Tuesday, 9 September 2014

When ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ figured in a sitcom

A little diversion for Tuesday's much-awaited Overlooked Films, Audio & Video at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

Debra admires her Harper Lee gift.
If you are a fan of Everybody Loves Raymond as my family is, and as I am, then you'll probably remember the episode where Ray Barone (Ray Romano) gifts his wife Debra (Patricia Heaton) a first edition—yes, a first edition—of Harper Lee's unforgettable To Kill A Mockingbird as a Christmas present. Actually, he buys it to mollify Debra who is seething because he was very thoughtful when he bought a birthday gift for her rival and his mother Marie Barone (Doris Roberts). Her grouse is that he never puts a thought into the presents he buys her.

Now, Ray is a sports writer and reads only sports literature, probably just Sports Illustrated, and watches football on television. He doesn't know a damn thing about fiction leave alone about the Harper Lee classic. 

© Manhattan Rare Book Company
So when he asks his brother Robert (Brad Garrett) for the perfect gift for Debra, he tells Ray to get her a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird because she did her thesis on it and because she loves the book. He even narrates the story. Robert, who is jealous of his brother's success in life—a happy marriage, lovely wife and kids, a great job, a famous byline, his mother's pet, and money in the bank—thinks he knows Debra better than Ray and that she is too good for his brother.

Debra is thrilled when she opens the gift and holds a first edition of the book in her hands, to the delight of Ray who thinks he has earned a bucket of brownie points with her and the possibility of sex that night, and to the disdain of Robert who is so infuriated because Ray doesn’t give him credit for the idea that he blurts out the truth.


As usual, Ray finds himself in trouble again.


The episode is called The Thought That Counts (E157, S11).

I was wondering: if someone were to gift me a first edition of a book for my birthday or Diwali or Christmas, which book would I want? To Kill a Mockingbird wouldn’t be a bad idea but it is Robert’s idea and I don’t want to steal it from him, not when he is already in a foul mood.

Frankly, I can’t think of any. But, if you were to exert pressure 
gently by twisting my ear and insist that I say something, I’d sheepishly ask for a bunch of first-edition comic-books from the Golden Age. Those would be worth a few million dollars and since it's my gift, I might as well make a killing out of it.

Which first-edition book would you like as a gift?

16 comments:

  1. Oooohh, so many to chose from ... but I suppose, beign realistic, it would be wonderful to have a first edition of WUTHERING HEIGHTS perhpas or THE GREAT GATSBY - mind you, I'd be terrified they would get damaged or stolen! I haven't seent hat episode of the show Prashant, but sounds great.

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    1. Sergio, thank you. Both WUTHERING HEIGHTS and THE GREAT GATSBY are great choices. You know, Ray just pops up with the first edition of the Harper Lee book like it was available anywhere. In reality, is it really that easy to get hold of first editions?

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  2. I don't think I have ever seen this show, though I have obviously heard of it. I need to get Mockingbird" read at some point - its on the pile of course.

    First edition book for me.....hmm, maybe something early by Elmore Leonard from the 60's or 70's - nothing too rare or valuable Mr Majestyk maybe

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    1. Col, your family will love EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. There is plenty of humour based on the everyday lives of a middle class American family living on Long Island. We have seen nearly every episode of the dozen-plus seasons more than once. The series should resonate with any married couple with kids and annoying in-laws.

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    1. Charles, I have not read many books with powerful themes such as ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand. I have been planning to read it for several years now.

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  4. THE GREAT GATSBY. Always been a favorite.

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    1. David, it's interesting that so many readers rank particular books like THE GREAT GATSBY and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as their favourites.

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  5. I've never been a first edition fetishist...I'd like to be able to read my books, as well as having the damage anxiety...but...hmm...being able to read some of the more difficult-to-find volumes by old favorites would be good...I'll have to mull on what's a grail these days...

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    1. Todd, I own hardback Book Club Editions of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and THE MAPMAKER by Frank G. Slaughter that look identical to the first editions of those books except book club editions have little or no value, or so I have been told. Still, I like the two books with their removable jackets carrying blurbs and author photos on the inside of the flaps.

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  6. Like Sergio I would be hard pressed to pick just one. I think if someone gave me ANY first edition as a gift I would drop dead from shock. I usually get practical gifts. I think I'd go all sentimental and wish for a first edition of some childhood favorite like THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH or CHARLOTTE'S WEB. I used to collect children's books a long time ago. Christmas and childhood memories just go hand in hand as far as I'm concerned.

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    1. John, I often come across book club editions of some great novels. Although they don't have much value, I pick them up because they are replicas of first editions with jackets, cover design, flaps, and author photo. I have not read the two books you mention.

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  7. This is not a series I have watched, Prashant, but it does sound good. The book choice is a good question, I'm thinking hard. I think perhaps a first edition of one of Nancy Mitford books, or an early Agatha Christie would be my choices. I think they can be expensive, so not counting on that any time aoon.

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    1. Moira, thank you. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND is hilarious in a realistic way. You'll enjoy the sitcom. You can watch any season or episode though the initial few seasons are the best. I'll have to look up Nancy Mitford's books as I'm not at all familiar with her work.

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  8. I am sorry to be so late to this post, Prashant. It is wonderful. I had never watched Everyone Loves Raymond until I visited my mother two years ago. At the time she watched a lot of reruns on TV all day long and we watched a lot of Raymond. I really grew to like the series and the people in it.

    I know exactly what book I would pick, but it would be way, way too expensive... so it is definitely a pipe dream. The book would be Fer-de-Lance, the first Nero Wolfe novel. Actually even the facsimile reprint is too expensive.

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    1. Tracy, no problem. Please feel free to visit any time you like. We continue to watch re-runs of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND though we have our opinions on the various characters, especially the mother/mother-in-law Marie Barone (Doris Roberts) who is sweet but impossible most of the time. I'll take up the hunt for the first Nero Wolfe novel as a challenge because I do come across some rare and out-of-print books in my neck of the woods. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

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