“Birth of a Station”

24 July 1998
[Jeff hyperventilates to unconsciousness.] Written by Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Juan Jose Campanella.
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The show begins with a halt in transportation. Luckily, communications are not likewise impaired and we're treated with a phone call from Mackie, who is acting as Polonius along with John Barrymore in "Hamlet." He claims he'll be "back in a couple of weeks." After hearing that from Jeff last season, I'm not so quick to believe it.

Scott is listening to Jeff's portrayal of Dr. Talbot. Scott, who once pooh-poohed acting ("Ah, piece of cake"), now seems to take an interest in the art of acting: "I would have taken the part in a completely different direction." Of course, since it was one of Jeff's parts Scott did while Jeff was away, he has somewhat of a proprietary interest.

Chinese checkers is not the only game they have around the station for entertainment. Mr. Foley and Tom Eldridge (later Jeff) are playing a game of Parcheesi. I guess they're prepared for future quarantines. <g>

I continue to be amazed by people who confuse actors with their roles, but Cora goes one level further. Perhaps in a state of confusion brought on by the pregnancy and lack of nourishment, she comes to the station expecting the fictional Dr. Talbot to help her. (Of course, many in the country had actually believed our planet was being invaded by Mars while listening to an adaptation of "War of the Worlds" just a little earlier, in 1938. Well, perhaps 1939 in the WENNiverse.)

In the studio, Hilary is missing once again (off to boil some water). Scott steps up to sub for Hilary's nurse role. Scott, world traveler that he is, thinks nothing of speaking of having the nurse be male. Unfortunately, he hasn't read the script ahead of time (probably doesn't want it to be stale), and finds Dr. Talbot is perhaps pitching woo to his nurse. Both Jeff and Scott let their manly men personas take over and manage to modify the dialogue enough not to scandalize the audience. (Although page 23 of the script apparently presents a more significant hurdle.)

The question of whether Mr. Eldridge is genuinely confused (I hold that his comprehension comes and goes) from time to time seems to answered by not picking up on "latter." If he had misheard the word as "ladder," he should have been able to pick up that "latter" goes with "former" plus judge from the context and realize he misheard. And even if he "plays" with them sometimes, as I think he does, I don't think he would have chosen this moment.

Betty manages to get through to a hospital for an ambulance, but it is uncertain whether it is in time for the ambulance to arrive. But by this point, the transportation strike, through some over-zealous strikers, has endangered communications after all. Then the phone goes dead, frustrating attempts to find a closer physician.

To help calm and reassure Cora (per the hospital's suggestion), Scott comes up with the idea of sending Jeff in AS Doctor Talbot. Eugenia suggests breathing exercises for relaxation. She and Jeff do the breathing with Cara and Jeff takes the intensity up to hyperventilation and passes out.

Betty comments that WENN doesn't have an audience they could ask from the stage, "Is there a doctor in the house?" This clicks a switch in Scott's brain. They have all of Pittsburgh listening, stuck at home during the transportation strike. Since the radio in the Green Room can pick up an assortment of radio frequencies, he asks over WENN's frequency if a doctor could use a ham radio to contact them on 120 KHz. They can pick up 120 KHz on the Green Room's radio and then reply to the doctor over WENN's broadcast frequency.

(This seems to be Rupert's version of the "555" phone numbers given out in fictional programs. Generally the lowest receivers go is 150 KHz. Signals below 150 KHz need a huge antenna and are normally washed out with electrical noise and static.)

WENN's reception area becomes a waiting room. Eugenia bursts from the Green Room with the news, "It's either a boy or a girl!"

Tom Eldridge has managed to track down Gus Kahuna ("Don't Act Like That"), who has a truck they could use to reach the hospital. In a stunning coincidence that uses up half of WENN's coincidence allowance for the 4th season in one shot, Gus turns out to be the father Cora had been trying to track down.

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