Barney as Dirge

Scene for a horror film I’ll never write:

Today in my office building, the magazine American Baby is holding yet another one of their misbegotten open calls for las cute chitlins. There’s nothing more depressing than happening upon an Upper East Side mother, collagen lips trembling (if botoxed forehead standing firm), bellowing at a weeping two-year-old when you duck into the ladies’. And on the elevator coming up from fetching the Egg Sandwich (capitalization mandatory), I got stuck with a very solemn woman, her tiny wide mom, and her tiny, wide baby girl, barely old enough to waddle. The mom was pushing a baby carriage that held not another baby but a boom box blasting Barney songs, to which the child swayed with a blank expression. Terrifying.

Now I’m a Curmudgeon (Sundance, Medium)

Some notes.

I am not going to Sundance. Although I was extended a fairly vague invitation via flavorpill, I couldn’t imagine traveling this time of year to a place colder and snowier than where I currently hang my ski mask. This kind of attitude, for sure, is what hinders me professionally. But here’s my admittedly lame-ass rationalization: If the movie’s good enough, it’ll land distribution and I’ll see a screener of it in New York. Sure, I’ll miss being one of the advance-buzzing bees, but the crazy commodification of the festival, the jockeying for everything from hotels to parties to screenings? This, this I will not miss. Yes, I am Yiddish now. (Not Jewish. Yiddish.)

To be filed under the heading Network TV Still Sucks: Medium. Being fascinated by all things supernatural, not to mention Patricia Arquette’s sweet little self (body), I actually sat down and watched said show. It’s rare these days that a network TV series bears watching, and this one is no exception. (Current exceptions off the top of my head: Arrested Development, Law and Order, The Simpsons, though I never watch it anymore). Tuning in this week, I was encouraged by the first scene: a Beverly Hills shrink-style ghost encouraging two young lovers to kill themselves. Awesome. But the rest of the scenes suffered from the same malaise that plagues most offerings: It spells everything out to a mad degree. As Allison, Patricia Arquette’s character, sparred with a skeptical detective, the dialogue wasn’t merely cliched; it was overbooked with cliches. Synonymous cliches. As for the running subplot, in which Allison’s husband (Jake Weber, so endearing in Dawn of the Dead), labored to surprise his psychic wife for her birthday, well, you didn’t need to be psychic to see the twists and turns of that one. Hell, you could see it just from what I wrote. David Mamet this is not. And typically that would be a selling point!

I bother to take this show down because it speaks to a larger problem. Network TV doesn’t trust its viewers. Even when really wonderful actors join a cast, it typically fails. Why? Because these shows are not cleverly written. Because the plot contrivances are painfully clunky. Because jokes don’t flow naturally from storylines, and yet they’re told over and over. Because the dramas strain rather than naturally spool out. Because the characters fail to acquire three dimensions, let alone the nuances that we’ve come to expect from cable series, especially HBO’s. Typically, even when a network show features a big film star, it flails. People may spend two hours at a multiplex to watch someone they like looking at, but they’re not going to weekly arrange their schedule around a program that insults their intelligence without even providing amusement. Very few network TV shows even benefit from DVD release, because without the commercials ensuring the handy seven-minute contrasts, the shows’ choppiness makes for nearly intolerable viewing. So what? Apparently unless you’re wealthy enough to pay for television, you’re not smart enough to enjoy a show that doesn’t spell its own name wrong. Or at least the sponsors must think so. Sponsors, networks: potato, potawto.

Also I am a curmudgeon because today I officially turned 34. That is to say: old.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy