Before I get to my review, I want to do an informal poll: who here under the age of 40 has ever watched an episode of Becker all the way through? Raise your hands… really…I won’t judge. So by that shaking of your head, you mean you have not. This is what I thought. Becker was not a show for people in my age group.
Running on CBS from 1998-2004, it starred Ted Danson as the cranky Dr. John Becker, a physician with his own practice in the Bronx who has a disdain for the world around him and is prone to heavy amounts of complaining and ranting. He is surrounded by two different groups of people: the people he works with, including the secretary who drives him insane with her complete lack of common sense (Linda, played by Saw’s Shawnee Smith) and Margaret (Hattie Winston), his office manager who can keep him grounded but also drives him up the wall.
When Becker's not at work, he’s hanging around the inhabitants of a run-down diner near his work. Reggie (Terry Farrell) owns the place and also attends community college with aspirations for the future. Jake (Alex Desert, of Boy Meets World fame) is the blind worker at the newsstand inside. They are joined by the fast-talking and slimy Bob (Saverio Guerra), who tends to refer to himself in the third person and annoys everyone with his misogynistic comments and utter cluelessness about the world around him. Through his experiences with these people as well as other outside circumstances, he tries to navigate through life the best he can without exploding.
Now what you didn’t see when I took that impromptu poll was that I had my hand raised. Yes, I’ll admit it: I am the one non-middle-aged person in the world who seemed to like Becker. For some reason, when I would catch it on CBS or on re-runs at 4am on USA, I would always get caught up in it. I think it’s the work of Ted Danson, who breathes life into the character. His rants and complaints and general crabbiness straddle annoying, but Danson uses his talent to keep it funny instead (at least for the most part, but we’ll get to that). To me, Dr. John Becker is the first person I think of when the topic of “funny doctors” is brought up.
The third season of the show has more of the usual: Becker smoking, Becker complaining, the supporting cast cracking jokes, some sort of mishap or zany comedic adventure that is solvable in 30 minutes. In other words, it is formulaic, but for some reason it works. While Ted Danson is excellent as Becker, the supporting cast does a great job as well. Saverio Guerra as Bob earns the most laughs out of anyone in that show. He’s a fast talking scumbag, but for some reason, he is still lovable. He’s like the guy you would see outside of a stadium trying to sell you scalped tickets, and you end up doing it anyway because he makes a convincing case. Alex Desert, who also sings in the ska band Hepcat, just radiates cool as the blind Jake, but he radiates cool when shopping for groceries while wearing socks with sandals. There are a lot of blind jokes made at his expense and occasionally he breaks character by doing something non-blind, but it’s not a big deal.
The best episode of the season is entitled “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em.” In it, Becker makes a bet with Jake that he can quit smoking successfully for a day. If you have ever watched a sitcom in your life, you can guess how it works: the day gets more and more stressful as he craves the cigarette more and more. It’s definitely the funniest episode by far, with Becker’s hatred of people getting showcased even more so and it gets so stressful at the end that even you as the viewer want to have a cigarette.
The show does have its faults. It’s very formulaic and the humor is mostly for an older crowd. Becker’s rants, which are funny a lot of the time, also come off as annoying at some points and you just wish for him to shut up. Shawnee Smith is absolutely god-awful annoying in her role as Linda. It is written for her to be stupid, but her voice is just so grating that you want to hit mute every time you see her on screen. I just about clawed my ears out every time she opened her mouth. Thank god she dropped that voice for the Saw films. As for the DVD itself, it has no special features whatsoever, so if you were looking for that tell-all Becker documentary, look elsewhere.
Becker is entertaining for what it is: a superfluous sitcom aimed at the middle-aged crowd. While it occasionally has some daring jokes and does strike a lot of laughs, it’s not something that should have lasted six seasons on a major network, especially when shows like Arrested Development and Journeyman didn’t get the same treatment.
Season three highlights:
- Bob becomes the superintendent of Becker's apartment complex.
- Becker is sued for malpractice after taking an obese patient to the gym.
- Margaret confides in Linda she had a sex dream about Becker.