Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

I’ve talked about purges before. Be it kitchen gadgets gathering dust at the back of a drawer or the varied detritus accumulated through decades of living, going through and clearing them out has become a habit for my wife and me. Every few years we take a deep dive into areas of our house and our lives, reevaluate what’s there, determine if a thing is being used and (more importantly) if it’s useful and, if we find it lacking, we repurpose, rehome, donate, and toss.

During the recent tumultuous times, we got out of that habit, but this year our commitment to the process has been renewed and, in keeping with our family motto*, it’s a big one. This time we are looking beyond clothing, books, movies, and games, extending the scope to big things like furniture, cars, and even (gasp!) television shows.

We all have shows that we watch simply because we have watched them. But shows change; sometimes they get better, and sometimes (most times) they don’t. Conversely, sometimes it is our tastes that change, while the shows stay true to their original methods. Still, in both cases, we often continue to tune in for each season.

Long ago, my wife and I developed “drop kick” rules, rules designed to provide an exit ramp from an activity that just wasn’t giving us what we wanted. We had the 40-page Drop Kick Rule for books (up to 80 pages, for longer works), and the 20-minute Drop Kick Rule for movies. This year, we added the 2-episode Drop Kick Rule for television series, and we’ve already put it into action. (Well, I have.)

The victim: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

I got myself into a speck of trouble when I mentioned on social media that this new product from the Star Trek franchise failed to pass my 2-ep DK rule. Turns out that, in some sci-fi circles, dissing Star Trek is on par with shooting a puppy in the face, a mortal sin punishable by shunning, humiliation, and digital defenestration. Luckily, I no longer put much stock in the opinions of people I don’t know, so I didn’t suffer much, but the reason for my dissatisfaction with ST:SNW is relevant and it boils down to one thing: my tastes have changed.

My complaint—that I don’t like being preached to, even when I agree with the message—was met with general derision, as my opponent (rightly) pointed out that ST:TOS was totally preachy. Yes, it was; it was progressive, groundbreaking, and preached a message of peace and unity within diversity. And I loved it.

I was also eight. 

Since then, my tastes have changed, but that’s only part of the reason ST:SNW left me cold. The messages preached by ST:TOS were embedded in the world, a foundation that was simply there, and which informed the stories the show presented. Yes, the show had the first interracial kiss on network television, but it also didn’t shine a big old spotlight on it and surround it with neon arrows so we’d be sure to get the point. Each of the first two episodes of ST:SNW were (in my opinion) ham-fisted and distinctly unsubtle in their messaging, each one wrapping up with a little “and here’s what we learned” bow-tying epilogue.

By contrast, we also started watching Star Trek: Discovery (which somehow ran under my radar for its entire existence). This show I love, as it blends episodic storytelling with a longer “meta-plot” and character development arcs, all while incorporating the same progressive foundation as the other Star Trek offerings. This is where my tastes lie now.

My wife still loves Star Trek: Strange New Worlds; she loves seeing the younger iterations of favorite characters, enjoys the strictly episodic storytelling, and can’t get enough of Ethan Peck (my wife was once blessed by Gregory Peck, and has a soft spot for Ethan as he channels his grandfather’s voice on screen). So the show passed her 2-ep DK rule, even though it failed mine.

And that’s the crux of a purge, isn’t it? To eliminate from your rooms, your house, your schedule, and your life the things that you no longer use or that you no longer enjoy. I’m not going to look down on anyone for liking something I don’t any more than I would shame them because they didn’t like salmon or loved brie. Tastes differ, and no one is hurt because you like ST:SNW or because I do not.

Seems to me that this is the main message of Star Trek, anyway.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some boxes of books to prepare for charity.


*Numquam in Dimidium Mensurae


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We’ve had a few tense weeks here, and not because of current events. Short version: My wife had a cancer scare, but thankfully it was only a scare.

The past eight weeks, and especially the last two weeks, were filled with appointments and waiting and procedures and more waiting and biopsies and even more waiting. As you can probably imagine, during that waiting, all that downtime when the “What if?” scenarios bounce around your head like a ping-pong ball at a championship match, we desperately needed something to occupy our brains.

My wife (the one in greatest need of distraction) found her solace in Blue Bloods. It’s a show we’ve never watched before, and she now had eleven seasons (!!) to binge on.

And binge, she did (with me at her side, for much of it).

For those unfamiliar with Blue Bloods, it follows a family of Irish Catholic police officers in New York City. Gramps (Len Cariou) is retired, Dad (Tom Selleck) is the police commissioner, and the boys (Donnie Wahlberg and Will Estes) are cops. My wife was there primarily for Tom Selleck as the gruff but gentle patriarch. For my part, I was there solely for Bridget Moynahan, who plays the daughter, an Assistant DA for the city.

The shows are simple. There’s an A plot and a B plot in each episode. The family always gets together for Sunday dinner. There is ongoing character development, but for the most part, it’s purely episodic. It’s a dependable show. Dependably good. Dependably homey. Dependably entertaining.

During one episode’s Sunday dinner scene, I turned to my wife and said, “One thing I like about this show: they’re all Republicans.”

She looked at me like I had suggested they were all rabid dogs, a look that said, “Are you crazy? That’s impossible. I like these people!”

Given recent events, this reaction can be forgiven, but I stand by my opinion. Law enforcement skews strongly toward the GOP. Catholics lean conservative. Taken with the characters’ commentary about political and social issues (e.g., stop and frisk, personal responsibility, etc.), it was clear that this family had a strong conservative viewpoint. Doing the math, it was clear to me that the characters would probably vote Republican.

This deduction, however, was not offered up as an insult. As I said, I liked that aspect of the show. As a staunch liberal, a guy whose father campaigned for Adlai Stevenson (twice!), you might think it odd that I like watching a show about a family of Republicans, but it’s not odd. Not odd at all.

Why? Because these characters are old-school GOP, like the Republicans of my youth. Conservative? Yes. Tough on crime? You bet. Fiscally tight-fisted? Damned straight. But they are also capable of compassion, of seeing the gradients between black and white, of taking into account mitigating circumstances, and (above all) the necessity to compromise. They care for people as people, seeing the world not just as cops and robbers, heroes and zeroes.

In short, they are not of the rabid Jim Jordan GOP, nor the morally relativistic Lindsey Graham GOP. The Blue Bloods family is more akin to the Eisenhower GOP.

And I miss that GOP.

I miss the GOP with whom you could actually debate, the GOP that wasn’t blind to the massive common ground between the extremes. I miss the GOP that understood that politics is ideology but governing is compromise. I miss the GOP that was willing to give something up, to negotiate in good faith, in order to advance what they saw as the greater good.

Yes, polarization exists on both sides, these days, but if there’s one party that owns the centrist, moderate ground, well, it ain’t today’s GOP. Today’s GOP has been moving off that part of the field for over a decade, and in the past four years, they ceded it completely. Today’s GOP is all about power and money and control and is nothing about governing. Today’s GOP is the party of the Big Lie, conspiracy theories, and slavering devotion to Dear Leader. And sadly, of sedition.

I know there are some exceptions to this new norm in the GOP, and I feel for them. They are grossly outnumbered by the wild-eyed cohort that has shifted the GOP so far to the right. These few, these moderate few, are trapped between the mob their party has built and the abyss that now exists between our parties’ ideologies.

I miss the GOP, and I suspect perhaps some of these politicians do, as well.


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Some days—not often, but on the rare occasion—I get to feel really stupid.

Stupid. Dense. Unobservant. Positively dim.

Yesterday was such a day. (more…)

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Science Fiction has had a tough go of it over the decades, and oft-times it’s been with good reason.

Back when I was cracking paperback spines and dreaming of writing my own novel, a lot of SF readers only cared about the science. If you got the science right, if you got all your gizmos, franistans, and spindizzies in a row, even if you drew your world in crayon, wrote dialogue as wooden as an oak, and populated scene after scene with stereotypical characters hired straight from Central Casting, you could still win awards and have a healthy readership. While I gravitated toward the “social” science fiction of Le Guin, Zelazny, and Cherryh, the genre had a strong and ardent following of the “hard” science fiction style, where the gimmick ruled and “What if?” was the only question worth asking.

In visual media, it was often worse. Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and the Six-Million-Dollar Man gave us mindless matinee-serial pablum served on a foundation of whiz-bang gimcrackery.

This, however, has changed. (more…)

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curling_stones_on_rink_with_visible_pebbleA year ago, I posted about our decision to dump our cable provider in favor of a completely streaming profile.

Overall, this has been a great success. We’ve saved money (over two grand a year). We’ve found that there is a ton of terrific content out there that is available either for binge-fests or weekly installment viewing. We’ve been able to tailor or subscriptions to match more closely our TV and movie predelictions.

All has not been rosy, though. Some networks (cough cough cbs cough) think they’re all that and a bag of chips, and worthy of a subscription all on their own (they’re not). Many others have apps and services, but require a cable or satellite provider to view content, even though they broadcast free over the airwaves.

And then there is the world of sports.

I’m not a sports junkie, but sometimes I feel compelled to watch a Seahawks or Mariners game. For this, I have to put a digital antenna in the window to pick up local broadcasts. Reception is spotty, but the occasional signal breakup is only a minor annoyance so, for me, the lack of sports coverage wasn’t a big deal.

Cue the Olympics. (more…)

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It’s been a full month since we dropped our cable and land-line package to become a primarily streaming household, and I think we can say that the results are in.

As with any paradigm shift, behaviors and attitudes have changed. What surprised me, though, was the speed with which the changes were made and some of the more counter-intuitive outcomes.

Our viewing habits changed immediately, of course, as some shows weren’t available to us anymore and other opportunities opened up. But it was the changes in attitude that I found most unexpected. I found that I really didn’t miss some of those “lost” shows, which says a lot about how we were watching them more out of habit than cognizant decision. Moreover, I discovered a heightened discernment in our viewing deliberations. Before, our selections were based mostly on ads and hype, whereas now, our decisions are based on referrals, reviews, previews, and a trial run of an episode or two. We’re also no longer ruled by the tyranny of the DVR. No more “Gotta watch that show to make room for the next episode!” (more…)

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Today, we went dark. Sort of.

Today, our cable and land-line were cut off. We still have internet and our mobile phones, but the dedicated connections for television and phone are as dead as Monty Python’s parrot.

During our fortnight-long sans cable experiment, everything about our television viewing habits came under scrutiny: what we watch, when we watch, and how we watch. We learned a great deal about our habits and thoroughly re-evaluated what we considered “worthwhile” viewing. After two weeks, we no longer think of things in terms of networks, but see them in terms of providers, apps, and individual shows.

Not everything was rosy, though, and before we dropped the hammer, we had to make some compromises. (more…)

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