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Thursday, January 05, 2006

1.27 --- One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty

Directed by : Don Carlos Dunaway
Written by : Alan Brennert (story by Harlan Ellison)
Starring : Peter Riegert, Chris Hebert, Jack Kehoe
First aired : 6th of December, 1985.

Succesful, but rather bitter LA writer Gus Rosenthal (Peter Riegert, Local Hero, The Mask) suddenly feels the urge to revisit his old family home in Ohio, where he used to bury toy soldiers into his backyard and then dig them out later, recreating a sort of a "treasure island" feeling. Back at his old place, now abandoned, he unearths one soldier, and by doing so, teleports himself 30 years back in time.

Now he's in the 50s, and the first thing he sees is his younger self (Chris Hebert, The Last Star Fighter) getting beaten by his dad Lou (Jack Kehoe, Serpico, The Untouchables) as a repercussion for yet another theft. Thinking his interference might help him solve his issues, Gus dubs himself "Harry" and makes acquaintance with himself, saving him twice from severe beating by his peers. "Harry" and Gus become good friends, and by socializing, it seems that Gus is overcoming his anger and fears.

Just as "Harry" is about to leave town, thinking his mission is complete, he is visited by Lou who chides him for playing a father figure with him being a father already. "Harry" tells Lou it is not the kid, it is him who is not trying hard enough, but Lou just grudgingly admits that Gus is too much for him, getting angrier by every year and bottling it all up. Later that day, "Harry" meets Gus and bids him farewell, to which Gus doesn't take kind. Thinking he is abandoning him, Gus angrily runs away, however not before delivering a vengenful sermon saying that he'll grow up to be an important man, a somebody, and will take revenge on "Harry" someday.

Now realizing it was himself who made him angry and bitter, and not the others he pins the blame on, "Harry"-Gus returns to the reality. He leaves Ohio with a bittersweet feeling, ready to start anew.


Based on a short story by Harlan Ellison, One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty is part Walking Distance (30th of October, 1959.), part The Incredible World of Horace Ford (18th of April, 1963.), part something original. Riegert's New York drawl is hard to hide, making him somewhat of a miscast for a Jewish kid from Ohio who made it big in LA, but other than that he plays his role well - so do Hebert and Kehoe, with Kehoe probably being the best fit for this episode.

Some questions do bother me...at the end, Gus remarks he suddenly remembers "mr. Rosenthal", which creates a complex time-travel conundrum, implying there is a bunch of parallel universes out there with simoultaneously young and old Gus Rosenthals meeting up and harbouring long-term anger. It would have worked better without that little kink, but still, this is a decent new TZ entry.

Odd trivia : as it aired together with The Beacon, it represents a pair of episodes which aired on the same day and spawned two actors to star in Brian de Palma's Oscar-winning crime caper The Untouchables (the other actor being Charles Martin Smith).

Comments on "1.27 --- One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty"


Anonymous big Ok said ... (9:28 PM) : 

apart from putting a stop to the stealing, his attitude still the same in both past and present


Anonymous Adrock said ... (8:38 PM) : 

Another one I've never seen before, but it was obvious within 45 seconds (once Peter Riegert starts shrieking at his NYC-based editor over the phone) that this is Harlan Ellison's autobiography.

Ellison, like Peter Riegert's character in the episode, grew up a Jewish kid in Ohio in the late 4940s to a jeweler father named Lou.

This bit from Ellison's Wikipedia entry also seems like behavior you'd expect out of the characters in this story:

"Ellison attended the Ohio State University for 18 months (1951–53) before being expelled. He has said the expulsion was for hitting a professor who had denigrated his writing ability, and over the next twenty or so years he sent that professor a copy of every story he published."

Ellison recorded a DVD commentary for this episode, which I'll try to listen to tomorrow. Hopefully not as unbearably insulting as his commentary over "Paladin of the Lost Hour"...


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