Episode Summary: After the town, particularly Alec, confronts Hetty over her strict, traditional teaching methods, Hetty retaliates by quitting. After a disastrous search for a new Avonlea teacher, struggling, starving actor Alistair Dimple (Christopher Lloyd) impresses the search committee under the guise of being a qualified teacher. In the classroom, he inspires the students to think outside the box and to act out important historical events. The students, even the struggling ones, get better grades and are even prepared for a intercity quiz bowl. Even Hetty’s impressed with Mr. Dimple. However, Alec soon discovers the truth about Mr. Dimple. Although Alec recognizes how beneficial Mr. Dimple has been for the kids, they both agree it’s best for Mr. Dimple to leave town. Hetty is asked to teach again. Hetty makes an effort to continue Mr. Dimple’s style of teaching.
Directed by Allan King, Written by Charles Lazar, Music by John Welsman
My Grade: This was the first episode written by Charles Lazar. He would go on to write episodes for Goosebumps, 7th Heaven, and The Adventures of Shirley Holmes. He also produced Flash Forward (Canadian teen show) and Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy. He’ll write two more episodes for the series, including one that I’d put in my personal top ten. He does a very nice job of writing episodes with a lot of action and a general rousing spirit. There are some moments when I think this episode is a little too “Let’s see Christopher Lloyd wear this wig!” But, nonetheless, I think this is an important episode about trying new things and finding the joy and fun in education. It’s also a nice episode that utilizes many of the original “kid characters” one last time together. (B+)
Spotlight Performance: I’ll give it to Christopher Lloyd. He’s funny. He wears many different hats. And he has a couple really nice scenes with Cedric Smith (Alec) and Jackie Burroughs (Hetty). He was one of the famous American guest stars that Disney insisted on during the time. He’s obviously known for his work in the Back to the Future movies and his Emmy winning role in Taxi. He also received a couple Daytime Emmy nominations for his role in Cyberchase.
However, he also won an Emmy for his performance in this episode. It was for Lead Actor in a Drama Series. In 1992, for that one year only, the TPTB decided to do away with the “Guest Acting” categories and make guest actors compete in either the Leading categories or the Supporting ones. Since, by that time, many Emmy winners were determined by “Episode submissions,” this seemed to make sense. However, after Christopher Lloyd controversially won the Lead Actor Emmy for his single appearance here, over actual continuing lead actors in other drama series, the Guest Acting categories were restored.
It’s a strange win, and a win that many Avonlea fans, like myself included, have a hard time reconciling with. On the one hand, any Emmy for this show is good in that it shows how popular this seemingly unassuming Canadian show was in the States. It’s not an undeserving win. Lloyd does a great job in this episode. But it’s unfortunate that Emmy voters were so willing to reward Christopher Lloyd but not even nominate all the other main actors on the show. I’m not going to pretend like I know Disney Channel’s Emmy strategy. I’m not sure if the main actors were even ever submitted for consideration. But, still, Christopher Lloyd does not represent Road to Avonlea, not in the least. I feel like this win was more for the beloved actor. As in, he could have appeared on any show and he still would have won. But, hey, that’s how the Emmys usually are. Name checking over who really deserves it. So…again…weird win for a weird year with weird eligibility rules.
Favorite Scene: Again, I think this episode utilizes the kid cast so well. So, I suppose any scene that takes place in the classroom is fun. But, again, this is the season we have to say goodbye to our favorite originals. So this is the last episode for Edward Ray, played by Marc Worden. He will continue to appear on The Mickey Mouse Club, pow wowing with Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling and Christina Aguilera, and Keri Russell, and that one contestant from The Voice. He is still acting, doing mostly voice roles. And, yes, his voice is still very low.