Category Archives: TV

“Casual” on Hulu

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When the show “Casual” started on Hulu, I thought it might be at least an interesting diversion. It turned out to be a delight at every turn. Even when everyone was being a literal pain in the ass on the show, it was engaging in ways that most shows aren’t. In so many ways, it evoked some of the same sentiments in me that “Six Feet Under” did. The show deserved all the praise it earned, even as it ignored the supposed line between comedy and drama. “Smart people behaving badly” has been done many times, but rarely with the contained breath of this show.

I expected the show to excel in its final season, even as I complained to myself, as all fans of a show meeting its demise so often do. Now that the curtain has closed and I’ve seen the finale, I can only wonder about how all these fictional characters are doing in their separate lives. The writers convinced me that all these people were indeed real and that I would no longer be a voyeur in their lives. It was an elegant dance to watch it wind down.

The antepenultimate scene was of Alex’s empty house, the center and crucible for so much of the show. As that scene faded, a door somewhere within slammed with finality. Oddly, I felt the door close. Alex was in the autonomous car with his daughter, heading for his new life. The selfish man we knew was looking forward and making choices he couldn’t have made several years earlier. As he teared up, he smiled and as this scene faded, he looked down and to the right, obviously seeking memories of those now gathering in his absence. In the last scene, we saw everyone else in a jovial room together.

It was a moment filled with inevitable nostalgia. I think many people joined me in thinking that this couldn’t be it and that Alex wasn’t really moving away.

Alex, never the sentimental type, hid a few precious photos inside the Ova box (a digital personal assistant) for Valerie to find. All of them were combinations of Valerie, Alex, and Laura, the essential heart of the show. Valerie wiped the tears from her face as Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On” began to fill the room. Much like “Parenthood” opened my heart a little for Bob Dylan, this final scene gave me an appreciation for this Petty song, one I always disregarded.

The scene blurred completely away, letting us know that life was going to continue for all of them, out of sight, but perhaps lingering in our heads instead of on our devices.

“Casual” is one of those shows whose name conflicts with the complicated joy of humor and pain being blended together.

I hate to see its departure. That’s a sign of how crafted it was. Many people forego television for their own reasons. “Casual” is one of those few shows which can make you feel that subtle immersion you experience when reading an exquisite book. When the last page passes, you look up at the room you’re in, wondering if the other world contained in the book still spins on its own axis.

Television can be magic. If you haven’t watched “Casual,” it’s your loss. It’s filled with old friends and people you’ll be fascinated by.
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“Casual” seasons 1-4 are available on Hulu, and some are available on DVD, for the few Amish among us who have DVD players.

Another Beautiful Wood Panel from Snapfish

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My latest 11×14 wood panel/picture, which Snapfish custom-made for me. Just in time for Season 2 of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” this picture will remind me of not only the perils of an authoritarian government but also the dangers of letting me have photo editing tools at my disposal. I must admit that I totally rock the dystopian red outfit, though.

When asked how my wife Dawn sees the future with me in it, she replies, “…with eyes closed.”

 

#handmaidstale  @handmaidsonhulu

The Gift of “Rectify”

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“It’s the beauty that hurts the most, not the ugly.” – Daniel

As a reader and lover of language, I sit in satisfied wonder after watching “Rectify.” It’s been said by many that it was the best show that no one was watching. Rarely do characters come so vivaciously to life, murmuring and whispering with such glib eloquence. Listening to the people in this show move through complicated lives in this show is the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing visuals as if they were a novel. Several times in the past, I’ve read of the love and admiration of this show and renewed my self-promise to immerse myself. Not until the show was finishing its run, however, did I stop gazing at it on my to-do list and start down the intricate road it travels. I regret not having been a part of it since it first aired but I will make amends by recommending it to anyone with a discerning taste for depth.

If you have the opportunity, please visit Netflix and give this treasure of a show an open door in your life. You won’t regret it, even if the pace seems to be too languid for you at the beginning. Oddly, if you describe yourself as an avid reader, I’m convinced that this show will be an immediate friend to your life.

The intelligence of this show astounds me. The people inhabiting the world it paints for us trip and fall, even as they see the obstacles in front of them. Countless times I watched the inevitable pain surprise them, only to see a parallel to my own life. The mirror it smashes into my face catches all the sublime idiocy of the steps we all take, regardless of the severity of circumstance.

From the show’s beginning, Daniel emerges from prison and instead of railing against the injustice, he perplexes everyone with a deeply insightful commentary on the world. I’ve had trouble explaining to people exactly what about the show was so captivating. “It’s about a man who is released from prison after almost 2 decades.” If that’s the case, “Sling Blade” is just a movie about an eccentric older man being let out of psychiatric care in the South. The particulars aren’t what brings forth the revelations: it’s the humanity inherent in so many scenes of this show.

It’s difficult for me to pull back from my enthusiasm for this show; it’s likely I’ve over-sold it people. Something about it forcefully reminds me of the wild emotion I felt the first time I finished “The Prince of Tides” and heard the words, “Lowenstein, Lowenstein, Lowenstein” reverberate in my mind.

If you need a gift for yourself, I recommend that you find a quiet moment to step away from your real life, sit down, and give “Rectify” the chance it deserves to unfold the way television should be revealed. It avoids the mega-dose of plot twists that doom so many potentially great tv shows or movies. Don’t let the initial premise of a condemned man’s unexpected release from prison trick you into thinking you understand what this show is about. The story is about us, individually and collectively, careening around the backdrop of what it means to be human.

The show itself is a crescendo of discovery as the seasons reveal themselves. By the end of season 4, you will find yourself under the gossamer veil of nostalgia, for a world you would love to live in. As the show ends, you will find yourself feeling restless for unknown highways and side roads, all hopefully leading to places where people like Daniel Holden might feel at home. (And allow us a moment to sit in their presence.)

If you are lucky, it will reveal glimpses of your own self that you’ve kept hidden slightly around the corner.

“Finding peace in the not knowing seems strangely more righteous than the peace that comes from knowing.” – Daniel

 

 

Newport Potatoes, Aziz Ansari & ‘Master of None’

 

 
This post will be of interest to those who cook or watch TV, and probably even those weirdos who cook while watching – and perhaps even Peeping Toms who watch those who do either or both. I think I’ve covered the potential fan base of this post adequately, except to remind you to stop cooking in the nude.

Comedian Aziz Ansari’s second season of “Master of None” is on Netflix. It’s one of the most genuinely comedic shows I’ve watched in a long time. It also connects on a deeper level, pinging a depth of emotion and shared experiences that’s difficult for most shows to approach. The nuances are clouded inside a veneer of comedy but I find this to be the case with most shows that I appreciate.

While watching the latest season, I laughed like a diseased jackal when I heard that they too had a recipe for “Newport Potatoes,” a recipe that my mom perfected through countless meals in my youth.

Here’s the recipe for Newport Potatoes: use the regular mashed potatoes recipe, except ensure that a careless and/or drinking chain smoker is in the room and involved in making the potatoes. They’re called “Newport Potatoes” due to the popular Newport cigarettes. My mom tended to make “Winston Potatoes,” though.

(Note: At one point, Newport cigarettes accounted for almost 1/2 of all African-American cigarette sales. I loathe including true facts in my posts, but this one was interesting enough to warrant a detour from my usual tomfoolery.)

So, as I often warn people, check your potatoes before eating, to ensure that it’s black pepper in the spuds instead of cigarette ash. (Not that cigarette ash tastes bad or causes gastric distress.)

A Dumb Idea for A Halloween TV Pilot…

ABC loved the screenplay I wrote as a pilot TV episode. In the opening scene, we find Dracula’s 7th cousin Jeb discovering he’s lost his sense of smell. In the next scene, there is an awkward exchange as Jeb pounces on a steaming bowl of tomato soup, mistaking it for a bowl of blood. From there, he breaks a fang on the neck of a mannequin at Macy’s. You’re welcome, America.

 

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