Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.17 “Mary Beth’s Parents” and 3.18 “The Laugh Riot”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week, Indiana’s greatest basketball team heads for the ski slopes!

Episode 3.17 “Mary Beth’s Parents”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 8th, 1997)

I did a double-take when this episode opened with shots of a snowy ski lodge.  It wasn’t so much that this episode was taking place outside of Indiana (as we did just go through the whole California thing) as much as I thought the show had already done a ski lodge episode, one in which a man dressed as a yeti was trying to keep Mary Beth’s father from developing the land.  However, once the episode began, I realized I was thinking of the episode of California Dreams where everyone is invited to Lorena’s father’s ski lodge.

(That said, I’m pretty sure it’s the same set that was used in not only California Dreams but also Saved By The Bell: The New Class.)

Instead, in this episode, Mary Beth’s parents have invited the entire basketball team out to a ski lodge to help celebrate Mary Beth’s birthday.  That includes Coach Fuller, who is super excited about going ice fishing and catching a legendary bass.  Again, that’s not surprising.  In the world of Peter Engel-produced sitcoms, parents were always inviting and paying for their children’s friends to come vacation with them.  But you do have to wonder why only the basketball team has been invited.  Doesn’t Mary Beth have other friends that would have wanted to come?  Obviously, Mary Beth is close to Julie and Kristy and she and Vince have an unlikely flirtation going on.  But why invite Teddy and Michael, two people with whom she’s had next to nothing to do with over the course of the series?  And why invite Coach Fuller?  Fuller’s an adult.  Does he not have a life outside of his job?  Does no one find the idea of a man in his 40s going on vacation with a bunch of high school students to be a little bit creepy?

That said, even though he shouldn’t be there, Fuller is super-excited about ice fishing and the team is super-excited about watching him ice fish, which really doesn’t seem like something to get that excited about.  However, there’s more going on here than just Fuller trying to relive his fishing glory days.  Instead of going ice fishing, Vince stays back at the lodge and overhears Mary Beth’s parents talking about getting a divorce!  Vince can’t bring himself to tell Mary Beth about what he’s heard and, if we’re going to be perfectly honest, it’s not really his place to tell her because he’s not family.  However, when the rest of the team returns from Fuller’s fishing cabin, Vince tells them and then Mary Beth walks in right when Teddy is making the same point that I just made.  “If anyone is going to tell Mary Beth about her parents getting divorced, it should be Mary Beth’s parents!” Teddy says while a stunned Mary Beth stands behind him.

Now, let’s give the show some credit.  At first, Mary Beth is in denial about her parent’s getting divorced and then she moves into the anger phase and then the bargaining stage.  And, for me, it brought back a lot of memories of going through my own parent’s divorce and the show, at first, handled things with a lot more sensitivity than you would expect from a Peter Engel-produced sitcom.  But then, because this is a Peter Engel show, things get cartoonish as Mary Beth tries to save her parent’s marriage by recreating their honeymoon in Mexico, which means that Mary Beth speaks in an exaggerated Mexican accent while Vince puts on a sombrero and a fake mustache.  It doesn’t work but, fortunately, Mary Beth moves from anger to acceptance in record time.

Again, let’s give some credit where credit is due.  I’ve been pretty critical of the Vince/Mary Beth pairing but Megan Parlen and Michael Sullivan both have a lot of chemistry in this episode and Sullivan, in particular, is better here than he’s been in any of the previous episodes.  And even the ice fishing storyline pays off as the normally stiff Reggie Theus really gets into trash-talking a legendary giant bass.  Fuller catches the bass (which is obviously a fake, rubber fish) but then he tosses it back in the lake.  It would be a touching moment if the bass actually looked like real, living fish as opposed to a rubber toy.

Flaws and all, this was ultimately a pretty good episode.  Will the streak continue with our second ski lodge episode?

Episode 3.18 “The Laugh Riot”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 8th, 1997)

We’re still at the ski lodge!  Mary Beth’s parents are nowhere to be seen but we know that they’re still getting divorced because Vince gives Mary Beth an expensive ring to help her get over it.  Awwwwwww!  Unfortunately, Mary Beth loses the ring, which leads to her going through a lot of trouble to keep Danny from finding out.  But then she finds it in her pocket and everything’s okay.  Yay!  This whole storyline made me anxious.  I hate plots that could easily be resolved by one person just telling the truth about what happened.

Meanwhile, the Lodge is holding auditions for a new comedian to perform at their comedy club and Danny decides to audition, despite the fact that he’s only there on vacation and will presumably be going back to Indiana in a day or two.  I’m not sure that Danny has really thought this through.  When Danny gets get on stage, he suffers from stage fright and freezes.  Fortunately, Teddy joins him on stage and they become a comedy duo.  They’re both hired!  But Teddy eventually realizes that stand-up comedy is Danny’s dream and he allows Danny to perform the show alone.  It’s kind of pointless, as none of the jokes are particularly funny and it’s kind of a stretch to imagine a club full of wealthy adults going crazy over Danny joking about reading his girlfriend’s diary.

This episode features an extended sequence in which Danny imagines himself as being Jerry Seinfeld.  CRINGE!

Next week, the ski lodge adventure continues!

2 responses to “Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 3.17 “Mary Beth’s Parents” and 3.18 “The Laugh Riot”

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 2/5/23 — 2/11/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

  2. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 2/6/23 — 2/12/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

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