Saturday, May 03, 2014

Chocolate Pie

Five months ago I met a nice guy and started going out with him.  Anything I could say about him would sound very much like a Hallmark card but, I won! After 44 years, far more of which were spent single than not, I found the guy I kept insisting I wasn’t actually waiting for but really I was.  I’ve got joy, laughter, friendship and love coming to me now in regular doses and I don’t have words to explain what that means to me. 

This really isn’t about him, exactly, but it’s a good starting place.  I’ve been on the earth enough years to understand that the idea that a man is going to solve your problems is one of the worst delusions out there.  I knew that before I met him, and I’ve known it as we started this journey together. I’m still me, and I’m still dragging this broken wheeled suitcase stuffed with crap I’m not thrilled about everywhere.  Not to be indiscreet, but he’s got one too.  We’re middle aged. At this point, if you don’t have one of those battered cases that in itself would be profoundly suspicious. 

What I wasn’t really prepared for was having some of those things about me I’m not thrilled about actually start to get worse.  I’ve been packing on the pounds since he and I started going out and I hate it.  It started innocently enough really.  He and I go out to eat together a lot, more than when I was eating alone, and if you’re going to be eating out you should have what you want, by god, and suddenly gravy is starting to be a significant food group.  But, it’s not just the eating he and I do together.  I’m eating like crap at home too.  More often than I should admit publically (I should never admit this publically) I find myself visiting 7-11 for an Icee and nachos, or grabbing a bag of chips for an afternoon snack, or doing drive through breakfast even though it would take me exactly the same amount of time if not less to make breakfast for myself. 

I brought it up to him, that I felt we should eat out less, and he agreed.  He admitted he wanted to start eating better himself and then, get this, he’s actually started to eat better.  Skipping the bread and desserts. Leaving food on the plate.  Making himself oatmeal at the beginning of the week to eat for breakfast. I have…well…I have definitely decided that I’m going to join Weight Watchers again and, um, I was going to go today but then I didn’t and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.  Still I’m making food choices not conducive to health or weight loss. Still I’m beating myself up for it.

In my younger incarnations, I can imagine handling this differently.  I think the correct term is “poorly”. Getting pissed at him for doing what we both agreed was a good idea.  Using this as an opportunity to assault myself for being a failure as a human and proof that I would never ever ever lose weight.  I know this is true because this girl is not gone, and the feelings snap at me, but I see them coming. I see the crazy.  It has made me wonder, though, about the difference in methodology.  To make a change that’s good for me, is it always necessary for me to drag my ass through a long dark night of the soul first, or could I just make the oatmeal and start eating it? 

The thing about being single for most of your life, and in my case not only single but living alone sans any roommate or human companionship for over 20 years, is that there’s a lot of crap you don’t like about yourself that you can hide.  Or at least pretend to hide.  Housekeeping is something with which I am not naturally proficient.  You remember that Friends episode where Ross dates the woman with the disgusting apartment played by Rebecca Romijn?  Well, usually, mostly, my house isn’t quite that bad although it has approached it more than once.

I have dealt with this mostly by not having people over.  For a while, in my 20s & 30s, I would have a big party once a year and, in part, the point of the party was to make myself REALLY CLEAN my house.  Eventually it just seemed like an insane way to keep house, so I did the only rational thing. I stopped having my annual party.

It bothers me, that I don’t keep my home clean, but somehow never enough to keep up with it.  I spend a lot of energy making myself feel bad about it, but little doing. But now there’s this other person, this person I want to spend time with.  For the first month, at least, that we went out, I wouldn't let him come over to my house.  I saw, clearly, that there was some crazy happening, but I felt kind of helpless against it.  I have cleaned since then and, in fact, I am cleaning more regularly than I have in the past, but it feels like sweeping the desert sometimes, and most of the time I don’t want him to come over. I don’t want to spend time at my place. 

The problem is, though, that my life is at my house.  My pets. My clothes. My home.  This is not a problem that can be solved by spending every available minute over at his place. I have to find a balance. I have to find a level of clean that I don’t mind him seeing and that I can maintain. Can I just start sweeping without having a long dark night of the soul first? I haven’t managed so far. 

This week I went out to Wenatchee to present at a conference and I grabbed a talking book from the library for the long drive. I grabbed Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott.  I love Anne Lamott and I was pretty sure I’d already read Grace (Eventually) as I read all her books.  As I started listening, though, it seemed new to me.  Sometimes we read things and they slip through our fingers, but when we pick them up later, at the right time, they surprise us. 

Lamott covers a lot of ground in Grace (Eventually) but the part that sparked in my brain wasn’t even a big part. It was something said more in passing on the way to somewhere else, but what Lamott said is that keeping your house clean isn’t about maintaining an outward appearance but about feeding your soul. I’m not really doing it justice, what she said, but that’s what stuck with me. It’s about caring for my soul. I don’t mean soul in the sense of salvation or dirt is a sin or anything like that. I mean you, your soul, the most you of you, deserves a nice place to hang out. 

So, today, I didn’t make it to Weight Watchers. I flopped around the house like a deflated balloon. The presentation was a lot of hard work, and then it was over, and the tide rushed out and took me with it. But I kept thinking about my soul, what my soul deserved. And I went into the kitchen and started to wash dishes.  I washed all the dishes.  I wiped down the kitchen counters too, although there’s more work to do in there. A floor to mop. A fridge to clean. But, for now, all the dishes are clean.

I went to the diner next door for dinner.  I got half a dinner salad, a baked potato, and a piece of chocolate pie.  That’s the way it goes sometimes.  I wasn’t built in a day.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

On Taking the First Amendment in Vain and The Scandal Industrial Complex

There’s been an awful lot of hullabaloo of late in regards to Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson and his recent interview with GQ magazine. Quotes from the interview in which Robertson very particularly and specifically identified why and how he believes gay people are sinners, and also responsible for other kinds of sin as well, “blew up”, to say the least, and now A&E has suspended Phil from his own show.

Immediately, even before the suspension, and now into overdrive following it, a fierce storm began to rage under the auspices of Robertson’s First Amendment Rights.  I have received a number of FB petitions asking me to support Robertson’s First Amendment Rights, to shame A&E for their decision, to rant against the destruction of free expression in the world of political correctness, etc.  

I’m awful big on the First Amendment.  It’s my favorite of the Constitutional Amendments.  My admiration for it is how I ended up in my chosen field.  I believe in it strongly. I believe there’s a reason why it’s first.  I believe freedom of expression is THE penultimate reason our country is something special.  

So why am I not sharing or following the instructions of any of the insistent calls to support Phil? Am I a hypocrite who only believes in the First Amendment when people say something I like? Am I a prisoner to political correctness? Hell no! What I am is someone who understands what the First Amendment is, and what it isn’t. I understand this whole thing doesn’t have a single grain of sand to do with Robertson’s First Amendment Rights.  Walk with me: 

1) I believe in the First Amendment. I believe in Robertson’s right to say anything he wants to! On TV. Off TV. On a street corner. Wherever. In fact, even though I disagree strongly with his opinions, I’d just assume he say them rather than not say them. I prefer it when people speak their truth rather than lie about it.  It lets me know where I stand with them, or not.  

2) The First Amendment is a contract between the US Government and the citizens of the United States.  It says The Government cannot interfere with people’s freedom of expression.  Considering how far and wide (some of) Mr. Robertson's statements have traveled, how much they are being repeated and shared over the Internet and media, often by people who clearly haven’t read the entire article, I think it’s more than fair and obvious to say that Mr. Robertson's freedom of expression is not being limited by The Government in the slightest.  People who had no idea who Phil Robertson was a week ago sure know who he is now, and they know his opinions. Sounds like Freedom of Expression in Action to me.  

3) First Amendment Rights do not exist in the workplace, as people who speak shit about the place they work in public forums often find out.  Companies and organizations have the right to suspend or fire employees who say things that contravene the organization’s image, mission or business. The courts uphold this regularly.  

4) Reality TV isn't REAL or, in other words, Phil Robertson is an employee of A&E, whether he realizes it or not.  Yes, Reality TV works hard in shows like Duck Dynasty to make it look like these guys were just hanging out doing their thing and, whoops!, there happened to be some cameras there, but while The Robertson Family are surely real people who were doing their thing before A&E showed up, Duck Dynasty is an A&E production.  I’m sure that the Robertson's signed contracts with A&E. I’m sure these contracts have behavior clauses in them.  

5) But Kati! He wasn’t ON Duck Dynasty when he said that homosexuality was the sin from which all other manner of sin emanates. He was giving an interview to a magazine! A&E sucks for firing him for doing an interview!  

Nope, sorry. Not an argument. Reality shows hire “personalities”. The personality is something that exists even when the cameras are off.  The personality is something the show wants to promote in all kinds of ways, including setting up interviews with national magazines, or drop ins on TV talk shows or what have you.  I’m sure that the Robertson's contract with A&E specify a certain amount of contractually obligated publicity, and if the GQ article wasn't contractually obligated publicity I will eat my hat.

6) Networks fire people for what they define as embarrassing behavior All The Time.  In fact, less than a month ago Alec Baldwin found himself fired from his MSNBC talk show for hurling a particularly vile homophobic epithet at a photographer, and then compounded his error by accusing Anderson Cooper of being in “The Gay Mafia”.  Now, I guess what I’m wondering is, if you’re about to hit “send” on that “save Phil” message, where were your messages in support of Alec?

They’re nowhere, because Alec Baldwin is the Left Wing's inappropriate drunk uncle. His predicament amused conservatives and embarrassed Liberals and no one is going to start a letter writing campaign to MSNBC on his behalf.  And yet, Alec yelled something angry while being shoved by a photographer, and Phil shared his well thought out, clearly articulated thoughts to a national magazine. Screaming crap on a street corner is practically The Very Definition of Freedom of Speech, which Alec exercised, and after which his rights were not violated.  Neither were Phil’s.

7) Phil joins some auspicious company.  The following is a partial list (because there’s not enough room for a full list) of people fired for saying controversial things, as well as what happened after:

Howard Cosell (Retired for racial slurs) - Wrote bestselling books and had his own talk show.
Don Imus (Fired for ethnic slurs) - Back on the air with a nationally syndicated radio show
Howard Stern (Dropped from Clear Channel for indecency) - Runs two channels on Sirius satellite radio
Juan Williams (Fired from NPR for what some felt were racial slurs) - Now working for Fox News
Isaiah Washington (Fired from cast of Grey’s Anatomy for homosexual slurs) continues to work in TV and film

The point of this list is to show two things. First, media companies fire their on air talent all the time when they feel that they've said something they don’t want to deal with explaining.  Second, Americans tend to be short on memory and long on forgiveness.  I have no doubt Phil Robertson will end up with a talk show, or game show or commentator gig or judge spot on America’s Got Talent.
8) Don’t yell about First Amendment. Write a letter to A&E. If you are really angry about what is happening to Phil Robertson, let A&E know. They are a business. They care about the bottom line. But wait, before you do that may I recommend...

9) Reading the Article First.  Personally I am of the opinion that much of this scandal is being manufactured and we are being manipulated. Why? Well, almost ALL the news and FB memes I have seen about this are about what Robertson said about homosexuals.  If you read the article, you’ll find that in addition to saying some bigoted and all too familiar tropes about homosexuality, Phil says some frankly “hair catching on fire” things about African Americans.  Seriously.  It’s as bad or worse than what he said about gays.  

10) So why don’t you know about that, if you haven’t read the interview?  Well, the “Scandal Industrial Complex” wants to whip you up into a frenzy.  While gay marriage is literally sweeping the nation, there are still 43% of Americans who don’t support it, and on some level or another have feelings that match Robertson's.  That’s 43% of the American public who can be convinced that Robertson is a hero. That he’s just speaking aloud what they believe in their hearts.

There are far far fewer Americans, even of those who oppose gay marriage, who believe that African Americans would be far happier if the Civil Rights movement never happened and who really loved being sharecroppers.  In fact, polls on interracial marriage, which reflect people’s comfort with people from all ethnic backgrounds, show that 87% of Americans are OK with interracial marriage.  That’s a far smaller number of Americans who would get themselves whipped into a FB meme sharing frenzy. Do you think the talking heads on news channels who are devoting untold hours of airtime wailing about Robertson's violated First Amendment Rights don’t know what he said in the article about African Americans?  Of course they do, or at least some of them do, but they’re not bringing it up.  Ask yourself why. 

So, to sum, Robertson's First Amendment Rights have not and are not being violated. Read the article for yourself and don’t let someone else decide what you feel about it. Don’t give in to the Scandal Industrial Complex. That is all.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Books You Might Want to Read: Longbourn

It is a truth universally acknowledged that for those of us who admire the works of Jane Austen, there are simply not enough of them.  Jane-ites made do with her 6 gems gratefully if occasionally wistfully for 200 years, but then literature was en-gripped in "fan fiction" fever.  In the past decade or so we have seen an endless parade of of Austen-esque on page: zombie slaying Austen; murder mystery Austen; modern day Austen; smutty Austen and even self-help Austen.  Of course I, dear reader, have read them all. Some of them are enjoyable, many are ridiculous, but they all share a lack of "there" there.  The only thing, really, that makes them enjoyable, or entertaining, is how they reflect the perfect story underneath. They are leaves floating on a pond. Take away the pond, and they are so much mulch.  

Then I read Longbourn by Jo Baker.  Longbourn, in fact, has two strikes against it as a "serious" work.  Not only is it inspired by the story told in Pride & Prejudice, but it is also the tale of the servants at the Bennett house of Longbourn, invariably drawing comparisons to Downton Abbey.  Longbourn however easily rises above the costume soap opera of the latter, and uses the former merely as a cornerstone to build an entirely new world.  Longbourn is to Pride and Prejudice what A Wide Sargasso Sea is to Jane Eyre. One work of art inspired by another work of art.    

Longbourn tells the tale of Sarah, a 16 year old servant for the Bennett family.  She works hard, as all household servants do, and tries hard to please Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, but Sarah is not happy.  As dangerous as it is for a young female servant, completely at the mercy of her employer, Sarah thinks that perhaps, maybe, there could be a better life for her somewhere.  But the world is not built for household servants with dreams. Dreams are for other classes, not hers.  

Mrs. Hill has her own troubles. She is trying to keep the house afloat on a shoestring, manage the vicissitudes of her mistress, Mrs. Bennett, keep an eye out for her two female servants to make sure they don't get into trouble of a kind she can't even warn them against, but knows could be their undoing. And just as "the entailment" is such an overwhelming fear of the Bennett daughters, that if their father dies their home will go to a cousin, it is a constant fear of Mrs. Hill as well.  For Longbourn is her home, and has been for almost her whole life. New owners mean new servants, and what possible future could she and her aging husband have without work at Longbourn?  

The familiar story of Pride & Prejudice wafts in and out of the daily life of the Longbourn servants, an occasional thunderstorm disrupting their attempts to keep things running smoothly.  In pouring down rain Sarah is dispatched to Merton to get the girls "shoe roses" for the upcoming ball.  Mrs. Hill wears herself out trying to make Mr. Collins' stay as delightful as possible, so he might be pleased to view the staff at Longbourn kindly, but what are the efforts of a spotless and comfortable room or an endless parade of cakes when confronted with Elizabeth's refusal of his hand?       

One doesn't want to think badly of any of the Bennett girls, except for Lydia of course, but in reading Longbourn you begin to see how Lydia, of all the girls, might be the most easy for Sarah to deal with.  Lydia makes her wants and needs known, her orders clear and makes no pretext of friendship.  She doesn't spill her heart out and ask for advice while you're in the midst of gathering up soiled laundry.  Through Mrs. Hill one even begins to feel just a little bit kinder towards Mrs. Bennett, truly one of the more awful women in literature. But Hill has served Mrs. Bennett for years, through pregnancy after pregnancy, and through a marriage to a man for which she is simply not suited or suitable.  We come to feel Mrs. Bennett's terror and desperation of what on earth to "do" with five daughters who have been raised as ladies, with no skills or abilities except to be charming.  What will THEY do, if Mrs. Bennett fails at marrying them off?  

There are too some secrets and mysteries at the heart of Longbourn, which keep you turning pages late into the night.  And there's love too, for these characters that Jo Baker has created.  Longbourn is a weighty story with real characters one grows to care for. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

I Watched Them So You Don’t Have To

There are of course two vital questions one must ask themselves during new show evaluation.  The first is whether the show is worth watching. The second is whether it’s going to make it to season 2.  Watching a sucky show once is not a big deal. Investing the time into a new show only to have it die is much harder.  I’m not young anymore.  I lived through Firefly and Dollhouse.  I can’t take another Life.  

When evaluating what new shows to add to my roster, I understand certain things.  I don’t actually want to watch 28 hours of television a week.  I like certain kinds of things (adventuresome dramas; funny comedies (it seems I must specify the funny part); a tidy crime procedural; Project Runway). I don’t like others (trapping people in a house/Siberia/an island in order to recreate Lord of the Flies; evening soap operas; attempts to find “love” on national television).  I’m not judging. I’m just saying I don’t like them.  

Although I have liked them in the past, I’m wearying of the LOST style “oh my god you can’t miss an episode insane cliffhanger every week” shows.  I HAVE to go to work every day. I’m not interested in punch the clock television.  I’m not saying I won’t add a “tune in next week” show to my list, but it’s got to be really good, and I can’t handle more than one or two.  

So, this year I share my new season watching with you.  I’ll tell you if it’s earned a place on my DVR, and I’ll also give you my 1-10 likelihood of survival scale.  10 is The Simpsons. It will last forever, long past the time we’ve all stopped watching it.  1 is Law & Order: Los Angeles.  Sometime in November it will start dropping out of the regular schedule, replaced by a game show hosted by Howie Mandel.  Then in December you’ll start getting “double episodes” on Friday nights. Then you will never see it again.  

I haven’t watched every new show.  I haven’t watched the shows I wouldn’t actually conceivably watch on a regular basis.  I haven’t watched Dads.  I’m skipping Siberia. But, I’ve got a pretty healthy selection.  

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
After a self exile from television, and a triumphant turn directing The Avengers and Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon returns to television with the Avengers crossover series.  Whedonites are understandably nervous. Will this be another Firefly: brilliant, wonderful, entertaining, full of lovable characters and immediately canceled?  Or will this be another Dollhouse: confusing, pedantic, full of unrealized potential and immediately canceled?

I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think it’s possible Whedon has rolled double sixes on this one.  AoS is actiony, adventury, funny and leaves you wanting the next episode.  Far be it from me as a loyal Whedonite to suggest that Joss Whedon is in need of any improving, but AoS gives Whedon something in television he hasn’t had before, which is a creative partner that is not the network. Marvel may well provide the steadying hand Whedon needs to keep the story tight and moving, without pushing his “I must do it MY way” buttons.

Continuity between the movies and the series is provided by the character of Agent Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, and a first episode walk-on from Colbie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill. Gregg’s Coulson is a nice mix of gravitas and goof.  The rest of the team is still a bit anonymous attractive people, except for Ming-Na Wen who plays “the driver” who is clearly more than just the driver.  Whedon fans get their fanservice with obligatory walk ons of familiar faces: Shepard Book! Gunn! We missed you so much. We’ll accept you in these new strange outfits. The first episode sprinkles enough yeasty hints about secret pasts (What CAN Agent Coulson never know? What WAS “The Driver” doing before she hid herself in an office?) which will surely bake up nicely throughout the season.  

IS IT ON MY DVR? Obviously

LIKELIHOOD OF SURVIVAL: I’m giving it an optimistic 8.  I think Marvel will be Joss Whedon’s TV savior.  

The Blacklist

Age is being so kind to James Spader. I don’t mean he’s aging well, or becoming more beautiful with each coming year. I mean he has finally been allowed to shake the heartthrob mantle that never fit him comfortably and become what he always was, which is excellent at portraying bad guys who are both appealing and creepy as all get out.  

As I watched The Blacklist I found myself relaxing, not from the story, which is all that action adventure series ought to be, but from the sense that whoever is running the show knows what they’re doing.  Have they clearly watched Alias, 24 and Silence of the Lambs?  Yes, but Blacklist manages to stay on the right side of homage without falling into mimicry.

The story is plain to anyone who has seen the ads for it. Spader’s character, career mercenary & an FBI most wanted criminal Raymond Reddington, walks into the FBI headquarters and turns himself in.  He promises information on the worst of the worst baddies in the world, people who the FBI want and serendipitously, Reddington would like to screw over.  He will only speak to newly minted FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen.   

In the first episode Reddington, who is kept in a box that’s half Silence of the Lambs, half Magneto’s plastic cave and entirely ridiculous (I hope they lose that), helps the FBI capture an evil Serbian warlord the FBI thought was dead. His presence also leads Keen’s life to explode in interesting ways that will undoubtedly keep her coming back for more answers.  

Some things are beyond obvious, although that doesn't make it any less entertaining to watch. I’m not even afraid to say this without a spoiler alert: believe me when I tell you the surprise twist will be if Keen DOESN’T turn out to be Reddington’s daughter, but who knows. We’re clearly in the hands of people who know what they’re doing.  


LIKELIHOOD OF SURVIVAL: Strong ratings out of the gate. Veteran TV actor who has earned his chops. On the other hand, show runner Joe Bokenkamp is new to TV from movies and I don’t know how much leash he’ll get from the network. I’m giving it a 7.5.  

Brooklyn Nine-Nine  

SNL vet Andy Samberg decided to cut short his “SNL vet attempt to transition to movie stardom” in order to return to TV in this cop shop comedy, saving us from a T’Shane movie and for that we must thank him. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is actually a solid show. Although Samberg’s outrageous detective is clearly the reason for the show, it works because of the solid cast behind him, particularly Andre Braugher as the department captain.   

Of course, it’s entirely familiar (the eccentric precinct full of wacky characters) and not a little improbable (sure that goofball that looks Andy Samberg is “the best detective on the team”), but it’s full of good nature and good will.  The key will be reigning in Samberg just enough that every episode doesn't feel like a too long SNL skit.  


LIKELIHOOD OF SURVIVAL: Ratings are decent but dropping, but it’s already got international distribution. There hasn't really been a good “cop shop” comedy since Barney Miller. I’m not sure the audience is there for it.  I’m having difficulty handicapping this one.  If it stays strong and doesn't go too goofy or ABC Afterschool Special, 6.5.  

The Crazy Ones

There’s a problem with The Crazy Ones and the problem is not Robin Williams, it’s the rest of the cast.  With the exception of James Wolk who appears to be the only cast member willing to enthusiastically dive into the crazy pool with Williams the rest of the cast look like they’re terrified.  Without a group willing to stand up to Williams’ wacky free associating antics, this show is DOA.  

If Robin Williams begins to free associate a “sexy” McDonald’s jingle that involves ketchup packets exploding in Kelly Clarkson’s face, any respectable roomful of people are at least smiling if not laughing like crazy.  A cast standing and watching Williams as if he’s the Oracle at Delphi is going to kill this show.  

Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character in particular needs some real help.  Gellar is a strong workhorse of an actress (and I mean that as a complement), but her natural state is serious bordering on grave. I don’t think she’s a naturally gifted comic by any means, but she’s certainly capable of being quite funny if given the right material.  In The Crazy Ones it appears that someone told her she was Robin Williams straight man and she’s running with it.  Straight as an arrow. Rigid as steel. The show does not need her to be Robin William’s nag. It needs her to be the gentle nudge towards sanity.  

IS IT ON MY DVR: Yeah, but it’s on warning

LIKELIHOOD OF SURVIVAL: I don’t know. I didn't get a good feeling from this one, even with it’s very high early ratings.  I don’t think the show knows what it is.  Robin Williams & SMG are expensive.  If it doesn't find its footing quickly, my gut says it’s not going to last.  5

The Goldbergs

Yet another comedy about yet another wacky family.  I want to send Hollywood writers a blanket letter: your families are really NOT that interesting. Your childhood was nothing special. You are not a special snowflake. What separates The Goldbergs from the dozens of other wacky families on TV right now? They’re an 80s family!  You can tell from their wacky sweaters and the Mom’s frosted winged out hair!  

The Goldbergs has a surprisingly decent cast, including George Segal as the wacky grandpa, Jeff Garlin as the wacky dad and Patton Oswalt as the narrator.  Unfortunately the cast can do nothing at all to overcome the generic, banal script. There are no surprises.

I had already given up on the show, an episode about the 16 year old son fighting for his right to drive, but the end provided a fitting summary of the whole experience: The 16 year old having earned his right to drive sits in the car in the driveway. He looks over his shoulder and starts to back up and, oh my gosh can you guess what happened? Aw, that’s right! He accidentally drives forward and smashes the garage door. Wha Whaaaa.  


LIKELIHOOD OF SURVIVAL: Well, if there’s a God, 1. If it gets strategically placed between some strong shows, it will be one of those shows that is on for 18 years, but no one ever watches.   


In days of yore, we had many mystery procedural shows which centered around a main character.  Your Perry Mason, your Columbo, your Rockford Files, your Magnum PI and even your Ironside. The main character provided continuity, a goofball charm or a crotchety curmudgeon-ess and enough backstory to keep you wanting to know more. But the backstory was the “back” story.  It was not the story.  The dark mystery was the mystery that needed solving every week and was, neatly, by our hero.  Every few years you might get a sweeps week two parter in which Magnum helped a friend with PTSD, but the show runners understood an essential deal with the audience: the weekly mystery can be as dark as you need, as long as the frame, the main character and the regulars, stay light.  

I had high hopes for Ironside, a retooling of the long running late 60s/early 70s series starring Raymond Burr.  Blair Underwood is hot, an actor of charm and style, and frankly I think the TV world needs a few more “resolved by the end of the episode” crime procedurals that don’t have Law & Order in front of them.  

Alas, Ironside is a bummer.  The backstory is clearly “the story” here: how Detective Ironside ended up in the wheelchair; how he battles his demons; how other people around him battle their demons related to him being in a wheelchair.  

Although there is a mystery being solved during the first episode, the bulk of the show is about flashbacks to Ironside’s past (He and his partner specialized in a “Bad Cop/Bad Cop” partnership that involved hanging perps off of roofs to elicit confessions).  The other non-mystery solving part of the show is proving, in case you had any doubts, that despite being in a wheelchair, Ironside is a tough, macho, virile motherfucker, ok?  He’s angry all the time. He drinks whiskey. He bangs the ladies.  He has some nice seated jujitsu moves. He’s homophobic. Yay!   

I was really “whatever” by the end of it.  It’s nothing new. Blair Underwood deserves better.  

IS IT ON MY DVR: Yes, but not for long

WILL IT LAST? I don’t know. It’s paired with Law & Order: SVU, which is limping to the finish line. It’s got nothing outstanding to make it stand out. 4

The Michael J. Fox Show

You have to give the creators of the show credit: casting Michael J. Fox as a news anchor forced to retire because of Parkinson’s disease who is invited back to work by a producer who sees a potential sympathy ratings bonanza before his eyes is, well, clearly tailor made for Fox, and we are all in on the joke (WINK!).

It’s not bad. The cast is endearing. Michael J. Fox is still Michael J. Fox, even with the tremors and stiff gait.  It’s nice to see a show that treats a lousy, rotten, disease as a fact of life, as it is for millions, and not a “movie-of-the-week” schmaltz fest.  Some of the jokes are too cheap and easy: Fox exclaims “How did you find me?” after he is located under a pile of vibrating balls in a bouncy house, and the best humor is, actually, the stuff that’s not Parkinson’s related, like Fox’s character’s insistence that Matt Lauer has it out for him.   The stunt casting of his real life wife Tracey Pollen on the second episode was unnecessarily cheesy.   

It seems like The Michael J. Fox Show could find it’s footing, once it calms down a little.  

IS IT ON MY DVR: No. It’s a busy night. I’ll catch it on re-runs.

LIKELIHOOD OF SURVIVAL: Well, in the contrived “battle of the returning legends”, Robin Williams The Crazy Ones trounced The Michael J. Fox Show 15 million viewers to 7 million, which is a shaky start. However, it’s clear from the show that NBC is heavily invested. It’s practically a cast member. Also, would YOU fire Michael J. Fox?  6.5 for now.


I wanted to like Mom. I love Anna Faris and I’ve been hoping that TV might finally give her the opportunity to be something beyond the “dumb like a fox” blondes Hollywood has for her.  I also love Allison Janney.  The challenge in liking Mom is how hard the show-runners seem to be working to make you NOT like Mom.  It’s like a bet.  Let’s make a comedy with a really unappealing story line and dare people to watch.  

If Mom had the kind of “the brakes are off, I can’t believe they just said that and holy cow is that Cloris Leachman is in her underwear?” joie de vivre that the show Raising Hope does for example, the plot could work.  But it’s your standard Chuck Lorre style fixed camera show about a recovering alcoholic who hates her mom, also a recovering alcoholic, and is hated by her teenage daughter who just found out she was pregnant. The one bright spot (the main character has an adorable boyfriend) is quickly doused when you find out he is married.  

The “joke” of course is that despite her best intentions, Faris’ character has turned out just like her mom (irresponsible and maybe slutty but I don’t want to judge), and has been rewarded with a daughter just like herself. Ha! So...funny?  I fear that in writing this, I’ve come across as a judgy pants. I’m not, but the show itself certainly is.  


WILL IT SURVIVE: Anna Faris deserves better. 2. BUT it's a Chuck Lorre production, which means it will last forever and ever and ever. 11.

Sleepy Hollow

I was on the fence about Sleepy Hollow before I watched it, and I’m still on the fence.  It’s not a bad show. I just didn’t care about it very much. The premise is that Ichobad Crane, hero/victim of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is a former Revolutionary War soldier who is somehow transported to modern day, conveniently at the same time a “headless horseman” type person starts running around the small town of Sleepy Hollow and beheading people.  

Crane is found and eventually taken pity on by police Lt. Abbie Mills, whose partner was one of the people mysteriously beheaded.  There’s a lot of complicated plotifying about the Headless Horseman being a harbinger of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse or one of the Four Horseman, I’m not sure. And he’s after his skull which is buried in the grave of Crane’s dead wife, who is really trapped in some hell dimension, and something about 4 white ash trees and lots of portentous readings from the Book of Revelation.  It’s a lot to hang on a short story about the dangers of superstition.  

The actors are pleasant to look at, and it’s not remotely unrealistic that the staff of this incredibly small town police department in New England looks like the pages of a Benetton ad.  If you’re a fan of Once Upon a Time or Grimm or any of the many supernatural mystery series there’s plenty to like here.  I’m just a cranky monkey.  

IS IT ON MY DVR: No. I have to save room on my plate for Dracula.  

WILL IT LAST?: Fox is committed. They’re pairing Sleepy Hollow with Bones.  It had the best ratings of all of Fox’s new shows. 8

Trophy Wife

It’s another wacky family show, this time told from the perspective of the new wife/step-mom.  
A “reformed party girl” (the show’s description, not mine) finds herself married to a lawyer and step-parenting his children from his two previous marriages.  As is the way with blended & reconstituted families, his two ex-wives (one an extremely overachieving and judgmental surgeon and the other a loopy earth mother with boundary issues) are also still very much in the day to day picture.

The cast for Trophy Wife is pretty strong, including Marcia Gay Harden (for heaven’s sake!) as the terrifying first wife, Bradley Whitford as the husband/father, and Malin Akerman as the “trophy wife”.  It’s a pleasant show with a reasonable number of laughs.  There’s a nice message, not too heavy handed, about loving the family you’ve got and not the one you imagined.  

IS IT ON MY DVR: No, but I may visit it On Demand

WILL IT LAST?: Ok ratings out of the gate. ABC airing it following Agents of SHIELD. It could last a few seasons.  6

Clearly there are many more new shows that I did not review, nor plan to get to this season.  Hostages looks good, but its premise exhausts me just thinking about it.  Some I haven’t had a chance to catch yet, including Super Fun Night and Sean Saves the World. I will be tuning in for Dracula when it finally drops at the end of October, and Almost Human in November. I’m on the fence about Reign which, as a history goober, seems irresistible but I fear is actually going to be more akin to Gossip Girls in historical dress.