept Pruitt as a cardboard villain as if we were watching the "Batman" live action series from the sixties.)

Pruitt spouts out his normal gibberish until Betty realizes his ignorance is so far over the top that it can't possibly be true. Only then does he treat her as anything like an equal. Pruitt's well aware of the image he consciously projects and uses it as evidence for his recommendation: "New York City is a cold-hearted town. The people are hard and mean-spirited without a shred of humor or a drop of kindness. I know, I lived in New York for several years and I felt very comfortable there."

That strategy doesn't work so he starts in on the reverse psychology: "...you can start packing whenever you like...Now, now, don't worry about us...No, no, when you gotta go, you gotta go..."

Gertie's, "Why is everyone looking at me?" in her funny voice immediately tips the others off. On the floor, laughing! Then the gang decide that they must also convince Betty that the station won't collapse without her. Only they're not using reverse psychology, they simply want to enable Betty to make a honest decision: "If she leaves, she was never WENN's; if she stays, she's WENN's forever." Or something like that.

The scene with the group listening in on Betty's phone call allows us to follow up two ongoing threads. Mr. Foley is selected as the one to fill Maple in on "Plan A." However, he's admonished "to keep it short." Perhaps Mr. Foley has been spending a great deal of time chatting up Maple.

Also, the Jeff/Hilary situation is touched on as they continue not to connect. Additionally, after a few episodes where it seemed time had slowed to a crawl, this scene reveals it's been weeks since Jeff left for London. More than the 3 weeks Jeff spoke of before he left?

Another scene with Pruitt really laying it on. With nearly each sentence, he continues to try to set Betty's internal alarms off. "Is cataclysm spelled with an 'I' or a 'Y'?"

At the end of the previous Pruitt/Betty scene, she spoke of unfinished business with Pruitt physically blocking the way into the station manager's office. At the end of this scene she responds to his question of why she was still there with, "I am not sure I know why, Mr. Pruitt." All the while her eyes are darting to and from Mr. Pruitt and the station manager's desk, where Victor's strongbox is. Not only does she want to be at the station when Victor returns, but if she goes she'll want to retrieve the information Victor left or the strongbox itself. Mr. Pruitt seems like a person who would have restricted the key to the office to himself and Miss Cosgrave. He probably even had the lock changed. So she's in a position where she only has 24 to 48 hours to retrieve what she needs and he probably never leaves the station manager's office unsecured.

Hilary handling the sponsors shows that although she's very bright with math and science (last week's algebra solution; knowledge of genes), she doesn't dwell in an Aristotelian universe (the Sun revolves around the Earth) or a Copernican universe (the Earth revolves around the Sun), but in a Boothian universe (everything revolves around Hilary). I wonder how she plans to cash her payment of vinegar?

Mackie's and Eugenia's scenes are "Very satisfying." "...the books...are such fun."

Scott's "New York. Ah, great. Now what the heck am I going to do in New York?" ties in with some thoughts I've been having on the whole Victor/Betty/Scott triangle for the last few weeks. I'm continuing to ruminate.

But it's hard to ruminate when mass destruction rains down as it does on the sweet little town of Bonneville Mills (that seems to be based on Betty's home town of Elkhart). I don't think I want to know what Mackie was mouthing! And did Scott speak a sentence with a triple negative?

And we end up with Betty more committed than ever to stay at the station, pleasing Gloria, Mr. Pruitt, the sponsors, the WENN members, the radio audience and, of course, the television audience.

Well, the count is 3 and 3 for Victor. His appearances have dwindled to 50% for the season. And it looks like Jeff is set to deliver a bombshell to Hilary next week (yes, pun intended).

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