I really appreciate the opportunity Netflix gives me to use television shows to fill the lonely hours of sick-in-my-bed time. It has almost pushed out reading as a favorite pastime. Too sick to write or do housework or even draw, I can still live alternate lives in my head by fighting crime with Luke Cage and Sheriff Walt Longmire, or experience the miracles of magic and story-telling with the fairy-tale characters of Once Upon a Time.
Luke Cage from Marvel Studios brings to life a comic book hero that I have followed since the 70’s. It is a bullet-proof fantasy of how a super hero who is invulnerable handles a world full violent evil and fragile people he desires to protect. I have already watched all thirteen episodes, and may well watch it a second time. It is, in my uncritical opinion, just as wonderful as Daredevil. It provides catharsis and relief from a world full of troubles and pain.
Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear
Longmire is a cowboy sheriff show that presents both a murder-case per episode and a larger jigsaw puzzle of personal secrets and hard life events that have to be faced no matter how reluctantly. It brings back the flavor of the westerns like Gunsmoke that I watched weekly in the 60’s when I was a mere boy.
And finally, I also find myself hooked by the sappy Disney-princess show Once Upon a Time. Literally hooked. Hook is my favorite character. And the reason he is my favorite is the something different behind the storytelling in this show. No villain is unredeemable in this show. Hook is transformed from heartless villain into an unqualified selfless hero. The same thing happens with major villains Rumpelstiltskin and Regina the evil queen. It is sappy and cartoonish, I know. But the show makes me feel something, and look at things in a new way.
So, for now, that is basically my world. I have to recover and grow stronger, and binging on Netflix goes a long way towards helping me do that.
On Lucy’s birthday the “Scary Lucy” statue of her in her hometown of Celeron, New York was finally replaced with one that actually looks like her.
In this Wednesday, July 20, 2016 photo, artist Carolyn Palmer prepares to apply a cold patina to her bronze statue of Lucille Ball in Saddle River, N.J. The sculptor was chosen to create a replacement statue for one dubbed “Scary Lucy,” in the late actress Ball’s hometown. The much-maligned statue of Ball will be replaced after it drew worldwide attention as “Scary Lucy,” according to the mayor of the western New York village where the 1950s sitcom actress and comedian grew up and her life-size bronze has stood since 2009. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
On Saturday, August 6th, Lucille Ball turned 105. While it is true that she has also been dead since 1989, we never-the-less must acknowledge the fact that this comedienne and her singular body of work have been influencing life on Earth for over a century. Perhaps we could even use more like her.
She has been subtly guiding my own life since the days of black-and-white television and the genre-establishing sitcom, “I Love Lucy”, where she has been advocating for a woman’s right to work and have a career of her own by making us laugh at the situation over and over until it becomes a mirth-filled, easy-to-swallow fact-of-life. She was the first female film producer to run her own production company, Desilu Productions. She is the producer behind such television milestones as Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. Being a child of the 60’s, raised by television almost as much as by my parents, she is a big part of who I am as a person. To this day she still influences how I feel about things. She is one of the primary reasons I can laugh at life’s troubles and, by laughing, overcome them.
So, I want to wish Lucy a happy 105th birthday. And I find it amusing and ironic that “Scary Lucy”, the bronze golem of Celeron, New York, has finally been replaced on her birthday with a statue that pictures her more accurately. We all need to see Lucy more accurately. We all need to laugh more and love more and live better lives. It was the “Golden Age” of television not because of the technology and the craft, but because of the essential goodness we can still get from it, that has stood the test of time for a century.
And I don’t think that I am merely looking at the whole thing through the colored lenses of my own affection for things in the past. I think more modern and definitely younger people than I can benefit from getting to know Lucy too. Lasting 105 years is a pretty big thing, even if you are dead when you do it.
Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich lived on the family farm outside of town, a little more than two miles from the tiny farm town of Rowan, Iowa. I walked it more than once. It was faster to walk the railroad tracks between the two places. About a mile and three quarters as the crow flies… three hours as the boy investigates the critters in the weeds, throws rocks at dragonflies, and listens to the birdsong along the way. But the point is, my maternal grandparents lived close enough to have a profound influence on my young life. Much of what they loved became what I love. And every Saturday night, they loved to watch the Lawrence Welk Show. And that show had highlights that we longed to see again and again… on a show that never really went into reruns. We lived to see Jo Ann Castle play the old rinky-tink piano, Bobby and Cissy doing a dance routine, and most of all… the lovely Lennon Sisters.
I always wanted to be the things they wished me to be in the song “May You Always”. I wanted to “walk in sunshine” and “live with laughter”. They presented a world of possibilities all clean and good and wholesome. As a young boy who hated girls, I had a secret crush on Janet Lennon who was the youngest, though a decade older than me, and on Peggy Lennon, the one with the exotic Asian eyes. They sang to me and spoke directly to my heart.
You have to believe in something when you are young. The world can present you with so many dark and hurtful experiences, that you simply have to have something to hang onto and keep you from being blighted and crippled by the pain. For me it often came in the form of a lovely and simple lyric sung by the lovely Lennon Sisters. When you are faced with hard choices… especially in those dark moments when you think about ending it all because it is all just too much to bear, the things stored in those special pockets of your heart are the only things that can save you. For me, one of those things will always be the music of the Lennon Sisters… especially when watched on the old black and white TV in the farmhouse where my grandparents lived, and helped to raise me, every Saturday night in the 1960’s.
Having successfully binged on the current first season of the television series Quantico, I was determined to try something different on the second try. I turned to the HBO series Band of Brothers. Now, I admit, being a war buff of the worst kind in every way, I have seen the entire thing before when it was broadcast on TBS back in 2003. The thing is, I did not have all the tools at that time necessary to fully appreciate and understand the dramatic arc of the story. I found it practically impossible to keep up with all the many characters who come and go so quickly. Some are introduced for the first time in the same episode in which they are killed. Some are wounded, leave for an episode or two… or four, and then return as if we are supposed to remember them in their entirety. So the secret magical spell I employed this time around for better and more intimate understanding is… I read the damn book.
Yes, the uncritical critic took on Stephen Ambrose’s masterpiece, Band of Brothers.
Having read the book, I now had all the background information I needed on each of the characters. I could begin to match names and faces from the cast list of each episode with the real people I read about in the book, and the real people who matched those characters in the movie from the brief interview segments at the start of several episodes. I began to understand why so much of the film was devoted to the stories of Major Dick Winters, C. Carwood Lipton, and Sergeant Don Malarky… these being men who led Easy Company of the 101st Airborne through the most terrible parts of the war and lived to tell the stories that got made into the book and then the series. I really began to appreciate the heroics of people like Sergeant “Wild Bill” Guarnere who found out his brother had died in combat in Italy the night before the big D-Day parachute jump, and ended up losing his leg in the Battle of the Bulge, at the defensive stand in Bastogne. I learned more about the key leadership role of Bull Randleman who was separated from Easy Company in Einhoven and spent a night hiding from the German troops during the failed Operation Market Garden. I felt the deep hurt felt by people like Eugene “Doc” Roe the combat medic as he tried and repeatedly failed to treat horrible war wounds. They are not just characters in a war movie any more. I feel like I know them as people.
Things about war and good war movies leave me in tears constantly. They grind up my soul and leave me sick at heart that people could be guilty of such things. I almost had to look away at times during the concentration camp episode.
Winters quietly orders his soldiers to open the prison gates
But ultimately it feels like a series like this is good for the soul. You can’t truly know how good and heroic people can actually be until you see how they live through and conquer these terrible experiences. And it is good to see an excellent book brought faithfully to life like this. It helps me lie to myself that writers can have a worthy effect upon life, the universe, and everything.
Being confined to home and bed by illness and my car getting in an accident without me in it, I didn’t have many other choices this weekend than to try binge-watching a TV show. I had been meaning to check out the ABC show Quantico since I first saw ads for it this last summer. But I didn’t get around to it until now. So, I watched eleven episodes this weekend and am now basically caught up to the present. And also, basically, hooked for life.
I started this, of course, by telling myself that if the show was no good, I would know that after the first episode, and I wouldn’t have to continue. But I had already learned the hard way that the uncritical critic in me can get caught up in really bad TV shows and learn to enjoy them. My son in the Marines gifted me with a subscription to Netflix on the promise that I would watch the show he was addicted to on Netflix called Supernatural.
Honestly, I had to suffer through four or five episodes of monster-of-the-week with that show before I got seriously hooked. It was a klunky-dumb show with a macho-dumb-guy main character, until it began weaving stories together into a main story arc and then dipping into the well of self-referential humor. You could see them getting better and better with each episode, and by now I have watched ten seasons worth of episodes… and the thing is somehow still running. I have to write a future post about that show too.
But this post is about a show that I actually watched eleven episodes of in two day’s time. Quantico is an FBI mystery series where they are running two parallel plots at the same time, the training of the main characters before the big attack, and the manhunt for the main character played by beautiful Priyanka Chopra after the big attack. It is a fascinating exercise in story-telling where no character on the screen is one hundred percent guilt-free, and the story seems to focus on a different perpetrator each episode. After eleven episodes and the deaths of two characters, I still don’t know who is guilty. At one point I even thought the main character herself was guilty and pulling the wool over our eyes the whole time. It has the pull and intensity of a really good Sherlock Holmes’ story with twists and turns and double-backs galore. I may have to re-watch all eleven episodes to get it straight.
And it just keeps me going with a need to know more about each and every one of these intricate and well-developed characters. I am astonished that a plot-driven entertainment like this is capable of developing different over-all themes in each of the episodes. And I am thoroughly impressed by the level of intelligent creativity exhibited by program creators on a consistent basis. It is almost too smart to be popular with the viewing public. It is the same thing my son encountered with the Supernatural TV show. There isn’t anywhere to turn to find people who have watched it and understood it well enough to discuss it with me. Most of the people I know don’t want to actually discuss themes and ideas from TV shows with me anyway… but especially not brain-intensive shows.
So feel free to tell me in the comments how awful you think the show is and why I am so terribly terminally wrong about it. Or not. I am an uncritical TV critic and you can’t spoil something like this for me no matter how many syllables are in the bad words you use.
I watched the new Supergirl TV show on CBS via the internet, and I have to say… Wow! Now, I am not that big of a Supergirl fan. The comic book from my overly-massive comic book collection from 40-plus years of being a juvenile reader at heart is the only example I can find to illustrate Supergirl. And I only own that one because my eldest son wanted it at age 11 because of the bare-midriff dress in the cover illustration. I have never been all that fixated on Kara Jor-El’s belly button myself. But don’t get me started on a discussion of superhero babes with bare body parts in comics… well, because I will end up telling you things about myself I really don’t want you to know. But I do know enough of the Superman mythos to appreciate what the TV show has done with this character.
Superman himself has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I remember him in black-and-white as George Reeves from the time I was first allowed to pick TV shows for myself.
So, I watched this Supergirl show last night in spite of the fact that critics I have read basically hated it. I don’t actually understand their disdain. It had everything I love about comic books. The characters were simply drawn and two-dimensional, which is exactly what a comic book character should be. Kara was given a back-story that matches the comic book mythos quite well, and yet, other characters like Jimmy Olsen and her adopted sister are clearly innovative and new. The villain was life-and-death terrible in the way that comic book villains are supposed to be. He even died at the end of the episode as comic book villains are supposed to do in order to surprise us when they come back to life as comic book villains always do sooner or later. Everyone seems to love the CW’s newest version of The Flash on TV because it has that distinctive funny/violent comic book bravado about it. So why didn’t they see the same thing in this new show? I think, with time, this new show will prove them wrong. I like the lost-little-girl-turned-superhero story presented in this first episode. I went in expecting not to like it, and was bedazzled and befuddled and be-everythinged that you want this kind of show to do to you.
I will not try to tell you that you should watch the show. If you are comic-book nutty like I am, you have probably already seen this show, and nothing I could say or do would have a ghost of a chance of keeping you away from it, if that was what I wanted to accomplish. And I know that many people hate this kind of thing with a passion. But, being honest here… something I am sure you are aware I rarely ever intentionally do… I want you to watch it so it will become popular and stay on the air. After all, a TV show like this will generate more dolls and toys to collect. Ta-ta-ta- TAAAH!!!