Friday, February 3, 2012
Episode 45, Part 1: Doug's Birthday Present
Doug starts this episode by telling us that his dad takes baby portraits at the Busy Beaver Department Store. He's really good at his job, and is often the only person that can get a baby to stop crying long enough to get a decent picture. After dealing with the child above, Phil tells the mother that she can pay for the portrait and order prints at customer service. It's very convenient for him because all he has to do is get a baby to shut the fuck up long enough to take a simple picture. After the customer walks away, Phil notices Doug is hanging around with Skeeter. He asks them what they're doing there and Skeeter says it's Doug's birthday in "only 12 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes." This is pretty creepy detail, Skeeter. He didn't even look at a watch or anything. He must be counting it in his head to have it down to the minute like that.
Anyway, Phil says, "oh yeah, that's right," trying to make it sound like he hasn't thought about it. Then he asks Doug what kind of present he's looking for, which is the best way to do your shopping if you haven't already bought someone something. Porkchop sniffs out the present though, because it's just under the counter there.
So yes, Phil has already bought and wrapped Doug's present. Asking him what he wants now is stupid territory. What if he says something you didn't get him, or it's something you can't afford? You'd be screwed. Or at least mildly inconvenienced.
Doug starts to say what he wants when Beebe lets out a squeal of delight.
Today is her birthday, and her dad just gave her this speedboat. Most department stores have speedboats right? They're in the speedboat department. Pick one up today!
This is incredible parenting too. What do you get a girl for her twelfth birthday? If your mind doesn't immediately jump to "speedboat," you are a terrible parent.
Doug and Skeeter go nuts about it and Phil starts to feel uneasy, because whatever he's hiding under the counter is not a speedboat. Mr. Bluff takes a call on his cell phone and leaves his daughter with her speedboat and no way to get it out of the store or whatever. She's 12 now. She'll figure it out. Doug says, "hey dad! Isn't this the coolest birthday present you ever saw?" In the most depressed way he can muster, Phil says, "yeah, real cool, son."
At home, Doug has recognized that his dad has been acting funny all day, but instead of seeing the obvious connection to the speedboat, he keeps talking about it. While setting the table for dinner, he's rattling off details about the boat. Eventually Phil interrupts him. He has an announcement.
He's leaving his job at the Busy Beaver to open his own photo studio! Theda is shocked. Phil says he understands they'll have to tighten their belts at first, but if everything goes as he plans, they'll be set for life. Just like all those other people that opened their own photo studios in small towns.
After dancing in circles with Judy, chanting "we're gonna be rich," Doug has a fantasy.
Now they're living the life. This is Doug's birthday present. Porkchop is actually with them too. He's just para-sailing. Oh, and this isn't just a boat. Phil pushes a button labelled "aero flux."
I hope Porkchop doesn't die in this fantasy. Doug remarks that this is an excellent birthday present, and Phil says there's more. They fly over to his photo studio, which is inexplicably a skyscraper. Some mechanical arms are amending the sign to make it say "Phil and Doug's Photorama."
With hopes that high, there's no way Doug could be disappointed ever again. And here's the new photo studio.
Theda calls it nice. Judy calls it understated. Doug calls it great. Phils sets up the place quickly too. Unfortunately, the first day is rather slow for Phil's Family Photo. They haven't had a single customer. Doug points out how slow it is and Phil starts to say that first days are always slow, but he gets an idea.
This seems like a good idea. Unfortunately it doesn't get results. At all. Phil changes the sign.
I'm not sure how long they waited on the 25% offer. They put up the sign, noticed there were no cars in the parking lot, and changed the sign. The 50% offer isn't bringing results either, so Phil makes a new sign.
Judy and Theda are shocked. Phil's rationale is "it's good business to give stuff away. Once they're hooked, they'll keep coming back." This idea works for food samples, and places where you have more than one product, or a product that people buy frequently. Most people aren't going to keep getting their child's picture taken every week, or even every month. Anyway, Phil's idea works. The place quickly becomes packed.
Do you see the obvious problem here? Phil isn't even taking the pictures. Theda is taking them, and she's doing a shitty job. She does something that makes the film fly out of the camera. It doesn't matter though. It's not like any good photos were ruined. Phil says he has everything under control and tells them to just get the pictures. Doug and Judy are failing to get a child to stop crying, so Porkchop gives it a try.
Porkchop fails. All of the pictures for the free day are terrible. People are hooked!
At the end of the day, Phil gets out a calculator and runs the numbers.
Phil: "Well, if I don't count rent, or the cost of fixing this place up, and the new equipment, our profit is..."
Judy: "Hey, somebody left a quarter in the couch!"
Phil: "TWENTY FIVE CENTS! That's great! Most places lose money their first year! And here we've already made a profit!"
You can always say you made a profit if you leave out all of your expenses. And what a profit too! What color speedboat do you want, Doug? Doug and Judy do their "we're gonna be rich" dance again.
So then everyone goes home, except Phil. Doug asks if he's coming, but he says he has to print some photos for tomorrow because he doesn't have darkroom assistants like he did at the Busy Beaver. He says he'll be home in a few hours. This depresses Doug a little.
But he never comes home. He doesn't even come home the next morning for breakfast. Also, he doesn't make it home for dinner either. The phone rings and Doug excitedly answers it because it must be his dad and his dad must certainly have good news. But no, he's just calling to say he's going to be home real late. Doug says this is how it's been all week.
One night while Doug is sleeping, he hears his dad's car and immediately jumps up from bed to go see him.
Phil doesn't say anything to him so he runs to the door and calls out to him. Phil says hello and asks how Doug's doing on the birthday countdown. Doug says there's 4 days to go. Phil says it's going to be a doozy, then he gets in his car and drives away. This causes Doug to have a fantasy.
The butler just told Doug that Phil will not be making it to his birthday this year. Doug acknowledges this without surprise and instructs them to send in his present. Two men pull a giant box over towards Doug and he yawns and says, "yes, another speedboat." But then he's surprised when they open the box.
Oh, that's really sweet. Nice trick, Phil! Oh, but...
Saddest birthday ever.
Tired of never seeing his dad, Doug finally goes to the store. I don't know why he never did this before. It's not like he doesn't know where it is. It's not like he doesn't know his dad needs help.
Inside the store, a line of angry people are complaining about how long they've been waiting. Doug knocks on the darkroom door and Phil comes out. Doug starts telling him he thought he'd go crazy if he didn't see him. Everyone in the family misses him. Before Doug finishes talking to him, he's fallen asleep against the door frame.
There's a really good chance he was just sleeping in the darkroom. The customer at the front of the line says he's been waiting for over 3 hours and Phil realizes it's time to get back to work. He tells Doug he'll see him at dinner, then thinks better of it and tells Doug to tell Theda he'll be a few hours late. Extremely disappointed, Doug starts to leave. Phil stops him to say he'll definitely be at his big birthday bash tomorrow. Doug says, "sure thing, dad," but you can tell he doesn't really believe it.
So the next day, Doug, Judy, and Theda are sitting at the kitchen table waiting for Phil. The candles on Doug's cake are burning and everyone seems pretty depressed. Phil comes in and apologizes for being late. He sits down and asks if Doug has made his wish yet.
Look how excited he is. Doug says he's made his wish before Phil tells him to blow out the candles. After the candles are out and everyone has a quarter of the cake, Phil says, "listen, Doug. I'm very sorry. I know it isn't much, but...well, next year I'll get you a really great birthday present. I promise. Next year." He gives Doug a present that looks exactly like some idiot wrapped a football with wrapping paper.
"Dad, I'm sorry I made such a big deal about Beebe's boat. It doesn't matter to me how much you spend on presents."
"You mean you kids don't care about being rich?"
Judy tries to ruin this moment by interjecting, "well, I wouldn't go that far..." Doug says what he really wants for his birthday is his dad.
He adds, "and maybe a football." Phil couldn't be happier. They go to the "Throw a Football with your Son Park" to give the new ball a try.
While many dads throw footballs with their sons, Doug explains that his dad went back to his job at the Busy Beaver, and ends this episode saying, "I guess if you work hard enough you can always save up enough money for a speedboat, but no amount of money can buy a great dad."
So, like father, like son, right? Phil Funnie is crazy. He saw his son go nuts over a boat and had a fantasy about being able to give him one. The moment Doug asked, "isn't this the coolest birthday present you ever saw," Phil only saw his son unwrapping a football and never speaking to him again. He probably also imagined being arrested for child neglect. And that ate at him all day, until delusions of grandeur gave him a terrible idea that turned into a living nightmare fantasy. This is how so many of Doug's fantasies play out, it's ridiculous. I don't get why no one in the family helped him after the first day either. They just stayed home and waited in disappointment for him. Why didn't he just hire someone? No, it took him a whole day to think up this brilliant idea, and in his mind it was all going to be so easy he wouldn't need any help at all.
And where is Doug's birthday party? Where's Skeeter? Where's Patti? Where's the fucking party? Sitting around waiting for your dad isn't a party. Splitting a cake into four pieces isn't a party. Throwing a football in the park isn't a party.
Perhaps the best thing about this episode is what Doug ultimately learned. It's great that he realizes money isn't everything, and that he thinks his dad is great (he isn't), but now he has first hand experience seeing how miserable you will be if you pursue your dreams. Your dreams are unattainable and will only shit on you to make you content with what you have.