"I favor the good things in life. I oppose the bad things..." — Candidate Arturo.
Review by Mike Truman
Maximillian Arturo may never have gotten his due as a theoretical mathematician on his home world, but he is a most remarkable man. As he once said about himself, the Professor is “always a leader of men, no matter what the circumstances.” In the few slides the four have made, one Arturo was Citizen General of a communist society while another, the Sheriff of San Francisco, was second in command of the entire country. Our own Arturo has cured a plague on one world and saved another from obliteration by a runaway asteroid. What more can he add to his résumé? How about the mayorship of San Francisco? No, that would be too easy for a man of his considerable talents. Now, if he were the first male to ever hold elective office, that would be an accomplishment. The Professor gets his chance when the four slide on to a world completely dominated by women.
“The Weaker Sex” opens with a financial crisis. The group is down to their last five dollars and the next window is a whopping six weeks away. They need jobs but it seems no one has any use for a man in the workforce. Quinn’s considerable mental abilities are tossed aside for his physical attributes as he is hired to be an eye candy receptionist. At least he gets a job. To Arturo’s mortification, he is deemed unfit for a job in the typing pool and Rembrandt is reduced to singing on the streets for spare change. Wade must come through as the breadwinner when she goes to work as a systems expert for Mayor Anita Ross’s re-election campaign. For Wade, this world is somewhat of a dream come true. Finally she is fully appreciated for all her skills and talents. Hey, it certainly beats computer hell at Doppler. But for the Professor, this place is a total nightmare.
Arturo carries a rather large chip on his shoulder as it is. The condescending treatment he receives puts him over the edge. After being brutally shot down by the mayor when he asks her to dinner, he reveals his own sexism, attacking the ability of women to run anything as well as denouncing women’s basketball. “I’d rather watch paint dry,” he grouses. After launching into this tirade in front of a reporter, a burgeoning men’s movement taps Arturo to be their candidate for mayor. Now the true mayhem — and laugher — begins.
Candidate Arturo is every pundit’s dream. He takes every slight personally, calling one potential voter an “ignorant bovine” when she tells him he should be ashamed of himself for running. He also shows a complete lack of subtlety as he literally chases a man through the mall in order to kiss his baby. But eventually he gets the hang of it, and by use of a montage of scenes, Arturo’s campaign goes from bumbling ineptitude to a Huey Long machine gaining momentum.
The political satire is razor sharp. Both campaigns simply reek of hypocrisy. As Quinn points out, Arturo doesn’t know anything about running a city and Mayor Ross’s operation is so blatantly discriminatory against the opposite sex that Bob Packwood would wince. Arturo, ‘man of the people’, is an utter joke. While on some levels he genuinely does care about the boys of this world, his own words and actions show it’s really all about him. Commenting on of his campaign ads, he states, “I don’t believe that anyone has captured my essence so beautifully. That moment when I changed that disgusting little brat’s diaper…classic.”
Speaking of ads, we are presented with two deranged versions of the formulaic political advertisement — the happy, sunshine and goodness ad (Arturo’s) that says nothing and the choleric attack ad (Ross’s) that signifies nothing. Now we’ve seen some political slogans before on the show. Sheriff Arturo (Prince of Wails) tells the people that he feels their pain and wants a kinder, gentler nation for example. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a political platform that better embodies the entire process than Arturo’s: “I favor the good things in life. I oppose the bad things in life.” As Quinn says, way to go out on a limb, Professor! Truly, Arturo’s ad is one of the moments in this series that will become classic. It’s just too damn funny.
Not only does the satire make you laugh, it’s smart too. It really takes into account the world they are on and plays off of it with flair. Arturo’s aide checks the podium to make sure he doesn’t seem too tall. The very idea of using former Senator Edmund Muskie’s campaign ending mistake as strategy is a credit to the writers. It’s the perfect contrast to our world and it works. As Rembrandt congratulates him, Arturo quips, “Well, I guess I learned to cry over nothing just by watching you.”
So far I’ve focused entirely on Arturo, but Rembrandt’s side adventure has its high points. As it has done a few times before, the show sends Rembrandt, the everyman of the group, out into the world alone to explore. Rembrandt finds the dark side of relationships when he is picked up off the streets by the swinger Serena (played by Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s Mike Nelson in drag…OK, maybe not, but she could certainly pass for his female double). The parallels to prostitution are none too subtle. Rembrandt is new in town and out of money, so he’s using his “instrument” to get by. Serena promises him help getting a record contract, but she uses him for sex. Not that Rembrandt was complaining at first! But after encountering an emasculated former boyfriend of Serena’s, Rembrandt knows it’s time to go. The other men aren’t doing so hot either. As mentioned, Arturo struck out with the mayor and Quinn’s relationship with Wade is struggling as well. The three comfort themselves by spouting out macho platitudes.
In the midst of all this comedy, there is a deeper issue struggling to emerge. Wade challenges Arturo on his decision to upset the societal order. What right does he have to inflict his values upon it? All things considered, this world is doing better than our own, managing to live in peace for centuries. The four are still torn over how much they should involve themselves. Are they tourists or forces for positive change? And how can they be sure that they’re idea of positive change is the right one? “The Weaker Sex” doesn’t answer that.
Another noticeable concern is the time bubble Rembrandt became trapped in. While six weeks go by on this world, Rembrandt seems to experience only three days and even the context clues (clothing, dialogue) suggest as much. It’s an incongruity that knocks the episode out of balance. Of course the point is moot when you already have to make the leap that Arturo could possibly run a successful campaign in just six weeks.
There’s also no moral to the story. Arturo slides thinking he’s lost, but it turns out he’s actually won. In a sense, it justifies everything he did. Our characters have also gained no greater insight into how the opposite sex works. Even on the final day of the slide, Wade and Arturo are still in their hardened positions from the onset of the episode. Live and don’t learn, I guess.
Nonetheless, this is a comedic tour de force. It’s outrageously irreverent. John Rhys-Davies shines with the spotlight on his character and the writing is crisp and cutting. There are dozens of quotable lines including Arturo’s discourse on cheese and Rembrandt’s heart to heart with Serena’s ex. “The Weaker Sex” fulfills every expectation I have of this show. I almost pity the episode that follows. It’s going to have to be phenomenal to top this one.
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