Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Three Things I'd Like Never to See Again on TV

1. The failed trip. I was re-watching an Old Christine the other night, and wanted to tear my (remaining) hair out. First, because it was an awful episode; second, because it was credited to two writers I really like; and third, because they should have known better than to write it in the first place -- because it's a premise that never works. It's the episode "Up in the Airport," and can I put in a motion now for A Plot I Never Want to See Again on TV? It's the one where a family -- or group of friends -- is set to go on a trip, but Something Goes Wrong. They get stuck in the airport and never take off (the aforementioned "Up in the Airport" or Designing Women: "The Odyssey"). Or they arrive at their destination, but immediately get sick and never leave the hotel (Designing Women: "Stranded" or Kate and Allie: "Evening in Paris") -- or they arrive, but fall asleep because of the time change and, again, never leave the hotel (Gilmore Girls: "French Twist").

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Sorry State of TV Villains

Greg Sumner: Abby, you don't believe in anything.
Abby Ewing Sumner: That's not true: I believe in money... and power... And in the end, power is much more fun."

When did TV villains stop being fun? What happened to the baddies who could delight us with the arch of an eyebrow, or the simplest of sinister inflections? When did subtlety become a lost art? All through the spring, I kept seeing Vincent D'Onofrio lauded for his turn as criminal mastermind Wilson Fisk in Daredevil -- Rolling Stone headlined him as "the best new villain on TV" -- even though his overblown performance trampled all story-line logic. Is that kind of garishness and ghoulishness what we now associate with great acting, or is there something deeper going on? Now that we feel less safe than ever -- in our churches, in our schools, in our movie theatres -- with hate groups on the rise and police departments committed to racial profiling and excessive force -- now that everything's hitting horribly close to home, is quiet menace simply too terrifying? Even on shows with "realistic" settings, do we need our villains to be grotesques, for our own comfort? There's probably better acting on television now than at any point in the past. But when it comes to the "bad guys" -- the ones whom we often found ourselves rooting for, despite ourselves, because they were so damned entertaining -- we're failing miserably. And Daredevil is a prime example.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Memoirs of a Gay Man (watching Knots Landing)

I posted the essay below at the Knots Landing Forum in the fall of 2011, just a few months before my husband birthday-gifted me this blog. Two friends whom I know from my days posting there suggested I reprint it here. Presuming you know Knots Landing, then all you need to know beyond that is that a poster at the Knots Forum, Montyc, had written a tongue-in-cheek post called "Is Knots Landing the Gayest Show Ever?" It inspired some spirited discussion, much of it equally amusing; a poster named Cambeck, a gay man, said he always felt like he'd be welcome on Seaview Circle, the Knots Landing cul-de-sac, and another poster, Sunshineboyuk, listed some of the show's most intolerant characters to prove him wrong. Ultimately, and sadly, some of the comments turned distinctly homophobic -- and the moderator closed the thread. I discovered it late in 2011, and decided to start my own follow-up post, one that was not tongue-in-cheek, but more autobiographical. And so I wrote: