Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Scrounger’s Cheapjack Christmas Special! #23: Racket Squad Part 2

Well, it had to happen…they finally slipped up and one into my bundle that doesn’t even have even the slightest hint of Christmas. Or Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, for that matter. On top of that, Braddock—who, you might remember, is billed as the star—doesn’t even show up until the story’s almost over! Still, it’s almost interesting…if you use your imagination or something.

The Non-Season-Specific Episode: “Blessed Expense”. Original Broadcast: November 20, 1952.

Meet Joe and Betty Simpson, a young couple with stars in their eyes and cobwebs in their wallets. Betty is carrying the blessed expense of the title, since the doctor just told her she’s going to be a mother.

Adorable? Yes, but bland as a Cream of Wheat breakfast.

Joe’s happiness is tempered by the financial crunch he’s in as the owner of a full-service gas station and an outstanding bank loan. Harry—his mechanic, I guess—hits on a brilliant idea. Y’see, the other day, Harry was playing a high-stakes game of shuffleboard with some guy and won his policy with Emergencies, Inc., an outfit which alleges to pay out up to $1,000 for “unexpected expenses” with newborns. All Joe has to do is sign his name on it, take over the payments, and DAMMIT, INSURANCE DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY! You can’t just sign over a policy to another guy like an auto title or the deed to a house or a dogfighting ring!

Just a reminder: this guy isn’t the crook. Even with that tie, his suit is not a crime in most states.

Joe doesn’t think the thing sounds completely honest, and holy cats but Harry jumps when he hears the H word. However, Joe goes in for it, and oddly enough it works, but that’s because the whole “company” is an ultrashifty two-man operation. The smooth talker, Millhaver, sells the phony policies, then his accomplice prints out bogus birth notices—mostly daughters, because Millhaver claims it’s more sentimental that way—to keep the customers from asking too many uncomfortable questions. Why a hand-cranked printing press is taking up half of a tiny so-called insurance office, for instance. You know, ticklish subjects like that.

Millhaver is the best part of the episode, since he apparently spends most of his “business” hours with his feet up on the desk conjuring up increasingly dreadful baby names and telling his exasperated partner the story behind each of them. It feels like he’s not in the fraud business just for the money, but the romance of the whole thing. It doesn’t hurt that actor Andrew Tombes makes Millhaver as florid as an FTD Pick-Me-Up Bouquet.

Our (somethingsomething) Lesson For Today: First, the one Braddock tells us: “The next time an individual or a company no one has ever heard of offers to fully satisfy your immediate needs, and without asking you a single question, just stop and remember. It could happen to you.” Now mine: “Don’t take financial advice from a coworker who leaps six feet out of his chair when you say the word ‘honesty’.”

Whoops, no video link again. Sorry, bub. Just punch “Racket Squad” into Youtube or the Internet Archive search and watch a random episode. You’ll get as much Christmas out of any of 'em as this one.

Next: Dear Phoebe, starring Peter Lawford! Sounds ridiculous, but we’ll get to why later…

No comments: