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by Jen Payne
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Betty Roberts Character Profile

Background to begin:
Betty was originally from Elkhart, Indiana, as far as we know. At least she said she went to college there.
Her first job was as an assistant writer for the Elkhart Daily Bugle, whose editor was her father.
She had also seen something of the country, taking a vacation to New York with her family when she was in Jr. High.
From the little we know of her family, we know they were big into Christmas;
her parents invented words like “Kringly”and officially started the celebration of it on Labor Day.
Betty most likely came from a Christian background, since she settles comfortably into prayer for dinner during the Sleepover episode.
She was extremely well read, given her vocabulary and knowledge of Shakespeare (she was able to quote sonnets in a flash).
Also, as a child, she admitted to dreaming for the arrival of The New Yorker magazine in order to pour over the latest stories.
She obviously did some singing in high school, as she performed the Mikado there.
She tended to be a romantic writer, but was also very innovative, and at the drop of a hat at that.
At Pittsburgh radio station WENN, she was the writing intern, turned head writer, turned temporary station manager and fill-in actress, singer,
“political editor” and “news correspondent”, as well as the one who kept sponsors happy and the shows running and the actors working together.
She simply did it all.
You must pardon me on this one... this profile was the reason for the creation of this site.
I was thinking about how Betty had changed in stages... and then, Poof! I'm writing paragraph after paragraph!
My gosh! How I love Betty! I don' t think all of the profiles will end up this detailed. LOL!
Character Profile:
Betty arrived at the station as a wide-eyed, would-be apprentice, full of anticipation, exuberance and wonder. She was open to being friends with everyone and expected the best from people, even after less than amiable introductions, specifically and consecutively with Gertie, Hilary and Victor. As she was quite well read and also an assistant with the newspaper in her hometown, it would not be fair or right to describe her as a na´ve farm-girl. Perhaps it was more of an innocence and inexperience in life that made her appear na´ve. Or maybe it was because of her age; a reasonable guess would place her somewhere in her early twenties. One thing was for certain, however; she was awestruck with everyone at the station, and she could not help but be inspired to work for nothing by Victor’s passionate speech about radio.

Victor later described her, about her first days at the station, as being “impeccably principled” (she refused to eat lunch with a married man – because of how improper it would be) and “high-minded” (she could not bear the thought of covering up George Smith’s identity based on his race – even though it might be disastrous for the station itself). Victor was not physically present for either of these circumstances, but he either heard about them off-screen (which seems pretty likely) or he simply observed these traits in other circumstances that we did not get to see (which is also very likely – there had to be, at very least, eight months between her arrival at the station and Victor’s departure in Episode 9) He also took notice of how quickly she took hold of his high-minded principles, in the very first episode.

She arrived at the station rather proud of herself, but that did not last too long, as she was humbled almost immediately for missing several obvious principles of radio writing. Interestingly, it was Victor who was slightly humbled at the end of the day by praising her creativity that had saved the program when he had earlier described it as something that would cause people to think that their ears needed to be de-waxed.

Betty made friends quickly, but that is not surprising, given her tendency for thinking the better of people no matter who they were. Her good relationship with Mackie Bloom, however, was really due to Mackie’s friendliness and openness, coupled with their common knowledge of Shakespeare. Even though at first sight she appeared na´ve and out of place, she earned the trust and respect from those who had first been wary of her (namely, Victor and Gertie) by being able to handle difficult situations with creativity and cleverness. While Hilary was pleased on the air with Betty’s directions (“let’s have ‘em all”), afterwards she realized that her character had been of less importance in a great scene, so her pride took over. She attacked “Betsy” until she thought that all those phone calls were real. Afterwards, Betty was allowed to be called by her right name because Hilary realized that it would be of the best advantage to be in a good relationship with her writer.

Over time at the station, Betty’s inspiration in working with radio persisted, but by episode 2, which was certainly set several weeks later (at the very least), she had seemingly lost some of her awestruck-ness of the first day and was working right along with everyone else. It took her until episode three to directly tell a lie, albeit to a sponsor in order to preserve the well-being of the station, but nonetheless an outright lie; something that was probably discouraged at home. She also showed wonderful graciousness in the episode by trying to console a humiliated Celia Pedrowsky (who had pretended to be a fabulously rich daughter of the local billionaire Mellons) and promising to not reveal her professional secret. Earlier in the episode she had chided Celia for her rudeness about oyster forks, and reminded her than most people were poor and had to work hard during the depression to make ends meet, like her parents had done. Betty would have been in her early teens in 1929, so she most certainly would have done her part of hard work as well. The way she took the initiative to befriend Celia was quite lovely, and really demonstrated the depth of Betty’s kindheartedness.

When Grace Cavendish visited the station, Betty was still enthralled with working alongside Victor and still timid as she had to jump on the air again, this time for comedy and not for the defense of the President. Although she was surprised and seemingly disappointed or concerned at the knowledge of Victor and Grace’s relationship, she still looked forward to working with him the next day with an overly lighthearted “See you tomorrow!” and a big smile at the end of the episode. She may have been slightly jealous of Victor’s attentions towards Grace, but this might be reading way too much into her various looks and glances during the singing of the theme song.

There are reasons to believe that a long period of time elapsed between the first episodes and episode five, which are explained in detail elsewhere. In this period of time, the only thing known for sure is that on Christmas Eve, 1939, they were all snowed in at the station because of a blizzard. They must have got to know each other pretty well. Possibly during this extended time, Victor and Betty saw the stars reflected in the circumfluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Their confluence was, after all, a misnomer.

In episode 5, when Victor left for Washington and placed the reins of the station in her hands, even with her reluctance, he reassured her with her previous day’s performance that she was best suited for the job. She stared with wonder as she realized how much she liked him when he asked for her unswerving devotion with his characteristic sarcasm.

Episodes 6, 7 and 8 reveal how much she has grown in everyone’s confidence and how adept she is at fixing problems. She runs the station in episodes 6 and 7, both times doing crazy things to keep the station broadcasting.

While beginning episode 9 in the same sort of inexperienced manner as before, notably in her unawareness of kissing sounds, her awkward but hilarious lie to Adrian Carr, and her jumping on the air, again replacing an indisposed Hilary Booth, where she practically hugs Mackie after finishing, she ends it in dramatic sadness. Victor tells her something (that we were not allowed to know until the next scene), and she calls him by his first name for the first time, stopping his movement. She asked him about their meaning to each other, with a heart-breaking “What about us?” line. Her admiration for him had turned into love, but for some reason, he could not answer. Given his speech (“And to you, sitting alone in a small room”) he fully understood her meaning, and given her reaction (turning her head and tapping the arm of her chair), I think she knew that he did. Her lamenting about her not telling him in Radio Silence seems to be her wishing that she had been a little more direct.

Episode 10 showed us a confident, well adjusted (“you do all read your performance notes?”) Betty Roberts, ready to handle any crisis. She even shows sarcasm for the first time (on-screen) as she asks Hilary and Jeff to share their “drama” with the wider-listening radio audience, and they obey. Mr. Corwin, in a later episode, indicated that she was a real “meat and potatoes kind of gal” who had a quick wit. She certainly took over for Victor in every function of the station and did very well with the sponsors.

The first thing that might have offended her about Scott Sherwood, besides how he slammed doors (and even though she did not talk about it), was the idea that Victor replaced her with him as station manager after only a very short time in charge. She probably wondered if Victor doubted her capabilities, or thought she could not handle it. When Scott played fast and loose with Victor’s principles, resigning was all she could do to protest. Fortunately for her, the cast saved the day by forcing Mr. Sherwood to change his first approach to station managing, and he handed her back her letter of resignation with the temporary concession to her idea of returning to “one brand of soap suds per soap opera”.

Over the three and a half months that separated Episodes 11 and 13, Betty still had not quite caught on to Scott’s crazy and daring ideas. She was still well rooted in honesty, being appalled at the idea of a fixed quiz show. It was a cheap lie for a few bucks, something she could not accept. Scott forced her to go along with the project, but she submarined it in the end by foiling “Jr. Randle’s” attempt to win the family cash (ironically, with a lie). She almost killed it outright by answering the questions she wrote, but conceded to Scott’s desperate appeal not to. But this only occurred after a passionate speech about honesty which, apparently, is one of the things the call letters W.E.N.N. stand for. Her late (casual) date with Doug Thompson provided a nice opportunity to again talk about telling the truth.This may be plainer than the obvious, but Betty only believed in lying when it was for a common good that did not sacrifice the principles of good radio; not just for easy money, which Scott certainly did not mind.

In the pivotal finale, Betty was again caught off-guard by a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants plan for increasing sponsorship sales by Scott. Keeping the sponsor happy with local broadcasting was not good enough, so Scott forced Betty to come up with something at less than a moment’s notice (“you came up with something? Great! I mean, didn’t she come up with something great?”), and she re-hashed “The Wizard of Oz” and defended it as having merely a “superficial similarity”. But she was strained and exasperated from orchestrating Scott’s crazy ideas by the end of the week. With Jeff gone, she re-wrote scripts and coerced everyone to play the show “by the numbers”. Near the end, Betty challenged Scott to care about what went on beyond the money side of things (“it’s sorta out of my hands now”) by telling him to drop by the control room sometime. She was disappointed that he did not care about the programming the same way Victor did. Everything about the shows themselves was left in her hands – to her, there wasn’t much teamwork between them in the actual directing of the shows. When Scott supplemented the broadcast with Jeff’s voice from London, Betty was surprised, but very pleased, and thanked him with a very kind look. He was growing on her.

While listening to the fateful broadcast a little later, Betty looked as if she could barely breathe from worrying about Victor, but placed her hand on Hilary’s shoulder, possibly a symbol the support she always offered and the common angst they both felt about the people they loved. And then a bomb went off.

With Victor’s death, Betty changed considerably, and not only because of her acute grief. Even Hilary Booth herself, felt intimidated by a distraught Betty Roberts. Betty was deeply angry at herself and at the world for how things had worked out against her. She lamented the fact that she never got the courage to specifically tell Victor that she loved him (although he knew it for certain anyway). She worked without sleep so she did not have to “dream any new dreams”. She hated the fact that Scott was just going on “as usual” as if nothing had happened (at least, that’s what she told herself) and it took the sight of a banged-up Jeff Singer to snap her out of her self-misery and back into focusing her attention on other people. And she did so with a sober response to Scott at the end of the episode. She was still hurting, but she would not allow herself to wallow in it any more. She dedicated her life to Victor’s principles, this time in solemn honor of his death.

And so, gone was the wide-eyed wonder of season one. With over a year at the station, combined with the tragic loss of what was seemingly her first serious romantic relationship, Betty Roberts changed from exuding a youthful demeanor to being more sarcastic and ever so much more confident in her job and in her relationships with her coworkers and ready to do anything for the station.

From here, Betty begins to fall for Mr. Sherwood. He wasn’t a “half-bad human being” after all, but it didn’t happen overnight. As illustrated in the end of the Newsday episode (“there’s a lot I would do for the people at this station”), and in the end of the Christmas special (“actually, I bought that myself”), and for a good portion of “Close Quarters” (“yeah… I think you did”) combined with a an actual date mentioned in “The First Mrs. Bloom”, near the end of the season (“He says you need to get out more often” – incidentally combined with another “I do” line from Betty – this time delivered a little more forcefully than with Victor) and the moment at the end of the same episode (“just looking”), Betty shows signs of doing the impossible (or maybe not quite so impossible): falling in love with Scott Sherwood.

Before Jeff and Hilary re-married in episode 14, Betty was left helpless at the whim of every word that came out of the couple’s mouths during “Breakfast at Bedside Manor”. She was threatened with “canning” by the sponsor, Ingram’s Coffee, and it was not until Scott (or 46 hours of bumpy rails) intervened to change the couple’s minds about each other. Scott told Betty that the “creative junk” was her department, but he went “to bat” for her anyway. Whatever Scott’s reasoning might have been, Betty was not given the slightest hint that he cared for her, but instead he told her: “If anyone knows how to kill a romance, it’s you”.

With the departure of Eugenia in the last episode, auditions are held for a new organist. Again behind Betty’s back (and again to save the day), Scott engineers the arrival of Maple LaMarsh, who hits it off with everyone she meets (for different reasons), for an audition that Jeff seemed to be driving more than Betty. Again, Betty had no idea how Scott cared for the station. He seemed to be avoiding her notice with special care. But after the end of the escapade through an all day news show (an idea of Scott’s that she actually liked), Scott let slip a reference to falling “head over heels”, but he caught himself and finished with “onto the pavement”, but Betty took notice.

In the Newsday episode and in the next one titled “Don’t Act Like That”, Betty is continually confounded at Scott’s fast and loose and inexpensive ideas. In order to make the news a success, they start creating news: from breaking world records to inventing islands that get submerged. In “Don’t Act Like That”, Scott pays their new actors nothing and calls them interns. Betty might have been loath to the ‘paying them nothing’ part because that had been her position in the first episode and she knew what it felt like.

In episode 17, “The Diva That Wouldn’t Die”, Hilary again references Betty’s rural upbringing by calling her “Dear, sweet, corn-fed Betty” (or Dear, sweet corn-fed Betty – depending on if you’re similar to Mr. Eldridge or not). Hilary called Betty’s writing “drivel” and then appealing with her to change the plot of the Hands of Time. Understandably, Betty was first upset with her for leaving the air, which was followed closely by an exchange of a few sarcastic words and then she condescendingly explained why she had to refuse. Hilary then went and did what she wanted on the program anyway, making sure Betty heard. The Leona St. James show seems to me to be Betty’s only “naughty” indulgence. She admits to being an addict after all. J Oddly enough, Scott took credit for Betty’s idea when he told the sponsor. That seemed to be a little uncharacteristic, since he usually makes his ideas sound as if they are hers (previous episode and episode 13), but I suppose it just didn’t happen before (“Why didn’t I think of that?”) Hilary and Scott’s relationships with Betty are still quite precarious by the end of the episode.

I think that the most notable things to be gleaned from the Christmas special regarding Betty’s character is that she considers the radio station to be her home even more than  Elkhart, and that she is allowed to see Scott personally care about her for the first time. Betty and Maple also work as a team for the first time, saving the station from certain closure. It is quite touching in the end how Gertie, Mr. Eldridge and Scott send her home and back again.

Betty and Hilary have some important scenes together in episode 19, “Behind Every Great Woman”. Betty first stepped in to save Hilary’s lack of singing and then listened to a “story” about Hilary’s supposedly late Aunt Myrna, and she continued to stand in on later episodes of the new show. When Betty found out that the story was a hoax, she confronted her about it (“I won’t be your stand-in stuntman for one more measure of one more bar.”). To have her way, Hilary cleverly admitted that she was “wrong”, and Betty caved in (besides – she gave her word; and “if a girl doesn’t have her word, what does she have?”). I loved how everyone else stood up for her and hated the idea: Maple responded to the last quote with “Her voice”, and Mackie introduced Hilary as “Miss Hilary Betty… Bethy… Booth.” LOL! When Ruth discovered Betty as “the woman behind the curtain”, Hilary successfully made Betty’s debut as uncomfortable as she kindly could.

However, the pivotal moment between Hilary and Betty definitely occurred in the control room during episode 21, “Close Quarters”. At that point, Hilary actually began to accept Betty as a friend for Betty’s open and discerning praise for taking care of Jeff. Betty did not even mention Victor (although she was thinking about him – Hilary mentioned him), but instead said “every night”, referring to Hilary’s constancy and unconditional love for her husband. Hilary dropped the “grand persona and the affectations” for a tender moment where she was very real and personal.

Although she began to like Scott, she clearly did not let herself fall head over heels anywhere yet, since thoroughly sprinkled throughout these episodes are instances to the contrary: especially in “Scott Sherwood of the FBI”, where she sniped at him the entire time. But that might have been a response to Mackie’s chiding early on in the episode (“shame on you for the third time this week, Betty Roberts”), where she probably realized that Scott was rubbing off on her (or it was an unfair assessment by Mackie that she could not defend against) and it upset her. But Betty certainly wove many fabrications with the “Master Weaver” in this episode (whose loom looms large in his legend), but only after Scott lamented about the “blind ally” of truthfulness. She certainly did stick up for her friends.

With the discovery of Scott’s embezzlement for the memorial, Betty was shocked and semi-pleased, all at once (“You’re like Robin Hood! Doing good things but still basically behaving like a criminal.”). She could not see a way out of getting rid of the money without losing their sponsor, so she went along with the plan. She let her devotion to Victor sway her better sense, and so she aided a criminal plan.

Betty was her happy self in the season two finale, although plagued by memories of Victor when trying to direct Amazon Andy, one of Victor’s favorite shows. She was everything that she had grown to be up to this point: excited about radio (and Hilary’s mind reading powers), a good friend to everyone at the station (she gets let in on the secret) and willing and able to help Scott, but ever disappointed at his seemingly brainless behavior, but in the end being pretty impressed with him. But then the light flicked on in the office in the middle of a limerick… “Oh, but seeing is hardly believing.”

Betty’s reaction to Victor’s return is very believable. You can barely blame the poor thing for throwing the water! I mean really! Victor’s return didn’t change Betty’s character very much at all. In fact, she was quite used to lying to help the station out, that lying to protect Victor was an old hat… that mostly seemed to be picked up from working with Scott, and not Victor, as Victor mistakenly assumed he did (“What have I done to you?”). The best thing about this episode (IMHO) is that she finally is able to show Victor how much she loves him. With the ultra romantic description of the walk to the confluence, to the scene in the dark office, to the scene in the writer’s room, to the nearly tearful goodbye look (before and after the kiss), it is all too clear what her feelings are. This is not surprising since he quite plainly showed his love for her with the ultimate trust he held in her and the things he said in his own, reserved manner: “…no attachments…well, none to speak of.” I don’t think she would have changed very much if that had been the extent of the shock. She might not have been quite as jovial about life, but nothing like what happened when Victor shocked her in a way she could not quite cope with. He did not know Scott Sherwood.

Next Two Seasons Coming Soon!