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!
It’s time to start season 4!
Episode 4.1 “A Whole New Ballgame”
(Dir by Miguel Higuera and Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 12th, 1998)
It’s a brand new school year! Teddy, Vince, and Danny have all graduated, with Teddy and Vince going to Southern Florida University and Danny going to NYU to pursue his stand-up career. Despite the fact that Julie and Mary Beth were in the same grade as Danny with the show began, they’re both still students at Deering High, along with Michael Manning and Kristy.
And, of course, Coach Fuller is gone. He’s now coaching at Southern Florida University. For the first three seasons of the show, Coach Fuller was played by Reggie Theus. Reggie Theus was a stiff actor but he was a former basketball player and he was believable whenever Fuller discussed the mechanics of the game with his players. As stiff as Theus was, it was still easy to believe him as an inspiring basketball coach. Replacing Coach Fuller is Mike Katowinski. Mike is played by Dick Butkus, a former football player who looks and sounds like a former football player. From the minute he appears, it’s hard to buy him as a basketball coach, despite the fact that Julie mentions that Coach Katowinski coached the Houston Rockets for 20 years. As I watched Coach K, I found myself wondering why Deering didn’t give the job to that assistant coach who appeared in two episodes during the third season.
(Add to that, what type of loser goes from coaching an NBA team to coaching a high school basketball team?)
Along with a new coach, this episode introduces some new players, all of whom are suspiciously familiar substitutes for the actors who have left the show. Nick Hammer (Mark Famiglietti) is cocky and confident and, despite the fact that she’s still dating Michael, it’s pretty obvious that he’s being set up as Julie’s next love interest. Rico Bosco (James Villani) is short and dumb, like Vince. Silk Hayes (Danso Gordon) is a thinner version of Teddy. Silk tells us that he’s called Silk because he’s “smooth on the court and off …. with the ladies!”
Things get off to a bad start between the new Coach and Julie when Julie starts to suspect that the Coach is going easy on her because she’s a girl. The main reason she thinks this is because the Coach tells her that he’s going easy on her because she’s a girl. Julie attempts to prove that she’s just as good as the boys by practicing super-aggressively and knocking everyone down. “Don’t worry,” the Coach tells Hammer, “it’s probably just a female thing.” Julie storms out of the gym, as she had every right to do. (Wow, is this the first time that I’ve liked Julie since this series began? I think it may be.) Later, Julie attempts to talk to the Coach about his attitude and he responds by sending her to the school nurse. Julie resents the Coach assuming that all of her behavior is period-related but she does appreciate the nurse sending her home early. As someone who used to fake cramps to get out of gym class on a daily basis, I related.
Julie then shows up at practice dressed in an apron and carrying a plate of cookies. In her words, she’s behaving acting the way coach expects her to act. This leads to Julie getting put on the B-team and not being listed as a starter. Coach explains that it’s not because Julie is a girl. It’s because “you’re a weird girl.” Fortunately, Julie does well-enough in practice that she’s promoted to starter. The audiences goes crazy.
While all of this is going on, Mary Beth tries to come to terms with no longer having a boyfriend. Come on, Mary Beth — it was just Vince!
With this episode, the fourth season got off to a rocky start, with a miscast Coach and a set of new players that just don’t seem to have as much personality as the players they replaced. Would things improve in the second episode of the season?
Let’s find out.
Episode 4.2 “Team Players”
(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 12th, 1998)
Uh-oh, the team’s just not coming together! Mostly it’s Michael and Julie’s fault, because they think that they’re too good for the new players. After Hammer overhears Michael telling Julie that the new team sucks, he tells all of the other players. During the first game of the season, the Tornadoes struggle during the first half but, after realizing they have to work together, they stage a comeback and win in the second half. Wow! JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER GAME THEY’VE EVER PLAYED! After the game, Julie says that this new team might even be better than last year’s team. Uhmm …. no. Sorry, Julie, no. Last year’s time had Danny. None of these new guys can compare to Danny.
In the B-plot, Mary Beth tries too hard to get the Coach to like her. Through a series of unlikely events, she knocks a hole in the wall of his office and she and Kristy has to fix it during the game. Megan Parlen and Amber Baretto are a good comedy team and it’s always a lot of fun when Mary Beth is flustered at the thought of having to do actual work. Unfortunately, the situation is not quite as funny without Reggie Theus’s looking stunned at whatever it is that Mary Beth has done. As played by Dick Butkus, Coach K. is just a bit too angry and gruff to be a good comedic foil. Whenever he gets annoyed with something, he looks like he’s about to tackle someone and break their ribs.
Season 4 is off to a rough start! Hopefully, things will get better next week.
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