Summary: Good times on The Ropers tonight. We got to see the opener with Jenny and Helen reviewing some of Jenny's sketches of a nude model on her Art Pad (lol, cute prop). Stanley objects to Helen's giving Jenny money to go buy steaks, is she trustworthy enough? Meanwhile Helen needs Stanley to drive her to Ethel's to visit her mother.
If Helen is the star of the show, Ethel is the foil and nearly steals the show. In the next scene, Ethel makes coffee for Mother in her Beverly Hills sitting room (brass and glass, helloo!) and Ethel learns that old china horse on the radio in their childhood home looks the same as that Mother is reading about in her fancy magazine. The horse, which seems to be in the hands now of (you guessed it) Helen, is definitely from China and could be (you guessed it) a valuable Ming Dynasty piece. Predictability be damned; you always get a laugh seeing how silly people act over the possibility of inheriting a Ming dynasty piece, and you have probably thought about the vase bequeathed to Janet around this same time period over on Three's Company.
You gotta love Ethel's expressions as Mother goes on and on about how their father won the horse in a game of Fan Tan and comparing it to that of the magazine, and Ethel finds out that Mother gave the horse to Helen after their father's death. This is where Ethel's acting takes on double meaning as she connives how to take back the horse.
The rest of the show flows predictably, but with some tension when Jenny, who has just learned of the possibility that the horse is a Ming Dynasty piece, seems to have absconded with the item, as after all, she has no job and no money. There is a side story about the Brookeses next door and whether Anne's purchase of a white mouse would be a good gift since their son is getting good grads at school. Evidently the mouse could lower real estate values.
Everything comes to a head when Jenny returns with the horse to find out it's a copy. What Helen does with this situation may surprise you as it does Stanley. Does Helen try to swindle her own sister who's out to swindle her?
My review of this is that the story is slightly bland and boring, but this is TV from 1980 so, you are not going to see any earth-shattering roles or stories. The Jenny character is always very fresh and takes you out of the rut that seems like every episode is the same each time. It's boring seeing the stories all mush into one rolling joke about how Stanley and Helen are fishes out of water, and boring seeing Jeffrey Brookes being all about the real estate and Ethel all about prestige and money.
However, this is one of the better Ropers I've seen because of Helen. She's always the benevolent one of the pair, but in this show, you get to see how that side of her aligns with Ethel's greed and lies. When you scratch Helen, what you get underneath her caring, romantic exterior is a person who can stand up to her sister using her smarts and her spirit.
Whatever you want to say about the writing of this show and how stilted each episode is with the characters being one-dimensionally written, this show does break out of that a little. And you'll never be able to say "oh these actors cannot act" because, well, they all can act. Even little Jenny here is a total pro, not to mention Jeffrey Tambor, Dena Dietrich, as well as Audra and Norman.