Must Say Goodbye TV

Four beloved, buzzy and award-winning television series air their final episodes this week so it seems only fitting we use this space to leave space for everyone to indulge in peak TV.

And say so long to:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

Succession (HBO)

Ted Lasso (Apple)

Barry (HBO)

Going, Going, Gone

There is a lot of content out there, a word I always hesitate to use because it defines high bar creative endeavors such as these primarily as corporate assets. 

I mean, it’s not as if many of the higher-ups at their aforementioned studios/platforms don’t ultimately think of them that way, when push comes to shove. 

And God knows there has been a lot of pushing, not to mention shoving, in all directions lately. 

Never forget

Witness the current WGA strike and potential breaks with both the DGA (directors) and SAG (actors) as their agreements with the too many to name who now call themselves producers soon ends.

Yes, without platforms, networks and producers you don’t get the unprecedented access to these creative marvels. (Note:  Though predictably none come from the Big Four networks). 

Still, one wonders why it is so difficult for the powers-that-be to give just a little to support many of the first in line people who’ve made them billions.

…. and it’s not a good look

All the creators are really asking for is a fair shake so writers, actors and directors in the future, who are not at the top of the food chain, can make a decent enough living to ply their craft and learn the ropes so they, too, can scale the heights with something as original, or more original, than those aforementioned series.

What will happen is anyone’s guess. 

But chances are, left to their own devices, the creatives would come up with a more satisfying ending to this dilemma for their audiences than the producers. 

Because if the latter group had their choice, the entire field will permanently remain wide open for Chatbot gpt and its ilk to be the principal creators of all we will watch with perhaps some side assists from human beings to fix the shortcomings in their stories.

Not cool

I’m certainly not Zoltar, but it doesn’t take a clairvoyant genius with a turban and an earring to predict that the aforementioned method would ever produce anything as powerfully addicting in future moments in time as the series we are being forced to say goodbye to this week.

– Midge “Muriel” Maisel wouldn’t…have broad enough appeal!  And why does she have to be sooooo Jewish?  And isn’t period more expensive?  Why couldn’t it take place today so young people could relate to it?  At least she’d have a cell phone.

I think my brain just short circuited

– There is no chance a character as wholly unsympathetic as Logan Roy could possibly sustain a multi-year run in an inside baseball series about corporate greed and the communications business in today’s world.  Sorry.  And with people who communicate in their own withholding language…please!  Even if it could, to surround him with not one wholly sympathetic character the audience can relate to is to create economic suicide for us and our shareholders.  Nothing computes – on ANY level.

Couldn’t have said it better myself

– We do like the idea of taking a character our network first conceived to promote football and making him the lead in one of our shows.  But the execution in this pilot script was suicidal.  The guy’s a one-off moronic fairy tale of a man who’s Just.  Not. Funny.  We hire humans to humanize a person, not make him more like a chatbot creation.  Dirty up Ted and give him a few more flaws, for goddamn’s sake.  Throw in a little Logan Roy!

Not. Gonna. Happen.

– While we sometimes think of our own actors as high-priced hit men (Note: And women, we don’t want to appear sexist), we believe sullying the representation of veterans worldwide by making this guy an aspiring actor will totally alienate red states.  Are we saying military guys like these are creative snowflakes deep down??  Really?  Plus, Barry is such a loser name.  What about William?  Or, um, Marshall?  Or even….John!!

OK now my head hurts

That’s an approximation of the conversations you’d get.  And I’m being conservative, which rarely happens.

So while our current world, creative and elsewhere, is far from perfect, it did manage to give audiences who appreciate unique and eclectic storytelling a cross-section of unexpected and riveting representations of ourselves.   Kudos to that.  And to:

  • The tortured violence of sweet, unlikely Barry.
  • The relentless optimism of dumb as a fox Ted Lasso.
  • The ugly, unvarnished self-reflective contempt of men, and certainly women, that is Logan Roy.
  • The female empowered ambition and hilariously funny infectious energy, and yes, style, of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

They may all be made up, but none of them are artificial. 

Millions of us believed every one of them each week we saw them.  And look forward to more like, but unlike them, in the future.

“It’s A Long Way to Tipperary” – Cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Midge and Birdie and Me

I am a child of the late sixties and seventies.  What this means is that I grew up at a very opportune time. 

There was a social and cultural revolution going on in America and I was young enough not to have to worry about getting drafted but old enough to enjoy the tail end of hippie culture, rock ‘n roll music, the second golden age of movies and the takeover of America by a new generation.

OK — but we did have to deal with the turtleneck/plaid suit combo

Never mind that these people were merely the older brothers and sisters of my friends, or their aunts and uncles, most of whom I didn’t admire and none of whom I could see leading me anywhere I particularly wanted to go.

At the very worst they’d be mere placeholders, warming up the expensive seats until me and mine would make everything better, or at least a lot more fabulous, fun and fair.

So, how’d we do…………..????

OK ignore this

This is why while I enjoy looking back on films, television and music from those days I also find it, well….a little depressing.  Especially when I stay too long.

I love The Graduate, The Godfather and Cabaret and have watched them a zillion times but at this point it’s hard not to walk away disappointed that no movies these days, or for many decades since then, can measure up i.e. have quite the same impact on me. 

Same with the music of The Beatles, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Motown.

Let’s not even start with Laugh-In, Carol Burnett or the early shows of Norman Lear.

And the first time I saw a then-unknown Bette Midler perform on The Tonight Show in 1971 on my teeny tiny black and white screen TV. 



Yet I have no baggage for anything that was made, or takes place, prior to that time. 

If it’s great, or fun or thoughtful or silly I can live there as long as I like and not have it mess with my psyche.  It lingers in my mind safely and I can enjoy it as many times as I like and for as long as I like any time I need some cheering up or to even think about contemporary issues without touching too much of an experiential nerve.

I think this explains my fascination with two samplings of TV and film this week set in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Enter Midge Maisel

The first three episodes of the fifth and final season of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and the Turner Classic Movies Festival showing of the film version of Bye Bye Birdie, which began with a live on-site interview with its still very much alive triple-threat star, Ann-Margret.

Thanks TCM and Amy Sherman-Palladino & Co. for making these trying times fabulous and fun while softening the blow, via your use of full flashy color, that life has never been, nor ever will be, consistently fair.

See, it’s not that either that series or movie don’t address the issues of their day.  It’s that they do it in a way that I can take right now.  They engulf me in somebody else’s baggage and allow me to drift off to another time that reminds me of what it must have been like before there were Orange ex-presidents, rampant assassinations, especially school assassinations, and a strange aversion to network prime time variety shows on television.

plus hats!

Full Confession:  The fast-paced, delicious world of former NYC housewife and now aspiring comic Midge Maisel is not totally foreign to me.  My family didn’t have nearly as much money as hers but I was close to the age of her youngest kid.  Also, the incessant, fast-paced shreying (Note: Yelling in Yiddish) and whining in her household is not a tempo or type of patter unfamiliar.

But Midge’s world is a Technicolor interpretation of something familiar, backed by a soundtrack of period singers crooning recognizable tunes from the great American songbook, that is told with wit, creativity and thoughtful integrity.  It’s out of life the way any screwball-styled comedy is yet at the same time it refuses to steer clear of the human frailties of its characters or totally let them off the hook for their actions or reactions.

Amen, Midge.

In this 1950s/early 1960s world men can rule women for only so long before they bite back and win.  The children of neglectful parents also get to have their say, as do other discounted, marginalized people who have been forced to stand on the sidelines in the past.  In this world, it pays to be a little strange, a little off, and also a lot culturally Jewish, and perhaps that is why I like it as much as I do.  Or perhaps it’s merely that it takes place in a time that is a gauzy idea I barely recall.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s simply funny, inventive and in its final season.  Once inventors of top notch series that haven’t stayed too long decide on their end point, they do some of their most satisfying, if not best, work.  This was the case with Mad Men, another set in that era, and so far seems the case here. 


It costs us nothing to see Midge go out as a star and will give us infinite pleasure as we watch her stumble over every living thing in her way to get there. Her life clearly won’t be without consequences, if the first three episodes of season five are any indication, but when you get to be funny and sass back the jerks while some of the best music ever made plays in the background, how bad can your life, or ours, really be?

At almost 82 years old, Ann-Margret has had quite a life.  But it’s the present and her declaration that she has as much energy as she’s ever had that she claims keeps her going.  This could account for why she’s recorded an album of classic rock ‘n roll tunes, Ann-Margret: Born to Be Wild, that’s now available to download or to purchase on Amazon.  Or why when she confesses to an audience of film lovers at a movie theatre in Hollywood on a Saturday afternoon that there is the me you see here, and the me you don’t see with all this….energeeeeeeeee, and nearly jumps out of her demure sitting stance while doing it, that we absolutely believe her. 

Love herrrr

The thing about Ann-Margret is that she’s always been a bundle of energy and honesty.  You can see it in her breakthrough lead role in 1963’s Bye Bye Birdie as well as her Oscar-nominated work in such films as Carnal Knowledge (1971) and Tommy (1975).

In Bye Bye Birdie, set in the late 1950s, she plays a teenager picked to give a symbolic kiss to singing star Conrad Birdie, a fictionalized version of Elvis Presley, before he goes into the military.

The movie musical, based on the hit Broadway show, embraces a somewhat cartoonish, larger than life comedic tone, but the sensuality and sincerity of her scenes and dance moves still electrify the screen and bring us back to a fictional moment in time when the drafting of a teen idol into the military was billed as the principal concern of teenagers (okay, mostly young female teens) in this country.

Fetch me my wind machine!

Would that it was ever so and nice to remember it actually was partly true, especially these days.

There are some politically incorrect moments in the film by today’s standards and its view of America was at best a fictionalized construction of the era that would soon get deconstructed by the end of the 1960s.  But I was barely alive in 1958, the year it was set, and there is plenty to see and read from that time that balances what this type of movie shows us.

Aside from Dick Van Dyke at some of his singing and dancing best (Note: Do NOT think or say a bad word about one of my personal faves) it also gives us a joyful look at a more innocent moment in the American story.   That would be an era where a parents’ version of wild offspring involved teenagers staying out late, dying their hair and maybe, well, riding a motorcycle.  


Much like Ann-Margret did onscreen back then and still does to this day in real life.

Can you imagine?

Well, you don’t have to because that’s what movies like this are for.  To not take ourselves so seriously that we fail to recognize that hypersexual singing stars and kids who play dress up as something other than they are is just camp.

And at the end of the day it isn’t camp that is dangerous for kids and teenagers.  The real danger lies in the retribution that adults heap on their kids when they do what every generation does with camp at their age – enjoy it.

Ann-Margret – “Born to Be Wild”