As a genealogy enthusiast, I find the stories of other people (even unrelated) almost as fascinating as the stories I’ve learned about my own ancestors. When the television series Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA?) began in 2010, I thought it was a show I’d enjoy. As a subscriber of Ancestry.com, I figured I might even pick up a few helpful hints to assist me in my own research.
As the first couple seasons progressed, I found the emphasis on celebrities less interesting but I kept watching … though by the third season (after which NBC cancelled the show), I had tuned out. Yes, I was disappointed. I think my interest might have continued with stories of everyday people hoping to solve the mysteries of their ancestry. As it was, there seemed to be a focus on trips to faraway and exotic places where the research was already completed and all the celebrity had to do was show up and look amazed. Continue reading “Image Is Everything”→
When the ads began airing for the second season of TURИ: Washington’s Spies, I decided to take some time out for an American History diversion. Since I hadn’t watched the first season (which aired beginning in April 2014), I wanted to view those episodes first and I’m still going through them. I may not catch up until season two goes to Netflix.The series has received generally favorable reviews. Critics on the rotten tomatoes website were mixed, offering a 52% favorable though the audience score (82%) was more impressive. Those ratings have gone up now that season two is in progress.
Saying goodbye … it’s an inevitable part of life. When one says goodbye to fictional characters, it shouldn’t be a wrenching loss – unless the characters are so well-drawn and true to life, they’ve become embedded in your life. This kind of goodbye doesn’t just represent a closed book of characters but also the way in which these characters have colored one’s point of view.The FX Network show Justified aired its finale last night following a six-season run. Truthfully, I hated to have the show end, but its final episode hit every note with perfect pitch and stunning narrative grace notes. Without giving away any spoilers, I can’t imagine any show ending with better symmetry and poetic precision. Continue reading “Fire in the Hole”→
Twenty years ago, a television show called FRIENDS debuted. The series ran for ten seasons and chronicled the lives of six characters (3 guys, 3 girls), twenty-somethings living in New York City. Billed as a romantic-comedy series, the show aired to generally mixed reviews but quickly built an audience. In many respects, it was SEINFELD for younger adults. (Seinfeld’s primary characters also lived in NYC and were thirty-somethings.)Though I’ve occasionally caught a clip or two from Friends as I flip through channels, I’ve never actually watched an entire episode. During its initial run, I didn’t exactly fit the age demographic. Now that it’s in syndication, it’s even less appealing to me. But friendship … now that’s something I can get jazzed about! Continue reading “I’ll Be There For You”→
The new season of Downton Abbey airs tonight! I’m so excited to have another peek into the lives of the ever-changing upstairs Crawley family and their downstairs professional assistants! Can’t wait! Wandering around the internet, I found a link that brought me to this web page and of course, I began looking forward to this evening to resume my weekly diversion into this family’s interactions with each other as well as their lives within the historic context … and (admittedly) the soap opera nature of their existence.
But alas! My hopes have been dashed! Dashed, I tell you! Absolutely and positively crushed beneath the caprice of faceless, nameless television schedulers who’ve dangled this carrot before my eyes only to yank it away! Continue reading “Down On PBS”→
Earlier in the year, I viewed an advertising tease for a new television series titled Believe. The fantasy, drama, science fiction aspects of the series sounded intriguing. Combining all those elements into a successful production, though, seemed (to me) as if it would be an impossible challenge, except on the list of executive producers was the highly-regarded J. J. Abrams. I thought the series might earn my attention.
Judging by the picture at left, we have a visually appealing, seemingly innocent young character. This young girl is thought to have supernatural powers, while the villain/boogie-man is a government agency interested in utilizing the main character’s powers for their nefarious ends. A prison escapee of slightly dubious credentials is chosen to protect the girl and keep her hidden from the villains.
As things turned out, I never caught a single episode of the series, so I’m ill-equipped to offer any assessment of it. From what I’ve read online, however, the series has been cancelled. I guess the reputation of Abrams wasn’t enough to ensure success with the audience.
The night I saw the preview, the show’s name stuck in my head. Rolling around up there inevitably started the words taking form and within a short time, voilà! A poem! Specifically, a sonnet. I present it below.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a sonnet that begins: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. It is one of my favorites and one I re-read frequently. Instead of counting the ways, today I count notes.
There was once a television show called Name That Tune which my Beloved and I enjoyed watching. Because my Beloved can come up with some of the most surprisingly bizarre song lyrics and I’ve memorized a good bit of music, whenever we watched the show, it was always a challenge to see which of us could outshine the television competitors.
According to the rules of the show (as I remember them), contestants were given a maximum of seven notes (played instrumentally) before being asked to Name That Tune. It requires amazing ability to identify a tune based on seven or fewer notes but these contestants did it time after time.
Another aspect of the show: when both contestants decided they were up for the challenge, they would out-bid each other by offering to identify a piece of music with fewer notes than his/her opponent. Test yourself; see how many of your favorite and familiar songs you can identify in seven notes or less. It’s rarely easy.
With tonight’s sonnet I adapted the concept of Name That Tune, played with it a bit and created a love poem.
It might surprise some folks that the inimitable Walter Cronkite once hosted a Saturday morning television series. Having transitioned from its beginning as a radio series during the late 1940s, the CBS television series ran from 1953 to 1957. Weekly broadcasts centered around historical events illustrated with dramatic re-enactments. The show was titled You Are There and was broadcast for just over five seasons.
The show usually began with a voiceover from Cronkite and once he had set the scene, eerie music played and another voice spoke (from within an echo-chamber) YOU ARE THERE. (A sample YouTube video provides the spine-tingling effect.)
Today, I’ve been thinking about an historic event based on the You Are There concept. I invite you to “view” it with me.
The setting is feast time and a group of people have come together to enjoy this time of annual celebration. The host sits at a prominent place with his friends surrounding him. Food has been served and everyone’s relaxing around the table, interacting, laughing, enjoying their food and drink. As hosts are wont to do, this one eventually speaks up and at the sound of his voice, the others perk an ear to listen. He tells them how much he’s looked forward to having this meal … celebrating this feast … with them. Continue reading “That’s The Way It Is”→
People queried Flannery O’Connor why her books were so dark, why her characters acted out in bizarre and violent ways. The question was often asked and answered.
When Life magazine editorialized about novelists of the 1950s, charging that while living in the most powerful and prosperous country in the world, their published works failed to reflect a “redeeming quality of spiritual purpose.”
The editorial raised the ante, characterizing novels of the day as “hothouse literature” and railing that these writers seemed incapable of capturing “the joy of life itself.” Speaking from her personal standpoint as a Christian, O’Connor responded: “What these editorial writers fail to realize is that the writer who emphasizes spiritual values is very likely to take the darkest view of all of what he sees in this country today.”
In her essay titled The Fiction Writer & His Country (from her incisive book Mystery & Manners), O’Connor maintained that the writer with Christian convictions isn’t focused only about the “country” in which he lives (prosperity notwithstanding) but also about “his true country.” With O’Connor’s gift for plainspokenness, she states: “… a writer can choose what he writes about but he cannot choose what he is able to make live … a living deformed character is acceptable and a dead whole one is not.”
O’Connor’s essay offers keen insight into what she calls the “novelist with Christian concerns.” I think her observations extend to other writers beyond just the novelist. When I began this blog, I chose an O’Connor quote for the top of my page: “The sharper the light of faith, the more glaring are apt to be the distortions the writer sees in the life around him.” As I view my world, my country through the light of my Christian faith, I see more sharply the grotesque, the disturbing and perverse.
Now, under normal circumstances, I’m definitely not a fan of horror. Images plant themselves in my brain. If those images are graphic … violent … demonic … grisly, my subconscious mind involuntarily mulls over the images, something I prefer to avoid.
With that in mind, you’ll understand why I was reluctant to heed my elder son’s advice that I needed to watch The Walking Dead. I’ve had glimpses of Zombie movies from the 1970s and there is simply no appeal for me! As it turns out though, I finally gave in to my son’s urgings. I think I must have watched two entire seasons over a couple weeks to get caught up on the episodes I hadn’t viewed when first they aired. I’m not sure that was the best way for a person with my general attitude toward horror, but I decided I’d rather know the entire story from its outset.
Every episode, I recall reminding myself: if this gets too intense, I can (and will) turn it off. A few episodes, I neared my level of tolerance, but stayed with it. I can’t say I like it, I’m still reserving judgment about the successful series. I suppose the fact I’ve stayed with it proves I’m still intrigued.
I’ve read a number of reviews. (No, I don’t watch the Talking Dead follow-up.) The critiques I’ve read track some of my personal reactions to the series. There have been points where the show dragged, the prison season seemed to bog down and I agree there’s more interest when the main characters are on the road, fighting for their lives. Like many viewers, I’ve purposely chosen to ignore some of the incongruities that occasionally crop up.
I’m slightly amused that some fifty years after O’Connor’s observation about characters (quote above) has to be modified. Today, the living deformed character is as acceptable as when she wrote those words. But the dead whole one is now acceptable … at least as The Walking Dead has constructed these characters.
And perhaps Life magazine (if it were still in publication today) would find the portrayal of non-Zombie characters in The Walking Dead are at least seeking to recapture “the joy of life itself.”
Is this a good thing? I don’t know. I’m still reserving judgment.
In the thirty minutes a day I exercise on my elliptical, I watch television to keep my mind somewhat occupied. The majority of programs I’ve chosen lately are British (The Thick of It, Line of Duty), Scottish (The Book Group), and Irish (Single-Handed). If not for closed-captioning, I’d have been lost; oh, they spoke “English” (mostly) but I admit I’ve fine-tuned my ears to understand their pronunciations.
A week ago, my post Jesus Is Awesome! touched briefly on a British television show currently offered by Hulu. Having now watched the first six episodes (a “season” in American television parlance, but the Brits dub it “Series 1”) of Rev., I’ll expand on my initial comments.
Rev., thankfully, requires less work, but I still like the closed-captions. Rev. Adam Smallbone, the central character, serves an inner-city East London church that suffers from financial worries including a dingy decaying building and dwindling attendance. The vicar’s wife Alex hardly fits the stereotypical role; she has a career as a solicitor and secrets from her past that complicate the marriage. With her sensible approach and non-hysterical manner, she is long-suffering but will go toe-to-toe with her man when there’s a clash. It’s clear she loves Adam.
The supporting cast supplies adequate challenges that are easily recognizable for almost anyone who has attended church. The people are imperfect creatures; they represent the gamut of chronically lonely, intrusive, conniving, outright liars, poseurs and self-important schemers. Adam, whose own shortcomings don’t get glossed over, deals with each situation and manages to cope. The show mixes humor, a decent story line, and honest characters and questions.
ASIDE: For Downton Abbey fans, there’s a surprise appearance of Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) in episode four. The actor plays rival vicar Roland Wise, whose media persona causes Adam to feel envious. But Adam learns all is not what it seems, and Lord Grantham’s normal stiff-upper-lip stolidity vanishes. Oh, the humanity!
The sixth episode should not have surprised me, but it did. For anyone who has suffered a crisis of faith, Rev. displayed the comedic side as well as the despair with equal effect. An anonymous poster on a Christian website has graded Adam’s most recent sermon with a minus-one on a ten-point scale, noting the sermon (that ran about 2 minutes) was at least 3 minutes too long. Everyone (except Adam of course) has viewed the scathing review and Adam only finds out about it when his supervisor delivers the news in person. (This troublesome, arrogant Archdeacon periodically comes around for the sole purpose to remind Adam of his deficiencies.)
We watch Adam descend into quiet despondency. Initially, he tries to shrug it off − it’s only one comment, he reminds himself. But the hurt is real … and God doesn’t seem to be listening or responding to the vicar’s lament. (I don’t want to spoil it for you. Suffice to warn, if you’re not comfortable seeing a drunken priest at his worst, don’t watch the episode. Also, doctrinal purists might want to steer clear.)
In the 22-minute episode, the vicar’s downward spiral escalates quickly. First, he bares his soul to a friend and the friend responds with predictable pap: “Be real, be yourself.” Adam agrees, immediately informing his friend just what he thinks of him. Naturally, the friend is incensed and leaves with hurt feelings.
Soon thereafter, Adam leers at his wife’s attractive friend, inviting her to have lunch with him at Nando’s. He implies he hopes to turn lunch into an amorous encounter. When she demurs, he backs away, but later directly propositions her.
Adam lashes out, acts out, buries his feelings of inadequacy in a bottle. He curses his level-headed wife (whom he’s never taken to Nando’s).
All the while, we see (I see) the palpable tension weighing him down because he can’t shake the call of God on his life. He’d reject that calling, cast a middle finger towards Heaven, but he can’t.
I’ve been there. Maybe it was my personal experience empathizing, but Adam’s honest portrayal moved me, called up intense memories deep within my soul. I could not help but appreciate a genuine and unreserved truth-telling. Both writers and actors took a risk. This is a “comedy” after all.
Series 2 (with seven episodes) follows. A third series of six episodes will air in 2014. I’m looking forward to viewing the next episodes, hopeful the program will maintain a similar level of integrity to what I’ve watched so far.
And if ever I discover a restaurant named Nando’s, I’ll be sure to give it a try. (Wanna meet me there?)