Dallas

When I was a kid, Dallas was my favorite show.  Favorite.  Han Solo may have been my first love, but Bobby Ewing was the first, “I am going to marry a guy just like that.”

Like many people, (seriously, I checked the stats on the ratings) I began losing interest when the supercouple of Bobby and Pam was permanently dismantled.  I

couldn’t tell you a thing that happened in the last season except for the grand (silly) finale.

When I heard about the reboot on TNT, I set my DVR, but didn’t watch it.  Then I sat through two episodes.  It wasn’t horrible, (Well.  It was half-horrible.) but it was no Downton Freakin’ Abbey.  And the truth was, it made me sad to see Larry Hagman so…old.  So I let my DVR run and left it alone.  I caught up a bit reading the recaps while it was on hiatus.  And then I read about Hagman’s death.

I read everything I could find about it.  That it was Thanksgiving and he was in Dallas.  He had filmed a lot of scenes for the second season.  Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray – his longtime co-stars and friends – were with him at the end.  Duffy reminded me that when he left the show for that terrible season (the one that ended with the shower and “it was all a dream”), he returned because there was a very meaty contract and because Larry Hagman asked him to.  But I wasn’t all that interested in how TNT was going to kill off the character.  I wasn’t planning on watching.  And then someone in my house started asking about it. 

It is my own fault, really.  I spent too much time as a nine-year-old recapping every episode to my parents.  My father could tune me out.  My mother had a harder time.  I told her what I knew.  Then last night, I walked into her bedroom and she shushed me.  She shushed me.  It was the last five minutes of Dallas.  She had watched the funeral.

Ugh.

So I watched it tonight, all handy on the DVR.  And it was good.  It might have required Kleenex.  It was true to the spirit of everything I know about the characters and the stories past and present.  (Although seriously, Sue Ellen?  I don’t care if it’s a scheme to trick him into handing over drilling rights.  Hitting on Gary is icky.)  Then I looked up some recaps for the previous few episodes and my brain started turning on the different ways the story could run.  And because I am obsessed with the balance of the Universe: if J.R. is gone, then who the hell is Bobby?

Dammit, Mom.

On Election Night

I am bouncing back and forth between returns and the Bulls game.  And some West Wing clips on YouTube.

I left work a bit early to go vote.  The place was packed and the volunteer I spoke with said that in his nine years working elections, this has been the highest turnout in my precinct.  300 people before the real commuter crowd arrived and a good 200 had voted early.  I asked how many, exactly were in the precinct.  He didn’t know offhand, but could tell me that the lowest turnout in those nine years – it was for a local election – was 28.

I drove by my early voting place several times over the past couple of weeks.  I didn’t stop because there were no parking places to be found.

So that is all good news.

New phenomenon: bringing the kids to the voting booth.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  On one hand, I would have freakin’ loved if my parents had done that.  (But by the time I was old enough to semi-intelligently ask my parents about voting, my father was telling me that it was none of my business.  I expect he was having a political identity crisis.)  On the other hand, that lady with the little girl took forever.  And there was a line.  A line!

And because it is Election Night..this is not my favorite scene from this ep, but I love it:

True Blood, Season Four

So.  You may recall that in this, my last remaining vampire guilty-pleasure, I am a season behind.  HBO is running Season Five right now and Season Four was released on DVD.

If you are keeping score, True Blood now has vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, fairies and witches.

This is the season of the witches.  Eric, the thousand year old viking-prince vampire, has already been set up as the official anti-hero.  The twist here is – MINOR SPOILER – the Big Bad Witch casts a spell on him that takes his memory.  He still has his crazy-strong vampire powers, but he is lacking all of the personal history that made him..Eric.  So that was interesting.

I am pretty sure I told you about how the TV show sketches out much of the main plot of the novels, but it twists and tweaks a bunch of stuff to make for better TV.  Generally, I like their choices.  The biggest one for me was sparing a supporting character that I love in the TV series that was killed off in an early novel.  But I must take issue with the twist at the end of Season Four.

MAJOR SPOILER

In the novel, when the spell is broken, Eric regains his all of his memories except for the last weeks (when he was with Sookie).  Or so he says.  This allowed Sookie to pretend it never happened (at least for now).  The TV series allowed him to keep those memories (or own that he has them) so as to Fast Forward the love triangle with Bill.  Bleh.

Another divergence, which was actually rather awesome, is that when Sookie visits the witch, Gran inhabits her and warns Sookie off of Eric, saying, “It’s only temporary.”

New Rule:  Always listen to your Dead Grandma.

OK, so remember in Attack of the Clones when Anakin killed the Sand People and told Padme all about it and we were all, “Lady.  Run.  Now.”  ?  So right after Eric regains his memory, SPOILER, they are confronting the witches and the lackey stands in front of Big Bad Witch with the “You’ll have to go through me” and with all vampire-speed, Eric runs up, tears out his heart and slurps the blood straight from the aortic valve*.  Of course, that was totally funny.  But:

“Lady.  Run.  Now.”

There are several other interesting plot threads going on – I continue to appreciate Jason’s evolution, Jessica is not nearly so annoying and don’t get me started on Alcide – and the finale left us hanging on the proverbial cliff.

So now I can go read the next book.

Downton Abbey, Season One

Or..When I Started Watching the Same Television Show as my Grandfather

Of course, I had heard of it.  But I didn’t buy it until I heard, “It’s like a turn of the century British soap opera.  With Maggie Smith!”  Seriously.  That description made me drop thirty bucks on seven episodes of a TV show.

It is a lame description.  It is really Pride and Prejudice crossed with Gone with the Wind and Gosford Park.  If that made any sense.

So, yeah.  Some of the plot points have been done.  Twice, I said out loud, “Heh.  Scarlett did it.”  (As in “Simpsons did it” (referring to Scarlett O’Hara) not “in the library with the candlestick” although that would have been cool, too.)  (Geez with the quotation marks and the parens.  This is poor writing.)  But with as many of the pieces that were easy to see coming, I was impressed with the ones that weren’t.

Of course, Dame Maggie gets the bests one liners as the Dowager Countess.  But seriously, her character seems to grow as a person at least as much as the next character which is awesome because it would have been easy to write her the laughs and move on.  But that would have played itself out and as it happens I am really looking forward to watching Season 2.

So I finished the last episode and immediately walked it to my mother and presented it like it was the crown jewels.  She made a face.  And do you know what she said?

Do you know what she said?!

“Your grandfather watches that show.”

The Winds of War

I read this Herman Wouk novel, from my mother’s shelf, a few years ago.  It was my summer epic read.  The mini-series has been sitting on my shelf for awhile.

Robert Mitchum plays Cmdr. Victor Henry, the naval attache to Berlin in 1939.  He has three grown children:  Warren is a naval pilot, Byron is a grad school dropout tooling around Europe and Madeline is a student.  So here were are with the personal and the political converging ahead of WWII and that is really all you have to know.

As best I remember, it is faithful to the book.  However, there is a seriously diminished focus on some of the characters – namely Warren and Madeline Henry.  I guess I am ok with this, since Byron really has the best story and the thing is already really long.

This was produced in 1983, which I believe was smack in the middle of the network television mini-series heyday.  North and South, The Blue and the Gray (I didn’t actually see that one) and our beloved V.  Which means that we have to allow for some 80’s network movie cheese.  I am fine with that.  But I do find the casting a bit suspect.

Ali MacGraw seems rather old for the Natalie Jastrow character.  Perhaps that is because I remember her from Dynasty when she was playing the older generation.  Also, Jan-Michael Vincent seems old to be playing Byron – who is supposed to be the younger brother.  And Polly Bergen as the matriarch.  Well.  She reminded me of Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice (think the Colin Firth version, please) which was not a vibe I picked up while reading the novel.  My mother may disagree with me, there.

But Holy Something did Robert Mitchum rock this thing and that is not my daddy issues talking.  He makes me want to skip over reading the sequel and go straight to the DVD.

Network television should really bring back this format.

Prohibition, by Ken Burns

I finally finished watching Prohibition, the new Ken Burns film, on the DVR.  It was typically good Burns.  The story is told in three parts:

  1. A Nation of Drunkards
  2. A Nation of Scofflaws
  3. A Nation of Hypocrites
Glad we got that straight.
The most interesting thing to me was how the women’s movement and the prohibition movement used each other.  And that when the time came to ditch this law, it was another women’s movement that was right out front.  Also, that the institution of an income tax is a huge part of what made Prohibition possible.
We see the urban versus rural perspectives.  We hear the gangster stories.  Burns did make a point of showing the big soup kitchen built in Chicago during the Depression; built by Al Capone.  
Overall, this was totally worth my time to watch.  Last thought:
One of those interviewed at the end made an observation:
It was easier to get a drink during Prohibition than it is now.

Pet Adoption Photos

CBS Sunday Morning ran a great little story about a photographer in Dallas that started taking glamour shots of dogs awaiting adoption with a local rescue:

http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/cbsnews_player_embed.swf

Now, granted, dachshunds are probably an easier gig that pitbulls or rottweilers.  But the idea that “marketing” is a big part of the battle..rings very true to me.  I remember the first time I read that if you are trying to adopt out a black dog, you should put a brightly colored bandana on him or her.  Of course.  Why didn’t anyone think of that before?

Marketing.  That’s what we need to do better.