Whenever somebody on TV takes a hit to the head, it always winds up causing either personality changes or temporary amnesia. I’ve already covered amnesia in an earlier post, so let’s about a personality switch. I wish it were that simple. I wish I could whack myself on the head and take a vacation from the regular me. I could get away with doing all the crazy stuff that I normally wouldn’t be able to get away with, and then right before all of my family and friends would be just about ready to abandon me, to give up on me completely, I could just hit myself again and return to normal. Everyone would let out a huge collective sigh of relief as they welcomed the regular me back to the fold. “Everything is forgiven,” they’d all say, and I’d have to point out that, actually, I never said sorry, because that wasn’t me acting like a huge dick, it was an alternate me with an alternate personality. If anything, I deserve your pity for having gone through such an ordeal. And they’ll agree and apologize for their mistake. And then I’ll say, “Everything is forgiven.”
I remember specifically the whole head-bump/personality-switch thing happening a few times on the classic TV show Charles in Charge. Once or twice a season Charles would get hit in the head with something really heavy and when he woke up, he’d tell everyone that his name was Chaz. “Yo, I’m not Charles, I’m Chaz. Somebody find me a leather jacket,” and he would spike up his hair and act like a huge jerk. The family would fret about how to deal with this new asshole housekeeper, but right before the end of the episode he would hit his head again and turn back into Charles. The first time it happened it was a huge shock to everyone. But in later episodes, sometimes they wouldn’t even do the whole head bump. He’d walk into the kitchen right after the theme song and he’d start talking with his tough guy Brooklyn accent and everyone would look at each other and say, without saying it, “Well, here we go again. Charles must have hit his head and turned into Chaz again.” It was similar to when Urkel used to turn into cool Urkel. It was a way of adding a new character without having to actually hire another actor and go through the whole casting process and filling out working papers and writing him a check and all of that nonsense.
I never really understood these storylines. I guess I really don’t even understand the whole point of the show. Charles was like a member of the family, right? But he wasn’t a member of the family. He was a paid employee of whatever family he was living with at the time. If one of your employees gets in an accident at work, and worse, suffers a head injury, and there’s clearly some mental damage, then isn’t that employee entitled to some serious money? Maybe Charles was working illegally, off the books. I don’t remember any episodes about Charles doing his taxes. I’m doubting there were any working papers.
Come to think of it, the whole situation seems a lot fishier now that I’m actually remembering the nuts and bolts of the show. Didn’t at one point Charles’ family move out, without telling him? And didn’t that family get replaced by another family? And they just kept Charles, like he came with the house or something, like a refrigerator? Was Charles an illegal immigrant? He definitely fits the profile, slightly ethnic looking, working as a housekeeper, just trying to work his way up society’s ladders, earning his education while raising a bunch of over privileged white kids.
I know the show was a comedy, but those Chaz episodes could have gone in a much darker direction. What if he never hit his head at the end of those episodes? What if he was stuck as Chaz forever? At what point would the family be like, all right, there’s clearly something wrong with you and we’re not sure how comfortable we are with you hanging around the house, let alone looking after our family. Listen, there are children in this family, not to mention our highly impressionable teenage girls. Sorry Chaz, you’ve got to go. But where Charles might have understood the logic of that situation, Chaz would have twisted it all out of context. He’d think to himself, these assholes think they’re better than me. Well, you can’t get rid of Chaz that easily. Maybe he’d even start dressing preppy again and telling everyone that he hit his head and is back to normal. “Hey I’m Charles again!” and everyone would be so relieved. But it would still be Chaz. That sociopath would be hiding in plain sight. And little by little he’d gain everyone’s confidence, only to exact a horrifying revenge just when everyone felt really safe. Maybe the family would escape a violent end, but just barely. Maybe Chaz would get caught and go to prison, and right when he got there, some inmate would come up and punch him in the head, and he’d revert back to Charles. And he’d call his family from behind bars, he’d call his friend Buddy Lembeck, but no one would ever answer his calls, they would all go right to the machine, so he’d leave these desperate messages, “Help! You have to help me! There’s been a crazy mistake! They keep calling me Chaz! What’s going on? Why won’t you answer my calls? You don’t know what it’s like in here! Help me!” and the phone would click and the camera would zoom out to the whole family sitting around the answering machine, just having listened to the message in real time, sobbing, choking on their own tears, until the grandpa shakes his head and walks over to the machine and presses a button, and you hear the machine say, “message deleted.”
But that probably wouldn’t be an appropriate storyline for a half-hour sitcom. Still, head trauma is no laughing matter. I’m frankly a little appalled at how the show skirted around and made light of such a serious issue.