I guess we’re going to finish up the series in New Zealand as the opening shot bears a strong resemblance to The Shire. Rolling hills, farms, farmhouses, cows, chickens, a Hobbitt — wait, that’s Tyne Daly as Cora.
Her neighbor is checking her mailbox and is overjoyed to find a letter from her uncle. The shrew taunts Cora about her empty mailbox, “It’s certainly nice getting mail!” Further hammering her, she continues, “and reading it!”
Grazing — I mean gazing out over the hills — Cora sees a figure running toward the farm. She is able to identify him as her sister’s son Benjy. The energetic fellow runs to the farmhouse (maybe all the way from Auckland given his energy), hops the fence, clicks his heels and dances with his aunt. Something tells me if The Shire doesn’t have a theater, he’s going to build one and put on a show.
She takes Benjy inside and excitedly asks him if he has seen cities, the ocean. Given that I don’t think you can ever be more that a couple hours from the ocean in New Zealand, she is really trapped on that farm like veal.
OK, my theory falls apart as Benjy starts reeling off American locations he has been to — Chicago, Niagara Falls, Death Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountains (just referred to as the Blue Ridge here). Cora is also impressed that he pulls books out of his backpack. Her neighbor might have been a bitch, but she was on to something.
Of course! What was I thinking? This isn’t supposed to be set in New Zealand (even though filmed there). If a TV show is going to make its characters look backward and ignorant, they are going to make them southerners, not Kiwis. I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t a picture of Reagan hanging on the mud wall.
Cora decides to put Benjy’s edukashun to work writing some letters for her, so she can finally get some mail. Sadly, when they sit down to commence a-writing, she realizes she doesn’t know anyone. Benjy saves the day by bringing out a magazine with lots of ads where she can write for free samples. She enlists her husband to build her a mailbox, bigger than her neighbor’s.
When Benjy mentions that the mail is delivered by a postman, Cora realizes that she’s never seen a postman delivering mail to her big-shot neighbor. Once Cora starts getting mail back, it is a little auckward that the postman never even rings once for her neighbor.
Eventually, Benjy has to move on, leaving Cora to receive mail she can’t read. There is an obvious ending which would have brought Cora and her neighbor together. I’m not sure if it is good that the obvious path was not taken, or if that would would have been too trite. Honestly, for this simple tale, lacking any kind of mystery or supernatural element, the obvious ending might have been best. Have Cora teach her neighbor the trick to receiving mail, and have the neighbor teach Cora how to read the mail she is receiving.
A fine little episode, just not what I was looking for.
- The first book Benjy pulls out is an excellent choice — Catch-22.
- The director was born in Auckland, which I take as confirmation that I was correct calling this a New Zealand episode. He also went on to act in something called Topless Women Talk about their Lives, which sounds great except for the talking part.
- And of course, the New Zealand full employment project, Lord of the Rings.