Today, we look at a powerful Benson episode highlighted by great performances by Beah Richards and Robert Guillaume
This is “All the Best Things,” a spotlight on the best TV episodes, movies, albums, etc.
This is a Year of Great TV Episodes, where every day this year, we’ll take a look at great TV episodes. Note that I’m not talking about “Very Special Episodes” or episodes built around gimmicks, but just “normal” episodes of TV shows that are notable only because of how good they are.
All this month, I’ll be spotlighting great Black-centric TV episodes.
Benson was one of those TV shows where the acting really sold the heck out of the story, which really wasn’t all that distinctive. After playing the butler on the soap opera parody series, Soap,
Robert Guillaume was given this spinoff, where he becomes the head of household for a Governor. The series revolved around the personality clashes between Benson and the other members of the Governor’s staff, from his officious Chief of Staff Clayton Endicott III (René Auberjonois) to his German cook, Gretchen Kraus (Inga Swenson), who would routinely trade insults with Benson (although there obviously was a mutual respect hidden underneath the barbs).
In this Season 2 episode, “No Sad Songs,” in March 1981, Benson is visited by his mother, played by the brilliant Beah Richards (Guillame was 53 at the time of the episode, and Richards was 60, but eh, sexism is as sexism does), who he hasn’t seen in three years.
They have a nice visit, but there are clearly some sharp edges to their relationship, mainly the fact that Benson hasn’t gotten married or had children (and, of course, the fact that he hasn’t seen her in three years). So therefore, when she dies suddenly, he is left tremendously out of sorts, as he had so much that he specifically wanted to talk to her about in just THIS trip, let alone in future discussions, and he can’t deal with the sudden loss.
Benson’s default position is stoic, and that’s his reaction to his mother’s death, but he allows himself to cry after asking for some sort of sign about faith, and then his cab driver shows up to take him to the airport, and the driver mentions that he hates flying, and prefers the train, but acknowledges that sometimes you just have to have faith. This was the sign Benson was waiting for, and he begins to gently cry (even his crying is stoic).
It’s a powerful episode, and Richards’ presence was so great. She would return for a later episode that got even deeper into the problems she and Benson had with each other (via a dream sequence), but, well, you know me, I hate me some dream sequences, so I’m not featuring that one.
Okay, if I’m going to have 327 more of these (and 19 more this month), I could use suggestions, so feel free to email me at email@example.com!