“Hilary's Agent”

17 July 1998
[An amalgam of signatures.] Written by Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Richard Shepard.
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Yet another WENN intern has made the move to larger success. Following Celia Mellon's move to films, young Virginia Jones has made it to Broadway. Renamed Virginia Mayo, she's appearing with Eddie Cantor in "Banjo Eyes." (Banjo Eyes was a nickname for Eddie Cantor.)

Hilary is in a rage over her lack of stage roles and calls her agent, Brian Wilburforce, on the carpet. Well, on the couch...with chocolates. She points out to him that the Broadway producer Rex Noble is trying out a new production of "Antony and Cleopatra." She asks, "Why aren't you lining me up for the title role?"

"Certainly," he replies. "Which part?"

This inability to grasp the simple and obvious leads to one of Hilary's soundest conclusions. "You're fired."

However, this leaves Hilary with no agent and a part she wants. She quickly realizes that no one will look after her well-being with as much tenacity as she will. Thus, Doris Snithing is born. So is Doris Snarthing. As well as Doris Snithely (or is that Snively?)

Rex arrives to meet with Hilary just as "Valiant Journey" gets underway. Leonard (Scott) and Philip (Jeff) are asking Daphne (the missing Hilary), in a scene that seems to parallel the undercurrents towing on Victor, Betty and Scott, to make a romantic choice among the two men.

Jeff comes in search of the absent Hilary and is impressed to meet Rex Noble. Hilary assures Jeff that "she'll be long." <g>

Since Hilary tries to maintain her power position of not auditioning, Rex announces that he's on his way to New York to audition Grace Cavendish, currently performing at the Broadhurst, for the role of Cleopatra.

Imagine, Grace in Pittsburgh for an extended time. Hmmm, foreshadowing?

Hilary's impromptu audition convinces him that Hilary should have the part...as long as a deal can be closed with Hilary's agent before his scheduled train to Manhattan.

Hilary has Gertie search for the her wig among the station's wardrobe while she convinces Eugenia to let her borrow her dress, (which is available, also in chartreuse, at Gimballs for $7.95). Along with the wig is the false teeth Hilary used when playing one of the witches in "Macbeth." Doris is now ready to put in an appearance.

Towards the end of her negotiations with Rex, it looks like we're graced with a couple of bloopers. If you look at Doris' glasses, we seem to repeatedly see the reflection of the movie lights. And while the camera stares up at her, we see the missing ceiling to the room. Or rather, you don't see. You know what I mean.

Scott and Jeff are vamping, waiting for Hilary to arrive. As is usual in these cases, Mr. Foley is relied upon to fill some time. Since Daphe eating hors d'oeuvres is suggested, Mr. Foley uses Parson's Puppy Biscuits as a sound source. With music accompaniment that seems reminiscent of "Old McDonald Had a Farm", suggesting animals, Mr. Foley actually bites off a piece of the dog biscuit to provide the sound of Daphne eating. It's taste seems acceptable to him (and well as Scott).

Hilary, although she had written off today's "Valiant Journey" ("Nothing we do can possibly save it now"), she shows for the last moments, having changed from her Doris disguise.

Hilary secures the role and Betty, Scott and Eugenia discuss it over a game of Chinese checkers. Scott doesn't understand why they are helping Hilary. He's probably still fuming over the fire alarm incident. He was hauled to the hoosegow for walking on a ledge, but Hilary seems to suffer not at all for a false fire alarm.

Since I've mentioned this, I also want to praise Rupert for his handling of consequences throughout the series. While most TV shows show outrageous behavior with unreal results and just excuse it as comedy, Rupert has kept WENN more grounded than most. It can't be done every time, and with less running time than before I expect it to decrease, but Rupert often plays out a scene and integrates its consequences as part of the humor. For example, in the season opener, Hilary is ready to throw water in an environment with electrical wires lying about. So Mackie, in one of his humorous voices, points out the consequences to Hilary. It acknowledges physics...it's funny...and we move on.

Growing up, it bothered me when I would watch a TV show and they would use, for example, one of the stunt sugar bottles and break it over someone's head and all it did was knock someone out. I'm not just talking comedies. Straight dramas would do this. In reality, if you smashed a cola bottle over someone's head it would be likely to cave in their skull and kill them. WENN doesn't disconnect with reality as much as most network fare and the humor grows naturally from the characters. And that keeps me glue to AMC instead of the broadcast networks.

Meanwhile, while they play their game of Chinese checkers, Hilary displays her growing familiarity with the switchboard as she opens a line to the writer's room so she can continue the career of Doris.

While Doris is making Betty's life a "living heck," Jeff is impressed with Doris' tenacity representing Hilary. During the conversation where he asks Hilary of his chances of hiring Doris, we learn that last week's relaxation around each other was much more the result of sleep deprivation than a flip-flop in their relationship. Their personal stone age continues.

Jeff presses for Doris' phone number.

"She doesn't have one."

Incredulous, "What kind of agent doesn't have a telephone?"

Inspired, "A secret agent."

Unfortunately for Hilary, when Rex Noble arrives needing to see Doris, Gertie allows Hilary to blunder into telling Rex over the phone that both Doris and Hilary are in the writer's room. (Which, incidentally, is true.) This time, Hilary obtains Betty's dress for Doris' appearance.

Betty is not fast enough putting Hilary's dress on to preclude Scott discovering her and we get to see more of Betty than ever before. I wonder how the line for Betty read when Scott offers to zip her up? Perhaps, "Bahdahduhdit."

In order to solve Hilary's constant goofs with the contract (or was that a way to cover her legally?), the cast, now involved, aid Hilary in creating the appearance of having fired Doris.

Unfortunately, Doris' single-minded work for Hilary is something Rex held in high regard. He compares Doris' allegiance to "the killer instinct of a parental pachyderm pathologically primed to pulverize predators beneath its well-callused heel." And callous is the way he characterizes Hilary's dismissal of Doris.

And a pachyderm is any one of various thick-skinned hoffed mammals, such as an elephant. That's the WENN word of the week.

So Hilary loses the role of Cleopatra but the role of Doris Snithing continues. I loved the shot as Scott says, "'Bout as fast as it takes you to lose your grip on reality." It makes it look as if Hilary is being dragged away "for observation."

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