Tag Archives: television

Returning Television Shows I Can’t Wait to Watch

Captain Raydor, aka Mary McDonnellNetwork television ain’t what it used to be, which I suppose makes it something of an old gray mare. With original programming from upstart cable networks like TNT, A&E, AMC, SyFy, and USA, the low-numbered channels have seen a lot of writing talent drift away, especially as draconian managers like Jeff Zucker, former head of NBC, drove them away. Perhaps what’s bad for the founders of TV is good for audiences—cable is trying out some inventive show concepts, and even if they turn into their own formulaic narratives, at least they’re different formulas (I’m looking at you, Burn Notice). A few freshman shows caught my eye this summer, like Necessary Roughness, which I see as a much overdue examination of masculinity and sports. But there are a few gems that have left me hanging all summer or which are about to go on hiatus and not return until the mid-season replacements have stepped in to staunch the bleeding of the oh-so-awful new shows some networks are putting up this fall. In either case, here’s my short list of what I can’t wait to watch again. Between diaper changes, that is. Read More…

Why I Love Necessary Roughness

stars from USA's Necessary RoughnessThere are interesting shows that cable TV launches in the doldrums of summer (The Closer), and there are awful ones (Franklin & Bash). I’ve learned over the last few years that what will turn out to be an entertaining 44 minutes is not always discernible on first viewing—Suits seemed a little weak to me at first, but it quickly dialed down the melodramatic friend relationship story arc, and focused on its strength, the undertold story about new attorney associates and their rat race in big law firms. As a replacement during the hiatus of The Good Wife, Suits is no slacker. But I want to talk instead about a show for which I had low expectations, a show with a title that refers to a movie of yore that I love, and that I thought would have something to do with the plot, and a show that earned its respect from me. I’m talking about Necessary Roughness on USA. Turns out, it’s a long meditation on masculinity. A fascinating, thoughtful meditation at that.

Spoilers from here on out, after the jump. Read More…

State of the Television

"slave ship" episode of bonesI’ve got lots of writing on my docket today, everything from finishing up a short story for my last guest post at GayYA.org on Monday, to more revisions on my time travel novel, to a couple of commentary pieces, but on top of all of this, I’ve had a strange week of television, so in no particular order, here are my observations: Read More…

Risky Viewing & Skittish TV Producers

breakout kings promo photoClearly, not everybody liked Fastforward, ABC’s sci fi series adapted from a Canadian novel that aired right after V, which had its own successful franchise history. But geez, I liked Fastforward. It was part mystery, part detective show—complete with fancy FBI offices and Courtney B. Vance—and it was heavy on the temporal destabilization, which I always enjoy. It had a huge cast of characters in the V spirit, even, and I liked the performances from Joseph Feinnes, John Cho, Jack Davenport (though he’ll always be Steve to me), and Gabrielle Union. But before anything too big could be revealed about what was going on, what Jericho really was up to, or what the next flashforward meant, ABC pulled the plug on the series.

Now we would never find out. To say it was a bummer would be a gross underestimation. Read More…

Plots I Need Never Watch Again

This originally ran over at I Fry Mine in Butter.

Dear Detective Show Writers:

I appreciate all that you do, and I know it’s hard work coming up with new ideas and concepts and story lines for police shows. Hence, the rise of the “ripped from the headline” plots we all saw on Law & Order. But that pressure aside, can we please put a few stories on the very backmost burner? They’re not interesting anymore, and they’re one version or another of offensive. Read More…

Mad Men’s Trans Narrative


I recently finished watching the fourth season of Mad Men, and am glad to call myself All Caught Up with the rest of the AMC-watching world, which in the grand scheme of things, is not that large. I’ll add here that I’m not nearly as happy to hear that Jon Hamm refuses to wear underwear unless he’s wearing skivvies in a scene. He may be handsome, but all I can think of is the unlucky dry cleaner on the set. Regarding his character, Don Draper, audiences have known since early in the first season that his identity is a stolen one, and the narrative around this subplot only gets more complicated from there. There are spoilers from here on out, so please consider this my warning. Read More…

Coming up next week

On Monday I’ll post my review of Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation over on I Fry Mine in Butter. I’ll hold back for now on my opinions and reactions, save to say that this is not your mother’s transsexual.

The Good Wife starts its new season next week on CBS. I was enthralled with the series last year but annoyed by its cell phone cliffhanger. So I’m hoping we get past the wannabe love triangle and return to snappy courtroom drama. Besides, is anyone ever going to get picked over Chris Noth? Please.

I’m doing an experiment with Amazon’s direct digital publishing doohickey. Read: I’m releasing some flash fiction to see how the process works. Look for a link early in the week.

For some worthwhile reading of other good stuff, check out: Read More…

Word to the wise

Susanne and I visited our friend in the hospital last week, thinking that she wouldn’t yet be able to talk, as her cancer surgery was in the neighborhood of her neck. I can imagine few people more garrulous than me, which she is, so it must have been difficult for her, relying only on a small white board, looking something like Tim Russert on Election Day in 2000. Only in this case, it’s to ask “When can I get out of here,” and not to suddenly realize the future of the country is “Too close to call.”

My plan was to walk in her room and announce that she could speak up if she didn’t want a visit, give her .2 seconds to chirp, and then say, “Okay, great, so I had a few stories to share with you…”

As it was, she was already sitting up and speaking, to her surgeon. I looked at the older, chubby man with a halo of white hair on his head and the smart Kenneth Cole pinstriped shirt, and realized I knew him from somewhere. But where? Quickly, my brain flicked through Walla Walla experiences like a coke addict with a Fischer-Price Viewmaster. Not the pharmacy. Not my outpatient knee surgery. Not the coffee shop. Not a winery. Not the Bi-Mart. Who was this guy?

They were finishing up their conversation about her prognosis. I stood out in the hall, too focused on placing him than eavesdropping, although the tone they shared indicated that things were better than expected. It occurred to me that I had shared something vaguely intimate with him—which was weird, of course, given the whole married to Susanne thing. I asked her if she remembered him from anywhere, and she shook her head in that way she has when she realizes, again, that I am something of a loon. I would just have to put my sudden fascination aside and think about it later.

He acknowledged us on his way out the door and I gave him one last stare, begging my synapses to at least pretend to give a crap that they were in my brain for my benefit, not theirs. My synapses, absences of material that they are, scoffed at me. Screw those uppity dendrites, they synapted at me. My dendrites, meanwhile, just shrugged as if none of this brain communication was their responsibility.

We sat down and she smiled at us, firecracker that she is. A long red scar ran the width of her neck and I had a memory I’d forgotten previously of when I’d had a very swollen underchin after falling off my bike when I was 7. So apparently something was going on upstairs in my head after all.

She looked at me and said, gravelly voiced, “I’ve been telling everyone about what you said to me 6 weeks ago. You told me I could handle anything.”

Okay, that’s how I remember it. What I had actually said, which our friend recalled as well, was that I’d said, “Mary, you could be a conjoined twin and you would handle it just fine. You could handle anything.”

“I do believe in serendipity,” she said, looking at me intensely. “You said the right words to me at the perfect moment, so thank you.”

Jeez, I was just blathering on, but I was glad she found such meaning in them. I blinked back tears.

Ever the talker, she started launching into various thoughts and opinions, and Susanne and I tried to fill in the space between her words with our own, so she wouldn’t tire herself out. But a couple of days in the CICU, and the old professor wanted to make up for lost time. She wanted to know, it seemed, everything that had happened on the face of the planet in the last 48 hours. To me, things seemed pretty stuck—health care still being bandied about in Washington, Tiger groping for some relief from his PR nightmare—

“Oh, I know! What was he thinking? Can you even believe it?”

“Well,” I said, adding my only “news” about the event to the conversation, “I read that his wife has adjusted the prenup agreement.”

“She’s a smart one,” Mary said, “good for her!”

We devolved into a conversation about reality television and the stars who populate its universe, and Mary mentioned the White House party crashers. Oh good, I thought, I can tell her my stories about their vineyard so she won’t have to talk. I told her my stories, speaking more quickly than I usually do because I was afraid she’d jump in and start chattering. Even Susanne cut me off a couple of times, lest a nanosecond of silence inspire her to start talking.

“I wonder if there isn’t a hierarchy of reality tv personalities,” I mused.

“How do you mean,” asked Mary.

I explained. At the top are the celebrities who have deigned to be the host of some reality show, probably a competition of some kind. You’ve got your reality tv stars, people who at any given moment, are the rage of some show or other. Then you have the reality tv stars of lesser-watched shows, or spin-off shows. Then there are the has beens whose moment has passed recently, and on their heels, the ones who were like, on The Real World eight years ago. Then there are the reality tv figures who weren’t ever really popular, or who were on awful, short-lived shows like The Mole. And now we see there are even the rejects from the reality television world, like the balloon boy parents or the White House party crashers. So it goes something like:

Heidi Klum (Project Runway), Padma (Top Chef)

Jeff Lewis (Flipping Out) Stacy London (What Not to Wear)

Lauri Waring (Real Housewives of Orange County)

Danielle Staub (Real Housewives of New Jersey)

John Gosselin (Jon and Kate Plus Eight)

Diane Ogden (Survivor, season 3)

Valerie Penso (Temptation Island)

Balloon Boy parents

And all of these are still above someone like Brian Bonsall, former child actor who got arrested yet again last week, although I’m not sure I can articulate why.

“I think there’s a study in there somewhere,” Mary said, and we laughed.

All throughout our discussion she kept touching the lower half of her face, presumably to see if it was still attached. It does give one the illusion that one’s head is much, much larger than it is when you can only feel it from the outside and not from within itself. I knew we’d tired her out, so we made our departure, leaving her with a copy of my memoir, since we’d heard she had exhausted her reading material. She nearly yanked it out of my hands, so I’m looking forward to her comments.

I drifted off to sleep that night and realized I’d gone to see that doctor when my hearing was getting bad, about 8 weeks ago. He’d found some ear wax stuck against my eardrum, and had sucked it out with the smallest vacuum tube I’d ever seen.

I’d call that vaguely intimate.

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