‘Marry a Hoosier dork’ doesn’t quite work.

For most of my life I’ve had a hard and fast rule: No television during the day. Obviously we made accommodations for Kate’s childhood, but once she was off to school, I went back to my old habits. No talk shows, no cooking shows, no Oprah. Needless to say, no soaps, either. But I usually spend at least an hour, hour-and-a-half watching nighttime TV, and man this is the long way around to admitting that yesterday I found myself watching the first 20 minutes or so of “The Golden Bachelor,” and boy oh boy do I regret it.

“The Golden Bachelor” represents network television basically giving up. No one under 50 watches it anymore, so they might as well lean into who’s left before they all die off. The show is an elderly twist on the successful franchise, and what I watched was…horrifying. I’ve only watched snippets of the original Bachelor, but you’d have to be dead not to know the gimmick: One man (or woman) is allegedly looking for love, and a dozen or so potential candidates for loving are presented to him or her, reality TV-style, with one eliminated every week in a cornball “rose ceremony” until only two or three are left, and they scratch each other’s eyes out until s/he chooses one.

The so-called golden bachelor is a Hoosier dork named Gerry, previously an Iowan who, in the intro, tearfully tells how the love of his life, Toni, his wife of many years, died after a sudden illness five years ago, and now he’s ready to love again. He’s 72, looks very good for his age, and if the dizzying array of elderly women presented to him are any indication, he’s not going to find it on this show.

Not that they were all horrible. Some seemed more or less normal, but a fair number were the usual reality-TV narcissists. One arrived disguised as Estelle Getty hunched over a walker, then flung it and her dowdy housecoat aside to reveal her gym-toned body in a short lace dress. Others made quips about “being able to take six inches” and how much they wanted to find someone to have sexytime with. And there were more than a few that I could tell were absolutely not going to enjoy life in LaGrange County.

Yep, this Hoosier is a northeast Indiana Hoosier. After he and Toni retired to their dream house on Big Long Lake and she died, he was left to rattle around in it alone. Maybe he’ll want to sell, depending on who he chooses. But he should choose wisely, because the sunbelt bachelorettes in particular are going to throw in the towel after one wonderful summer (the Amish! so quaint!) and one enchanting fall (the colors! the sweaters!) bleeds into the gray, overcast, unending Hoosier winter. A few long weekends in Chicago (similarly gray/overcast/unending, but with theater and restaurants) aren’t going to do it.

You know, if I were inclined to watch this show, I’d like to see evidence of a few lives well-lived. If you’re going to marry in your life’s final chapter(s), you’re going to bring enough baggage with you to fill a 747 cargo bay. Best find out early if your suitcases and garment bags match. But truth be told, I’m not going to watch it to find out. That Estelle Getty act scarred my brain.

Meet the bachelorettes, and shudder.

Posted at 12:26 pm in Television | 65 Comments

A bit busy.

You remember a few days back, when I said my planner has three lines at the bottom of the weekly page? Logging workouts, morning pages and blogs? I just looked at it and realized, oops.

But life has been crazy-busy this week, and this weekend in particular. It ended with us seeing “Oppenheimer,” thus completing the Barbenheimer cinematic diptych of the summer, so: Checked that box, but missed my blogging window.

I didn’t like “Oppenheimer” nearly as much as “Barbie,” but then again, the fact they’re both films is about all they have in common. It certainly has its place in the world, but my viewing suffered from not being a science nerd well-acquainted with every brilliant PhD who worked on the Manhattan Project. I knew about Oppenheimer, knew about Teller, but beyond that? Not much. So a great deal of the sub- and backstory was lost on me. And sorry, but why anyone would think they need to see this in IMAX is baffling — most of the action consists of people talking to one another in medium shots. In fact, my biggest disappointment was that the detonation of the first bomb, the Trinity test, was not really the film’s climax; it goes on for an hour afterward.

Maybe the draw is seeing Florence Pugh’s breasts in IMAX, I dunno.

We settled for a regular old wide-screen movie theater, and it was just fine (breasts and bomb). The explosion was very well-done, and I’m glad Oppy’s famous reaction line from the Bhagavad Gita was underplayed; I get the feeling someone like Spielberg would have dolled it up more. But the performances were very good, the story important, and it left me with lots to think about, including how a person with a brain like Oppenheimer’s interacts with the rest of the world. I certainly don’t understand quantum physics or mechanics, but the fact this achievement was followed by the 20th century equivalent of the MAGA era must have been almost physically painful for people that smart. It certainly made me wince that we only recently had a president who spoke of nuking hurricanes and countries and so on, as though these were special effects to be deployed, not weapons of mass destruction. Speaking of dumb.

Do I have bloggage? Why yes I do:

Neil Steinberg parts with one matchbook he’s been holding on to for 40 years, and has an epiphany: I could get used to this:

I’m at an age when I’m surrounded by great masses of detritus, aka, crap. Files and furniture, notes and boxes, mugs, souvenirs, relics. I hate to include books, which are holy, but hundreds of books, most of which I’ll never read. After I wrote the above, I went to walk the dog, and can’t tell you how good I felt. The mixture of performing a small kindness plus the liberation of divestment was a real boost. Only a little thing, true: an old, used matchbook. But it’s a start of the great give-away that will end with me being put, possessionless, into the ground.

Death-cleaning. It becomes more important the closer you get to, um, death, and damn, but it feels great.

Alan and I used to watch “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” when we first got together, so it has some special significance to me. Losing Paul Reubens last week was tough, but we’re all going to the undiscovered country eventually, so I wasn’t upset. This Hank Stuever appreciation of Pee Wee (gift link) was very good and exactly right, I thought:

There were a lot of ways to both fall in love with Reubens’s character and to also find him annoying, but there was no denying that he, along with other retro acts (the B-52’s come to mind) had harnessed a longing for and a lampooning of a B-movie, mid-century vibe: In the high time of Pee-wee Herman, every fun city had at least one gift store that sold inflatable Godzillas and cat’s-eye sunglasses and chile-pepper Christmas lights along with sardonic, non-Hallmark greeting cards.

And, more important:

Now, in a culture derailed by childish taunts and vicious politics (“I know you are, but what am I — infinity”), fixated on all the wrong kinds of nostalgia, where drag queens and other groovy outliers are publicly pilloried and accused of trying to corrupt children, it is becoming quite clear that things are increasingly less safe for anyone who deigns to be different. Just when the world could use Pee-wee’s keen and welcoming sense of humor, we lost him.


OK then, deeper into August we go.

Posted at 12:36 pm in Movies, Popculch, Television | 85 Comments

Thirty years later.

When Alan was working in an office, I would get dinner ready to fire, then wait around for whenever he got home. Often I’d watch one TV show as I waited; it’s how I got through “The Americans” and a rewatch of two of “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos.”

Lately it’s “NYPD Blue,” only I watch it as Alan cleans up the kitchen after dinner. Because it was on a commercial network, it’s only about 43 minutes, so Alan can join me for the second, third and fourth act, and rarely misses anything. (Something I learned on my journalism fellowship: One-hour TV dramas have four acts, movies three.)

We watched “NYPD Blue” together when it dropped, in the early ’90s. Everybody who was paying attention to American TV probably remembers it was a pioneer in showing material previously forbidden on prime time (butts, side boob), and using spicier language. Some affiliates refused to run it, and I’m pretty sure everybody ran it at 10 p.m.

Anyway, “NYPD Blue” was a cop show, a collaboration between Steven Bochco and David Milch, and probably the only reason it got on the air was Bochco’s status as a cop-show hit machine. It’s interesting mainly as an artifact of Hollywood entertainment, as well as society’s attitudes about police.

The Hollywood stuff first: The casting precedes the era of wokeness. A transgender woman — treated by the retrograde Detective Sipowicz the way the monkeys in “2001” treated the monolith — is played by a biological one. An adult described as “retarded” is clearly an actor who is not disabled in any way. As the seasons pile up, it’s like “Law & Order” reruns, where you can always tell who the bad guy is, no matter how fleeting his or her introduction, because if it’s an actor you’ve come to recognize, yep, that’s the guy. Also, it was so obviously shot in Los Angeles. (The sunshine gives it away.)

As for the police, well. I’ve lost track of how many times one of the detectives threatens to beat the shit out of a suspect. And then gets the confession! In fact, the willingness of a “skell” to take the beating is seen as evidence he’s telling the truth. And it’s always a he, although female skells swing through the 15th Squad station house often. They don’t get beaten (although they’re often killed by the third act) and sometimes someone will peel off a few $20 bills and tell them to go straight to the Port Authority and buy a bus ticket to their sister’s place in Florida. Where is all this petty cash coming from? We don’t know.

Of the NYC apartments we will say nothing, as we all know how those are.

This is how Hollywood did Gritty Realism, once upon a time. And we wonder why cop worship is so widespread.

“We Own This City” — now there’s a realistic police show. (David Simon and George Pelecanos, HBO.) The Baltimore police beat people, steal like kleptomaniacs, abuse every regulation in the book and basically act like an occupying force. In other words, like cops we all know.

Memorial Day weekend, and when people say, “Let’s remember all those who gave their lives for freedom,” all I could think about were the kids in Uvalde. But I kept my mouth shut. Bike ride, stop at a friend’s swimming pool, then ribs on the grill. A quiet day. Hope yours was good.

Posted at 8:14 pm in Television | 56 Comments

Lookin’ back.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of Ryan Murphy’s entertainment factory. He has done some good work – “Glee” was fun for a while – but sooner or later it seems he can’t restrain himself, or the people who work for him, from getting all ooh-look-at-me-being-transgressive-here. I just get sick of it. I feel like it’s a movie I’ve seen once, didn’t like, and don’t need to sit through again.

He’s generally very well-liked by critics, too.

I didn’t watch the first “American Crime Story,” his limited series that looks at one big messy story about a terrible you-know-what. It was about the O.J. Simpson case, and I OD’d on that one when it happened. I did see the second season, on the murder of Gianni Versace, at least most of it. But the third season, about the impeachment of Bill Clinton, dropped on Hulu recently and I am there for it.

Murphy tends to use the same actors over and over, his own little repertory company, with one, Sarah Paulson, his muse. She was Marcia Clark in the O.J. story, and she’s Linda Tripp in the impeachment saga. Early criticism was that Murphy would have been better off casting another actress than putting Paulson in a wig and fat suit to play Tripp, and I would have agreed in the early episodes, but it’s paying off at the end. She brings some humanity to a thoroughly unlikable person, no small feat.

Tripp is styled as the hero of her own movie, a woman who sees herself as a Very Important Person Who Is Only Doing Her Patriotic Duty, even as she does one shitty thing after another — primarily taping Monica Lewinsky. At one point, she hisses that Ronald Reagan never set foot in the Oval Office without a suit and tie, but the Clintons OMG with their pizza and rock ‘n’ roll and such disrespect, blah blah blah. The rest of the players – Ken Starr and his creep squad, Matt Drudge, Paula Jones, Susan Carpenter McMillan, the whole freak squad – comes to vivid life. I find myself being whipsawed through the whole experience again, how betrayed I felt at first (an intern? REALLY?) followed by the whole greasy shitshow.

Starr doesn’t come off well. Neither does his smarmy little aide, Brett Kavanaugh. Many of the supporting cast are superior — Margo Martindale as Lucianne Goldberg in particular — although I couldn’t buy Edie Falco as Hillary. She’s too New Jersey to play a Midwestern girl.

But as a dramatization of an appalling chapter in American history, it works very well. God, I remember pulling into the Meijer in Fort Wayne during the impeachment debate, when Larry Flynt was dropping his bombshells about all those Republican hypocrites, and just sitting in my car, too stunned to even buy my groceries.

No wonder we got Trump. We deserved him.

The end of the week, tra-la tra-la. Now, just to make sure I go into it with a stomach of bile, think I’ll read about Ginni Thomas. You have a better one.

Posted at 9:09 pm in Current events, Television | 39 Comments


And…justlikethat, the weekend slips away. It’ll do that when you’re concentrated on stuff like taxes, laundry and watching “Licorice Pizza,” i.e., the same sort of weekend I’ve been having for maybe two years.

Taxes were the big bummer. We’re going to owe a lot, thanks to a Roth conversion we did last year. But that money will grow (theoretically) and be tax-free when we spend it as liver-spotted old people, so: Good thing, I guess. But there are worse fates, and it was balanced by good news: Apparently my brain MRA turned out fine, so I don’t have carotid blockages causing my vertigo. Taxes are a cakewalk next to that. Still: Ouch.

As we tend to say at this stage of life: Consider the alternative.

Have you considered the alternative? As I’ve said before: I have a letter in my estate folder, bequeathing my online presence to J.C. He is instructed to kill my social-media accounts and do as he pleases with the archive of this blog. (Estimated retail value: $12.98.) Let this be another declaration of intent.

And speaking of the alternative, Clarence Thomas has been hospitalized with “an infection.” Thoughts and prayers.

Sorry I didn’t update Friday. I went out on St. Patrick’s Day, had a beer and a half and got another little spinning bout. It was 10 percent of the one the week before, but enough that I asked Alan to pick me up at the bar. (I’d ridden my bike there, as a celebration of the first 70-degree day of the year; talk about luck of the Irish.) The day ended with takeout pizza, not corned beef and cabbage, but I know which one I prefer.

Is anyone else watching “Winning Time,” the HBO dramatization of the rise of the L.A. Lakers? You know me — no sports fan — but I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It’s funny, weird, fourth-wall-breaking and simply a hoot to watch. I have no opinion, or knowledge, of its historical accuracy, but it’s well-cast (Gaby Hoffman! John C. Reilly!) and so much fun. A lot of the early episodes are spending a great deal of time on Magic Johnson, and the most recent delves into his sexual profligacy, particularly with prostitutes. I’m a little puzzled by this because I assume all pro athletes are like this, but then, Magic lives with HIV and I expect this is laying the groundwork for the eventual revelation. However. Didn’t I read sometime around then that there had been rumors in L.A. for years about him being bisexual? I feel like I did. Whatever. This week introduced Adrien Brody as Pat Riley, and I’m absolutely there for it. (I have an irrational attachment to Brody’s nose. I can’t explain it.)

So, the week ahead yawns, and at least it’s a nice day here. Since this is short and boring, a photo from my St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t see a lot of these outside Greenfield Village, but it’s a real Model T and it starts with a hand crank. Fun thing to bring to the bar on a beautiful day, I’d say.

Posted at 9:07 am in Same ol' same ol', Television | 39 Comments


Ladies and gentlemen, a project weeks in the making. My…home office:

Please, ignore the laundry basket.

Now that I look at it, I realize it’s not too different from before, but believe me, it is. We got rid of the double bed that had been there; Kate’s room is now the official guest room. An entire bookcase, outta there. Several cartons offloaded at John King Books for store credit — I believe we have $100 worth now, and I’ll probably donate it to a teacher or school or something. The desk has one-third less crap gathering dust on it, and I’m still not done.

My office cleanings rarely take place quickly, because I have to think about everything I pitch, and sometimes write about it. We hold on to so much in our lives, and so much of it is just garbage, but it makes us feel good to know it’s sitting on a shelf somewhere. In that closet I have a number of Kate’s baby toys, and Alan’s childhood teddy bear, which was given to us by his mother the last time she cleaned out a space. I just can’t bear to see them go into a garbage bag just yet, although I know that’s where they’ll end up, because everything ends up there.

I threw out so much. All my clips, all my career stuff, awards, everything. I figure if I absolutely positively have to have some clip, it exists somewhere. It would be an excuse to come down to Fort Wayne and sit among the microfilm readers, so win-win. I recall once reading a James Lileks blog where he revealed he was doing a project where he was compiling every word he’d ever written on his site, printing it out and putting it in bound volumes. I’m sure the University of Minnesota library will be pleased to get these treasures when he dies, but I have a much more Buddhist sand-painting view of my work. Do it, put it into the world, then forget it. And I must have forgotten it, because it’s in these boxes I’ve been dragging through my life without opening for years and years.

So: All of this is preface to me taking a few days out of my life for a walkabout. I realized, mid-January, that I was getting very sludgey in the head, and decided I needed a change of scenery. (Big talk for someone whose shampoo and facial moisturizer, purchased during a monthlong trip to France, haven’t run out yet.) So I’m starting out, tomorrow, on a few day’s loop of the Ol’ Souf’, as I’m calling it. First stop, North Carolina, where I have friends I haven’t seen in years living in the Outer Banks. I’ve been given a particular time to arrive, i.e., low tide on Saturday. Otherwise the unpaved road might not be passable. Well, that’s different, I thought, agreeing to every detail. Then on to Atlanta to crash with John and Sammy for a couple days, then home. I’d tried to loop in Nashville, but my friends there are going on their own brief walkabout, so no go. There will be stops along the way — Columbus, Pittsburgh, somewhere between Pennsylvania and the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between Atlanta and Detroit. I like that much of this is unplanned, because I want to be unplanned, just for a week.

It’s a working trip, in that I’ll have my laptop and still be contributing to Deadline, but at rest stops and Waffle Houses and the like. I’ll be Chris Arnade, only probably not at McDonald’s. (I see he’s walking now. Oh.)

And also posting here, needless to say. Maybe with some more interesting pictures. John informs me the Obama portraits are at the High Museum in Atlanta, so I really want to see those.

OK, so, bloggage? Just a bit:

How do we Elmore Leonard fans feel about this? About Raylan Givens being surgically inserted into “City Primeval” and made into a miniseries? I’ll tell you how I feel: NOT GOOD. A bad idea. Let me drive for a few days and I’ll tell you how I feel about it.

Posted at 5:38 pm in Same ol' same ol', Television | 50 Comments

Eating with Sterling Cooper.

I’m a re- person. I like to reread books, rewatch movies, TV shows, all of that. I don’t wallow in the past, but when the pickings are slim, sometimes I’ll decide to rewatch “Mad Men,” and out of guilt for the indulgence I look for something different to pay attention to, critically.

This time? Food.

I often reflect on the difference in American meals over the course of my lifetime, how much richer, more varied, larger they was when I was a kid. I don’t need to tell you that, in my part of the Midwest, a salad used to be iceberg lettuce and a tomato the approximate flavor of cardboard. Dressing was made by Kraft. Vinaigrette was unheard of; if you were that kind of weirdo, a waitress would bring you twin cruets of salad oil and mystery vinegar.

You were there. You remember. Needless to say, it’s different now. In fact, food has emerged as the new religion, given outsize importance in American life. But “Mad Men,” with its famous attention to detail, is pretty close to how I remember ’60s food. It’s interesting to take note of.

First of all, the show takes place in New York, and as New York has always been, it was ahead of Columbus, Ohio. So, early on, when Don and Betty are in a hotel room, and she’s ordering room service, she asks for “crab meat in an avocado.” Crab meat was fancy food, but I don’t think I even knew what an avocado was until I was in college. The Drapers throw a fancy dinner party, and Betty is enormously proud of her trip-around-the-world menu, including “rumaki from Japan” (remember that) and gazpacho (nope). They go out to dinner, and the appetizer is a glass of tomato juice, served in a small glass in a small dish. Definitely remember that; it was standard in steakhouses into my college years.

There’s more. You want to know about the obesity problem? Look at the sandwiches dispensed from the coffee cart – they’re two pieces of standard grocery bread, and barely a filling. (Although everyone eats donuts and “buttered rolls” for breakfast in the office, and that doesn’t seem to show on anyone.) Don walks in the door on a summer night and Betty asks, “Hot or cold?” The choices: Swedish meatballs or chicken salad. Either one will serve for dinner, with Ritz crackers.

People just didn’t pay that much attention to what they ate, compared to today. But the classics then are classics today. Roger asks a waiter for “iceberg wedges with bleu cheese and bacon,” aka the wedge salad. Joy the lotus-eater tells Don about the Mexican food on his plate: “It’s a pepper, stuffed with cheese.” Chile rellano. Don drinks like a fish, but doesn’t eat very much, which made his choice of a late-night snack, corned beef hash with an egg, a little puzzling, but maybe that’s how he endures – fatty midnight meals to coat the stomach for all that drinking during the day.

The late-decade pivot to fast food comes when the firm guns for the Burger Chef account, a place I remember well – not exactly a regional chain, but it never caught on too widely. Didn’t they flame-broil their burgers? I liked them, although now I know the flavor probably came from a test tube. My mother worked full-time, unusual for our neighborhood, but fast food was a rare treat, saved for when my father was out of town on business. We preferred Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips.

Anyway, we’re in season three now, and I think I’m going to slow the pace a bit. I want to leave for France (fingers still crossed; pass sanitaire still hanging in the balance) with an empty stomach.

I leave you with what got me thinking of all this: A page from one of my mother’s most-used cookbooks (although we never had this). “The American Woman’s Cookbook” is a real time capsule, and I’ve enjoyed paging through it, if not actually cooking from it. It’s a reminder that grocery stores weren’t always lavish cathedrals of food, and sometimes you had to make a meal out of what you could get your hands on:

Happy Wednesday. May all work weeks be four days.

Posted at 8:48 am in Television | 44 Comments

Our dogs, ourselves.

I look in the mirror, and I look one way. I look OK. Presentable, anyway. Good enough for what I need to do that day. Then I pass a reflection in a store window, in a mirror at the gym, or on a Zoom camera, and all I can think is: Who’s the old fat lady?

A friend says when we look in our own mirrors, we have our own presets. We know what we’re supposed to look like, and so we see ourselves that way. But other mirrors tell the truth. This is a very strange conversation, but it makes as much sense as anything. It’s like the United States, when we tell ourselves we live in the greatest nation in the world, the land of freedom and opportunity, and all of that is our preset. I heard an interview with an Afghan woman on the way to work out this morning. She was spitting with anger at how betrayed she feels by the United States, and who could blame her? She’ll probably swing from a rope before too long, if she isn’t killed some other way, for the crime of being educated, English-speaking, intelligent.

I saw a tweet by Ted Cruz, jeering at the CNN correspondent covering the fall of Afghanistan. She’s female, and she wears an abaya on the streets when she’s working. Cruz jeered at her “burkha.” It’s not a burkha, you dumb fuck, Mr. Harvard, it’s an abaya. Didn’t we learn this after 9/11? An abaya is a full-length dress, usually black, worn with a hijab, but leaving the wearer’s face uncovered; a burkha is the garment that covers everything and the wearer can only look through a crocheted screen. That’s three terms of art about Islamic religious dress for women; is it so hard to remember? I remembered, and I didn’t go to Harvard.

But of course, not remembering, calling everything you don’t like a burkha — because we agree that’s the most medieval garment, the worst one — is its own mirror. It says, who gives a fuck what these awful people call their outfits? The guy can probably expound on different styles of cowboy boots, but can’t be bothered to step outside his comfort zone, even to sound smarter than he is.

I turned off the radio on my way back from the pool. It was a lovely morning, and I wanted to enjoy it, feel thankful that I don’t live in Afghanistan or Haiti. There will always be a Haiti. You have to enjoy good fortune when you have it.

How can it only be Tuesday? It feels like it should be next Thursday.

Two pieces of bloggage today, neither of which has anything to do with Afghanistan, Ted Cruz or Haiti:

Do you talk to your dog? (Of course you do.) What sort of voice do you use? And when your dog talks back (of course it does), what kind of voice does it use? The WashPost investigates:

Most nights, as he is about to go to sleep, Josh Lieberthal gets into an argument with Werner Herzog. It is often over the pillow, which the 30-year-old communications specialist refuses to cede.

“You gave me part of your pillow,” the argument goes, in the German director’s soft, accented timbre. “The pillow is actually part mine, now.”

The voice belongs to Lieberthal’s dog, Rocky — a 5-year-old wheaten-poodle mix, or “whoodle” — with whom he and his fiancee share a bed. The argument is one that Lieberthal has with himself. Rocky’s voice, which Lieberthal provides, is that of the 78-year-old director of “Grizzly Man,” which just seems to suit his dog.

…He doesn’t remember when, or how, or why he — er, his dog — adopted a thick German accent, dropping the “w” and “th” sounds, but he and his fiancee do it all the time now. Even, occasionally, when they’re not with their dog.

“I feel like a crazy person,” he says. “But at the same time, this is just so normal for us.”

Of course it’s normal! Our last dog, Spriggy, had his own fantasy sitcom, the scripts for which we would sometimes improvise as we dressed for work. It was called “The Spriggy Show, starring Spriggy! Co-starring Alan and Nancy” and the episodes usually involved Spriggy getting into some sort of mischief and escaping all consequences. There was the one where Spriggy called the state of Michigan and ordered a truckload of sand to be dumped in our back yard. That one came after a blissful camping weekend where he ran wildly on some sandy riverbanks. There was the one where he talked the dumb hound dog next door, Samson, into letting him climb up the bigger dog’s back so Spriggy could raid the dumpster at Casa d’Angelo, the nearby Italian restaurant.

“Are we gonna get in trouble, Spriggy?” Samson would ask in a Southern accent. “Hey, can I get one of those meatballs?” Spriggy, deep in the dumpster and speaking with his mouth full, would reply that he couldn’t find any. “And his head pops up, and he has spaghetti hanging off it,” Alan would say. “Hmm, good note,” I’d say. “Make sure to tell the writers’ room.” More from the Post:

Sarah Coughlon, 27, has an ongoing bit with her girlfriend that their dog, Maurice, is the manager of the Bedford-Stuyvesant WeWork.

“He’s also sort of bumbling and, no offense to WeWork, but they seem sort of bumbling. And so I think he’s, like, kind of overwhelmed,” Coughlon says. “He’s really doing his best.”

Maurice, a mix that Coughlon describes as “a German shepherd that has beagle ears,” has a Midwestern accent for reasons that Coughlon cannot explain and always refers to his owners as “the ladies.” Coughlon, who works in advertising, doesn’t even go to a WeWork. Maybe this whole weird comedy bit comes from “trying to sort of make sense of the fact that our home that’s like our sanctuary suddenly becomes a workspace and that my girlfriend becomes my officemate. And that’s a weird relationship for us to have,” Coughlon says. “I think we are sort of trying to mediate that through the dog.”

“The ladies.” Cracks me up.

And if you watched “The White Lotus,” which was a very very fine HBO limited series that ended Sunday, you might want to read this interview with writer/creator Mike White.

And that’s it for the midweek. Enjoy talking to your dog.

Posted at 9:51 pm in Current events, Television | 55 Comments

A different tongue.

I stumbled into watching this show on Apple+. “Physical.” It stars Rose Byrne and it’s set in the ’80s, about a woman who finds her calling in teaching aerobics. (Remember aerobics, ladies? Grapevine left, grapevine right, all that? Ah, memories.) The main action is set in 1986 and 1981, and I keep spotting what I’m calling linguistic anachronisms, i.e. people using words and phrases that they didn’t use in 1981. Hey, I was there. I know.

Such as? The main character says to herself, “I will eat clean,” an expression that is very, very recent, not 40 years old. Her husband, a professor at a crappy college, has one of his students as the last guest at a party and tells his wife, privately, “I think she wants to hook up with us,” another wrong-o. A 1981 man would have used the term “menage a trois,” the term of the era; hookup is a hip-hop era term. Some surfers call her a “bee-yotch,” another nope from me. And one more: “Impactful,” which is so recent it still sets my teeth on edge.

I guess there are two schools of thought about this. One is that, as a writer, you want to reach the audience you have, so if it takes eating clean and bee-yotch to do it, no one really cares. The other is that a period piece is a period piece, and people need to speak in the language of the time you’re portraying. (Except in strange in-between spaces that are almost a form of magical realism; I tried to watch the Emily Dickinson thing, also on Apple+, and the language was so jarring I just couldn’t, as the kids say. I couldn’t handle Emily telling her pals, “You’re so extra.”)

But it bugs me. “Mad Men” was famously loyal to all that stuff. There was some hoo-ha early on where Don was wearing a watch in 1960 that didn’t hit the market until 1961, and I recall Laura Lippman saying something about a character noting a driving time between Manhattan and Rehoboth Beach that was insanely incorrect, but I only noticed a few linguistic anachronisms that took me out of the action, and now I can’t even remember them.

One final note about “Physical” – the husband character loses his job at the crappy college and dispiritedly tells his wife the only school that seems to be interested in him is Denison. “In Ohio?” the wife says, with the same misery in her voice. OK, sure, there’s snow, but given that he’s a student-fucking sleaze bag, ending up at Denison would be like driving your car off the road and landing in the master suite at the Ritz-Carlton.

Pretty dumb show, yes.

Speaking of Laura Lippman, I have her new book and would rather be reading it than doing this. So I leave you with just this, an advance look at yet another Trump book, this one about the pandemic:

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as White House officials debated whether to bring infected Americans home for care, President Donald Trump suggested his own plan for where to send them, eager to suppress the numbers on U.S. soil.

“Don’t we have an island that we own?” the president reportedly asked those assembled in the Situation Room in February 2020, before the U.S. outbreak would explode. “What about Guantánamo?”

“We import goods,” Trump specified, lecturing his staff. “We are not going to import a virus.”

Kiiiiinda wish we’d known this earlier, but OK, whatever. Guantanamo. I ask you.

OK, one more. Tonight’s dinner, an asparagus/ham/shallot/mushroom souffle, and the best one yet:

It was delicious.

Posted at 8:53 pm in Current events, Television | 81 Comments

The gray.

In our foolish faith that one day, HBO will get good again, Alan and I have been watching “The Investigation,” a Danish series. It’s a dramatized version of the painstaking police work it took to imprison the killer of journalist Kim Wall, in 2013.

Wall went for a ride in a Peter Madsen’s submarine and never came back. Madsen lied and lied and lied, first claiming he put her ashore, then saying she was killed by a falling hatch cover, then switching his story to suffocation, and that’s as far as we’ve gotten. (His dismemberment and dumping of her body was harder to explain, but it was something like, “I panicked and wanted to bury her at sea, but I couldn’t carry her up the ladder to the exit hatch, so, y’know, I parted it out.”)

Anyway, I like to think of myself as a fairly sophisticated consumer of filmed entertainment. I don’t mind subtitles, I respect artistic choices even if they are not what mine would be, and I enjoy foreign films, if only for the glimpses they provide of life in other countries. But man, is “The Investigation” ever slow.

And by “slow,” I mean I said this the other night, as the main character left his office for the day: “You watch. We’re going to follow him all the way down this long hallway, and out the doors,” and we did. About 30 seconds of screen time, an eternity, all to say: He’s leaving work now.

One episode consisted of the police shuttling between various undecorated offices. All the walls were white, lightly tinged with gray. All the officers have the same Scandinavian efficiency in their speech, movement and dress. No one talked about a partner at home, or their children or dogs. No one goes out for a drink after work. No one swears or throws a file folder down on a desk in disgust. No one is particularly good- or bad-looking. The only gun fired is a shotgun, because Jens, the main character, shoots skeet and duck-hunts. The search for the remains by divers is about the only break from tinged-gray white walls we get, and even that is agonizing. They dive, and find nothing. They dive again. They dive again. Etc.

Jens is the most well-rounded, if only because the writers tacked on a subplot of him trying to connect with his adult daughter, who is drifting away from him because he works so hard and is never there for her. They have short, tense conversations in which much is unspoken. Jens expresses sadness through his wide-set eyes. It looks a lot like all his other expressions.

And yet, still we watch. I did some outside reading, and learned that all these choices were deliberate, that the intent was to concentrate on the work it took to bring Madsen to justice, not the lurid crime itself; in fact, Madsen’s name isn’t even spoken aloud. Journalists hear that a lot: Why do you even tell us the bad guys’ names? You’re glorifying them. And no, that’s not true, unless you think having your photo all over the news under headlines like SPREE KILLER constitutes glory. I guess it’s good for the casual viewer to learn that police work, like most work, can be a slog, that it’s interviews, lab testing and diving again and again in hopes of finding human remains. But man, talk about Scandinavian bleakness.

Will I finish watching it? OF COURSE.

What else to report at week’s end? Not too much. I made a spinach soufflé for dinner last night, with roasted potatoes on the side. It turned out OK:

People act like soufflés are alchemy, but it’s all about folding egg whites. I could teach you, I promise.

So, have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 8:11 am in Television | 72 Comments