Friday, May 25, 2012

The Spectacular Tambor #157 (the origin issue)

This is actor Jeffrey Tambor.

(I nearly ended this blog entry right here, as it made for some sort of dadaist performance art in blog form)

This is the beloved 1977-1984 sitcom Three's Company.

I loved Three's Company when I discovered it in my youth, and am unapologetic in still loving it today.  Everyone becomes a hero in death, but I'd been rhapsodizing about the ingenious physical comedy of John Ritter for my whole adult life and well before he passed away, and would continue to go to the mat for him as a latter-day Buster Keaton of pratfalls and double takes.

But this is not about how awesome Three's Company was, nor John Ritter.

It is an unsettling tale of a man we've probably all seen but not noticed.  The shadow that grows longer as you look away.  It's a story with a sinister undercurrent of schizophrenia, identity theft, and an insidious man willing to stop at nothing to get close to a certain group of people for reasons that shiver me with horror at the implications. 

See, Jeffrey Tambor has popped up in the Three's Company universe a lot. Enough that at some point someone hanging out at the Regal Beagle should have asked, "Hey, doesn't that guy remind you of that other guy who dropped by that one time, because they look and talk exactly the same?"

The problem is that we're not dealing with normal people, here.  Chrissy is an idiot. Larry is medically incapable of seeing anyone not constructed entirely out of breasts. 

"It's a waking nightmare! I can't hold down a job and my relationship with my sister-in-law is irreparably damaged!"
Mr. Furley spends all of his time standing next to a closed door and having palpitations because he can hear Jack on the other side, having a conversation about shower curtains that sounds like it could be about dongs. 
Someone please get him a glass of water and some better porn.
And Teri the hot nurse, also known as The One I Had A Big Crush On From The Show, hadn't joined the show yet.  So it would be patently unfair to expect her to break the case wide open. 

The nurse fantasy began here, for me. Your mileage may vary.
That leaves the two relatively intelligent people on the show.  I have no observations about Janet, since she's always reminded me just enough of my mom that it's just weird.  I keep waiting to see my dad wander through the background of an old rerun, waiting to romance Janet and produce me.  Just too bizarre.

And Jack was too busy being awesome, performing pratfalls that would leave strands of patella tendon in the hair of everyone in the room if attempted by a lesser comic, and ducking Mr. Angelino while still pretending to be gay in order to live in the apartment in the first place (the seventies were a strange time).  So I have to give him a pass.

Thus we have The Talented Mr. Tambor, insinuating himself in these people's lives while under a variety of assumed names and identities, his true intentions as chilling as they are inscrutable.

First he shows up as Winston Cromwell III, attempting to creepily woo Chrissy's equally stupid cousin, Cindy.
As my mom looked on disapprovingly.
Another time he shows up as Dr. Tom Miller, who, according to the Internet, was a co-worker of Teri's, which would require a complete re-write of an earlier paragraph in this blog if I thought anyone was reading.  Interestingly enough, in this episode everyone thinks he might be a serial killer, which is aided by the double-entendre nature of every single word that comes out of his mouth. I can only assume it was unfiltered Tambor that the Three's Company producers decided to leave in to avoid waking up to him standing at the foot of their beds some night soon.

"The problem is that they take so long to stop BREATHING, you really have to DROWN them. You know, those types of fabrics, that is."
And then, somehow, he pops up a THIRD time, now with a more full head of hair but still with an equally terrible assumed name, as Dr. Phillip Greene.  Who is Jack's dentist, and who was recently spurned by Teri.

Who recognized him neither from working with him before nor from the darkest corners of her nightmares.
What are his goals?  What is he trying to do?  Is anyone safe?


No.  No, they are not.

See, Tambor still wasn't done.  When the producers spun off the original landlords, Stanley and Helen Roper, into their own show, The Ropers, who do you suppose was their uptight neighbor, who answered (for now) to "Jeffrey P. Brookes III"...?

This blog needs an "Insert Crashing Horror Movie Sound Effect" widget.
Not coincidentally, the Ropers were never heard from again. Occasionally the San Diego police get an envelope in the mail with an unidentifiable lump of flesh in it, and they don't even bother DNA testing it anymore.  It just goes in the big box marked "EITHER THE ZODIAC KILLER OR JEFFREY TAMBOR."

We're talking about a psychotic who can't even be bothered to come up with particularly distinct alter-egos.  He's grabbed the "Dr." prefix twice and seems to think it will throw people off his scent if he randomly assigns himself a "III" at the end of whatever name he's come up with this time.

Hell, the last time he was barely USING a false name.  I can only assume that John Ritter's character on his next project had him interacting with a "Teffrey Jambor" while finally, hopefully, beginning to feel the tickle of deja vu before it was too late.

"Hey, that guy who just said hello and adjusted my collar for me... did he seem familiar to you?"

He is everywhere and nowhere.  You, the person reading this, have met him at least six times. He has never introduced himself to you in the same way twice.  He's probably watching you reading this right now, through a barely-ajar door or a thinned hedge. By the time you locate him, he's already behind you again. Looking. Watching. Waiting.

We all float down here, Georgie.

1 comment:

  1. Nice conclusion with the surrealistic plunge into "It," definitely one of the lesser lights in John Ritter's career.

    Ritter, by the way, (unlike Tambor) offered a distinct blend of honest sincerity and playful misconduct, the first of which you will understand even better after viewing some of the work done by his mother, Thelma Ritter.