As I go through TZ's third season, I looked forward and saw this one coming up, like a dead animal in the road ahead.
"Cavender is Coming." This is the one that that is almost unanimously voted as the worst TZ episode ever. I had only seen it once... many years ago and I remember thinking "Boy that was stupid," but not really thinking much more about it. Then later on, reading on the various fan boards, about how bad it is, I was starting to think that watching it will make the average viewer's brain crawl down his spinal cord and try to escape out his colon.
So I steeled myself, wondering what I was in for. Would Carol Burnett call me on the phone and croak "Seven Days" and in a week crawl out of my television set? (Actually that would be something I'd like to see.)
Well, I managed to get through it all the way to the the end with no urge to claw my eyes out.
To my surprise I found its really not that bad.
Don't get me wrong. CIC is a bad episode, one of the worst. Originally it had been broadcast with a laugh track, which is thankfully not on the DVD version. It's painful, like watching a comedian bomb on stage. Still, in my opinion, it's not the worst epside. "The Bewitching Pool," has that dubious honor.
I love Carol Burnett, but this role is all wrong for here. Her talent is playing nutty, over the top characters, a "Missus aWiggins", a Miss Haversham or the like. Here, Agnes is the straight woman, to Cavender, therefore Carol can't use her comedic talents to the fullest.
Another sin is that the jokes fall flat. John Cleese once commented that he had to keep Basil Fawlty thoroughly unlikeable and rude, because once the audience started to feel sorry for him, the it wouldn't be as funny. Agnes Grep is a nice lady with lots of friends and kind with children, so instead of laughing at her, we wince when bad things happen.
For example, there's a scene where she falls down the stairs and goes crashing through a mirror right into her boss' office. This scene could have been hilarious if done correctly Grep crashes down and tumbles right in front of her boss who looks down flabbergasted and she looks up with a sheepish grin. Somehow though... it doesn't work. I can't put my finger on it; maybe it's the timing but it's just not funny.
Another potential funny scene, where the bus changes into different things... a horse and carriage, etc., and the poor bus driver who has no idea what's going on. Again it falls flat.
I think they tried to cram too many situations into one episode, so they don't give us a chance to reflect on the absurdity or Carol to react to them.
This is a case in point that Serling isn't in his element when doing straight comedy. He can get us to chuckle occasionally, but he's just not in his element when trying to do an out and out comedy.
Oops, have to go now; my phone is ringing...