Lou Grant

Season 1 Episode 5


Aired Monday 10:00 PM Oct 18, 1977 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
6 votes

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Episode Summary


Trying to delve behind the headlines about a violent demonstration by American Neo-Nazis, Billie uncovers the fact that their leader comes from an Orthodox Jewish family.

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  • California Uber Alles

    It would be interesting to know what sort of controversy this episode might have generated among viewers when it aired, considering that it was back in 1977, a good few years before Naziism and the skinhead movement became the active counter-culture that it did in the US closer to 1980. So was the revivalist totalitarian agenda of the Nazis portrayed in this episode offensive and shocking? Or more of an antiquated reference to a dead movement bearing no real threat? According to the Tribune staff, the Nazi revivalists here are merely "Nuts running around in brown shirts", and the bigger issue is the fact that they have the constitutional right to freedom of speech just like everyone else, even though the staff would prefer to ignore them and their activities.

    The story starts out with a very thorough depiction of the Neo-Nazi movement - shown are marches and violent demonstrations, private meetings where Nazi propaganda is delivered in speeches and old movies of Hitler during his reign, but quickly shifts gears to focus specifically on the personal background of the movement's leader, where it's soon discovered that he was born of Orthodox Jews himself - a secret he's hiding from his followers by using an assumed identity & alias. It may have been interesting to instead develop the story of the group overall, and their negative influence within the community continuing on as they continue to enjoy their freedom to proceed within their constitutional rights. How would that all come to a head? But maybe LG didn't have the budget to convincingly reproduce a full-on street war, so opted for the more intimate perspective of the leader.

    Peter Weller is great in this role, although I'm not sure how well the character resonated - he begins as a fanatical fearless leader, but once Billie exposes his secret, he breaks down into a frightened, broken, almost childlike individual, pleading with Billie & Lou not to reveal his secret, and eventually commits suicide. It's hard to imagine a violent borderline-psychotic movement leader being reduced to this level, but maybe that's palpable. I'm no expert on the psychology there.

    A couple of REALLY bad moments in this episode - probably one of the worst lines ever written in the whole series is this one given to Animal when he's trying to get the Nazi's attention:

    "Then let's see a nice big SMILE, you off-the-wall lunatic, you!"

    Ouch. Lines that don't sound like something a real person would actually say are almost inexcusably bad.

    Later, we see Lou Grant do the old 'Knock-over-a-bustub-full-of-dishes-onto-the-floor' bit while he's supposed to be incognito in a diner. Really? That's hackneyed slapstick at best.

    But there are two great, and highly contrasting "Lou Grant moments" in this episode. The first one is when Lou busts Rossi's chops when Rossi suggests that he takes on the Nazi story as a "think piece" without actually doing any background research. Lou: "Boy! Some of these fools don't even know what they're going to write until AFTER they've done the legwork! They're not students of Political History like YOU! You have this story already written and the only place YOU'VE been today is the MEN'S room!" A hilarious scene played brilliantly by Asner, and I'd swear that he comes very close to making Walden crack up and break character.

    The flip-side of this levity comes at the end when Lou has to console Billie when she finds out that Stryker/Sturner committed suicide after she outed his true identity. The way he reminds her that she did her job exactly the way she was supposed to, and that she needs to maintain a certain degree of detachment from cause & effect and not assume responsibility for the outcome was nicely portrayed. It was a hard dose of reality handed out about as tactfully as it could be.

    Another favorite scene: when Animal gets mustard all over a very ticked-off Rossi's sleeve, then haphazardly tosses his sandwich onto the back seat once they have to move on a story.


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