Who Ya Gonna Call?

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Women are often accused of being more emotional than men but certainly we guys can get just as hysterical – even more so – if given the right issue.   When forced to provide examples the more macho among us might cite topics as varied as the rampant terrorist attacks in the Middle East, the way the movie American Sniper portrays them or how to enforce the minimum weight requirement of a professional football without interfering with what MSNBC commentator Steve Kornacki explains away as the edge EVERY team tries to get in a game. (Note: Yes, he’s the only openly gay, New England Patriots fan that I ‘ve ever heard of).

Talk nerdy to me

Talk nerdy to me

As for me, I don’t know much about football but I do know a lot about men – having been one for all my life and, well, for a lot of other reasons. And I can testify that this week there was one more undeniable item added to the hysterical, emotional and just too damn bad list for many of them us. What is it? Well, the planned reboot of the 1984 classic film Ghostbusters with AN ALL FEMALE CAST – what else could it be?!!!

I mean – How dare they???

Oh, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE the idea. Not only because I find Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones all HILARIOUS but because I like anything that upsets the power of the patriarchy that I never felt a part of. Not to mention the other reason. I didn’t really love the original and um, well, never actually found it particularly all that funny.

Seriously Chairy??

Seriously Chairy??

Wait, wait. It isn’t that it’s NOT funny. It’s just that it wasn’t my cup of green tea. The same way I never liked mashed potatoes and find both whipped cream and Jell-O sort of revolting whether served separately or together. Don’t even get me started on ambrosia.

Call me a freak, and many have, but this is my truth. However, it is not the truth for several generations of guys who have somehow grabbed onto the Ghostbusters franchise as some sort of weird touchstone of their youth that is not to be tampered with under any circumstances. Sort of like women would feel about similar enduring female buddy film franchises such as — ummm — is there one?

Well you ain't getting a sequel from us

Well you ain’t getting a sequel from us

I suppose this is the overall point if one is to suppose anything about something so ludicrous as the Twitter and social media outcry against a male director like Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) daring to reimagine a 30 year-old movie.

And no, I don’t think the Alien movies count. Besides – what guy would dare to play Ripley anyway aside from James Franco? As for mainstream rom-com series franchises, they always have males in the co-starring roles. So don’t even think about that.

Here's Francooooo

Here’s Francooooo

(Note: And yes, I realize someone out there will be writing in with a male Sex in the City remake and I for one would be in full support. But only if Steve Kornacki could play Samantha instead of James Franco – who undoubtedly will be granted that part, too. Unless they go with another Hemsworth brother – are there any more or can we make do with the two we already have?

Why yes of course! Meet Luke Hemsworth... the short one.

Why yes of course! Meet Luke Hemsworth… the short one.

You know you’re in trouble on the stage of public debate when the only prominent person on your side of the argument is Donald Trump. Just this week he took to video and ranted out loud:

…Now they’re remaking Ghostbusters with only women – what’s going on???

This was right after he screamed at us that:

They’re remaking Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford!! You can’t do that!!!

And thanks to the power of photoshop we know exactly what that would look like.

And thanks to the power of photoshop we know exactly what that would look like.

Well, it could have been Charlize Theron if I were either George Lucas or Steven Spielberg, Donald, so perhaps you should be grateful. (Note: Don’t tell me there is even a one of you wouldn’t like to see her with a whip). Not to mention, how long does poor Harrison have to keep wearing that leather jacket in the 120-degree desert heat? Till he’s the same age as the temperature? That couldn’t be any worse than Charlize OR Chris Pratt, the actor who is rumored to be the new studio choice to step into his boots.   Which begs the question of whether Michael Keaton should still be playing Batman, Tobey Maguire could still get away with Spiderman or if you really want to see today’s Hayley Joel Osment in even a walk-on in any proposed Sixth Sense reboot. I mean, next to those images James Franco starts to look fresh.  Sort of.

Of course, we haven’t even addressed the real jumbo jet of the elephant in the room – how we’ll all feel when we actually do see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Mr. Ford all grown up and then some in the newest and latest chapter of Star WarsThe Force Awakens – when it actually does arrive in theatres this December. No, there is no James Franco joke to insert here – unless any of you have one. Though I’d wager he’d have one.

I can literally be in anything!

I can literally be in anything!

My favorite male objection to this looming remake la femme worldwide web debacle came courtesy of a rant that was picked up by the fabulously la femme website Jezebel.com, which I often click to for information on this sort of thing or even when I need a laugh (evidence here). And the rant comes from the Twitter handle: halfcastpodcast, who if one is to believe his accompanying picture, is just some guy living in Brooklyn. It goes like this:

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Half, do you ever plan to date a woman again? Or are you merely content with the 79 views the last video you posted on your YouTube channel received?  That’s even less than the number of people reading this hipster, feminist and, to make it a trifecta, very gay post. Though who am I kidding? Even if it weren’t, I have the sense that we’d still beat you in the key demographic of 18-54 year-old men AND women with disposable incomes, the ones who really count in the real world these days anyway – and they most certainly include more than a few hipsters, not to mention feminists. #GhostbustersLaFemme4EverSucka$$$$.

I don’t mean to be too harsh. After all, I was quite upset several weeks ago when I found out that one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, Strangers On A Train, is being reimagined at Warner Bros. by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn as a starring vehicle for Ben Affleck. To me this would be like the American people hiring Sarah Palin to reinterpret the Declaration of Independence for Indiana Congressman Aaron Schock (Note: Look him up. Or better yet —).

Is this crossing the (party) line? #CongressmanBeefcake

Is this crossing the (party) line? #CongressmanBeefcake

Still, it does feel like all of us men could loosen our grip on humanity just a little. It’s admirable to be a fighter for the issues you believe in but as you get older you begin to realize what’s even wiser is to pick and choose the right battles. Hopefully Mr. Trump, Mr. Half and all the rest of the aggrieved masters and misters of the universe out there will begin to realize this soon so #Hillary2016 doesn’t have to spend such a large chunk of her time educating them. There’ll be a lot more pressing matters she’ll have to attend to as the decade rolls on.

Must (Not) See TV

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There is too much TV. There, I’ve said it. So do not chastise me because I stopped watching The Leftovers after three episodes and Masters of Sex after two even though I liked them both. Also, DO NOT get on my back because I haven’t yet sampled Orange is the New Black (it’s on my list) or that I can’t deal with Kevin Spacey talking to the camera with a phony accent in House of Cards enough to get past the beginning of season one. As for Scandal, for me it’s beyond ridiculous but not in a good way in much the same way that The Good Wife is a solid, well done broadcast network TV series that has never grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go.

Ugh... yes that too.

Ugh… yes that too.

I freely admit to all of these offenses.

Still, isn’t it enough I have watched every single episode of Mad Men and Girls – two shows that never ever disappoint me even on their worst nights? Or that I long to know what will happen next to the cast of PBS’ Downton Abbey exactly as much as I’m jonseing for season four of American Horror Story to begin next month? Or even season three of Orphan Black to start in January? How about that I never miss an episode of the broadcast network series Revenge, or NBC’s The Voice? Doesn’t that give me some mainstream television street cred?

penny-needs-help-for-her-computer-addiction-on-the-big-bang-theory

Okay, fine – then let’s close with the following – Here are the television comedies I enjoy very much almost every time I tune in: Archer, Parks and Rec, New Girl, The Mindy Project, Louie, Please Like Me and, perennially and forever – I Love Lucy. Though I can stand to miss episodes or seasons here and there because after all, one does need to eat, sleep and have some fun in well, some OTHER way at least…occasionally. Doesn’t one?

I have spent at least a million minutes of my life watching television and for half of that time there were only three broadcast networks and 0.00 cable series to choose from. And I suspect most of you under 30 would have similar stats, give or take a few thousand minutes, especially if you counted TV content you’ve viewed via your computer, touch-Pad, phone or any other mobile device/screen I’ve left out. Oh yeah, you know you would because given the way we live now even buffering counts.

They should really add a pillow app.

They should really add a pillow app.

More than half a century ago Newton Minow, the former FCC chairman and attorney, famously dubbed TV a vast wasteland in a speech he gave before the National Association of Broadcasters. No doubt he’d now have that to say and more about what it’s done to my mind and yours after all these recent years of abuse. Oh – and before you yell BULL PUCKY to the opinion of this still ticking 88 year old – who to my knowledge has never taken back the verdict he came to in that famous speech – consider the entire statement he made all those many decades ago as he chastised a captive audience of station owners and television insiders alike.

When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

Hmm, well I haven’t quite tried that. But I will confess to being a part time insomniac and night owl who has watched more than my share of 2 am infomercials. These include Cindy Crawford’s beauty secrets derived from a French doctor synthesizing a rare melon that promises the age-defying skin of a 25 year old to not only you and I and the supermodel but also to Debra Messing and Valerie Bertinelli, two of the celebrity subjects who appear beside CC in this very engaging hard/soft sell. Wasteland? Not at all. I prefer the old adage waste not, want not – as does my age-defying epidermis. Especially when the alternative is to suffer the endless workouts offered at that time of night under the tutelage of Sean T’s Insanity or Tony Horton and P90X.   I mean, talk about a no brainer!

Aside from never aging, she even managed to clone herself

Aside from never aging, she even managed to clone herself

As for television, I try to do my work and it beckons. Daytime, nighttime, afternoon time – it beckons. MSNBC, reality, cable, network, computer, smart phone, tablet – it’s there. It’s difficult to get off the juice, as it always is with any sort of addiction, yet isn’t it wise to try? There are books to read, work to do, people to engage with, movies to see, friends and family members to……..text? Pictures to post on..…….Instagram? And pet videos to…….. ___________? Not to mention, museums, plays and planetariums. Or beaches, hills and mountains to climb. Literally, if you so choose any of the latter.

Well, that's one way to repurpose your old console

Well, that’s one way to repurpose your old console

Speaking of which, this week I was packing up the home of a dear friend who died recently and was going through old photos and various other memorabilia. These items showed this person through the ages and reference various movies through many decades that this person worked on. These movies were all famous and like many people in the business my friend has keepsakes from them – a baseball hat here, a plaque there, a jacket somewhere else. Decades and decades of work you would all likely recognize in an instant.

The fact that this friend had an impressive career in and around some of the more iconic moments in film history was in that moment both impressive and moving to me because it not only referenced visual and intellectual memories of the individual I knew but touched on several iconic moments from the past that would no doubt move people who did not ever know my friend since they serve as enduring pop culture touchstones to many millions of others of us throughout the world.

Movies used to do that more than any other form of entertainment and certainly there are still some films these days that reach iconic status. But one could make a case that the viewing habits ushered in by new technology and our unremitting demand for more, more, more has now placed television at the forefront if for no other reason than sheer numbers. Has anything Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino directed in the last 10 years tapped into the cultural hot button the way Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Office or even South Park has? I doubt it. Even niche television like Broad City outreaches a niche indie film darling like Obvious Child these days.

There is no "shut your phone off" warning before Scandal.

There is no “shut your phone off” warning before Scandal.

For better or worse TV, no matter how you watch it, is at the peak of our culture despite how high or low of a medium one chooses to see it as.   Certainly it has replaced movies as the more consistently discussed mode of entertainment – which replaced theatre before it, which took over from books and radio for a while, which in turn took over from plays. Which has nothing to do with sports except for the analogy of how football began to dominate over baseball decades ago, at least in the U.S. Though who knows for exactly how long as we watch the popularity and billion dollar corporate sponsorship of the NFL begin to collapse the more its culture of covering up the heinous domestic and child abuse allegations against some of its most popular ($$$) players are exposed to the harsh light of day.

That said, one wonders if there is something about all of us which is really to blame here since logic dictates that the most popular entertainment we choose at any particular moment in history is merely and certainly reflective of who and what we really are as a people. Wow, that’s a scary thought. Or, more pointedly, a mind-numbing one. Which sort of brings us full circle.

The eternal question

The eternal question

When this sort of thing comes up, I instead prefer to consider something, well anything else that I’m looking forward to doing the rest of the week. This includes watching anything and everything that I can on television because, let’s face it it’s easier than thinking about any of those questions above for one more second.

Here are a few of those program choices in no particular order and not all of which will even debut this week. I include all of them as possible diversionary material only because it’s gotten to the point where even anticipating and/or dreaming about what’s on television has become more desirable than experiencing or even pondering some of life’s most stickiest issues.

Cherishing Valerie

Cherishing Valerie

1. The return of HBO’s The Comeback on Nov. 9. – This show gives me hope for the future since it proves that in even the turbulent, competitive times of 2014 you can reinvent and resurrect yourself after nine years in the doghouse.       That’s the life-affirming meta message of this half hour black comedy starring Lisa Kudrow as supposedly washed up television actress Valerie Cherish. And this is because after being axed by HBO and off the air for nearly a decade both The Comeback and Kudrow’s Valerie have been given an almost unheard of second chance.   Yes, she might be clueless and fame seeking (which of us isn’t?) but somehow her sweet and sour self perseveres as she tries to navigate the minefields of her career and personal life by allowing any and all cameras to film her day and night. If that’s not a metaphor for today, then…you don’t understand metaphors. Or today.

Cosby show in the Obama age?

Cosby show in the Obama age?

2. Black-ish – I’m going out on a limb with this one because I only saw a 10-minute preview and they tend to be misleading.       Still, when network television (ABC) green lights a story about an upper middle-class African American Dad (Anthony Andreson) who panics when his young son decides he wants a bar-mitzvah and then forces the family into more Black appropriate rituals and behavior– I can’t wait to sample it. And this would be the case if it were the other way around and it were a White TV family trying to act less Black (Note: As if THAT would ever happen).

Adding to the allure here is that Laurence Fishburne plays the crotchety Grandpa. Not to mention that when Dad admonishes his mixed-race wife (Tracey Ellis Ross) for not being Black enough, she snaps at him a line like: Really? Then tell that to my hair and my ass! Sure, it could all go horribly wrong but it could also be politically incorrectly right. Given that ABC has scheduled it to directly follow Modern Family it just might have a shot at the latter. (Air Date: Sept. 24).

Bring it on!

Bring it on!

3. American Horror Story – Season 4 – I’m addicted to this show for all the wrong reasons it’s sick, twisted, sometimes illogical, and campier than a room full of Ann Miller impersonators (Note: For those under 30 substitute RuPaul impersonators, or simply RuPaul). It doesn’t matter. The new season in this anthology series is called Freak Show, is set inside a Florida circus of outcasts run by Jessica Lange and features a set of conjoined twins, a bearded lady and a severely large, red-mouthed guy in white face named Twisty the Clown. Need I say more? I don’t think so.

Until Oct. 8, the preview can say it for you. In three different ways (Note: Actually, thirteen if you check YouTube on your own).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKGwySm9nMc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cexbmH3xLuQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shIZH4GnQT0

Of course, there are museums to visit, social issues to protest and scathing words to write and say about a myriad of issues that comes across our screens on any given day. Not to mention if we really want to be proactive and do something different we could contribute to a charitable cause, or any cause, we believe in with an amount that exceeds our monthly bills from Time-Warner, Direct TV, Netflix and god knows what other mega speed Internet connections we’re signed up to that enables us to view all of the former in minimal discomfort. Those are all worthy gestures and would no doubt be personally satisfying. But nowhere near as exciting as the momentary thrills we receive after just a few minutes in front of our very own small screen. And therein lies the problem.   That is, if any of us ever choose to see it as such.