[Edit] Looks like that video above was taken down due to copyright violations. Hope you were able to see it while it was up on YouTube! Otherwise, maybe it will show up somewhere else. I realize it’s more a less a broken link, but I am leaving it there as evidence that it once existed.]
When I was young, oh maybe about five or six years old or so, one of my very favorite television shows was Benson. Which…was kind of a weird pick for a little kid. Not a cartoon or a fairytale or kid’s variety show, or even anything that I might typically watch now, as an adult–I think it was what I might refer to as a “classy comedy”, which some critics and reviewers note as being on par with MAS*H and Barney Miller. Neither of which I have ever watched, but so I can’t really comment on that!
I’m not sure how this sitcom came across my radar or what my mom thought about me watching it (she didn’t let us watch The Flintstones because she thought Fred Flinstone was an asshole) but somehow I guess Benson was okay.
Running from 1979–1986, Benson was a spin-off of Soap, a show which apparently parodied the melodramatic antics of soap opera families. Witty, sharp-tongued Benson DuBois is a former butler from Soap who becomes the title character in his own show, and the “director of household affairs,” to a bumbling state governor. Benson moves up in the world, becoming the state’s budget director, then lieutenant governor and eventually candidate for the executive mansion. I am not sure what on earth drew me to this show, but I loved Benson’s character so very much and wanted us to be the very best of friends. I thought he was silly and smart, and that he would be an amazing person to have on my side.
Up until the season 4 opener episode, “Death in a Funny Position,” Benson was just a funny, light-hearted television program that I looked forward to watching once a week and which made me laugh. Everything changed when I first saw this particular storyline, and I mean EVERYTHING.
As a little girl at that age, I don’t think had encountered many references to death at all, let alone any instances of it. And on a lesser note, I certainly didn’t realize that television shows had episode titles, to even pick up on this particular episode’s theme. I don’t think I really even comprehended the idea of a season of television. It was just an ongoing story, as far as I was concerned.
There were a lot of things I didn’t pick up on. Either due to my immaturity or just being an oblivious little person, in general (maybe both, I am still pretty oblivious as an adult and there are many things I don’t pick up on!) Re-watching a snippet of this episode just now, it’s clear they are setting it up as some sort of mystery, whodunit episode, but I don’t recall that as keeping in tone with the typical plots on Benson. And so you must understand that child-me was totally blindsided and shocked by what happened next. I thought this guy was declaring his romantic love to Miss Kraus, but instead, he was pleading for help because HE HAD BEEN STABBED IN THE BACK. The visuals of which I have tried to capture for you, above, but it’s awfully fuzzy and grainy.
As an aside, it’s just been in the past few days that I have been thinking of all of this, and if you look to see when the video was uploaded to YouTube, it was February 4, 2021–just two days ago! How weird is that?! Must be a sign from the universe! Definitely time to write this blog post you’ve been sitting on, Sarah.
I screamed and hollered right alongside Miss Kraus. I was in such a state of profound panic and extreme terror that if my mother had some sort of sedative, I am quite sure she would have administered it. What WAS that? WHAT HAPPENED? The guy was alive and then…then…he just WASN’T ALIVE?! And not only that, someone stuck a KNIFE in him? What was the point of that? What was the point of someone witnessing that (both Miss Kraus and me)? If this is what happens to that guy, is that what happens to all of us? And if so, what was the point of…anything?
I don’t think I ever quite recovered from that betrayal and loss of innocence, and I certainly never watched another episode of Benson. As an adult many decades later, sometimes I still question the point of anything. Of everything. But you know what? I think I am ready to forgive my old friend Benson, and finish watching this episode.
If you want to watch it as well, it’s a two parter! Here’s “Death in a Funny Position” part 2, below.
So many things I never knew about before I read this post, starting with the existence of this show, and ending with your trauma. Poor Sarah!