Brothers (1984)

Season 2 Episode 18

The Stranger

Aired Wednesday 8:00 PM Oct 23, 1985 on Showtime
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Episode Summary

The Stranger
Joe's football buddy, Bubba, comes back to town with devastating news: he has AIDS.

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  • Joe's football buddy has AIDS. The first TV series to have homosexual characters also became the first show to deal with the issue.

    I admit up front that I am partial to this episode. I've only seen one television show taped in my lifetime, and it was this episode of "Brothers."

    This episode brings back Bubba Dean, Joe's football buddy who appeared in the first season episode "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me" and admitted he was gay. He's back, as we discover, to say goodbye: he has learned that he has AIDS and is dying. This is not the first time this series dealt with serious issues. In the first season, Cliff had to deal with being physically assaulted for being gay. Through a number of episodes in the late first season and into the second season, Donald mentioned that his father had disowned him once Donald flew out of the closet (culminating in the outstanding episode "Donald's Dad"), and later in the second season he would have to confront his former fellow Air Force pilots. This, however, was unique because of the era in which it aired: AIDS was at the time still a fairly new subject and one not talked about.

    The episode begins with standard "Brothers" humor, including Donald being his usual hilarious self. The comedy, however, slams into a brick wall when Bubba refuses to let anyone pat him on the back at Donald's party and announces, "I got AIDS." (A scene to interject a little additional comedy, featuring Penny escaping from a date who propositioned her, was cut in the final edit.) From there the discussion is deadly serious, highlighted by a conversation about the subject between Cliff and Donald. (This scene is yet another example of the outstanding acting throughout the series by Philip Charles MacKenzie. He conveys the emotion of a man trying to help a friend deal with a painful, fatal reality perfectly. No wonder the first "Cable ACE" award for "Best Actor" went to MacKenzie.)

    The unfortunate problem with this episode is, unlike the other aforementioned episodes that dealth with real life-and-death issues, this episode was split in two, with all of the comedy crammed into the first half. The writers of the series proved they could balance comedy with drama without being disrespectful to the serious topic being addressed.

    Other TV movies and series have dealt with the subject of AIDS since 1985, but this episode of "Brothers" was the first -- and they set the bar very high for all shows that followed.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


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  • NOTES (1)


    • Donald (singing): I'm a man's idea of a perfect meal, right down to the demitasse. I'm a pot of joy for a hungry boy. Baby! I'm cookin' with gas!

      The song Donald is singing is "I Can Cook, Too" from the play On the Town. The play premiered in 1946. A movie version, starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, was made in 1949.