"Bums" gets right down to business, as Mac and Dee decide to clean up the homeless problem all over Philadelphia, while Frank, Charlie, and Dennis go the junkyard-dog-protecting-the-alley route. That's the cue for an orgy of location shooting and some very distinctive costumes. Dennis and Frank get police uniforms to go with their old school Crown Vic cop car, and start rolling jaywalkers and shaking down one unlucky hot dog vendor for complimentary product. (Frank, walking into the bar: "I'm just going to get a cold beer to go with my free hot dog!") Charlie doesn't get a uni, so he decides he's an undercover cop and decks himself out in full Serpico regalia, from the panama hat to the groovy sarape.
Meanwhile, Mac and Dee put on Guardian Angel regalia and go all Curtis Silwa on poor Tracey, who's pleasuring himself in their alley again. (Mac: "The streets are flooded with the ejaculate of the homeless!") Mac prefers to intimidate with pure fear, but Dee takes his souvenir bat and drives the bum out, causing Mac some distress until he can get his minibat back.
The episode achieves escape velocity when Charlie disappears into his Al Pacino impression and decides to clean up the dirty fake cops mugging random loiterers on the streets of South Philly. He straps his tape recorder to his belly and goes to the bar to listen in on the fake cops' conversation. Inevitably, this surveillance involves his little miniplug microphone, which he sets up on that plastic stand in an extremely undercover manner. (We last saw this mike when Charlie was defending Mac against charges of serial killing.) In perhaps the funniest moment, Serpicharlie goes to the precinct and slams down a cassette tape on the desk -- evidence of fake cop corruption whose verisimilitude is not enhanced by its former incarnation as "Spin Doctors Mix."
Next week's the season finale (it comes at you quick when you spend the first six weeks burning off two episodes at a time). If it can deliver on its promise of the-bar's-at-stake dance-contest classic-sitcom goodness, this season is going to end with a bang. I will leave you in the capable hands of my husband and T.V. Club utility infielder Noel Murray next week, same Philly time, same Philly basic cable channel.
- Why is Mac so disappointed with the weapons reimbursement policy of the neighborhood watch group when, left to his own devices, he can't manage to arm himself with anything more deadly than a ballpark giveaway?
- So that junkyard cat really was born in a pool of gasoline perched on a rusty piece of metal. At the time, I admit, I disregarded that as junkyard proprietor hyperbole.
- As far as blatant homages go, this one was fairly understated, with the seventies freeze-framing and act-ending musical stings, multiple angles on the car blowing up, and Agent Jack Bauer escaping unscathed to the admiration of his peers. OK, that last bit wasn't really understated.
- Classic moment: Charlie challenges a whole precinct house full of cops and backs out the door with his fake beard half unglued and flapping. Sassy desk cop: "We've got to do something about this homeless problem."