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MailTribune.com
  • Once more, with feeling

  • Prue Halliwell died again recently, leading to one of those guilty pleasure moments treasured by those of us addicted to television.
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  • Prue Halliwell died again recently, leading to one of those guilty pleasure moments treasured by those of us addicted to television.
    I mean, not that Prue was killed, of course. But after the demon hitman Shax throws her through the wall for the second time — the first being reversed through a Faustian time warp bargain with the evil overlord known as The Source — well, it seemed unlikely the eldest Halliwell sister would survive.
    Prue (Shannen Doherty) dies in the third season finale of "Charmed," in an episode titled "All Hell Breaks Loose." The show originally aired on May, 17, 2001, and has been repeated countless times in the nearly 11 years since through the magical power of reruns on TNT.
    In October 2001, "Charmed" returned with Prue's demon-interrupted funeral and then the discovery that a fourth sister existed. This of course neccessitates all the show's main characters (including the ghosts of mother and grandmother) to gather in the attic of the Halliwell Manor, whereupon this lineage is spelled out before a nosy detective breaks in and is spirited away to Timbuktu.
    "And I thought my family was screwed up," notes the half-demon Cole.
    I suppose you have to be a "Charmed" follower to appreciate the joke, the timing and the absurdity of the moment. But when it arrives on TNT's endless rerun cycle, it still elicits a laugh. This time, it was a chuckle of familiarity — acknowledging the scene, but also how viewers tend to grow attached to their familiar shows.
    Which brings us to the notion of those TV moments that we could watch endless times and still live in the Now of them. Not always the most famous moments, but the ones that leave an imprint across our emotional spectrum.
    Laura Petrie sliding out of a closet door on a sea of nuts. Jack Bauer commandeering a plane, forcing it to land on a highway, then escaping to save the world. William Shatner attempting to play the final round of the $25,000 Pyramid alone ... and running out of time before guessing the final category. The anticipation of knowing what Carol Burnett's Scarlett is going to say about her gown made from the draperies.
    If you are, as they love to say, a child of television, these sorts of moments go beyond a scrapbook. They form a bucket list of sorts — those bits of dialogue or full episodes that, given the chance, we'd choose to see again before the Mayan calendar works its own Halliwellian magic and we're forced to re-live the first year of "Night Court" before they changed public defenders.
    The more this list came together, the more different shows came to mind. Or different episodes of the same series. Or even just quotes ("What ... does ... a yell ... low ... light ... mean?").
    All in all, making a bucket list of epsiodes you'd want to see again before the Mayan reboot is not a bad exercise for a rainy afternoon, while we wait for another "NCIS" marathon to begin.
    "Opie the Birdman," from "The Andy Griffith Show" (Sept. 30, 1963): Opie kills a mother bird with his slingshot, then raises her babies ... learning about life, death and responsibility in the process. When this series gets discussed, the word "homespun" gets tossed about like a backhanded compliment.
    But if you've ever seen this particular half-hour, filmed without a laugh track, it's as dramatic and affecting as any action-filled procedural drama.
    • "The Golfer," from "The Honeymooners (Oct. 15, 1955): Ralph gets himself in trouble by claiming he can do something he's never done (imagine that!). So with the help of a really bad clothing choice and Norton's invaluable, rubber-legged expertise ("First, you must address the ball" ... all together now ...), we get the funniest golf moments on film before the age of "Caddyshack."
    • "Turkeys Away" from "WKRP in Cincinnati" (Oct. 30, 1978): "Big Guy" Arthur Carlson wants to do a Thanksgiving promotion for the radio station, so he decides to donate turkeys ... from a helicopter. What could go wrong? Well, let's let newsman Les Nessman describe what happens. Les?
    "It's flying something behind it and I can't quite make it out. It's a large banner and it says H A P P Y... T H A N K S... giving... from W... K... R... P! What a sight, ladies and gentlemen. What a sight. The 'copter seems to circling the parking area now. I guess it's looking for a place to land. No! Something just came out of the back of a helicopter. It's a dark object, perhaps a skydiver plummeting to the earth from only two thousand feet in the air... There's a third... No parachutes yet... Those can't be skydivers. I can't tell just yet what they are but... Oh my God! They're turkeys! Oh no! Johnny can you get this? Oh, they're crashing to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! This is terrible! Everyone's running around pushing each other. Oh my goodness! Oh, the humanity! People are running about. The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Folks, I don't know how much longer... The crowd is running for their lives. I think I'm going to step inside. I can't stand here and watch this anymore. No, I can't go in there. Children are searching for their mothers and oh, not since the Hindenberg tragedy has there been anything like this."
    • "Whispers" from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (Feb. 6, 1994): One of TV's great underrated characters — Chief Miles O'Brien — lives through the paranoia of believing, then knowing, that something is horribly wrong with his world. And it is, even though his friends and family insist they are not trying to hurt him. In the end, O'Brien comes face to face with the impossible as Star Trek meets "The Twilight Zone" meets "Lost" in a melancholy final moment wherein the Chief watches himself die. Or not.
    • "Democracy in America" from "Northern Exposure" (Feb. 24, 1992): All Edna Hancock wanted was a stop sign, but when Holling Vancouer, mayor of the Alaskan burg of Cicely, doesn't deliver, Edna wants his job. And thus, all political hell breaks loose in a town of fewer than 500.
    One of the best series of the 1990s shows why in one of its best episodes — from Maurice's monologue about the indepence of Alaska, to the Joel/Maggie arguments over decorations to convicted felon Chris quoting Jefferson and De Tocqueville and wandering through the voting process to the music of Aaron Copland in the background. Want an antidote to the current political process, find this epsiode and watch it.
    And that's only five shows, and I didn't get to the would-be werewolf jailed on "Barney Miller," or a doomed man stuck beneath a subway train on "Homicide," or the climactic divulging of Chandler and Monica's romance on "Friends," or a talking horse playing baseball on "Mr. Ed" or the case of the missing mess hall trays on "M*A*S*H" or hundreds of others.
    But there are only so many hours in a day and only so many days before Dec. 21. And Cole is about to be turned into the new Source of all evil.
    Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin writes about television for Tempo. He can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com
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