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Jim’s Inheritance

Posted in Uncategorized by cesco7 on October 21, 2017

This December will mark 20 years I have written Sally Forth. In that time I’ve made a few changes to the comic. New characters have been introduced (Jackie, Laura, Faye, Nona, Cynthia), some have been moved to more of a guest-starring role (Alice), and at least one has disappeared all together (Ralph’s assistant Marcie, who ran off after embezzling funds from the company, which was never mentioned in the strip but I consider canon).

But the biggest change has clearly been to the character of Ted Forth. When I first met Ted (by way of several hundred pages of comics FedEx to me when I got the job) three defining characteristics stood out: He seemed to be employed somewhere, he liked meatloaf, and he always wore clothes. There was in one strip a mention of Ted having four brothers, but they didn’t have any names until one day when I was apparently not over the then lack of new DuckTales episodes.

He also played golf, like almost every white male character in newspaper comics, but I got rid of that three minutes into doing the comic. Other changes followed—he grew up on Long Island. (In Huntington—home of The Seavers—and not in my nearby own home town of Dix Hills, a name I knew would never see the light of day in comic print because it would essentially read as “Ted hails from Shaft and Scrotum.”) He watches Star Wars Holiday Special every day after Thanksgiving. He may be part of a secret cabal. And. most obvious, he is obsessed with pop culture, especially that associated with Generation X.

It’s an obsession that some have taken as an honest portrayal of a happy geek, others have seen as proof of Ted’s crippling manchild persona, and a few have wondered, “Why the hell doesn’t he just sell his Kenner Star Wars action figures already so he can pay off both the mortgage and Hilary’s eventual college fund?” But the question always remained just why is Ted so focussed on pop culture? Is it because it’s fun to write about in a strip? Of course. Is it because I myself am obsessed with pop culture? Definitely. Is it because it allowed me to do The Man Who Fell to Earth by way of pumpkins, thereby making it all the more likely I’ll one day do a Liquid Sky Easter Sunday? Oh yes.

But those are all reasons that exist outside of the strip. So today, within the comic, we get our first real glimpse of how pop culture came to define his life—through his relationship with his dad. As will be revealed in upcoming strips, when Ted was little he and his dad watched movies together, watched TV cartoons together, and talked about the very minutiae of entertainment medium. This was their language, as it now is between Ted and Hilary. But it’s a language that held father and son together when Ted was young yet did not keep the bond together later in life. As it turns out for some people, it was a father-son relation built for one’s childhood, not adulthood.

In short, it’s now a relationship and language built on memory, nostalgia, and of course pop culture of yore. And so here we have Ted reaching out to his dad the one surefire way he knows how, mentioning one of the most celebrated episodes of frankly one of the best sitcoms in the last 40+ years. For those who don’t know the show Taxi, the second panel can read as an inside joke or something that takes them out of the story. That is the risk of citing particulars. And it would be far more problematic if such a mention served as either the punchline or the very essence of today’s strip. But it doesn’t. It’s a detail in a strip about communication lost, perhaps far longer that either character had recognized.

For those unfamiliar with “Jim’s Inheritance”—the episode recalled by Ted—it helps to be familiar with Christopher Lloyd’s character Reverend Jim, a former Harvard student and scion of an extremely wealthy family who lost his way with drugs an, though kind and goodhearted, has become the black sheep of his highly-esteemed family. The result has been an almost complete breakdown in communication between Jim and his dad, resulting in intermittent visits home until Jim gets his version of “the call”—a letter saying that his father has died. Over the course of the episode it is discovered that the father has left Jim with a sizable fortune, but his much more “acceptable” siblings legally question his mental competency and Jim is left with a single, old trunk of his father’s possessions.

Below is that episode, with perhaps one of the quiet and true moments to occur within a sitcom (again, it helps if you are familiar with the particular characters). It was one of my dad’s favorite moments, and always made him tear up. And it came to mind repeatedly when my dad passed away. But I couldn’t bring myself to watch it after my dad died. Posting this is actually the very first time I have seen this episode in almost four decades. You need not watch the entire video. But if you are interested in what Ted is referring to—or you wish to relive the moment for yourself—I suggest starting at the 17:56 mark.

Take care.

4 Responses

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  1. LMcCJ said, on October 21, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    What do you know, my cousin’s family lives in Dix Hills. Small world. Of course, I’ve never visited them out there because, Long Island traffic but, I hear it’s very nice. 😉

  2. ElGeo said, on October 21, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Oh please please do the Liquid Sky Easter Sunday! Me and my rhythm box have been waiting all these years.

    • chukg said, on October 24, 2017 at 3:59 pm

      Yes, I was coming here to ask for that too.

  3. LBD "Nytetrayn" said, on October 22, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Wow, laugh tracks really do murder moments… or maybe it works better here if you watch it all the way through?

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