Sunday, May 1, 2016

They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar (1971)


*****

There comes a point in the life of a middle aged man facing the possible inevitable realization that time is passing him by. You have lost family and friends to that passage of time, your once promising career which has seen you reach to a prominent position at a company now appears threatened, and very important places that once served such purpose during your life are on the verge of meeting their end. Memories of the past seem so vivid and real, returning at the present to remind you of what was once so rich and worthy of recollection. What occurs right now just seems less significant, while the past “beckons like phantoms”, so much more valuable and worth attaining than the hustle and bustle of a corporate world and the progress of capitalism which seemingly nip at the heels of the older as the younger opportunists will use whatever means are necessary to climb over their superiors to achieve what they conceive as the American Dream. It hasn’t changed much, really.

Serling’s “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar”, for his anthology series, Night Gallery, was nominated for an Emmy, and it is well deserved. This was a fine example (unlike “The Nature of the Enemy”) that Serling hadn’t lost his gift to tell a story that resonates and leaves behind feelings that are understandable and relatable. I can only imagine, at 38 years old, how recognizable Mr. Randy Lane’s (William Windom; Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine) story is for many out there. The feeling that you are a relic, a dinosaur as the pressures and demands of life seem far easier for the hungry, young “thoroughbreds” looking at any avenue to get ahead; this is quite a relevant topic not lost on us in this day and age, 2016. Today, the internet age and speed of everyday life has further added to this dilemma. The baby boomer generation is leaving the workforce: they are either sliding to the side, getting pushed out of the way, or perhaps even fading from place and time as the family and friends who occupied Tim Riley’s bar in 1945 when Randy Lane returned from World War II.

In this tale of yearning for the past, Windom is a sympathetic figure because he feels like he’s losing his grip on a career that once provided more than it currently does, forlornly looks back at his life as it once was, remembering his pop, wife, and friends at the bar welcoming him home, coherent to the young buck (played by 70s/80s game show host and personality, Burt Convy) looking to replace him, and cognizant of his deteriorating handle of the sales position due to bouts with alcoholism and depression. I think Windom embodies the pitiable lonely man, seeing a past fading and a future bleak. And all this in his present as if a tug of war…would he be able to find a support (Diane Baker is wonderful as his secretary, so loyal and perhaps even in love with him) or will he go the same way as Tim Riley’s bar?


John Randolph is the company CEO, H.E. Pritkin, who is tiring of Lane, acknowledging that Convy’s Doane has emerged as a candidate to perhaps surpass him…this after Randolph scolds Lane in front of Doane, telling him that the two would be at the same level in the company. When Baker’s Lynn Alcott is told she will be Doane’s secretary, the jig appears to be up.

Windom’s performance is heartbreaking as his situation seems to spiral towards an unfortunate decline. But his support might just commission a sense of empathy from the boss who failed to even offer recognition to Lane for 25 years of devotion and service. The scene at the end as those he loved start to vanish, a long held harmonious event meaning so much going away as the bar where it took place, is quite emotionally grueling…it kind of forces him to move on. The satisfying tribute to Lane by his company’s employees (with Doane not curiously absent), as the bar is demolished, offers hope of a future that isn’t total ruination; this gives us a respite after taking quite a journey with Lane.

The Night Gallery portrait

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