When It Reigns It Pours

Prince Oscar is a nervous eighteen year old bedwetter with a rare bladder control problem brought on by generations of inbreeding within the Royal Family. His affliction is only exacerbated when both his parents die, and he ascends the throne and becomes King.

A madcap, heartfelt emotional sitcom about the trials and tribulations of monarchic duty, losing loved ones, and the all too real perils of incontinence.

A vague subplot involving Oscar’s on/off romance with the Norwegian ambassador’s daughter, and lots of jokes about ‘being on the throne.’


Wax and Wayne

Abrasive US comedian Ruby Wax and NHL legend Wayne Gretsky star in a contrived and fantastical sitcom inspired by The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Heroes, and William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.

After a booking mix up, Wayne Gretsky ends up as a guest on Ruby’s dire BB3 talk show. A freak electrical storm then gives both Wax and Wayne superpowers. They now, intermittently and uncontrollably, change in size and shape.

Conflict arises from their obligation to use their powers to help society whilst still struggling to come to terms with the unlikely turn of events themselves. Also they have to live together for some reason that’s never really explained and boy do they not get along!

Humour is derived from the lead characters’ unconcealed hatred for each other, and also from the hilariously and unlikely lengths they go to in order to disguise their sudden transformations and explain their random disappearances.

In a twist final episode Victoria Principal wakes up to find it was all a dream.


Nena!

German pop sensation Nena plays a fictional version of herself living in an apocalyptic wasteland. Episodes focus on the day-to-day running of the Berlin toy shop she inherited after the tragedy, although also deal with the wider issues of attempting to rebuild civilization, and the difficulties in finding a man in a world where 99% of the male population has been vaporized.


Count Me Out

Count Dracula finds himself sharing a house with four goofy college kids who are always trying to peer pressure him into doing dangerous and occasionally illegal activities at a Midwestern university.

Every wacky scheme is met by Dracula’s catchphrase, ‘you can count me out!’ His excuses range from moral objections to his crippling sunlight allergy.

The remainder of each episode focuses on the Count lamenting his lack of adventurousness, considers theories of man’s true purpose, and ponders the existential quandary that is immortality.

In a twist final episode Dracula renounces Satan in order to enter a church and marry the bookish, mousy librarian played by Pamela Anderson.


Margaret, Thatcher

A historical sitcom about the day-to-day running of a roofing firm in medieval Basingstoke.

Humour is largely derived from satirizing Thatcher’s government by placing her political actions in a historical context that somehow also relates to thatch roofing.

In a twist final episode Margaret Thatcher resigns before she completely fucks everything up for everyone for the next thirty-plus years.


Going Straight

Butch Gaye is a notorious and flamboyant bank robber recently released from prison after a five year sentence for robbing a bank. Each week the authorities set Butch up on a date, hoping that he’ll fall for a girl, get married, and become a law abiding family man.

Each episode climaxes with Butch being arrested in various shops for stealing lip gloss, designer jeans, or male erotica. Every week we see Butch being cuffed whilst he protests his innocence and insists he’ll ‘never go straight.’

Humour would largely be innuendo/catchphrase based.

In a twist final episode it is revealed that Butch Gaye is actually wanted Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess.


Nun the Wiser

Nunnery set sitcom depicting a group of recently arrived young nuns trying to get away with bad habits and mischievous deeds without attracting the attention of the wise, elderly nun, Sister Sledge. 

The comedy will be derived from the farcical situations that the girls get themselves into. Each episode will have a moral theme, with the episode interspersed with Sister Sledge reciting relevant Bible passages in a similar way to Jerry’s stand up bits in episodes of Seinfeld.

Humour mostly accompanied by slap bass.


Accidentally/On Porpoise

Dick Van Dyke plays a fictional version of himself as a stereotypical Italian-American mob boss in 1930s New York.

Each episode begins with someone coming to Don Van Dyke with a particular problem, which Van Dyke then vows to resolve. However, Dick Van Dyke proves incredibly inept at heading a crime syndicate. Every week his harebrained schemes result in much slapstick and countless pratfalls which contrive to resolve the established problem entirely by accident.

Every episode concludes with the grateful beneficiary of Van Dyke’s buffoonery asking Don Van Dyke what he did. Each week Van Dyke recounts various fantastical acts of heroism carried out whilst riding on the back of his trusty porpoise sidekick, Hamish McFitzlebrook.

In a twist final episode Dick Van Dyke commits suicide in order to live with Hamish in his fantasy world for all eternity.

My dishwasher and I have been at war for some time. This war is being waged on two fronts. On one side is my ongoing search for a bowl or plate or pot so dirty the dishwasher cannot clean it, but so far I’ve found nothing, including a recent plate coated with the super glue residue of leftover fried eggs. The other battle is a certain steak knife I’ve run through the wash at least five straight times. There is a bit of unrecognizable debris stuck to the tip of the blade that no amount of hot water and dish detergent will dislodge. I could easily scrape the debris off with a fingernail but that would be like conceding defeat. This is a ridiculous war because the dishwasher obviously possesses the horsepower to clean any dish it wants but refuses to acknowledge the steak knife. I think it’s mocking me.

I could have finished National Novel Writing Month. Seriously. I pounded out 43,492 words with four days left, leaving me a mere 6,508 words to go to hit the “winner” level of 50,000 words by midnight last night. That’s a spittle-soaked couple’s squabble, or a wild weekend road trip, or a dimly lit barstool meditation on the meaning of civilization.

Like most women whose hopes and passions reside in this business of the written word, my friend and fellow Nervous Breakdown contributor Arielle Bernstein and I have been following Franzen-gate with interest. In chat after chat, we wondered if this was merely sour grapes on the part of Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, if their criticism of gender-bias within the “literary establishment” (as represented by The New York Times) would’ve had greater heft had it come from a woman whose talents might be considered more on par with Mr. Franzen’s (like, say, Mary Gaitskill, Marilynne Robinson, or Jhumpa Lahiri). We had no real answers, but our questions lead us down the rabbit hole of gender parity in popular media.

When one looks through the pictures of the trenches
and the unending, it would seem, fire stream
it is understandable that they would leave.

Ask anyone in the burn ward if they’d prefer
a time out or a long slow heal that is not guaranteed
to be free from monstrous scarring- well, you tell me.

A passable face and manageable mobility:  basic. 
And who could argue with you after the trenches;
never mind the projections on tent walls and sheets,

billowing by rockets nearby.  Conditions
which seem to come from people who are not of One. 
Never mind looking up.

In any case, the battlefield really did look like it would scab
over the whole body of land on this planet.
After the volcano, life with no cafés or coziness.

Enter the new mesmeric uses of screens.  Yikes
The vile feelings, the exodus, re-enter veterans:  Down they came,
from their air ships to walk among us animals.

That they were more capable since deciding to settle their animal-
that we really didn’t want to settle-
this point was conflict and still is.

They were keeping the extinct
while we were goggled by mold; throwing our voices
into mold and jostling moss

and talking about the glow at the bottom of the so-called
ocean we’d only seen pictures of
which I now understand are lights from the heights

of their towns.  And that mold is their refuse.
Refuse discussion is taboo, Taboo.
Unless you are stranded under a carriage in enemy territory

and must remind yourself to drink urine or die.
Yes, it was difficult to understand the noble fighters:
those who will not react with emotion

but take immediate action.  Because they see what is screen
and we see everything as back-up for our Importance.
What about me?  Well, raised by wolves.

In Wolfland there are always exciting conflicts
under the alpha and lady alpha,
vying for the glossy furred mate and later

ululations to the moon, Alice!  To the moon, Flintstone. 
We are soothed by memories of television through windows.
Their promise of drastic food and large apartments

which are soft, miraculous like walking through mattresses;
or swallowed in nine places of correspondence:
the bed, the refrigerator, the water closet, basin, the toilet,

the zone before the square show:  t.v.! 
the floor when you lie on it, the ceiling when you climb
to touch it and the window, any window.

One wonders how it happens:  the expansion
of comfortable useless stuff:  phoniness
or foam:  fire retardants.

I worried my uses would change from food finder
to pill setter or who knows what?
I never knew the famous password

to the apartment party wine box.  I don’t go out anymore.
I wake up early, wake up when hungry.
You wake up all the time until you learn how to eat in your sleep.

So back to the actual advancers with their lances
who stepped back in when I was having my own little
bruxist moment of implosion.

I was used to more theatre and approval
for theatre.  I’d honed my responses
to avoid pain and some don’t but I loved

to be surprised by light flashes in their eyes.
That was decoy preseason to ensnare.
They really don’t give light much, no.

We graded low.  Being properly in front of them
cannot be done.  They do not throw their etiquette
notes to you across the table

or maybe they do but you are under the table.
(‘Idiot wolf, don’t you eat that!)
Babbling, call me brook.  A river Nut.

I’ll go on about homeostatic functions and science fictions
and supposes regarding the rosary or other beads and old heads.
Talking wolves are novel on beer

bubbles pumping me up
which is medium alive and then I calm
down.  Revise.  15 minutes of after shock.

Resentfully I return to work.  My work!
which is to be a giver or to take.
Where do I go?

I am in naturalism. 
Neither boy nor wife
but nice sometimes

I’m a mover with my mouth.  I am nervous Rex.
I go to court if I’m jesting.  The costume is itchy,
the etiquette extremely challenging.

God help you if you laugh at the wrong time.  At anything!
Things which might have nothing to do with them directly.
Like a movie before you found out about movies.

The movie where Danny Kaye is saying what dirty minds they all have.
He’s Walter Mitty and he’s so surprised that they would think he’d
be up to anything coarse, anything below board at all.

They’d been many days together and were mainly in his fantasy.
Or maybe he was flying a plane.  High court thrives on strain.
When you learn how to take it, you get promoted again.

The look on his face
I was relating too.  It seemed extremely real:
Primordial even:  the movie actor not the veteran character.


When this gem arrived I thought, “oh cool, I’ll read this someday”, like I do with almost all non-fiction that comes my way. Once I picked it up, and it’s got a great feel to it, weight, touch, even smell, I knew I was going to be sucked in.  I’ve been dragging my feet in finishing it, like any good book, you don’t want it to be over, and this is no different. There are books about television shows, some with pictures, and not much else, and others that sort of brush over the television show with little or no substance. Natasha Vargas-Cooper, or NVC as I call her, (my interview with her will run tomorrow) has done a spectacular job with this delectable and incredibly engaging examination of a television show that has renewed my faith in the medium, by honestly examining the advertising campaigns that shape Don Draper and Mad Men, and how they effect the world we live in. Or how Don and Co. shaped our lives.

I skipped Mad Men the first season, and was I sorry. When I finally did catch up it took my two years to fully absorb Don and Betty Draper, the boys at Sterling Cooper, Pete and Roger, and “girl”, who all took up a place in my mind like a good friend who knows just what I like. I was shocked by NVC’s canny knack at capturing not only what Draper and Co. feels or is affected by, but she develops a magnetic vernacular in detailing the moments in culture which are created by the advertisement campaigns these men develop. In this year’s season premiere, Don takes to task the makers of a swimsuit, and throws them out of the office when they won’t conform to his risqué advertisements, which are basically soft porn. When Don snaps his fingers, snap, snap, snap, “lets go, I mean it, get out of here.” I was floored. How could a man who develops ideas that will slip weave their way into the coils of the common man and woman be so callous with clients, especially since this season Don has started a new agency. How? Because he’s a risk taker and a reckless man, to know Don is to quote him, “live like there’s no tomorrow, because there probably isn’t.”

Draper is trying to get around how bad smoking can be for you, by dismissing the statistics, really, he throws them away, and sticks to “it’s toasted” a line he tries to sell the cigarette maker he’s been tasked to promote.  Don smokes like a chimney, and it’s a form of his masculinity that is on display, his ability to smoke and look good doing it, plus it’s his crutch, for when he has nothing to say, or doesn’t want to say anything. Don never passes up an opportunity to keep his mouth shut and NVC explains this parallel nicely, and in essence defines Draper.

Each section of this book covers something different from the early 60’s, movies, travel, skinny ties, Pete’s college look, and Jackie Kennedy’s interior decorating, just to name a few, and there is an accompanying essay with each picture. I especially like the section about John Cheever and how Draper’s life on the show is very much like a Cheever story. The creator of another AMC show called Rubicon, which is basically a low-fi espionage, referred to Mad Men as John Cheever on television.  By the time you get to the section on the counter culture of the 60’s and how it related to the show, you’ll remember (if you’ve seen this early episode) that Draper and his hippie girlfriend are falling apart, and Don comes to her pad for a quick fuck and a break from his job and life only to find her with a friend who is dropping out and doing drugs, a bohemian to be exact. The Man in the Fez Hat as he’s called is busting Don’s balls about his conformity and it gets around to a moment where Don is given to reflecting on life, which he can do at a moment’s notice, he tells the man to make something of himself, and this man says “Like you? You make a lie. You invent want. You’re for them, not us.” This man thinks all Ad Men are bullshit, Don is wise to it almost instantly, replying, “Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.” The Man in the Fez hat replies, “Man, why did you have to say that?” It’s funny and it’s true, because the Man in the Fez hat has just been called on his bullshit. Don is capable of incredible insight, profound even, I know it’s the writing of the show, but I wonder did Don make the times he lived in, or did the times shape him? It certainly is up for debate, and with this wonderful work of art, NVC makes the case for both sides.  -JR

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Years ago, my younger brother returned home from a college class and heard someone, in one of the many rooms upstairs, enthusiastically repeating a word: “More! More!”

I have a knack for spotting the semi-famous.  A talent for spying the marginally well-known.

Gloria Reuben, for instance.  She hasn’t been around much since her days as a one-time contract player on “ER” but I saw her at an outdoor cafe in the East Village.  Also: Kenley Collins, the runner-up from season 5 of “Project Runway.”  She was in line at the AMC Loews on 3rd avenue.  I felt a little thrill of recognition and then a trickle of shame at my own unseemly interest.

Captain Kirk, yellow shirt, crouched in thinking-man pose on the original captain’s chair, maintained a dominant place on our Christmas tree until Kirk shimmied down the branch last year and made a kamikaze plunge to the tile. The lower half of his leg snapped at the boot, sitting morbidly askew from the rest of him. “Damnit Jim!” I said in my habit of making a joke to stave off tears. My nephew had given this ornament to me when he was three because he thought it was his Uncle Joe on an elaborate toilet. What? You thought I’d cry because it was Captain Kirk? Well, you’d be wrong.

* * *

A five-inch tall polar bear led the mutiny, and Kirk and Spock, locked in the cheap plastic chute of the transporter room, waited for a lucky break. Moments before, the ship-wide chaos of Scotty’s IBS attack had seemed to be just this sort of break, but I, and by “I” of course I mean Dr. McCoy, had repurposed two pieces of Styrofoam that had once cradled either end of a wireless router to magically cure Scotty of his flatulence problem when sandwiched between them for precisely three seconds. Undeterred, the polar bear, wedged into the captain’s chair, then pointed all four paws toward Ceti Alpha Five.

This crew always goes to Ceti Alpha Five, polar bear or not, because I like saying Ceti Alpha Five. I say it the way Ricardo Montalban’s Kahn, with his shiny prosthetic pecs, had said it. Like he’d forced his hand into a mug of scalding coffee and was going to keep it there and talk all the while to prove his craggy masculine resilience. Ceti Alpha Five! Through gritted teeth. Each syllable lingering on the verge of turning into: Mother fucker, that’s hot coffee! That and because I don’t know any other place in the Star Trek universe besides Vulcan – which is always a bummer locale. All tunics and poker faces.

I was on elbows, stretched out on the playroom floor, marching Bones around, making prints in the carpet, when my daughter Hannah began to pack everybody back into a boot box, completely unimpressed by magic Styrofoam.

“Forget it,” she said, “If Scotty can’t fart anymore, what’s the point?”

I’m ninety-seven percent sure Hannah had asked for this Star Trek set for her birthday. Eighty-two percent, maybe. Point is, it’s hers and not mine. Spock, Spock is mine. But the rest is hers. Spock and Bones. And Uhura. Those are mine. But that’s it.

* * *

Okay, look. Let me explain it to you this way. When I was a kid, we had a room under the basement steps big enough for an array of musical instruments including an accordion, a harmonica, a ukulele, bongos, and a Sear’s wish-book-variety acoustic guitar with plastic strings. If we wanted to play, that’s where we had to play it, in the same space designated for tornado warnings and the piss-warped toy trunk that wouldn’t shut. Long story, but I’ll just say that the two are related.

I can tell you how I patiently wrestled with one instrument at a time, trying to eek out something remotely like “You Light Up My Life.” I can tell you the guitar was my favorite, and I strummed until the plastic strings snapped with a sproingy sound like they do in cartoons. I can also tell you how I grew up to take guitar lessons on my pawn-shop Stratocaster from a guy named Bob who looked like a Spinal Tap roadie and told me to sing whenever I played so someday it’d be just like walking and breathing. This could be the back-story of a Jack White, say.

What are my prodigious musical accomplishments to date, you ask? Why, I can play the intro to Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” the verses for Radiohead’s “Lucky” and Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” and the entirety of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.” And that’s it. Nothing original. Nothing else. This is pretty much the story of me and Star Trek – a lifetime of exposure with absolute minimal retention or impact.

What else is a kid without cable to do but scour all available airwaves for that wonky one-off channel that could only get its hands on old, syndicated shows like “Perry Mason,” “Dobie Gillis,” and “Star Trek” coming through between scrolling bands of static? It was just there, like my older sister swabbing spit out of her flute on the sofa or the rake leaning in a corner ready to fluff the shag rug. Then, when the movies came along, somehow my little sister and I just ended up at the theater, on opening weekend, first showing. I don’t know how that happened. It’s like when Kirk and McCoy beam down to M-113 in “The Man Trap” and meet who they think is McCoy’s old flame Nancy, but Nancy isn’t Nancy. She’s a shape-shifter who in reality resembles a grimy, suction-cup-fingered Sherpa rug on the move. That wasn’t us in those theater seats shrieking at the first appearance of the opening titles. I don’t know who that was.

You know what really got me, though? Whenever any one of the Enterprise crew would arrive in some strange place, the developed Genesis, Nimbus III, or the penal colony on Rura Penthe, I’d hyperventilate from the anticipation of whatever horrible fate potentially awaited them. I even choked on a Jordan Almond in Wrath of Kahn when Chekov and Captain Terrell poked around the containers housing Kahn and his rock-opera rejects. It’s like J. J. Abrams had a direct line to the darkest recesses of my childhood fears when, in his reboot, he sent Kirk to Delta Vega and the guttural howling of an alien creature commenced in the distance. Word is, Abrams’ next installment will focus on a young Kahn! Well, you know, the word that other people who aren’t me who care about such things pass along to those of us who listen on accident and think, “hey, yet something else I can add to my useless knowledge of things I really, really don’t care about at all.”

* * *

Hannah and I stood by, my hands clamped around her slight shoulders, as Joe applied Gorilla Glue to Kirk’s nub, Kirk’s boot resting on a folded paper towel in the shadow of Joe’s hands. I mean, it’s not like I was holding my breath in this very moment. It’s not as if I’d ever gotten misty eyed while attending a concert by the great Jerry Goldsmith leading a symphony through the Star Trek theme or bought a box of cereal just for the beam-up badge inside or dreamt that Leonard Nimoy drew a unicorn for me on a fast-food napkin. I was just there to keep Hannah out of the glue.

“I think it’d be cool if we put a toothpick on him instead of his boot,” Hannah said.

When Joe affixed the boot, the glue squashed out in every direction leaving what looked like a lip of a white sock. A toothpick would have been okay with Hannah, but this, this sloppy aberration of Kirk’s attire was not. After it dried, she got a black Sharpie and colored it in.

“Kirk wouldn’t let his sock hang out like that,” she said, and she was right.

I gave Kirk a lick-of-the-thumb spit shine like a mom cleaning ketchup off her kids’ face and let him convalesce in the china cabinet right next to the figurines of the holy family.

 

There’s a disgusting commercial on the television. They keep flashing photographs of some unfortunate woman’s foot – she appears to have a lot of trouble keeping the skin on her heels healthy. They’re yellow and cracked, and frankly, they look diseased. But then, the product the commercial is pushing came into her life and now she has happy feet and she could maybe even be a foot model, and everyone knows that men want to date models, so she’s pretty set. She doesn’t have to worry about anything anymore, unless, of course, she doesn’t want to be a foot model. Not every girl would want to spend the working hours having her feet photographed, day in and day out. Maybe she wanted to become an accountant. She might just really like numbers, you never know, not all girls are bad at math. If she were educated at a Montessori school in her formative years, the educators would have encouraged her to develop her natural skill set – they would have nurtured her true, instinctual interests by removing any road blocks standing between her and her professional destiny. I guess this would mean the teacher would give the kid a calculator or an abacus or something and tell her to go nuts. If the woman really did always want to be a foot model, I suppose the obstacle standing in the way between her and her dream job would be this nauseating foot disease, so the teacher would probably have given her the product in the commercial and maybe shown her how to apply it. “Do it in little circles. No, smaller. Smaller. Smaller.” I don’t really know what I’m talking about; I’m not a teacher.

 

I went to a Montessori school. The different wooden farm animals outside the door distinguished the classrooms from one another. There was a sheep and a cow and a duck – I’m pretty sure I have a memory of wanting to be in the duck room, and looking forward to the day that would happen. I don’t remember doing any work while I was in the Montessori school. Unless I’ve imagined it, I don’t think I did anything there but peel carrots and oranges. All day long, that’s what I did in school. It makes me wonder what the hell my natural skill set is, if this is what I did while the teachers removed the obstacles that might stand in the way of my professional development. I suppose I was preparing diligently to obtain employment at Jamba Juice – and hey, that job might actually pay me more than what I’m doing now, if I worked my way up to becoming manager. And most people who go to Jamba Juice are in a really good mood because they’re about to get some juice, and everyone likes juice. It’s nice to work in a friendly environment.

 

My parents took me out of Montessori – or maybe I graduated from Montessori, I don’t remember – and then I went to University Primary School, which was called Uni-Pri. It was the school associated with the University of Illinois, and I’m assuming it was also the school responsible for derailing me from my goals of becoming an orange and carrot peeler. Probably, because my interest in carrots and oranges was discouraged upon leaving Montessori, I repressed this urge to be active in food-related activities. This repression spawned an unconscious obsession with food, which would explain why I began sneaking extra fruit snacks (it’s no coincidence I preferred the artificial orange flavor) when my parents weren’t looking, and it would also explain why I’m unable to go more than five minutes without my brain screaming to me about food food food FOOD FOOD FOOD! I mean, what the hell do you people who don’t think about food think about? Please tell me, maybe I can train myself to be like you. I’m so tired of thinking about food, and really, I’m tired of thinking about most of the crap I think about. Why does my hand feel dirty? I was petting the cat. Is the cat dirty? Cats clean themselves, so you’re not supposed to wash them. But they clean themselves with their fucking tongues, and they stick their tongues in their assholes. Is there cat shit on my hand? Should I go buy some food? No one is looking, it’s okay, I can have more food. You can confess to facebook tomorrow if you feel guilty. Am I special? Do people think I’m special?

 

Meanwhile, as I was damaging my psyche with this repression, I was being changed. Uni-Pri, the school I actually remember quite fondly, was offering me up as a participant in psychological studies measuring child development and the like. I didn’t know about this until I took a class in cognitive development, and we watched a video about object permanence. Object permanence is a concept children achieve at some early age – I’d tell you which age, but I can’t remember because it’s not that important to me. If I ever get pregnant, I’m sure I’ll suddenly care, and then I’ll think it’s the most important information in the world and I won’t believe that some people out there don’t care! What it is, is when a kid realizes that just because he can’t see an object, doesn’t mean it ceases to exist. So if you show him a toy, and he’s all happy, then you hide the toy, a child who has achieved object permanence will cry and reach for the hidden toy and etcetera, while a child who has not achieved object permanence will be all “woah, that thing is just fucking gone now, it’s just gone.” It’s easy to fool kids because their brains aren’t fully developed yet. They can’t be, otherwise they’d be so big that they’d destroy a woman’s vagina on their way out. In any event, I was enrolled in a cognitive development class, and we watched a video about object permanence, and, to my surprise, I was in that video. “Lenore, can you find the Snoopie doll?” they were asking me, and there I was, in a really cute little dress, representing, thank god, the kid who had achieved object permanence. How humiliating it would have been to be the slow kid in the educational video. “Did you ever involve me in any psychological studies?” I asked my father, and he said: “I don’t know.” It’s okay with me, really. It’s not like it’s upsetting – all they were doing was having me locate a stupid doll.

 

But I do wonder if maybe this is why I ended up getting my doctorate in psychology. Because at the same time I was being deterred from developing and nurturing my natural skill set of peeling oranges and carrots, I was compelled to take part in psychological studies. I was young, my brain wasn’t fully developed – it couldn’t have been difficult to confuse me and replace “carrot peeling” with “psychology.” I really don’t know what I’m talking about. What the hell am I doing? It’s 2:10 AM between Friday and Saturday and I’m just sitting around. I haven’t even read a book or anything tonight, I’ve just been sitting here, and my neighbor is serenading me with his loud burping. I don’t know why he isn’t asleep. I can see a number of lights on and televisions flickering in the neighborhood. The middle of the night used to be so peaceful and quiet – it used to be my time, this was my fucking time, and now everyone’s wide awake, burping out of their windows at me. I should really get a boyfriend or something, this is getting really fucking boring. I guess I can read a book and stop all this complaining, do something proactive about my lassitude – I mean, I’m a doctor of psychology for crying out loud, but Jesus Christ, I just looked up and that diseased foot commercial is on again. It must be cheap to buy air time in the middle of the night between a Friday and a Saturday, and those foot people are smart, because the only people who would see it are the other slobs who didn’t do anything at all other than sit around in their pajamas from the night before, and those are the people who probably get skin diseases on their feet. I hope I don’t get one, but hey, at least now I know what number to call if I do.

Michael Gross can’t be trusted. Beneath the genial, aging-hippie demeanor of “Family Ties” lies a heart of darkness.  A blackened and shriveled soul.  A stalker, a rapist and, twice, a murderer.

stairs

Growing up working-class in a small Southern city, I early acquired a racist vocabulary. This was by no means encouraged by my parents, who were mortified when, at four or so, I referred to a fellow customer at Sears as a nigger. I have no memory of doing that — I was told about it years later — but I’m sure I was baffled by the punishment I received. The kids in my neighborhood used the word “nigger” as a matter of course. To them, it was an appropriate term for a person of color, and I followed suit, even after the Sears incident. Why punish someone for calling a bird a bird? And why would a bird object? So, I think, my reasoning went.

Lately I’ve been dreaming about being a spy.  It’s a nice change from the usual “somebody is chasing me” nightmare.  These days the tables are turned and rather than running through molasses from some unknown terror, I’m the one holding the machine gun.  Go me!  I’d like to think that the dream analysis is true and this represents my drive and ambition.  Sadly, I think it has a lot more to do with my recent Alias obsession.  Apparently my subconscious wants to be Sydney Bristow.

There are worse people to want to be, let’s be honest.  She’s hot, smart, funny, in touch with her emotional side, she speaks eight languages and most importantly, she TOTALLY kicks ass!  Yeah, everybody around her dies, but hey, that’s the price you pay for being an international woman of mystery.  She’s managed to have a meaningful relationship, connect with her super-spy parents, maintain long-term friendships – even if they do involve witness protection – and have a baby.  She travels all over the world and her paycheck is seriously phat.  Have you seen her apartment?  Sweet!  So she risks her life a lot; there are down sides to every job.  But her wardrobe is insane and her wig collection is to die for.  I’ve long had a blue hair fantasy.  Sydney can be blue today and blond tomorrow.  That’s got to count for something.

I’ve never been too sure about the whole “health of television on the developing mind” thing.  As a child I was allowed one hour of television a day, sometimes more if it was educational.  I spent a great deal of my time counting with Bert and Ernie and humming the tune to National Geographic.  I still get tingles when Nova comes on but, like sugared cereal, I started watching the TV equivalent as soon as I left home and finally started getting all those popular references that evaded me during my formative years.  No, I was not popular.

At this point I think I can safely say that television affects a persons thinking or, at the very least, mine.  Not only have I become a nightly vigilante but after weeks of watching Lost, flying has once again become a problem.  Of course not helped by the four or five Airbuses that have recently either crashed or made emergency landings, but it was a fear I had under control for a while.  No longer.  Living through 9/11 provided me with this particular phobia.  Having largely gotten past it, (I recommend flying to Asia as a cure.  24 hours on a plane and you don’t care how you get off.), I never would have guessed that a popular television show could bring it back.  But the show plays the crash sequence over and over and over.  During the days after the attacks the news agencies, in an unprecedented concern for public well-being, finally pulled the footage of the planes crashing into the towers after realizing it was contributing to the country’s post-traumatic stress.  Lost has essentially brought it all back to the surface and while I love the back-stories and all the characters, John Locke? – I ask you! – I’ve had to take a break.  There was recently a weekend trip to London during which I cried through take off both going and coming.  It seems The Dharma Initiative has wrecked its evil influence off screen as well as on and I’d like to take this moment to apologize to the people seated next to me on those flights.  I owe you both a drink, although it might have been better if we’d been able to have it then!

In maybe not such a smart move, I have started making my way through Dexter.  I don’t wish to frighten friends or family but as most of you aren’t anywhere near by and my fear of flying is still in effect, I think you’re safe for the time being.  It’s not my fault!  If they would be quicker about releasing the DVD’s over here I could be watching Heros instead.  I would be dreaming about flying or reading minds rather than cutting them open.  I’ll try to get through this series quickly, promise.  The nightly butchery isn’t as fun as it sounds.

Going forward I guess I have to take into consideration that maybe my parents were right.  One hour a day should really be enough and if you’re learning something from it, other than awesome kickboxing moves that is, then it doesn’t need to have the negative impact it seems to have for me.  Or maybe instead I just need to be more careful about my choices.  After all, would anybody mind if I became Martha Stewart?  Receiving perfectly wrapped gifts hermetically sealed with just the right amount of tape and given under my color coordinated Christmas tree would be something my family might enjoy.  Nah.  I like being a spy.  Hey J.J., if your next series requires a young looking, thirty-something, not-so-in-shape former opera singer turned everyday savior well, you know who to call. Cause thanks to Syd, I’ve got the moves, baby!

Janeane Garofalo is almost 45 years old and wants you to know, “I don’t give a shit. I’ve mellowed.” We’re seated in one of L.A.’s most popular vegetarian restaurants, but I can’t give its location lest it becomes less popular. Nevertheless, Garofalo seems at ease with the diners trying to figure out just who she is, but she has an answer for that. “The Truth About Cats and Dogs,” she says. Why? “Because I don’t believe in having pets, but beyond that, it was a slam at me, a typical role. I was the dog. And the only reason the guy fell in love with me was my personality. Yeah, right. That’s a bunch of fucking bullshit. Never happens. You see me with Brad Pitt? No, I’m eating with an unknown writer and watching people trying to remember having watched The Truth About Cats and Dogs. And to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.”

I’ve lived without a television for just over two months now.

At first I panicked.

I come from a family who firmly believes that Katie Couric and Alex Trebek are immediate family members and should be laid places akin to Elijah’s at the family dining table.

When I still lived at home, my parents’ Christmas card list should have included Bob Newhart (with Larry, his cousin Darryl and his other cousin Darryl), Sgt. Frank Furrillo, the Seavers, the Huxtables, the Carringtons, the Ewings, and the entire staff of St. Eligius Hospital for the amount of time we spent with each other.

For some, talk about television shows is considered merely a ‘water cooler conversation’ at best. For us, it was like my entire house had one giant Britta filter on it. We rarely talked about the world or our place in it. Literature was homework (unless you include Danielle Steele, which my mother absolutely did), Politics was verboten, as Momma was a Democrat and Daddy was a staunch Republican and Religion was reduced to the Walter Cronkite defense: “Because ‘that’s the way it is’.”

We didn’t do much else as a family otherwise. Oh, I mean sure, there was church and the thrice-annual trips to Walt Disney World, but mostly, when we convened, it was around the T.V.

So as a rebellious teen, when I left home for college, I eschewed all of it to try and find my own way. I started reading Proust (in French, no less). I gave up Catholicism for Lent, I embraced radical liberal politics and I devoted myself to the theatre (pronounced á là Danny Kaye in White Christmas: “The thee-uh-tre! The thee-uh-tre! What’s happened to the thee-uh-tre?”)

Most of all though, I pronounced my disdain for the absolutely pedestrian habit of watching television loudly and to the masses.

Those were the years that 90210 and Melrose Place hit big. Seinfeld and Friends were making T.V. a “must see” and Twin Peaks made my good friend, Laura Palmer (no, the real one) a household name. But I would have none of it. I was all about Ibsen, Chekhov, Strindberg, Shepard – the usual suspects. Bochco, Griffin, Wolf, Lynch – morons, all.

But no matter how much I have publicly poo-pooed it, I have always had one. I’ve never had the cojones to get rid of it. Something about having that little glowing box in my house turns me right into Carol Ann the minute it beckons.

It’s comfort. It’s family. It’s home.

And sometimes, it’s all I need to make me feel a part of something bigger than myself, since Religion escapes me, Politics usually bore me and Swann’s Way, from what I can understand, (in English, since it was fucking IMPOSSIBLE to read en Français), is just one long pretentious, narcissistic, misanthropic, dump.

Which brings me to yesterday.

* * * * *

I moved into my new apartment less than a week before I started shooting a new film. I had absolutely no time to unpack anything, save the suitcases I had been living out of while I was between apartments.

Luckily, I discovered that one of my neighbors had an unprotected wireless internet feed, so if I balanced my laptop on my left knee just-so while sitting on the Northeast corner of my bed, I had free wi-fi.  So I was covered. Hooking up the cable was the last thing on my mind.

And oddly, I liked it.

On my days off, I went out, I read, I went to yoga classes, and I slept soundly: many of the things that T.V. keeps you from doing.

But as time progressed and the empty screen became increasingly dark, I found that something was wrong. I was betraying my upbringing, disowning my family, wrecking my home.

Just like my family, television and I don’t have much in common and we don’t visit often, but I like knowing that it’s there.  And as much as I tried to ignore it, without it, there was a hole, a need, a void that just had to be filled.

* * * * *

The appointment was Thursday, between 12:00 – 4:00pm. I got no less than three precursory calls from Time Warner Cable to assure them that I would be home for the installation.

At 1:15, the buzzer rang and I sang gaily into the little box, “Be right down!”

I sailed down the two flights of steps, anxious to greet The Cable Guy.  I was wearing my little “it’s-my-day-off-and-I-don’t-give-a-shit” dress, which is short, blowzy, and doesn’t require too much understructure.

This is important, because he took one look at me in that dress and graciously let me lead him up the stairs.

Feeling his eyes burn on my ‘inter-diameter slope’, I immediately knew the kind of guy I was dealing with.

Ahem.

My suspicions were cemented when he said to me:

“So what do you do to stay in such good shape? You look fit, mami.”

Nevermind that I’ve just spent five weeks eating catered food from a film set – a whole different kind of Omnivore’s Dilemma. He made it apparent that he was willing to fill my ‘void’, and how.

Oy.

After assessing what he would need to get the cable and internet installed, TCG announced to me, “I gonna go get my things and then I gonna use your bathroom, ok, mami?”

“Sure.  Of course. Make yourself at home.” (Yes, I said it. I’m Southern. I can’t help it. It’s ingrained.)

He goes to his truck and I quickly tidied the bathroom. Hide the tampons, close the shower curtain, wipe down the sink. Just because he’s The Cable Guy, doesn’t mean he should think me a slob…

So the buzzer blares again – this time with a fat and sleazy bleat. The first time ‘round I told TCG that the buzzer didn’t work, hence my personal greeting at the bottom on the stairs. So naturally, he didn’t pin open the door and thus required me to go down a second time to let him in.

Figures.

So under the “second time, shame on me” theory of single-girl safety, I made him go up the stairs first. He did his installation thing and got everything taken care of pretty quickly.

Almost.

He says Nextel/Sprint has no reception in my apartment, so he needs to use my phone to connect with HQ and finalize the install. I offer him my iPhone and have to walk him thru how to use the touch screen.

“Ooh. You smell nice, mami.”

I hadn’t taken a shower in two days.

I question his lack of reception; both his phone’s and his own of my unbathed, unkempt, undressed and otherwise un-appearance.

He makes his call, completes the install and then says to me (again):

“Now I gonna need your bathroom.”

Right. Okay. I had said “Make yourself at home.” It would be rude not to oblige.

I show him the way and start checking my email at my desk for the first time in months.

After a three full minutes of silence, the door remained closed.

Fuck. He’s either masturbating or releasing his bowels in ways unfathomable.

Six minutes in and I’m suddenly really uncomfortable with some stranger in my house, locked in the bathroom doing God knows what. It’s at this point that I really begin to miss my dog; nevermind that she was a beagle-mix and would sooner kiss you than attack.

I look through my iTunes collection, searching for the most aggressive music I can find. Motörhead.  That oughta do it. The umlaut is very threatening.  I crank up the volume.

He finally emerges; the door to the bathroom conspicuously closed.

TCG exhales deeply while rubbing his paunch – a huge sigh of relief – and plops down on the couch.

“I gonna test the channels now. I can sit here, mami?”

Knee-jerk reaction. I say: “Make yourself at home.” (Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!)

He flips on the T.V. (mind you, the Motörhead is still playing in the background) and begins to surf. The channels work fine, but he’s clearly not going anywhere.

The remote stops on the Olympics.

He lays back and nestles himself into my chenille sleeper sofa.

It’s obvious to me that his task (of many) is now fully complete. “Well,” I say, “is there anything else you need?”

“A pillow.  And a beer?  I had such a long day.”

The time is 1:50pm.

I grab his clipboard and a pen and point to the bottom of the work order.

“I sign here, right? I’m sure you’ve got plenty more folks to visit today.”

He finally gets the picture (in-picture) and reluctantly lumbers off the couch. He takes his clipboard, gives me my receipt and with his Commerce Bank pen, he taps the patch on his shirt; his name, Peter, embroidered in bright blue.

“Axe for me direkt if you ever need anything, mami.”

He picks up his tool box, blows me a kiss and goes.

* * * * *

I blame my parents.