Archive | TV Matters

Breakfast’s on Me, Mr. Reiner

Not everyone realizes that our astrology remains active after our deaths—so much so that departed public figures often surge back into the limelight during important transits in their charts. I mention this because I woke Saturday morning flashing on the great director, writer, comedian, and activist Carl Reiner, who died last summer at age 98—only a day after after his last big-hearted, big-brained Tweet and only a few months before Biden beat Trump, whom he loathed as much as he loved Mel Brooks. Before beginning the day’s vernal equinox intuition readings, I turned on Reiner’s HBO documentary—the brilliantly titled If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast—and was immediately drawn into its overall message: “To stay alive, you must stay in love.” The whole film—really, his whole life—was about how finding and committing to passions was the way to survive and thrive. As I read for clients that day, I could sense Reiner’s delighted laugh and sharp gaze, and it added old-school razzmatazz to our sessions. Of course when I looked up his solar return, it was March 20—that very day. With that old soul and beginner’s mind, he was a true king of the Pisces-Aries cusp. Happy belated birthday, Mr. Reiner. We’re still learning from your love.

‘It’s a Sin’: AIDS as Generation Black Hole

I inhaled the HBO Max/Channel 4 AIDS dramatic mini-series It’s a Sin in one day and am still thinking about it.

As someone active in ACT UP in college, who moved to the West Village in the early 90s, AIDS is never off my radar. I’ll never forget my beautiful young friends who seemed like ghosts even before they died. I’ll never forget equating sex with death even before I lost my virginity.

The London-set series has charisma to spare–hip-strutting, head-strong boys; head-spinning montages; spot-on 80s and 90s set and costume design; catchphrases, for heaven’s sake! Far worse than the spare-no-cliche soundtrack, though, is how it perpetuate 90s-era toxicity: more nuance and internal workings for the white characters; the sole female protagonist has no sex life and exists solely to caretake the men.

But I resist the critique that It’s a Sin fast-forwards too quickly, especially over problems like workplace harassment. While I was still in my teens, the transition from carefree club life to hospitals, funerals, and activism took place in the blink of an eye. Gender/sexual harassment/trauma was so widespread it was background noise–something you white-knuckled through if you wanted an apartment, job, not to get beat to a pulp. Believe me. As someone who often called out aberrant behavior—who confronted the landlord who stuck his tongue down my throat, who refused to work for the newspaper editor asked if I had a boyfriend while licking his lips–my career and livelihood suffered mightily.

Gen X is too hard on Z/millennials but we resent the assumption of younger people that we were oblivious to trauma. My generation of queers just was swamped with too much macro-aggression–mass extinction and existential horror–to tackle micro. Oh how this show captures that giddy ghastly time.

Carl Reiner Told the Truth (1922-2020)

I’m so so so sad Carl Reiner has passed over. His impact on TV, film, and comedy was legion and it was legendary. He worked with everyone from Neil SImon to Lily Tomlin to Steve Martin to Ruth Gordon and made them all funnier–better, really. His CV included Your Show of Shows, All of Me, and Where’s Poppa?–tons and tons of waggish staples. Even in his 90s he was still showing up on screen in the Ocean’s 11 franchise and on page as an author. Even yesterday he still shone such a bright light that he was tweeting what we all thought about 45. Not to mention that Mel Brooks will feel SO ALONE.

Their model of male love–their decades-long commitment to each other and to laughter–hurt my heart in the greatest way. They represented the very best of my tribe (the Jews!) by understanding that being tough and smart didn’t preclude being silly, soft-hearted, and socially just. Really, I wanted Mel and Carl to become the 2,000 Year Old Men. Or at least to live to see Trump leave the White House in handcuffs. (If you’ve never listened to The 2,000 Year Old Man, do yourself a favor and download it. Growing up I listened to it every day after school and it never failed to crack my shit up.)

In work he joyously played second fiddle–even in his masterwork, the Dick Van Dyke Show, modeled after his own family life in New Rochelle, he ceded the central role to Van Dyke whom he generously deemed a “better actor.” Top billing never mattered as much to him as top form because he knew to love long and love well. Thus he remained happily married to the brilliant Estelle from 1948 until her 2008 death. Thus he spawned the brilliant Rob Reiner and a long line of other comical, kind humans. Thus he died at 98 in top form, true to form.

Carl Reiner was a mensch. He was a mitzvah. He will be missed.

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