Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Certainly, it saved my sanity, and when you're just a kid, isn't that your life, too? Without going into specific details about my bizarre and disturbed childhood - not totally my parents' fault - as well, there was this whole war-torn, immigrant adjustment thing going on at the time. At any rate, from the trenches, I saw first-hand what happens to people who endure repeated oppression and brutality at the hands of family, institution and war, and then manage to escape. Some of them become oppressors themselves.  Because it's so easy to lash out all of your hurt and anger inside your new and safe digs, especially if it's populated with children.

As a wee lass, I put on my parents' past torments and loss of homeland each day and every day like it was a new layer of skin. They either lectured about it, sometimes reminding me that their horrors could happen again - even here in America - or demonstrated their wrath by way of corpral punishment. For me, back then, life was colored in bleakness.  I didn't see or hear any anything that might lead to signs of hope or change. Until 1962.  The year we got our brand new, Zenith television console.

Later, during high school and college years, the intelligentsia referred to television as mind-numbing pablum, and tried to get us rebellious 60's teenagers to listen to music, go to museums and engage in protests against the war-mongering establishment.  We followed their edicts, of course, high on something or other, and we avoided television like the plague. Thankfully, in the early sixties, those proscriptions were not as popular or strident. Television still could make us giddy with glee.  I LOVED television.

Television showed me in living black and white, finally, that hope was just around the corner.  Shows like Leave it to Beaver, Bachelor Father and Dobie Gillis (seriously, what kind of name is Dobie?), modeled loving parents and non-punative, educational solutions to kids' pesky behavior. That nice people like this didn't exist in my own  community, did not deter me from fantisizing that someday I would be surrounded by them, and then my life would change gloriously.

My life did change.  Not everyone I met was like June Cleaver, but enough smart and kind people loved and supported me, that I was able to survive my awkward teen years and and even more so, my scary twenties. But before anything really good happened in my life, or had a chance to stick, I had television.  Even though I only got it in small doses (those grownups didn't want to see me too happy), it was just enough to replace my normal expectations of doom and heartache with hope and possibility and imagination. A brief respite from the madness. 

Today, some of the best writing, set design, direction and acting, can be found on television.  Even network televsion.  I'm still grateful to television and here are two of my favorites:

Person of Interest. The first three things you need to know: 1) Ex-CIA hitman, John Reese, played by James Caviezel - is a brooding, handsome, a-moral character, who unapologetically rides into rescue mode with swagger and dazzle. You can keep dreaming, Damsel or Gent in Distress.  2) Scientist and activist, Harold Finch, played stoically by Michael Emerson, is the genius we trust will make us a better world to live in.  And now, I think, my favorite character is Detective Joss Carter - Taraji P. Hensen.  This woman's face could be on a poster  advertising universal empathy! It's crazy how fast you can get lost in those big dreamy eyes of her, immersing yourself in the detective's every thought and feeling.  Watching Carter is becoming Carter.

Let's get to the writing. The secondary characters, the ones who are normally used as fillers to, well, fill out plot points and make the leading characters look good, in Person of Interest, instead, have significant and memorable lives. Very quickly we start to care for them.  And when they return on occasion, you can say, hey, good you got over that thing a few weeks ago; I can't wait to see what you trouble you cause this time - hehe.  

Person of Interest - it's so dense with story that each week I feel like I watch two shows, instead of one.  How satisfying it that!!

The Good Wife has been one of my favorite television escapes for years.  It's smart, the characters are varied and enduring, the courtroom dramas brim with endless brain-teasing material. I don't catch every episode, and as a matter of full disclosure, I broke allegiance with TGW to watch Downton Abbey a few months ago, and now I see a future conflict with Sherlock. (Although, I can always catch up during weekend re-reruns). There are so many good tales here, and everyone loves Alicia, Julianna Margulies (now there's a cool name). But that's not why I watch it.

I tune in to The Good Wife to find out what Stern, Lockhart and Gardner's investigator, Kalinda Sharma, is up to.  Kalinda, played by Archie Panjabi, is a charming sociopath and the dynamic face of The Good Wife.  In my own writing world, I like to paint male characters with Kalinda's traits - handsome and strong, a-moral but always fighting for the right side, fully narcissistic so they can easily move into the battle zone and come out relatively unscathed - which seems to always be smack dab inside the heroine's turf.

There are many anti-hero, protagonist examples in film and literature: Chili Palmer from Get ShortySam Spade from The Maltese Flacon and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.  But television's Kalinda is the consummate female anti-hero. The kind of superwoman that wields a bat and uses it mercilessly against a bad guy, is passionate and sleeps around (she doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender), but is quite picky about her dalliances, and forms only a few - and they are indelible - relationships. Kalinda walks boldly through the world with confidence and resolve, and you love her because you secretly want to be her.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, must FINALLY check those two shows out. You've sold me!