Series / Becker

"The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know."
Dr. John Becker

Becker was a Sitcom which ran on CBS from 1998–2004, about an angry, loud, opinionated doctor named John Becker (played by Ted Danson) with a small practice in the Bronx and a loose group of petty, self-centered "friends", who seemed to be the only people who could actually stand Becker for more than a few moments. Nevertheless he seemed popular with his patients, despite the fact that Becker generally hated people.

At work, head nurse Margaret (Hattie Winston) was in charge, and the practice was assisted by Linda (Shawnee Smith), who could be The Ditz but was very popular with the patients. Becker spent most of his time at Reggie's Diner, owned by ex-model Reggie Kostas (Terry Farrell). Other characters included blind newspaper seller Jake Malinack (Alex Désert) and Bob (Saverio Guerra), an annoying old schoolfriend of Reggie's who referred to himself in the third person.

After Season 4, Reggie was suddenly written out of the show after Farrell was fired, and new character Chris Connor (Nancy Travis) took over for the final 2 seasons. Bob left in Season 6 and was replaced by Hector (Jorge Garcia).

The show seemed determined to outdo Seinfeld's level of human depravity.

It will come as no surprise, even to anyone who's never seen the show, that Becker Pets The Dog frequently.

This show provides examples of:

  • Accentuate the Negative: Becker's personality.
  • The Alleged Car: Becker's car.
  • Annoying Patient: Becker's patients, and Becker himself in one episode.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: The episode where Becker is reunited with a friend from high school who has since come out as transgender and had a sex-change. John doesn't handle it at all well (in part due to being attracted to her) and his reactions are ignorant to say the least, at one point asking if she has any idea how confusing this is for him. She fires back, "Imagine what it was like for an eighth-grader," shutting him up.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Becker and Chris, highlighted in the Season 6 premiere, which ends with an argument that reads like a Shout-Out to the iconic Slap-Slap-Kiss between Sam and Diane:
    Chris: Just to set the record straight, I don't love you.
    Becker: Well, I don't love you! I don't even know what made me think I could like you. You're so cute and sweet and nice and perky.
    Chris: Oh! Well, it's better than being a cranky old fart!
    Becker: I'm not cranky! There's just certain things that irritate me.
    Chris: Yeah, everything irritates you! You wouldn't know happiness if it bit you in the ass!
    Becker: Oh, yeah, why don't you bite me in the ass?
    Chris: Oh, why don't you bite yourself in the ass? Your head's right there, anyway!
    Becker: Just go away, would you?
    Chris: I'm going! Good night!
    Becker: Good night!
    Chris: No, no, good night!
    Becker: You wanna have dinner with me some time?
    Chris: I'd love to!
  • Blind Black Guy: Jake.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Linda.
    • Although she has moments of brilliance, however fleeting.
      Linda: You're mad about $20 you loaned her over four years ago? That's only $5 dollars a year, that's less than ten cents a week!
      Margaret: You worked that out in your head? You can't even handle daylight savings time!
      Linda: Think about it Margaret, where does that hour go?
  • Breakfast Club: Becker is an opinionated Dr. Jerk who rants about everything. Reggie is a depressed Jaded Washout ex-model who is stuck with a run-down Greasy Spoon. Jake is a blind Stepford Snarker who runs an unsuccessful newsstand. Linda is a Cloud Cuckoo Lander of epic proportions. Bob is a Smug Snake who goes through a Humiliation Conga and becomes the biggest loser of the group. Margaret seems to be the only one who has a stable and happy life, and even she has to take care of her uncaring Manchild husband.
  • Brick Joke: In one episode, everyone questions Becker why he's carrying around an air horn. After the joke is abandoned for the rest of the episode, he uses it at the very end to blare it into the phone after a telemarketer calls.
  • Buffy Speak: "Quit hovering over me like... help me out, what hovers?"
  • Call-Back: There are several references to the episode where Becker gets shot.
    • In "What an indifference a day makes", Becker talks about the events of the episode "Drive, they said."
    • In "Trials and defibrillations", Becker's meeting with Anita from "Panic on the 86th" is mentioned.
    • Whenever Detective Borkow shows up, he always mentions that Becker was shot at a gay bar during the events of "Stumble In The Bronx". He was actually shot while walking past a gay bar and was brought inside to wait for the ambulance, but Borkow always ignores this distinction and acts as if Becker is gay himself.
  • Catchphrase: "Okay, here's the thing," right before Linda explains some kind of screw up.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In season 5 episode "The Grand Gesture," Becker berates himself for being pretentious for trying to seduce Chris using cheese and wine. He then compares himself to Frasier, who originally was from Cheers and had Ted Danson as a guest star for one episode.
  • Character Filibuster: Becker rants about anything and everything, so it can be safe to assume that he's voicing out the writer's opinions.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Linda, and a lot of Becker's more irritating patients. Mrs. Recinos is a standout - in addition to the joke about clear fluids below, she comes back to the office after Becker advises her to get a second opinion, not realizing that he meant from another doctor.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: While the entire gang are kind in their own way, their insensitivities and callousness and be both funny and cruel. Examples are Becker indirectly killing his neighbor's cat with a book and then asking her to give the book back during the funeral, Reggie lying to Jake's girlfriend about him not being blind, Linda manipulating a patient into believing that she has a mental problem just to cover up her own mistakes, Jake tricking a woman into not moving in with him and Bob's hobby of stalking women.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Becker, oh yes.
    Becker: The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Becker gets stuck with one who wants to be his girlfriend after he helps her open her stuck door. Doubles as an Abhorrent Admirer.
  • The Ditz: Linda.
  • Dr. Jerk: Guess who.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Becker, which is surprising, considering his car is about one crash away from falling apart.
    Jake: [following the screech of tires and sound of a collision from outside] What just happened?
    Reggie: Oh no! Becker got into another accident!
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first episode in its entirety for Becker. It shows off his love of complaining, his refusal to compromise, his distrust for people, his Vitriolic Best Buds relationship with Jake, his Belligerent Sexual Tension with Reggie and his insulting attitudes towards patients who won't help themselves. It also shows him giving up his new car to pay for experimental treatment for an HIV-positive seven year old.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Maybe more “annoying” than “bad”, but for whatever his other faults, Bob is shown to love his mother, and she seems to love him back. Becker gets a little of this too.
  • Flanderization: After a while, Becker was either an unbelievable jerk or a kind but ridiculously put-upon chap, never a balance of both.
  • Food Slap: The scene where Chris accuses Becker of dating her on the rebound after Reggie left has her throwing five glasses of water in his face, as he digs himself deeper and deeper.
  • Forgiveness: The episode where Jake is reunited with Chris, the former friend who was driving the car the night he lost his eyesight in a crash. Eventually Jake declares that he can't forgive him, but does take the weight off his guilt by pointing out that he was just as drunk that night, didn't have to get into the car and could easily have been in the opposite position. That is, he can't forgive Chris any more than he can forgive himself.
  • For Want of a Nail: After Becker's friends encourage him to change his routine by eating at a different restaurant, chaos ensues resulting in Margaret getting food poisoning, Becker having to stay late at the office, missing a hockey game, and Reggie and Jake being scammed at said hockey game when they can't access Becker's tickets. The next day, Becker delights in pointing this out to the others, who then urge him back to his routine.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Becker is Choleric, Margaret is Lekuine, Linda and Bob are Sanguine, Reggie is Melancholic, and Jake is Phlegmatic.
  • Friend to All Children: One of the reasons Linda still has a job. When kids come into the office she's actually good with them, whereas Margaret is brusque and businesslike and Becker is Becker.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Averted. Despite being a private practice doctor, Becker still lives in a modest apartment. He also mentions that his car is "held together with duct tape." Though it's mentioned several times that Becker's practice is in a poor neighborhood and his patients are frequently short of cash and are unable to fully pay. It's also implied in The Pilot that he's quite charitable to his poorer patients.
  • The Ghost: Margaret's husband, Lewis.
  • Greasy Spoon: Reggie's diner.
    Reggie: I don't really cook so much as I defrost and reheat.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: In one episode, a twin brother of one of Becker's patients uses his brother's insurance to get cancer treatment. Becker spends the episode debating giving him the treatment (resulting in insurance fraud and possibly risking his license) or denying him the treatment (condemning a sick man to die because he is uninsured). Ultimately, Becker decides against committing fraud because he's the only practice in a poor neighborhood, so more people would die if he got caught.
  • Hidden Depths: Airhead Linda is extremely well-loved by the patients, especially kids, speaks Mandarin and Portugese, and despite her constant mooching, is the child of very wealthy parents who bought her a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Becker's an atheist, though it only comes up once, and naturally he fits many of the stereotypes.
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: In one episode, Margaret wears a "swest" that her husband, Lewis, made; it's hilariously bad. Linda feigns a compliment on it, and ends up getting her own "swest" from Lewis.
  • Hypochondria: One patient had it and kept going to different doctors who kept giving him prescriptions. Ironically, all the medication he was taking was actually giving him actual medical problems, which other doctors would solve just by giving him more medication. Becker eventually straightens it all out.
  • Hypocritical Humor: It's a Running Gag to have Becker decry things in the diner for being dirty, disgusting, and unhealthy right before buying a pack of cigarettes. Linda also gets in the action as well such as when she complains about people getting paid for doing nothing.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Many of Danson's old Cheers co-stars.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: After Bob said that he was looking up something online, guess who replied, "Yeah, it must have been shocking to discover the internet wasn't just porn."
    "One crisis at a time."
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": One segment has Linda pronouncing "Asperger Syndrome" as "ass burgers". Margaret starts correcting her on it, but later in the episode starts giggling about "ass burgers" herself.
    • Which leads to A Crowning Moment of Funny when Becker calls her out on it, saying she shouldn't make fun of a difficult condition and LINDA joins in.
  • It's the Principle of the Thing: Becker's usual attitude, with Margaret futilely telling him to let whatever it is go. Sometimes it seems to work — see his confrontation with the journalist who mistook him for a racist in "PC World" — but more often it gets him in further trouble, such as when he got banned from Thriftymart.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: It's all but outright stated that Becker was once a lot more idealistic before adopting his viewpoint of Humans Are Morons. And see the trope just below this...
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As much of a jerk as Becker is to Linda et al., he truly seems to care for most of his patients. That is, the ones that aren't stupid.
    • He's got a surprising amount of patience even with some of the stupid ones. Such as the woman who asked—after being told to only drink clear fluids until she got better—whether orange juice and milk would be okay. And then asked if vodka would be good for her, being a clear fluid.
    • One episode states that the reason why Becker's office is in such a bad location is so that he can help people that otherwise wouldn't have access to medical help.
    • He also frequently accepts gifts such as baked goods and sports tickets instead of money as many people don't have much.
    • He uses his own pocket money to finance treatments for patients who were otherwise unable to afford it, such as the HIV-positive child from the pilot episode, which is one of the reasons why he keeps his beaten down car.
    • Subway Story has his patience tested when he guides an old lady to where she wants to go, before he starts to figure out that she was going to Ground Zero. When she explains the reason why she can't the realization hits Becker hard, and he stays with her as she talks about her son who died on September 11th.
  • Last-Name Basis: Everyone but Margaret, Chris, and sometimes Jake call him Becker.
  • Local Hangout: Reggie's Diner.
  • Long Bus Trip: At the start of Season 5, Reggie left a note saying she was leaving town for Europe. Worse, at the start of Season 6, Bob was said to be on vacation. Apparently he never came back, as that was the last we ever heard of him.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Jake goes on a date with Nina, a woman who turns out to be blind as well (neither of them realizing until they'd both been at the restaurant for a while). Jake is ready to end the relationship after that first date, bringing up the fairly legitimate point that any relationship they had would be "a never-ending game of Marco Polo". Reggie talks him out of it, but in the end Nina dumps him after finding out that he's black.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Becker in "PC World", when a journalist in the diner overhears his rantings about rap music and an Asian taxi driver and smears him as a racist in the paper (leaving out the context that the music was being broadcast into the street and the driver had just crashed into Becker's car), losing Becker at least one patient. Becker later confronts him during a radio interview and seemingly manages to clear himself by exposing the journalists' own prejudices.
  • Mood Whiplash: A number of episodes take an unexpected serious turn with few if any laughs in the final scenes. A standout is "Subway Story", which ends with the elderly woman who has been pestering Becker for directions all episode turning out to have lost her son on 9/11, and had been traveling to Ground Zero that day but can't bring herself to walk up the steps.
    • Another standout is when John attends a funeral in his building (hoping to investigate whether the apartment will be available soon), for what turns out to be the resident's beloved pet cat. The mood turns solemn briefly when John realizes the cat had come in his window and kept him company a number of times, but turns darkly hilarious again when the woman reveals what killed the cat: he was lying by the door and ended up being hit by a heavy package coming through the mail slot - which turns out to be an atlas John had ordered, hadn't received and spent most of the episode chasing up, believing he'd been ripped off. The episode ends with John asking Mrs Bernstein if she still has it.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Becker.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Bob is their own personal Zoidberg.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Reggie's last words with her father were an argument, which she always regretted.
  • No Name Given: Linda and Bob's last names were never revealed.
  • Noodle Incident: We never hear Bob's tale when the gang decide to tell stories that are a little more personal after having become bored with each others regular ones, other than that it apparently traumatized him to the point that he can no longer get undressed unless he's in complete darkness and that it horrifies Reggie and Jack to the point that they decide to pretend they'd never heard it.
  • Obfuscating Disability: In "The Film Critic" Reggie tells Jake's literal blind date that he only pretends to be blind to get girls into bed out of revenge for him bailing on giving her the last spot left in the register for an art class (as he was blind he could cut in line) and instead letting his date have it.
  • Only Sane Man: Margaret. She's the one keeping the office running due to Becker's abrasiveness and Linda's laziness. She also seems to be the only one on the show to have a happy and well adjusted life.
  • On the Rebound: Becker tries to start a relationship with Chris, failing after she finds out that Reggie just left town and accuses him of dating her on the rebound. He denies it, though, as he was planning to break up with Reggie before he found out.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: Becker is called to jury duty but keeps getting rejected. He believes that lawyers don't want him because they believe as a doctor he is too intelligent. At one point he almost gets accepted on a jury by talking only about daytime TV shows, until he mentions he was reading a book. Meanwhile his ditzy assistant Linda is quickly put on a jury and made forewoman.
  • Persona Non Grata: Offscreen, Becker was banned from Thriftymart after getting into an argument with a man in a wheelchair who cut in front of him, that somehow resulted in Becker pushing the man out the door and down a hill. The incident made the local news, and Bob is shocked when he finds out that it was Becker.
  • Pet the Dog: John has plenty of these moments.
  • Playing Cyrano: Becker finds out that one of his patients is dating Reggie and starts giving him romantic advice, intending to disprove Reggie's claim that he knows nothing about women. The advice works at first, but right when Becker is about to reveal his involvement, Reggie tell him that she broke up with him after getting annoyed with his gestures. She later tells Jake that she was lying and has no intention of giving Becker that satisfaction. However, he overhears.
  • Properly Paranoid: Becker's conspiracy theory that "Chico, California" is just a code word that the phone company uses to put fake charges on people's phone bills. In universe at least, he's right, as the charge in question was added by an phone company employee with a grudge against Becker (from the Thriftymart incident above).
  • Putting the "Medic" in Comedic: A comedy about a doctor qualifies for this.
  • Scrabble Babble: Subverted.
    Bob: Xebec?
    Jake: Yeah, xebec.
    Bob: That's not a word.
    Jake: Sure it is. It's an antiquated, tri-masted Grecian sailing vessel.
    Bob: None of those are words!
  • Ship Tease: Becker and Reggie. It's set up in the Pilot, where Reggie puts on a hot dress and pretends that she has a date in order to get Becker's attention, and Becker seems to be enjoy the sight of it even if he doesn't say anything. Reggie's also frustrated when Becker doesn't seem to respond. Throughout the show, they bicker Like an Old Married Couple and she even pretends to be his wife in "Shovel Off To Buffalo"!
  • Side-Effects Include...: The side-effects list was used as the main reason why a split-personality patient didn't take his drugs-the "nice" personality was deathly afraid of the side effects.
    Becker: It also says it causes irregular periods. Are you afraid of that too?
    Jim: Now I am!
  • Smoking Hot Sex: Referenced when Becker tries to quit smoking by having sex every time he gets the urge:
    Becker: I just remembered another cigarette I miss.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: One episode has Margaret realizing that a patient she visits at home, who has always been strangely cold and crotchetty to her, gets along well with both Linda and Becker (and has done so for years, in the latter case). Rather than go through the usual plot of trying and failing to make her like her by changing her behavior, Margaret straight-up asks for an explanation. She doesn't get one.
  • Stepford Snarker: In "Blind Curve", it's revealed that while he does make jokes about his blindness, Jake feels a great deal of bitterness towards the world after becoming blind.
  • Subways Suck: Averted; the subway did not break down.
  • Such a Phony: Reggie.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Chris, for Reggie; Hector, for Bob.
  • Take a Third Option: When Reggie gets two tickets to a hockey game she ultimately ends up letting John and Jake decide who should get the extra ticket, instead of picking one over the other. In that same vein when confronted with this new scenario John and Jake take their own third option by giving the extra ticket to Bob.
  • Third-Person Person: Bob.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Megan, Becker's college girlfriend, was a friendly albeit snarky woman who truly loved him in her first appearance. She becomes a lying manipulative, gold digging sociopath in her second appearance.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Linda. Becker owes her dad a favor and has no choice but to keep her employed.
  • Unknown Rival: In "Picture Perfect", an article Becker wrote for a medical journal is published with an incorrect photo of an ugly overweight man, embarrassing Becker to his friends and peers. When Becker goes to the magazine to get it corrected, he meets the man responsible (Wayne Knight), who reveals that he has a grudge against him for unwittingly throwing off his concentration during his entrance exam to medical school.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Becker.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Much of the dialogue between Becker and his friends is snarky banter.
  • Wham Line: The second to last episode of the series has Becker guiding an old woman through the subway system to a destination. When they arrive, she won't go up the stairs, and recounts on her last conversation with her son who died. Then it comes: "It was such a beautiful September day..." and you can see the recognition on Becker's face.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Becker and Reggie. When they finally do, Reggie is so consumed with regret and humiliation that she leaves the city (since the actress wanted to leave the show).