Wasted in Malibu

And now for something completely different …

Do you ever wish you could write for TV? I have imagined it. It seems like it could be fun. I attended a presentation by one of the writers for Everybody Loves Raymond once, and read her book about writing for TV. It’s really a lot of hard work under pressure. But sometimes there’s just no excuse for professional stupidity and bad decisions. Did you watch the season finale of Two And A Half Men on Monday night? I’d like to know your reaction to it.

It made me sad. I laughed some in the first half, but by the end I felt like crying. Jake was a cute kid when the show started in 2003; bright, usually cheerful, and fun. The writers have simply wasted that character. Making him an indolent, wasted, mindless loadie was one of the stupidest decisions I’ve ever seen in entertainment. Packing him off to the Army was the coup de gras.

Jake Harper Angus T Jones

The show was already fumbling along in the dark, out of context.  It became One And A Half Men and a New Guy. And it’s been obvious since well before Charlie Sheen’s implosion that the writers and producers were tired of everything about the vehicle except the revenue. The scripts seethe with resentment. They don’t care for the characters and they damn sure don’t like the audience.

The people Charlie Sheen left behind there have such obvious resentment and animosity toward him is almost hysterical, and not in a funny way. They went far out of their way to give Charlie Harper an ignoble death. They defiled his remains and consigned his soul to hell in the shell of Kathy Bates. Bizarre. All of this without a passing thought for the fact that there might be viewers who’ve built some passing attachment to Uncle Charlie.

Jake should have been the smartest, clearest, and most successful character on the show. Then they would have had something. Turning him into a loser like Charlie Harper was – or they seem to think Charlie Sheen is – was simply asinine.

I’m aware that Angus T. Jones (Jake) might tell me I’m full of s–t if he read this, and that would be great. I wish I was wrong, but I doubt it.

I understand writing for emotional effect. I’m a poet. I’ve written poems meant to give myself and the reader catharsis. When your dog dies, you write a poem, or more than one. Then I’ve stood up at a mic and made people in the audience cry. (And not because the writing sucked; if it sucks I don’t read it in public, usually.) This wasn’t that. This was more like what Douglas Adams said was the secret to flying: aim for the ground and miss.

So when they rolled that memorial montage of Jake as a kid, they killed off another character that we’ve come to relate to for the past nine years. It was much more like a Series Finale than a Season Finale. And that would be for the best. Let us hope that CBS has the good sense for once to let something die with its last shred of dignity, instead of flinging it back and forth over the shark tank until we’re all sick of the pitiful sight of it.

what a shock

I just finished my workout, made a cup of joe, and turned on the news. CNN, Faux and MSNBC are simultaneously reporting that Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental drug overdose. What an appalling surprise. Who would have thought that?

If you are a regular reader of this little cyber-pamphlet, you know how I feel about this Smith thing. Her death is a bad thing for her family. It’s not irrelevant that she’s dead, but a lot of people are dead. Her death is no more or less relevant to society at large than anyone else’s. It’s not news. Her drug problem is troubling and sad, but millions of people are hooked on drugs. It’s not news. The questionable parentage of her daughter is a little ugly and too bad for the kid, but countless lives start out in difficult circumstances. Not news.

The real story behind the trainwreck life and death of Smith is the way the media have exploited it, using it as a diversion from real issues of economics, politics, the welfare of the planet, and global morality. CNN has become ANS – All Anna Nicole, All the Time. I’ve mostly stopped watching it. (Larry King simply needs to retire; he has no more place on TV than I do.) MSNBC is a little better; I like Olbermann. Faux isn’t worth mentioning, but I did.

When they cover this tripe, they do not broadcast in the public interest. Carrying round-the-clock coverage of tawdry, tabloid concerns is not the basis for an FCC license to act as a news venue.

For cryin’ out loud, let’s move on. She’s as dead as she’s ever going to get.

passengers’ rights

I just received an email from Senator Barbara Boxer’s office, describing the new passengers’ rights legislation she has co-sponsored:

The legislation requires airlines to offer passengers the option of safely leaving a plane they have boarded once that plane has sat on the ground three hours after the plane door has closed unless the pilot determines that doing so would endanger their safety or security. This option would be provided every three hours that the plane continues to sit on the ground. The legislation also requires airlines to provide passengers with necessary services such as food, potable water and adequate restroom facilities while a plane is delayed on the ground.

I don’t travel often, and when I do it’s within California and I drive. I’m not afraid of flying; I just haven’t needed to go anywhere in a plane, in many years. Just the cards I’ve been dealt. However, I think it would make me very angry to get stuck in an airplane that wasn’t going anywhere. So I think the legislation needs to go even farther than it does.

I don’t think a plane should be boarded unless it’s leaving. It shouldn’t push back from the gate unless there’s a runway for it to take off on. And it shouldn’t taxi unless the pilot and the controller agree that all reasonably foreseeable conditions exist for it to safely take off.

An analogy might be made to the police: They shouldn’t draw their service weapon unless they’re prepared to fire it, because it’s necessary to kill somebody. I remember when cops generally did not pull guns on people to intimidate or threaten them. It’s not a joke, and neither is getting sealed into a giant aluminum tube.