14th July is the 35th Anniversary of the U.K. broadcast of "A Tough Act To Follow". Here is a witty recap from Television of Yore Website.
Danny's having a dream that he's riding an elevator and gets stuck at the 236th floor. He uses the elevator phone to call for help and somehow ends up talking to Mr. Crandall. A few seconds later, the elevator starts rapidly descending, then comes to an abrupt stop. The doors open, and Mr. Crandall appears - via footage of him teaching drama class from Season 1. After a few seconds, the elevator doors close, and the elevator hurtles toward the ground level. Danny cries for help, then jolts awake in his real life bed, sweating and breathing hard. His mom pokes her head in his room and asks him if he's OK, and he tells her he just had a bad dream. He then glances over at the clock on his nightstand and notes that it's 2:36am.
Mrs. Berg congratulates Miss Sherwood on her upcoming gig as temporary radio show guest...but Miss Sherwood tells her it's no big deal and that she's just going to be answering questions about English literature. Mrs. Berg asks her if she could please mention her name on the radio 'cause she'd get a real kick out of it, and Mrs. Sherwood says she can't promise anything - but will pretend to try. When Mr. Reardon (who I'm calling David in this recap for simplicity's sake) enters the office, Mrs. Berg tells him he's gotten a bunch of phone messages from his father. She then scrunches her face in confusion and says she thought she once heard him say his father is dead. David mutters, "He is" and stalks off. A few seconds after that, Mrs. Berg gets a call from Mercy Hospital with some sad news.
Danny asks his drama classmates if anyone knows where Mr. Crandall is, and someone mutters, "Sick or something" just as an ashen-faced Mrs. Berg enters the room. She announces that a substitute teacher will be taking over Mr. Crandall's classes and that she'll fill in until he/she arrives. She then seats herself at the teacher's desk, looking visibly upset. One of the extras asks her if she's OK, and she nods and asks the class to just quietly study whatever they've been working on. Danny suddenly blurts out, "Crandall's dead" and a stricken Mrs. Berg stares back at him and asks, "How did you know?" As the kids are all, "Wha-a?!", Mrs. Berg announces that the school just received word that Mr. Crandall suffered a heart attack last night and died early this morning. The students immediately get teary, and Danny springs up from his chair and says he needs to process this news by walking around. He asks Mrs. Berg if she knows exactly when he died...then has a flashback of the exact moment he woke up from his bad dream - 2:36am - and barks, "I do."
Miss Sherwood tells her colleagues that someone is going to have to go through Mr. Crandall's desk and collect his things so they can pass them along to his family. David offers to take that on and points out that the task won't be as hard on him 'cause he didn't know Mr. Crandall...which makes sense, 'cause he kind of replaced Michael Thoma's character after the actor passed away last season.
In the next scene, David is emptying out Mr. Crandall's desk drawers and taking his pictures down from the wall. Danny - who's been sitting in the corner of the room, creepily watching him - blurts out, "What are you doing?" and David's like, "Ack!" then explains that he's packing up Mr. Crandall's stuff. Danny starts blathering about a show idea Mr. Crandall had been working on, and says it's something about keeping one's inner child alive, blah blah. After Danny shuffles out of the room, David glances around and says, "Crandall, you're going to be one tough act to follow."
David tells his colleagues he'd really like to bring Mr. Crandall's final show idea to fruition. He asks if anyone knows how old he was when he died, and when he learns that Crandall was fifty-five, he remarks, "That's the same age as my dad."
Doris tells Leroy she thought about Mr. Crandall all weekend, especially everything he taught them about comedy. She then says that while she misses him a lot, she's pretty sure she'll be done mourning him by the end of the episode. She sees Julie at her locker and asks her to help her with a scene so she can try to improve her grade point average - but Julie says she's got bigger problems, namely that her yokelly friends from Grand Rapids are planning a class trip to New York. Doris is like, "So what?" and Leroy accuses Julie of being ashamed of her New York crew. Julie says she's actually more ashamed of her Grand Rapids ex-besties, 'cause she's afraid they'll do or say something yokelly and then suffer from culture shock.
Mrs. Berg asks Miss Sherwood if she remembered to mention her name on the radio last night, and Miss Sherwood tells her she wasn't able to do it. Mrs. Berg shrugs amiably and says, "Oh well, maybe next time."
Hall monitor Dwight is patrolling his beat when he spots Danny ambling around the lobby area without authorization. He points at Danny, barks, "You're late!" and threatens to write him up. Danny laughs and derisively calls him the Pillsbury Dough Boy, then cockily struts past him. Dwight grabs at him, which prompts Danny to whirl around and shriek, "Get your hands off of me!" Dwight gets all in his face and sniffs, then looks aghast and asks Danny if he's been drinking...and when Danny comes right out and admits he has, Dwight threatens to write him up for that too. He smugly pronounces to Danny that he's going to have to appear in Student Court - LOL... is that a real thing in American high schools? - and Danny bellows, "Stick it!" and raises his fist in a ready-to-punch position. But before he can give Dwight the pummeling he's had coming since the moment he first appeared on Fame, Mrs. Berg appears out of nowhere and cries, "Don't you dare!" She reminds Danny that punching another student could get him expelled...and Danny mulls over the warning, decides that punching Dwight in the face is totally worth being expelled over, and lets his fist fly. After knocking Dwight on his keister - bwahahaha! - Danny takes off down the hall.
David's at home in his apartment, on the phone with Mr. Shorofsky...and the two are discussing where Danny might have stormed off to after he decked Dwight. He has to cut the call short when he hears a knock on the door - and when he answers it, he's stunned to see his estranged father standing on his doorstep. He marvels at how he hasn't see him in six years, then tells him he's trying to find a lost kid who hates him. Papa Reardon wryly replies, "Me too."
Papa Reardon tells David he heard about his marriage and subsequent divorce, then apologizes for driving him away 'cause of how pushy he was about him joining the family business. David irritably asks him why he's bringing all this up now, and Papa Reardon answers his question by asking, "Why not now?" then asks him why he finally returned his call. David says he was feeling vulnerable and sentimental because a teacher from The School of the Arts just died, and this prompts Papa Reardon to put his sad face on and ask, "Do I have to die before we can get back what we used to be?"
Doris bugs Julie again to help her with her scene - but Julie is staring past her at whatever's going on down the hall, exclaims, "Oh no!" and flees. Doris turns around and sees a yokelly teenager wearing a dorky blue suit and walks over to him. He introduces himself as Lester from Grand Rapids (hey - he's Julie's ex!) and asks her if she knows Julie Miller. Doris blurts out, "She's sick!!" then looks sheepish and admits that what she just blurted out is a lie. Smooth, Doris.
David brings Papa Reardon to The School of the Arts, and the two men wander around the halls, chatting. Papa Reardon chooses this moment to reveal to his son that he's always harbored a deep desire to become a circus clown. Er...OK.
Bruno brings Danny, who's hiding out in the dressing room, food and refreshments. Bruno then reminds his idiot friend that he's scheduled to appear in Student Court on Friday for the crime of slugging Dwight, as well as cutting class. He asks Danny if he's had a good cry over losing Mr. Crandall yet, and Danny bitchily snarks, "Hell no" and says he doesn't "buy that stuff". Bruno tells him that Mr. Crandall would have wanted him to be involved in his final project, and Danny quietly mulls that over for a few seconds. He then decides he no longer wants to remain in hiding and announces that he's off to English class.
David tells his father he needs to get back to work now, and Papa Reardon gushes about how proud he is of him and that he seems to fit in very well at the school. He asks him if it's OK if he hangs out for awhile, and David shrugs and says, "Sure."
In English class, Miss Sherwood is leading a discussion on the concept of outsiders...and I notice that Dwight has a fat lip, courtesy of Danny's fist. Haha! Dwight offers his insight about being an outsider among his School of the Arts peers and has deludedly adopted the notion that he's been set apart from everyone 'cause he plays the sousaphone. He laments how hard it is for male sousaphone players to get laid...so he tried to fit in by becoming hall monitor. To his shock and dismay, however, he soon discovered that dickishly patrolling the halls and writing up his fellow classmates for petty infractions wasn't winning him any popularity contests. As his classmates do their best to keep from laughing out loud at his clueless dorkishness, Miss Sherwood asks Danny what he thinks of all this...and he pissily retorts that he didn't bother doing the reading assignment 'cause he fully expects to be expelled on Friday. [From your lips to the writers' ears, Danny.]
Papa Reardon gushes to Leroy and Stephanie about what great dancers they are, then introduces himself as David's father. He yammers about how pleased he is that his son is teaching drama in this dump instead of chasing acting jobs in Hollywood. Stephanie diplomatically says it seems like David is doing just fine, and Danny - who's been creepily eavesdropping on the conversation - suddenly storms by and snarks, "Yeah. Just fine."
David assures Danny he's not trying to take Mr. Crandall's place, then asks him what he can do for him during his Student Court appearance. Danny bitchily retorts that no one wants him at the school...except maybe his father - but that's only 'cause he's happy he's not pursuing an acting career anymore. David's all, "Wuh? Where did you hear that?" so Danny says he just overheard his father declare it in the hall.
David confronts Papa Reardon about the remark he made to the students, and Papa Reardon admits that, yep, he said it all right. David starts whining about how he once needed his moral support, blah blah, and Papa Reardon says he wants to make it up to him now - but David says he can't love him just 'cause he's doing things he thinks he should be doing. He wails, "You should love me for meeee!" then shakes his head and says, "This won't work." Papa Reardon puts his sad face on again and dejectedly exits the apartment.
That evening, Dwight arrives at school to testify at Student Court, and he and Danny glare at each other before heading in opposite directions. Danny ambles over to the theater and sits in the back row, watching as Julie gabbles to Leroy, Doris, and Bruno about the wall that now exists between her and her yokelly Grand Rapids friends. She really is making waaay too much of this. Can't she just share some polite small-talk with her old friends and then get on with her day? Doris suggests they'll all feel better if they perform a song that Bruno cobbled together in memory of Mr. Crandall…and Bruno starts playing piano while Doris sings. After they (mercifully) wrap it up, Julie calls the number special, and Danny suddenly blurts out, "It stinks! The show stinks! This place stinks!" He grumbles that he didn't need someone he cared about to die and therefore doesn't need this place. He storms out of the theater...and a few seconds later he runs into Dwight and tells him he's bailing 'cause he doesn't need no stinkin' Student Court to expel him. David overhears the exchange and goes running after the dumbass...and finds him cleaning out his locker. He gets all tough love on him and accuses him of leaving when things get too tough - but Danny snarls, "It's none of your business!" and orders him to butt out. David retorts by grabbing all the stuff in his locker and dumping it in the middle of the hall. He growls, "Did Crandall teach you to quit?!" then hauls Danny over to a nearby storage room. He thrusts a folder at him, which contains a student evaluation that Mr. Crandall once wrote about him. It says mostly good things, but makes mention of Danny's overactive ego and overwhelming insecurity...which, well d'yuh. It goes on to say that Danny reminds him of himself when he was younger...however, if carefully nurtured, he could have a bright future ahead. [As a comedian?? 'Cause I couldn't vehemently disagree more with that assessment.] Danny looks moved as he reads the evaluation, then starts to tear up. David softly asks, "Was Mr. Crandall wasting his time?" then leaves the room so Danny can cry in private.
Dwight tells David he told the Student Court officials that when Danny punched him in the face, they were rehearsing a scene, and that everything was all just a big misunderstanding.
Mrs. Berg thanks Miss Sherwood for mentioning her name on the radio and gushing about her geniusness. Miss Sherwood's all, "Wha-a?", then remembers she discussed screenwriter Gertrude Berg while on the air...and apparently Mrs. Berg assumed it was about her. Maybe her first name is Gertrude.
Show time! Bruno is on the piano, while Julie sits in her ready position with her cello. Suddenly, her yokel friends file into the theater and seat themselves in the front row. Julie says hey to her ex-besties and starts playing, and everyone in the audience looks utterly entranced by her cello skills.
Danny tells David he has a costume emergency in the dressing room…but it turns out it’s just a set up to put David and Papa Reardon in a room alone together so they can try to kiss and make up. David tells his father that the Fame kids (and writers) believe in a happy ending...but that since they live in two such different worlds, he's doubtful a reconciliation can happen. He exits the room, leaving behind a crestfallen Papa Reardon.
David and Ms. Grant are discussing the performance with the students, telling them their energy levels were low during rehearsal and that it's supposed to be a special show, blah blah. Suddenly, they hear someone playing the piano…and David’s all, “Wha-a?”, so he pulls open the curtain and finds his father, who has made up his face to look like a sad clown. OK then. Danny says he'd like to take another crack at the performance, and urges everyone to do their best not to fuck it up again. He then starts dorkishly prancing around the stage while belting a tune about the secret of life and love. And since I kind of checked out by this point, I'll just have to assume that the performance somehow inspired David and his sad clown father to make up after six years of estrangement.