Clearly, you need to open your eyes to these:
by John Ostrander
I have now coasted past my 70th birthday and have acquired the rights of geezerhood, one of which is a variable memory. I forget things. Not everything nor am I making claims to senility (yet). But sometimes some things drop out and that isn’t necessarily bad.
I suspect I acquired both this trait and outlook from my mother. Every year she would re-read Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather and at the time I didn’t understand that. Why re-read a book when there are so many out there she had not yet opened? She told me that, due to lapsing memory, she didn’t always remember the plot and so had the pleasure of discovering the story anew. I have since discovered that pleasure for myself. It’s not simply re-reading books that I like but forgetting some the plot details. Mysteries work well with this; for example, I have read every Nero Wolfe mystery that Rex Stout ever wrote (and a few that he didn’t) and I am currently re-reading them. With some (not all), I have forgotten who-dun-it and that’s okay.
The real pleasure is not in the unravelling of the mystery but in time spent with the characters, especially Nero Wolfe and his assistant, Archie Goodwin. I’ve really come back for the interplay between them. The resolution to the mystery – indeed, of most mysteries – is very secondary for me compared to that interplay. I would argue that’s true for most mysteries; when Arthur Conan Doyle introduced us to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in A Study In Scarlet, we’re not deeply interested in who the killer is but in how Holmes catches him. I would argue that Doyle’s deepest interest also is not in the killer although he spends a great deal of time in the killer’s backstory. The identity of the murderer and the workings of the plot are there to drive the story and to give us an excuse to visit with our friends, the main characters.
It is somewhat the same with music; I’d forgotten how much I liked the group WAR until I recently stumbled on to their recording of Cisco Kid
which in turn led to re-discovering Low Rider, Why Can’t We Be Friends, All Day Music and so many others. The algorithm on YouTube thought I might like The O’Jays For The Love Of Money and it was right and that led to Earth, Wind and Fire’s That’s The Way of the World and the algorithm was even more right there. With all these, there are complicated rhythms and harmonies that I don’t think are matched in today’s music (I told you I was hitting geezerhood; HEY, YOU KIDS! GET OFF MY MUSIC!). I remember the cuts but forgot just how good they were. Re-discovering them doesn’t just take me back. The music buoys me up as it did when I first heard it.
Rediscovery is harder for me to do with movies. The ones that have been my faves I tend to watch again with some frequency. I remember the plots; I remember the details. On some like Casablanca or Waking Ned Devine, I can almost speak the lines with the characters. However, there are some TV shows that I liked when I was quite a bit younger that I have occasionally re-encountered not that long ago. (That’s one of the blessings of TV these days; everything that was ever shown before may be on again.) My favorite TV show when I was a boy was Zorro with Guy Williams in the title role.
They all were half hour shows and what really makes them work is the writing. Not only first rate but a season back then had more episodes than they do these days. More demanding. And they often worked with themes and social questions. Keep in mind, this was back in the 50s and the early 60s – not an era we associate with “social relevance”. I remember seeing these shows now and then back in the day but forgetting how good they were.
There were shows and books and music that I sort of remember when I encounter them – and hey, they’re as bad as I remember. One of my PBS stations runs re-runs of Lawrence Welk every Saturday and I can hardly bear to see even the commercials. But sometimes selective amnesia is a gift and it can give a great deal of pleasure.
So excuse me while I check back in to a certain brownstone on West 35th street in NYC to find out what Wolfe and Archie are doing. They may have told me but I forget.
John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but our favorite editorial scapegoat, AKA Tim Muncher, found this piece, which seems to have been John’s last at the eminent and still trucking blog, PopCultureSquad. You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE
EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking to expand your ability to write reviews as well as your appreciation of classic TV? Contributing Editor Emiritus Herbie J Pilato has you covered. Right here.
by Herbie J Pilato
Here’s the REAL story…of The Brady Bunch, the unstoppable television show that has charmed millions of viewers for what seems like millions of years.
Author Kimberly Potts exquisitely chronicles the TV phenom in her new book, The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How The Canceled Sitcom Became The Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking About Today (Grand Central Publishing, 2019).
Although it’s really only been on the air (in one form or another sequel or remake somehow) for 50 years, The Brady Bunch debuted on ABC in the fall of 1969, along with other now-classics such as Marcus Welby, M.D., Love, American Style, and Room 222 (the latter two of which premiered on the same network’s Friday night line-up as the Brady brood).
But the Bunch was never an immediate hit. The show struggled along for five original seasons and depending on which fan you talk with, peaked around the fourth year. While the fifth season began with a stellar season-opening musical episode showcasing the Brady kids all grown-up, rumblings from leading actor Robert Reed, who played father Mike Brady to Florence Henderson as Carol Brady, and the controversial add of young Robbie Rist to the cast (as Cousin Oliver), eventually muddied any chance of there being a sixth season.
Apparently, had the show gone into that next season, Reed would have been replaced by Robert Foxworth (pre-Falcon Crest, and before meeting and falling in love with Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery on the set of the 1974 TV-movie, Mrs. Sundance).
And that would have been an ironic twist; for as Foxworth once explained, Reed had allegedly stopped him one day on a studio lot, admiring his curly locks.
The next time Foxworth saw Reed, the latter’s head-locks were permed with curls, with which the remaining Brady Bunch young male cast members seemingly followed suit. Although some may argue that the hair atop the heads of Barry Williams, as Greg Brady, Christopher Knight as Peter, and Mike Lookinland as Bobby, just happened to grow more textured with age.
At the same time, everybody knows that little Cindy Brady, played with natural adorability by Susan Olsen, was the “youngest [female] one with curls.”
Meanwhile, the two older Brady girls, Maureen McCormick as Marcia, and Eve Plumb as Jan, along with Olsen, were blond to match Henderson, who, during the show’s third season, created a unique bottom-flip-up hairstyle that rivals in TV history popularity that of Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel” do decades later on Friends.
Into this mix, was TV vet Ann B. Davis (Love That Bob) who as Alice, the loyal Brady housekeeper, who kept the family clean and laughing, as much as possible.
Potts explores all of this, and so much more, in-depth, and yet with brisk, readable prose about a show that became only really became a hit after it mass audiences discovered in syndicated reruns.
In the process, The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch trails a new path for television history/companion books. It shares meaty storytelling and memories, without over-doing it on the trivia and trivial aspects of the series.
The trivia is still there, but it’s surrounded by entertaining perspectives and recollections (from many of the cast and production team, including writer/producer Lloyd J. Schwartz, son of Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz (who, among other landmark shows, also ignited Gilligan’s Island).
There’s never been anything not to like about The Brady Bunch, and the same now holds true for The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch.
Potts tells and seals it all with pure Brady bliss.
Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host of classic TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime, Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE. This article first appeared in Medium.
You thought The Good Place was profound?
Emma Fraser knows the Truth. (And so does Mr. Robot. Bwahh!)
HOW MR. ROBOT TURNED A DYSTOPIAN LANDSCAPE INTO A UTOPIAN FINALE
by Emma Fraser
The world of Mr. Robot isn’t too dissimilar from the current political and social landscape; the one percent of the one percent have an exorbitant amount of power, and this level of control has led to overwhelming wealth disparity. Over four seasons, hacker Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) took on those who “play God without permission” to break the system, which hit a lot of bumps along the way. His original target was E Corp, one of the world’s largest multinational conglomerates (often referenced as Evil Corp). It isn’t a subtle name, but when veering into a dystopian landscape, nuance often gets left at the door.
Debuting in 2015, the main action of the entire series takes place across that particular year, revealing a “darkest timeline” version of a period that was already pretty messy IRL. However, the nightmare landscape shifts in the final season, offering up a semblance of hope about our collective future. In the final episodes, this contrasts with the image of a personal utopia turned hellscape. At the center of the story, an identity constructed out of trauma underscores why authentic personal connections are ultimately more important than imagined ones.
Mr. Robot is a show that doesn’t always spell out what is imagined, so when Elliot wakes up in the seemingly perfect alternate reality at the start of the two-part finale, questions stack up. Whiterose (BD Wong) claimed she could transport someone to a better version of their life; maybe she wasn’t lying after all?
In this other place, Elliot’s parents are both alive, and so is Angela (Portia Doubleday) — she was murdered in the Season 4 opener. Meanwhile, Elliot is not the hoodie-as-armor, anxiety-ridden figure we have spent four years watching….
Truer Pictures Were Never Drawn Department:
See the original wherever Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean is up and running!
Oh, and here’s a value added extra. Commentary from the Comics Curmudgeon himself, Josh Fruhlinger.
There can be absolutely no more appropriate ceremony to begin the process of sinking millions of dollars into a prestige Lisa’s Story movie than to ritually set some money on fire.