I (Don’t) Love a Parade

U.S. Electoral College Vice President Mike Pence and his wife were seated in a box next to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea this weekend and when everyone stood and cheered as the North Korea and South Korea delegations historically entered as one Korea, Pence and his wife chose to remain seated.

Of course, this is their prerogative. There is inherently nothing wrong with not cheering at a show of national unity when other people are cheering out of either support or respect.

Except if you believe one is required to stand when everyone else does so during a ritual at a sports stadium. Or if you believe that protesting a fervent show of nationalism towards a regime with whom you disagree with by remaining seated is abhorrent and offensive to the country in which said event is taking place.

uh oh

Gavin Newsom, California’s Lt. Governor and soon the be gubernatorial candidate, said it best, and even provided a gif and accompanying article and image to illustrate this point:

I, for one, have never been big on national anthems or ceremonial deference.

My earliest experiences saluting a flag or being required to sing a song in order to display my loyalty – to a system of religion, of government or of some moral law –always felt not only silly but ill-advised.

What does singing this dumb song or saluting like an idiot along with everyone else prove, my younger self thought and sometimes verbalized, much to the chagrin of several adults around me. Either I liked the thing I was being forced to respect or didn’t – making me do it along with everyone else doesn’t prove ANYTHING.

Pretty sure this was my face for much of my childhood #sass

As for parades, my feeling is have at it if it floats your boat – or, um, float – but don’t make me do it. That said, I have attended events like the annual Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood over the years – but usually as a means of strength and protest AGAINST people like Pence or our current US Electoral College POTUS – not as an oath of loyalty or respect to either a particular system of belief or any single individual or group.

This is why the Oval Office/right wing hysteria over the #TakeAKnee movement spurred by Colin Kaepernick always perplexed me. In the same way the protocol of bowing, curtsying or whatever you’re supposed to do to royalty in the last two centuries has always left me secretly laughing and not so secretly rolling my eyes.

Watch it, Chairy #kween

Really? A song, a crown, a scepter and a flag? Those are items that in your culture or mind REPRESENT an overarching IDEA. They are not the IDEAS themselves. Better to show in your ACTIONS that you are LIVING the IDEA than show your deference with some world worn SYMBOL. A salute or a couple of bars of a chorus is a ceremonial cheat. It’s like having your spouse or boyfriend/ girlfriend pledge their fidelity to you during the day and then be allowed to rendezvous with their secret lover that very same night.

maybe I’m overcompensating

And speaking of the Electoral College POTUS currently in the Oval Office, the latest is that he wants a military parade down Pennsylvania Ave. because, well, he can.   Oh, sure he can. Think of it as part of the discretionary powers of the job, supported by a kind of mad money fund of millions of taxpayer/governmental dollars one gets to spend when one determines one’s country/employees/subjects are in need of a celebration.   Though it could be that it’s only the ONE who fancies an impromptu blowout, which in essence is the same thing since the ONE is the defacto leader of everyone else and, in essence, speaks for EVERYONE.

Snicker, snicker #toogood #ihadto

The last time we did this type of thing was 27 years ago after the Persian Gulf War and it cost between $8-$12 million. So, with rising expenses and inflation, by today’s standards it could be… oh well, let’s not think about that when it comes a ceremony of patriotism. It might LOOK like we don’t support the troops. To whom, I don’t know

As I often say to my screenwriting students, you can’t film an absence. Who a character is, is what he or she actually does. Or pretends to do. It’s then up to the audience to decide what actions are real and whether to get onboard the journey.

Of course, that’s movie talk. Which has little to do with reality. Unless one chooses to live life like a movie. Or worse, a reality TV show.

“Don’t Rain on My Parade” – Barbra Streisand (from Funny Girl)

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Give it the Boot

I like nostalgia as much as anyone but do we really need a new Magnum P.I. and another Cagney & Lacey? CBS thinks so. They just greenlit them as pilots.

And why not?   They thought the same thing some years ago when they decided to bring back that brilliant series of my youth…wait for it…. Hawaii Five-O – which is now entering it’s…wait for it….EIGHTH season. Never mind CBS’s refusal last year to bring the salaries of its two Asian actors, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, in parity with its other White stars after all that time (Note: No, they didn’t take to heart the snarky hint to change the series title to Hawaii White-O), thus casing them to leave.

ugh.. whatever CBS

And why should they care? As the vaudeville comedian once quipped after an endless string of bad jokes – I (they) got a million of ‘em!!

Case in point. CBS also greenlit reboots of the cutting edge series of my teens and twenties…MacGyver and S.W.A.T!   Yes. Who knew??? Well, somebody did even if we didn’t. Because they’re both in their…wait for it…second year!

Which is to say nothing of their straight to series deal for a reboot of the Emmy Award-winning comedy about a sober female TV journalist — Murphy Brown — but this time with its original creator and star.

Well.. this could be interesting

That’s right. No re-imagining or recasting here. Candice Bergen is returning as the fictional, crusading, single Mom journalist who – to clarify for my current students – once came under attack from the real Vice President of the U.S. in a nationwide speech as a real, culpable threat to the nuclear family for daring to bring a child into the world without a husband or father in her house. Um, fictional house.

UGH. Everything old IS new again. #helpus

Yes, truly, this happened! His name was Dan Quayle (Note: The veepee, not the kid) and no doubt you haven’t heard of either him or Murphy Brown but just wait till the fall. You will. If it gets an airdate. And heck, even if you don’t watch your parents will no doubt tell you about it in one of those torturous, endless conversations where you’re only half-listening, surfing the web in boredom.

Way to compete for that key ad demographic, CBS!!!!

OK, no fair to pick on the Eye network (though they make it so easy to do so). This season NBC brought back Will and Grace with its original writers and cast to great success and somehow managed to embrace their ages AND make the gay-straight thing seem as relevant as it did when it first aired 20 years ago.

and the pop culture train keeps on coming!

So let’s see what Murphy Brown can do 30 years later. As well as Hawaii Five-O did 40 years later, albeit with a different cast (Note: Alas, its stars and creator are deceased)? Well, perhaps.

But no, wait – we see you hiding there in the corner, ABC. Don’t think we forgot YOU.

they’re back on the couch… and so are we

Late last year you had promised to give us a new version of….can’t wait for it….Roseanne!! And now it’s what, less than two months away until its March 2018 announced airdate?? Kewl. Plus, the real Roseanne recently announced to TV critics that her fictional TV doppelganger and husband will be…TRUMP SUPPORTERS!!… …And that she, herself likes the way he’s shaken things up.

omg.. someone get me a bag.

Though seriously, before anyone goes all ballistic on real Ro just know canny comic TV stars say all sorts of provocative stuff when promoting a new show – and even when they’re not. Again, you have to do something to compete with Netflix and everyone knows the real Ro is about as dumb as a fox.

And while we’re speaking of Netflix (not Fox, we’ll get to them), one does wonder: Just how in the hell did CBS let the reboot of its 1970s hit Norman Lear series, One Day At A Time, go to the most successful streaming service around, where it has emerged as a major critical, and from what we hear, though who ever really knows with Netflix, let’s be honest, commercial hit?

Ohhhh.. is that right? #youtellemRita

Was having one of the few living EGOT recipients, Rita Moreno, as a co-star, too much for them? Or was the issue an actual half-Latinx writing staff? Couldn’t they have tempted Mr. Lear to return to the Eye with a new hands-off approach after decades of earning them billions of dollars, literally? Or did it not fit into their…um…business plan?

Well, perhaps they’re just discounting everything other than the three major networks that created new shows during the time ODAAT first aired. Not likely. Very soon after it was cancelled, Fox emerged as the fourth major, then there was pay cable, then basic cable, then streaming and now, well, there’s just too many to count. Or, well, to take seriously as creative, and especially ratings, competition.

There is just too much TV to watch. #help

Which begs this question:

Is it too soon for Fox to bring back Glee with the adults at night school playing the kids’ roles? I, for one, don’t think so. But if we know Ryan Murphy (and we don’t) he might do it better and make it a limited or horror miniseries where the marginalized high-schoolers REALLY get revenge and become…Oh, never mind. That’s the type of reboot that’s probably already been done to film, live, on-tape or/and virtual death. And beyond. Which is not to say that it couldn’t work…in the right hands.

Of course, there is no point in leaving a real-life decision at Fox out of the loop, particularly since that was its choosing to NOT actually reboot American Idol after a long 2 years and instead allow ABC to have the honors. Way to go, Fox! (Note: We Think). And way NOT to go, ABC! (Note: We Think). Since at the end of the day, well, who really knows? There could be a way by, say, 2030, to reboot a series that is currently on the air with a concurrent alternative version and new location. Or perhaps the same general location and even the same stars but in a different reality.

… but just, like, enough with this show already. #isthetruthstilloutthere

Don’t you dare say no and give us the stink eye before you look in the national mirror towards our nation’s capital…and report to us exactly what is real…and what is fake.

Which could actually be a political remake of 1998’s Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow, but set in D.C.. Anybody see it? No.   Well, apparently she’s one of Ryan Murphy’s best friends. Want to be a TV producer? Well then, you can have the idea (Note: I got a million of ‘em!) but only if you start there. I’m dying to see what they say about it and what happens when it goes to the networks.

Peter Allen – “Everything Old is New Again”

This is Us

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-2-41-14-pm

One of the most popular shows of the new television season is This Is Us, a series that follows three generations of an American family back and forth in time. Though it primarily focuses on three grown “triplets” in their thirties, the hallmark of the story is that it flows easily through the decades as if they are continuous scenes on our screens – much the way we surf everyday on our desktops to follow variations of the same news story or subject matter. The latter is purposeful and is a large part of what makes This Is Us so timely and relatable.

This is... a hit

This is… a hit

The focus of the show is about being seen and heard. The brilliant African American kid from drug addicted parents who was adopted but never quite fits in; the fat girl who grows up into an obese women and has trouble letting people see the real her beneath what they view of her exterior, assuming they’d ever care to; and the hot TV actor who was once the least noticed in the bunch who now hides behind his looks and success because he can’t face the pain of always knowing that inside he really is and always was second rate. And these are just the triplets!

This is Us echoes a popular show from my past, thirtysomething, which pulled off a similar feat in the 80s but with the focus on a contemporary group of friends of a certain age who had indeed become each other’s family. However, while This Is Us moves constantly through past and present, thirtysomething dwelled primarily in the present with only occasional echoes of the past.

There was a limit to how willing we were to look backwards for answers in the “Greed is Good” eighties. These days, perhaps presciently, This Is Usfocus is on searching the past in desperate hope for answers about who we are today. Each psychological and actual crisis seems to rest in a series of past incidents – though after seven episodes they provide mostly brief insights and few satisfactory answers or solutions to changing actual behaviors. Perhaps it will go more fully down that road as it continues and takes notes from network execs. But right now, its characters seem to be desperately exploring. They know they’ve suddenly woken up in crisis and are willing to do almost anything to either NOT feel the pain or to somehow begin to forge a new way in which to live on.

You... You're good! #seewhatyoudidthere

You… You’re good! #seewhatyoudidthere

Perhaps some of you might see where I’m going with this. Though I’ll bet half of you don’t… which could be my fault but is probably indicative of the fact that I dwell in deep blue state America. Did you think you’d get a break from it all here? Rest assured there will be little escape for at least the next two four years. Though we’re probably not headed in the direction that you think. In either place.

The Electoral College election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence to President and Vice-President – despite the fact that they will have lost the popular vote by close to TWO MILLION people by the time the final tallies are counted – is currently wreaking havoc on the American family. Yet how we see our present via our past seem to greatly differ, depending on what side of the ideological fence we stand on.

Let’s take the example of what happened when Mike Pence attended the Friday night performance of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton in New York City, a deep blue state renowned for its multi-ethnic population, some of whom work in what is renowned as its sexually diverse theatre community (Note: Meaning, there are a ton of us gays employed on Broadway, and 99.999% of the straights are among our staunchest allies).

...said no one

SURPRISE! …said no one

If you haven’t heard, upon entrance to the theatre, the veepee elect was spontaneously booed among small bits of applause. Sort of like what would happen in an alternative universe if president elect Hillary wandered into a Chick Fill A in Mississippi a week after voting ended.

We've been down this road before #stopandsmellthechicken

We’ve been down this road before #stopandsmellthechicken

Being that Hamilton specifically tells the story of an IMMIGRANT’s rise in American history it is unsurprising the audience cheered at various pro-references to immigration nor is it shocking that upon Mr. VP’s re-entrance to the theatre in the second act a specific line about just how much we immigrants (Note: Yes, my grandparents came from Russia, Poland and Hungary – though not all of them – some were killed by the Nazis) can accomplish if given the chance drew thunderous applause.

That was seemingly about it until after the curtain call, when one of the lead actors read a statement (partially written by Hamilton creator-turned-cultural-icon Lin-Manuel Miranda) as the audience filed out. It read exactly thus:

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-1-54-20-pm

To which that night our 2016 President Elect who will lose the popular vote by TWO MILLION (Note: It’s sort of like an asterisk to a home run record), sent out TWO THREE TWEETS via Twitter. They read exactly thus:

So much for the land of dissent – at least in theory. As for practice, well, that’s still up in the air until AFTER January 20th.

But let’s not stray too much from the subject at hand, which would be looking back at our lives and our families in order to provide information, insights and answers about who we are, how we can heal and in what fashion we will move on.

Since Make America Great Again is THE SLOGAN that won Trump-Pence the electoral college vote, many non-T/P voters found themselves recoiling from their anti-immigrant, often racist, sexist and xenophobic campaign rhetoric; their embrace by white nationalists; and rallies where hysteria to Lock Her Up (Yes, you know which “her”) was the war call of both supporters and candidate.

The thinking:

Wait, aren’t we mostly a nation of people who mostly came from other countries? Wasn’t civil rights for Blacks and other non-whites a given, at least on paper, after a checkered racial history culminating with eight years of our first Black president? Isn’t a large part of what makes America great the fact that we don’t en masse scream for the incarceration of an individual until they are proven guilty, or at least until they have been formally charged with a crime?

No friends, THIS is us. #dontleave

No friends, THIS is us. #dontleave

On the same, token, numerous T/P voters and supporters clearly don’t feel great. The discernible issues cited seem to be not enough jobs in the white working class, our country’s benchmark welcoming policy towards immigrants in an age of global terrorism and a general disgust with the status quo in Washington, DC, but more particularly with the liberal coastal elites.

Wait, you fixed the economy for yourself but not us; you don’t care that many of our American factories closed; we were attacked by non-whites on 9/11 and you’ve never faced it; our government is going bankrupt and all you want to do is spend, spend, spend??? Well, there are no free rides anymore, buster (and busterettes).

All of these issues, every one of them, are valid issues for a family to discuss. And what is our country, or any country, after all, if not a family of people???

Just don't bring this up to Aunt Nan at Thanksgiving #shestouchy

Just don’t bring this up to Aunt Nan at Thanksgiving #shestouchy

The question to be answered is how do we, as a family, settle our real differences? Do we look back into our past – one that included slavery, a Civil War, the fight for women to simply VOTE, two World Wars and any number of others, our coming together as a people and landing on the moon, our rise to becoming one of the most financially and socially admired places on Earth? All of the above?

Meaning, What are the PRINCIPLES and ACTIONS that actually made AMERICA GREAT? And if you don’t believe we ARE great, which clearly the majority of the Electoral College voters do not, HOW DO WE BECOME GREAT AGAIN?

If past is prologue it won’t be about limiting freedoms, closing borders, or judging people by their personalities and lifestyle choices. On either side. At least, that’s what our newest, most beloved television characters are beginning to realize. (Note: Thanks, NBC!)

On the other hand, real life America is certainly not lived in via the reality of ONE hit television series, is it?   Or…is it?

Please Bore Me

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Every semester I implore my writing students: please, don’t bore me. Not in a Miranda Priestly way. I like to think of myself as their sometimes nicely dressed angel rather than a devil in too hip designer duds waiting to take a bite out of their souls. They have plenty of time after school to experience the latter, if they haven’t already.

The same goes for my taste in art. I’d rather be offended by your creative output than have it put me to sleep. (Note: This actually happened during the second act of the Broadway musical Annie in the seventies but that’s another subject.). In truth, there is nothing that fires me up more and sparks my own creativity than a good homophobic, racist, or sexist rant.   Sure, I loathe them. But as a guy with ADD and a lifelong procrastination problem, I often need a push – make that a shove – in order to do anything about it.

Me at my most creative #differentsteven

Me at my most creative

This is what current Republican nominee Donald Trump delivered this past week and Hillary Clinton can never deliver.

But see, the actual world is not a fictional land that a writer (or any artist) can mold to their liking. That’s why one does creative work to begin with. So we can evoke the world as we see it – create one that reflects our point of view, that is of our choosing, not yours.

Nor are actual world leaders characters in a book, movie or TV show to root for or hate watch. Well, okay, you can hate watch them – as I did with Trump last week – or root for them – as I’ll do with Hillary this week – but that is not their primary function in our lives.

OK... but this was pretty funny

OK… but this was pretty funny

They exist to lead us, to enact and enforce a set of laws that bring people together and create some sort of existential order than enables us to achieve whatever we so choose and thus become the best of ourselves.

In other words, they’re not here to put on a show, they’re here to run the show.

And what they are also most certainly not put here for is our amusement.

I’ve always liked following politics but personally I’d find it as boring as Annie Act 2 if I were a real life politician – or worked for one. All the hand-shaking, broken promises, arm-twisting, behind-the- scenes maneuvering. Not to mention compromises. Constantly. Oh – and asking for money. Do you know politicians spend 50-75% of their time fundraising?

That's it, I'm going back to bed

That’s it, I’m going back to bed

And that’s the fun part. How about the endless hearings, crafting the legislation, engaging in ad infinitum drafts of bills that will look nothing like you imagined them to be – that is if they ever do get enacted. Not to mention you’ll also have to talk your bone-headed colleagues on the other side of the aisle into the milquetoast compromise you didn’t want in the first place and often smile sincerely enough for them to believe you at some point while you’re doing it.

Fine, this is not unlike being a screenwriter in the film business. Still, no one dies or goes hungry when our movies do or don’t get made. Not even us. Not really. And if an artist of any kind can go hungry or be permanently broke, the failure of our projects or constant unemployment do not have national or worldwide repercussions. Even though our egos are such that we are convinced this is the case on every single project we undertake.

A screenwriter's dinner isn't going to make itself!

A screenwriter’s dinner isn’t going to make itself!

Mr. Trump’s charm has always eluded me. Probably because I’ve always detested white, straight macho strongmen rich guys who flaunt their money with the same ease with which they flaunt the latest blonde on their arm. And honestly, I find gold–gilted anything quite tacky – especially when it’s a zillion feet high. No, I’m not talking about his hair.

Nevertheless, I got what he provided for others. A fantasy of luxury.   A mouthpiece to say all the things they couldn’t. Like – YOU’RE FIRED! Heck, who hasn’t wanted to say that at least once a week, or sometimes even once a day?

But experiencing Mr. Trump this past week and the foaming fervor of his supporters at the RNC grew from entertaining hate-watching to terror and panic once I got it through my head this was no longer just good badTV. The Washington Post breaks it down much better than I do so please click here and read.

... and just in case Trump wasn't scary enough, now we got this guy too #HELP

… and just in case Trump wasn’t scary enough, now we got this guy too #HELP

Suffice it to say 75 plus minutes of law and order rants in an undeniable Mussolini/Hitler like timbre was frightening – and not in the Dick Wolf-TV-Mariska Hargitay kind of way. It became much larger than life and certainly larger than any reality show that has ever been on TV. A man who alternately pleaded and shouted that he’d protect you and work for you as long as you gave him the keys and the codes to everything you own and didn’t ever ask him to give any details, or much of a clue, on how he’d do that.

Heck, I had lying, elusive, duplicitous boyfriends in my twenties (and more than a few) who gave me more actual specifics than that. Plus, they were a helluva lot better looking.

Then, on the other side, there is Hillary Clinton. We’ve known her for 25 years and, let’s face it, she’s seldom entertaining.   Okay, there was the Monica scandal and the dress and the brief period the country felt bad for her. And yes, there were those moments and memes as secretary of State when she was texting in her sunglasses pre-Benghazi when it seemed like she could never make a wrong move again. But mostly – not much fun on her own. Certainly not much fun to watch giving a speech.

... whereas this guy #goodspeech #wow

… whereas this guy #goodspeech #wow

Which does not mean she is not a good or effective politician. Or potential world leader.   Rather than getting into a litany of defense, here is the best compilation of facts and attributes I’ve seen in this dailykos article last month, which references other sources – both pro and con. But suffice it to say I remember 25 years ago when she was actually fighting for health care and telling the right wing to go stick it in their hats – a time they resented her simply for not staying home like a good, little first lady and tending the rose garden. Yeah, she was tough and mouthy but I was raised by women like that and always thought that behavior was kind of cool.

See, her kind doesn’t get cast as Secretary of State – we have the glamorous, desirable Tea Leoni for that. And if she does become our first female president, Julia-Louis Dreyfuss will be far more entertaining on Veep in any moment on any given part of the day to most of the world.

Lest we forget Miss Geena

Lest we forget Miss Geena

I can hear the naysayers from here – she lied, she’s crooked, she can’t be trusted! As opposed to um…the neighborhood billionaire? Any billionaire? This is not a defense of lying, or even an admission that Mrs. Clinton does or does not lie.   We’re simply making equivalencies here. The RNC didn’t just nominate Gandhi. Or even Ben Kingsley. Though their nominee is closer to an actor if he’s anything at all.

Which is the crux of the problem. We’re electing a commander-in-chief not an entertainer-in-chief. And certainly, not a clown – no matter how desperate we all are for a laugh. How desperate is that?   We’ll see.