Episode 120--"tenure"


Ann Lewis Hamilton


John Olive


Ken Gilbert

Air Date


Guest Stars

Allan Miller as Aldon Weiss; Grant Heslov as Roger; Devon Williams as Mary


Gary faces rejection by the tenure board.


At the end of seven years, Gary has begun the tenure process. He begins the term with a class in Humanities, teaching them Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Gary runs into Dr. Aldon Weiss (English Department chairman) and they talk about the tenure process with Gary growing increasingly frustrated.

After he doesn't receive the department's recommendation, Gary gets depressed and hangs out at Michael's place watching golf while Michael and Melissa try to talk him into fighting for tenure. Roger, an obsessive pre-med student from the Humanities class, comes by Gary's office and gets into a discussion about heroic quests.

Gary has a hilarious day dream revolving around Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the tenure committee. Gary doesn't get tenure and he starts thinking about other careers, even trying to make up ad copy with Michael and Elliot. Gary grows even more frustrated at work as Mary, his thesis student, begins to play it safe with departmental politics and Roger continues to hang around.

Michael tries to help so hard that he and Gary get into an enormous fight at school. Gary finally provokes Roger into being passionately angry, saying how much med school means to him and how he'd fight anything for it, which leads Gary to acknowledge Roger's "quest" as worthy (even if it doesn't involve literature). Michael and Gary make up, then Gary begs Weiss to help him appeal for tenure and they set off on an uphill battle.

In an incredibly unrelated subplot and after much agonizing and a nasty run in with the loan officer over her credit report [a May 1984 incident involving a $145 pair of off-white pumps to wear to Dana Paving's wedding] and a detailed inspection of the place by Gary, Ellyn decides to buy her apartment on the coop offer.


  • Gary has two publications--"Aspects of Early English Literate Poetry" and "Motiff Index of Early Icelandic Folk Tales"
  • The faculty lounge looks a little idealized
  • Gary is teaching 3 classes--Intro to Humanities, Chaucer seminar, and 19th century lit survey
  • Ellyn and Hope lived together one summer and ended up not speaking to each other
  • Gary's office is incredibly large for an assistant professor
  • Gary was once accepted to the American Film Institute
  • Ellyn has a master's in public administration
  • Gary wrote his thesis in a week and got an A (speaking from experience, you don't get a letter grade on your dissertation and there's simply no way to compose it in a single week--the typing, formatting, approvals, etc. would take much longer)
  • Fashion

    Michael is wearing more of those thin knit ties everyone loved in the '80s. Ellyn's hair is looking much better.


    Dream Sequence


    --"Good crowd [at the reception]?" --Gary

    --"Well, Andy Morgan's wife got a little drunk and propositioned our guest in front of most of the Department of Slavic Studies." --Dr. Weiss

    "Now is the printer of our discontent." --Gary's ill-fated effort at being an ad-man


  • These people (Gary and Michael in particular) have horrible fights with each other, then make up in record time as if nothing they say to each other has a lasting effect. It does not, in my experience, work this way.
  • The excessive quoting of Gawain serves as a metaphor for Gary's struggle against the games of the department and his quest for the right to teach and study.
  • The name of the college where Gary teaches is Havonhurst, which is the name of the college in Class of '96, the show which Peter Horton created.

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