Dickens, The Super Bowl and Me

ARGHHH

ARGHHH

I will never play in the Super Bowl.  But that’s okay because I don’t want to.  First of all, there’s the matter of concussions.  If you’ve ever had one, which I have, you would never ever want to risk one again.  Unless you’re a professional football player.  Which I’m not – nor do I ever want to be.  As I’ve said.

As horrible as it was to have a concussion, and it was – partly because for months afterwards you feel like bright lights are the devil spawn and everyone is speaking to you from a faraway land in an only oddly familiar language (Note: Do not confuse either of these conditions with life in Hollywood) – it has also informed my life in many good ways.

I walk much more carefully down slippery floors, treasure almost every moment I can concentrate for more than 5-10 minute stretches at a time, and literally bask in the knowledge that not being good at sports like football no longer makes me a nerd but a wiseacre who knows how to play the long game of life.

I can be flip about all of this now because my “concussive” and “post-concussive” days happened approximately 20 years ago and feel like a chapter out of someone else’s past life.  However, this was not the case at the time.  Like a section of a good, classic novel by someone like Charles Dickens, the moments can be re-read or relived with a sense that this is the moment that will exactly define our main character (us?) forever.  That it is this dramatic occurrence, or this particular occupation, or this specific life circumstance that is who this person IS and primarily ALWAYS will be.

My life in clipart

My life in clipart

But in the case of the novel, that is only because Dickens was an exceptional writer who can make us believe it to be so — until he unveils yet another twist and turn in his story that will take his reader on yet another path.  In real life, we have the choice of a writer EVERY DAY to rewrite our chapters and redefine the focus of our existence.  That’s why the stories of lives are much messier than the stories of books, plays, screenplays or short stories.  We create our own dramatic structure (some would argue that many good writers also do this but that’s the subject of another discussion) and don’t have to amuse our audience – only ourselves.  We’re free to have our chapters go off on tangents, or have our main character make seemingly inexplicable and unsatisfying decisions, and to do both for as long as we choose despite the best advice or preference of others.  In fact, we can keep doing the ill-advised and never learn a lesson until the day we die AND we can do it all and still be an unsatisfying anti-hero because we have chosen to have our lives have no overall dramatic point WHATSOEVER (though it might serve as a lesson of what not to do for someone else, but there’s no way of controlling that).  In short, we can screw up, do the unexpected, chase dragons we never slay AND have a great or bad time doing all of it if we decide to do so.

Yet the ONE area where our lives are EXACTLY like a well-constructed story is this – every single action or decision or job or mini-life that we live will cause another future action that we take or a detour that we seemingly spontaneously choose to travel down.  Just as my concussion caused me to change the way I glide upon shiny surfaces, or to appreciate my intellectual life as a non-football player, your horrible job experience with the boss from hell in a given field can cause you to change career directions to pursue something else, enable you to bear down and speak your mind and create a change that will steer you to a more preferred position of power in this same field, or perhaps free you to focus more time outside your work life which will then cause you to meet the love of your life – or the lover who will forever change your life.

In writing classes this is a simple concept called “cause and effect.”  Meaning every decision a character makes – every single one – opens some small or big door for something else to happen – something inevitable that would not have happened if that small or big door had not been pried from its resting place earlier.  Syd Field, a much unfairly maligned screenwriting guru from the seventies who taught me quite a lot at one period of my life, rightly compared this to the scientific theory of Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion.  Neatly summarized in non-scientific language – for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Always better with a Cookie

Always better with a Cookie

It has come to my attention as a teacher of college students and a professional writer in Hollywood, and as a mere human being, that many of us still don’t exist as if we believe this – for both good and bad.  But here’s the dirty truth:

THIS. IS. NOT. AN. OPTION.

Nor do we want it to be.  Cause and effect is a kind of magic – one that goes along with making choices and not knowing what the result will be.  Not every choice will have a big, opposite reaction or, if it does, it may not set something big in motion that is recognizable until many years or even decades later.  Or – it might.  But that seemingly bad choice now might turn out to be a good one, or a good lesson, in hindsight for you and who you are.  That is why I spend a lot of time telling my students, and myself, that truly there are no wrong choices – only choices.

I mean — I and others might not understand why you could ever think the first season of Smash is well-written but heck, maybe it’ll lead at least one of us to write a better musical for TV one day – or at least a cool piece of journalism of what the blankety-blank went wrong with a show chock full of so many accomplished professionals. 

Don't worry Deb, we smell it too!

Don’t worry Deb, we smell it too!

At the very least, perhaps it will inspire me to re-examine my love of Broadway – or even television – and become an opera or ballet aficionado.  After all, one man’s train wreck, is another one’s object d’art.  Or wrecking ball.

You might think what you are doing right now in your life is unsatisfying and ultimately insignificant, or so perfect  that you are positive you will be doing just this forever, but – quite simply –  that is mostly not the case.  Sen. John Kerry, who I voted for but am not a groupie of, acknowledged this some days ago when he spoke to the Senate and the world as a senator one last time just as he was formally confirmed to follow Hillary Clinton as our next US Secretary of State.

Choking up as recalled his long career as a Massachusetts senator and remembering the names of two even more famous politicians from his home state who came before him, he admitted:

“Standing here at this desk that once belonged to President (John F.) Kennedy and to Ted Kennedy, I can’t help but be reminded that even the nation’s greatest leaders — and all the rest of us — are merely temporary workers.”

To embellish on Kerry’s statement, and why not – add one more thing.  His presence in the Senate is no different than anyone’s presence in any particular job.  We’re all, all of us, doing temp work.  In fact, we are all also temporary.

Sure, but Kerry’s going on to be freakin’ Secretary of State from being a senator and I’m stuck in a dead end job getting coffee, or a dead end relationship not getting much of anything at all, you might argue.  Well, to that I say – how do you know how it’s going to turn out for him?  Or you?  This is just one moment among many for the man who lost the presidency to, uh…..George W. Bush just eight years ago.  To repeat, like many of the rest of us, he lost to George W. Bush!

Was it my wife?? Really?

Was it my wife?? Really?

Here are some other salient facts about a few random people you might have heard of to take into account.  Did you know at one point in time Andrea Bocelli – the Italian opera singer who was blinded at 12 years old after a football accident, AND has sold ore than 80 million albums worldwide, AND someone who you might find annoying or brilliant depending on your personal POV – was at one time thought of as a….court appointed lawyer??   Uh, yeah, that was what he did in his twenties.  You might also want to consider that at age 12, after his football accident, he was also merely a kid in Italy whose parents so wanted him to see once again that they allowed his doctors to desperately resort to treating him with…leeches?  I’m not kidding.  Were the leeches or the law merely side roads or did they in some way contribute to who this guy is today – well, only Dickens could probably be worthy of connecting the dots story-wise on that one – or would care to.

Want more?  Well, you know that Harrison Ford was once merely the hunky California carpenter next door who was married with a kid, and a part-time actor, until one day he happened to be working for a guy in the film business named George Lucas who decided to cast him in a few movies? (uh – Star Wars, for one).  Or that Marla Gibbs, the iconic sassy TV maid of the 1970s and 80s as seen on The Jeffersons was primarily known to friends, family and many other co-workers as a sassy airlines employee– a job she kept for the first three years of that hit series.

Yes, in this scenario you are Indiana Jones (you're welcome)

Yes, in this scenario you are Indiana Jones (you’re welcome)

Obviously, I could go on with a lot of examples.  Plus, we haven’t even gotten into what will happen or not happen in five, 10 or 20 years to your doctor, your waiter, the gardener down the street, your American Idol, the real life and fictional stories as told and lived by your favorite writer – me, Lindsay Lohan (let us pray) or — you.

It’s easier to use celebrities to illustrate this point because they seem bigger than life and it’s rules.  But they’re not.  Nor, are any of the rest of us.  Which, in the end, could be a very good thing.  No matter what you think of the decisions Martha Stewart has or has not yet to make.

Culture Vulture

Each week pop culture seems to offer an irresistible topic of conversation.  Perhaps it’s the online, multi-tasking, Facebook and Twitter-heavy world we live in, but more and more it’s easy to feel that there is not just one topic but six or seven or twelve to choose from — many of which are not so much amusing, but, well, alternately awful, trivial or downright distasteful, and only occasionally uplifting.  And unfortunately, quite reflective of the world we currently live in.

In honor of this predicament, this week and this week only (unless I decide to do it next time cause that’s how this stuff rolls in 2012…uh, don’t worry, I won’t) we present a mash up of the nonsense for the week ending March 23rd  .  At least as it looks from the seat of a chair, which can be cushy or hard, depending on what’s happening and to whom (who?).

Television encores: “Mad Men” returns and “Smash” is renewed.

Hello gorgeous

Does one counter the other?  I’m not so sure. The NY Times on Friday gave what we consider an unfair review of the first “Mad Men” of the new season – noting that because it has spawned so many 60s nostalgia themed spin-offs, there is no irony left when filmmakers show “an adult smoking a cigarette with one hand and holding a baby in the other.” Like many reviewers and non-fans, this critic misses the point.  No great film or TV show is ever really about the time period.  That is just the window dressing.  It is always how interested you are in the characters and what they, and they alone, uniquely do in said time period.  The challenge of TV is keeping the people and situations interesting through season after season – a whole other story in itself.  Oh, and in actuality it is that very FAMILIARITY with characters and their world/era that make people want to watch and commit to a television series.   You can wear out your welcome if you don’t come up with engaging twists and turns and new and bizarre crises but you want to also feel you can depend on – something.  Therefore, the verdict is out for me if that is the case with the new season of “Mad Men” because

  •  a. I have not yet seen the first episode of the best-written show on television. (It is – deal with it)
  • b. Past seasons have all managed to work their magic in strange and even more surprising and unusual ways than the one before (“Past as prologue” – as the NY Times writer so wisely pointed out in her review) and
  • c.    Cultural critics love to diss critical darlings after a certain point in time because it’s just more fun to write diss than bliss  (as I can attest from my past, present and obviously future life as a vociferous cultural vulture).

Bottom line: Don’t assume that because something is familiar it’s growing tiresome.  If that were the case there would be no happy long-term relationships.  Which there are.  Again, you’re gonna have to trust me on that one.

Oh, right  -– I forgot about “Smash.”  Uh, it was renewed for a second season.

They're multiplying

Yes.  It was.

Despite the fact that It

  • a.  Loses a lot of its audience from the number one show in the U.S., “The Voice.”
  • b.  It’s expensive to make and
  • c.  It’s a string of soapy clichéd clichés.

But NBC needs a hit and the show’s idea was the brainchild of Steven Spielberg, the King of All Entertainment, who also serves as executive producer.  Enuf said.  Because still, I don’t want to criticize a show where you get to hear Bernadette Peters do a song from “Gypsy” or any number of real Broadway performers do their thing on national TV.  No gay man in his right mind would do that because you would run the risk of getting barred from what is said to be the upcoming movie version of “Gyspy,” starring Barbra Stresiand currently being written by “Downton Abbey”’s Julian Fellows.  Yes, I’m fickle.

Interent killed the newspaper star:  Variety is for sale.

This might not seem like a big deal to you but it is to me because – well, being a Variety reporter was my first real journalism job out of college.  Once known as the “Bible of Show Business,”  Variety  has seen its audience erode due to 24/7 news and competition from the snarkiest entertainment blogs known to man and has been officially and publicly put on the market by its parent company of the last few decades, Reed Business.  Variety was founded just past the turn of the century by the Silverman family, who owned the paper when I worked there (some years past the turn of the century).  Like most mom and pop businesses, they eventually gave into the corporate giants chasing them, and said corporate giants eventually found or find themselves in the familiar position of shedding their once valuable asset due to the “changing times.”  Bob Dylan once wrote in the 60s, “the times they are a changing.’” This was seen as both a good and bad thing.  But I’m just not sure which is the case here.

Hooded Racism: Trayvon Martin

A 17-year-old Black youth named Trayvon Martin was apparently gunned down in central Florida this week by a man on Neighborhood Watch who was suspicious of the young dark-skinned man in a hoodie and on the phone with his girlfriend who, it turned out, was armed with nothing more than a pack of Skittles and some iced tea.  There is a 911 phone recording where the Neighborhood Watch guy clearly calls the deceased a racial epithet.  There is also a strict Florida law that allows those feeling in danger and in the presence of a potential criminal to stand their ground and defend themselves.  Among all of this, aspiring Republican presidential nominee Rick Santorum campaigned at a shooting range the next day and when the former senator cocked his gun and began gunning down a paper target of a man, a random woman from the crowd yelled “pretend it’s Obama.”  At best, these are indeed very confusing times, as Dylan implied.   At worst, well – you can fill in the blank.

Sugar Rush or Toothache? Food Network’s Sweet Genius

“Sweet Genius,”  a TV show where four dessert makers endure three grueling tests of their chocolate, baking and candy-making skill under the critical eye of host Ron Ben Israel – a dessert mogul who looks like Dr. Evil, talks like a Bond villain, and presides over the festivities in a set that resembles the underground lair of Willy Wonka’s evil twin — returned to the air after a too long absence.  Yes, I watch this crap because it’s fun.  But not as much fun as it was last season.  The show was a surprising limited hit over six episodes and the network has had time to think about it and in its full season two decided to make its host less demanding, less dictatorial and the show much less weird (e.g. they eliminated the odd computer voice that ominously analyzed the water and salt content of each food on a conveyor belt).  In other words, they’ve done what most film and TV production company’s like to do – round out the edges to appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore losing the very reason people loved the “asset” to begin with.  By the way, my TV writing student Alyssa makes much better cupcakes for class each week than any dessert I’ve seen on the show this year and she covers the cost of her own ingredients.  Just sayin’.

My Tribute to the Hunger Games

Girl's got range

The biggest thing in the movies this weekend is “The Hunger Games” and I assigned it to all the film writing students to see because you can’t ignore a cultural phenomenon if you want to be in the biz. I told them they need to go in with an open mind and open heart because no one sets out to make a bad movie.  However, and this is just between you and me – the film looks deadly dull and hopelessly overproduced with elements and themes from about five different movies I saw in the 1970s when I was in college.   This is not the attitude I want to pass on and I can only hope that I will be pleasantly surprised at the theatre when my (somewhat) open mind is fully expanded to a higher state of love and acceptance.  But I seriously doubt it.

One Final Note from Ms. Houston

Whitney Houston had cocaine in her system at her time of death, and it was revealed in an autopsy that the cause of death was drowning (in her bathtub).  Ms. Houston  also had marijuana, alcohol, Xanax and a muscle relaxer in her system. Still, most of us secretly believe that fame, fortune and a little bit of exceptional superhuman talent at something are the holy grail answers to pretty much all of our problems and most likely everything else.

Hottest Inmate: Clooney swoons even in jail

George Clooney got arrested for demonstrating about atrocities in the Sudan.  He paid a fine and is out on the street once again as he continues humanitarian work while earning gazllions of dollars making pretty much any movie he wants.  Fame, fortune and talent are not necessarily a bad thing and perhaps can mix well – depending on how the mixing is done and by whom.  I’m being serious here.

Flour Power: Kim K’s unfortunate encounter

cleanup on aisle 3

Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian was flour bombed.  (I’m now joking but this is true).  Definition of Flour bombed?  This means you’re walking the red carpet wearing a dark-colored designer outfit and someone dumps a bag of white flour on your head and your ultra chic suit.  If you have dark hair, this is even more spectacular because of the color contrast, as it was here.  Said Kim “bomber” was arrested but Kim isn’t pressing charges.  Do not take this as a defense of Kim’s legitimacy or evidence that I consider her a talent of any kind.  Or want to analyze her fame or fortune quotient, which are obviously quite higher than mine.

A Flashy Girl from Flushing

I drive down the famed Sunset Strip on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood and keep seeing a larger than life Billboard of Fran Drescher with the ad line, “The Mouth is back,” and the title of her second season TV Land  comedy – “Happily Divorced,” about a woman who was married to her high school sweetheart for years only to recently find out he was gay.  But they’re divorced and they’re still close friends.  Yes, this is based on Fran’s real life and Fran and I, we share a lot.  She’s from Flushing, Queens as I am.  She’s Jewish, as I am.  Her ex-husband is gay, as am I.  We’re also roughly the same age and I found her hilarious on “The Nanny,” as I’m sure she found herself too.  Then, why, oh why, couldn’t I laugh even once at her new show???  Also, I wonder — does this mean my shtick is tiring for people who have been in my life for decades and are much like me?  Am I boring everyone around me, physically and virtually, even my readers?  How do you know when you’re dull, boring and beside the point?  I worry about this and vow to do better not only with my talents but with limited fame and fortune.  But for now, well, can I just have a cupcake?

Reality Check

How do you be real but not boring?  How do you write what would (or could) happen but not make it a mind-numbing, contrived story? And finally, is it okay to lie when you think you’re fighting for a larger issue of something that is true?

These are all questions that surfaced this week when watching the return of  NBC’s “The Voice,” the premiere of  the new TV series “Smash” and the public relations nightmare of the Susan B. Komen Foundation, a charity that, among other things, has raised multi-millions of dollars for breast cancer research and awards still more millions of dollars in grant money to organizations that support women’s health.

Do these seem unrelated?  Not really.  One is actual life (Komen), one is total fiction (“Smash”) and the third is a hybrid of both – a television “reality” show (“The Voice”).  The question is – which is the most real to you and in turn is the reality that, on any given day, you are going to choose to live in.  (Obvious Note: the most real is not necessarily where you are choosing to live).

Relax. I haven’t found you out – we all live in some non-reality.  And it’s not really a weighty question.  But these days it is a relevant one.  Because you need to be aware of the rules of the reality you’re living in to navigate it properly, even if the world you’re choosing isn’t real at all.

Let’s start with what is the most real– the Komen Foundation – which in a way is being anything but real this week.  It’s particularly on my mind because my Mom died of breast cancer in 1999 and one of the first positive healing steps I took for myself in her memory was to do the Komen 10K “Run for the Cure” to raise money to fight breast cancer and pressure, guilt or cajole friends and acquaintances to donate money in my mother’s name.  If I couldn’t bring her back, I figured at least I could help in the fight to prevent any other women from enduring the 7 years of cancer treatments my Mom had to deal with prior to her death.  It was a good step.  On several counts.  The run helped me more than I imagined and I also imagine that the money, or my participation, helped someone else in some very small way I will probably never know.

Needless to say I and many other runners, judging from the public outcry, were more than disappointed – okay, royally pissed off – when we found out this week that Komen some time ago hired this woman named Karen Handel to be its senior VP.  Turns out Ms.  Handel is a virulent right wing Christian who ran for governor of Georgia a few years ago on a campaign spearheaded by a crusade to shut down and de-finance Planned Parenthood, and was accused of secretly continuing to do so in 2012 with Komen grants to PP due to the belief that PP was advocating abortion rather than just providing women education and legal health alternatives.  Meanwhile, Komen founder Nancy Brinker went on television and publicly denied Ms. Handel had anything to do with Komen’s decision to deny millions of future dollars to PP.  But her story was quickly contradicted by Ms. Handel a day later when she admitted she was instructed by the group (Komen) to find ways to back away from PP.  Still others in Komen came forward to state that the plan it came up with to change its bylaws was indeed an attempt to distance itself from an organization that had took a public stance against anything like pro-life views.

Fraying at the edges...

If this sounds like the plot of a bad episode of a Lifetime TV series (or miniseries) – it is.  You can just see – Dana Delaney as the right wing Handel, Debra Winger as Komen founder Nancy Brinker, and perhaps Viola Davis (before she broke through in “The Help”) playing the poor woman who has breast cancer but whose treatments are defunded, who is also mother of a teenage girl (Willow Smith’s first starring role) that Planned Parenthood was last week able to help but this week, well – not anymore!

However, this isn’t a TV movie – this is real life.  And even though in real life these things don’t end happily, like in a TV movie, in this case it sort of did.  Social media quickly exposed the scam and within days Komen not only reversed its policy but Ms. Handel resigned (or was given her walking papers) in a big cloud of black smoke, fueled by tens of thousands of very, very outraged liberals and even non-liberals who had raised money for the foundation all these years.  (Note: Word is that the foundation is covering up more grant giving prejudice and its integrity might be permanently lost in the future).

The point is (and yes, I have one –- )  a choice was made in real life by the Komen Foundation to not be real – to sort of fake it and/or cover up truth for political or personal beliefs – and not come clean.  Things being what they are these days, enough people didn’t believe their story and uncovered the sort of truth.  See, in real life, the powers-that-be always had primary control of the narrative, like writers and documentarians do.   But that balance seems to be shifting thanks to the immediacy of You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and —- ? Beware the 2 or 3 readers of this blog who find and will find themselves among the power ranks.  The dreaded, consciously evil Internet might actually force manipulators of the real truth to be more real in the future.  Or conversely, they might find more intricate ways to bend the truth so craftily than not even You TubeTumblrTwitterfaceBook can stop them.  Only time, and perhaps a future Lifetime TV movie, will tell who comes down on the winning side.

——–

Of course, real is certainly not the primary agenda of most television series (Lifetime or otherwise).  It is more just the mere evocation of something that can pass for some better, more entertaining version of real.  That certainly seems to be the agenda of the new NBC show, “Smash.” But curiously it’s lead-in on NBC, a singing competition called “The Voice,” which features budding singers in the familiar reality of a reality show, feels infinitely more real AND true and (for my money) is actually much more entertaining than anything being pushed by the expert entertainers behind “Smash” (which include Steven Spielberg).

It's what they want you to think...

You don’t ever know what artists are going for when they create a TV show, aside from ratings, but if we are to believe the promos and interviews, the creators of “Smash” really believe they are taking their audience inside the making of a Broadway musical.  There is no reason to doubt it since many of its creators, writers and performers have actually worked on Broadway musicals.

Having known a few people over the years from the NY the-a-tre who have actually been on Broadway, it’s hard to imagine any of them saying lines like: “I don’t know why I expect people to be civil in this terrible business,” or to sum up Marilyn Monroe with thoughts like “Marilyn wasn’t about sex, she was all about love.”   But it especially feels unreal to think they would get someone to finance and jump on the bandwagon to make a Broadway musical about an iconic person who was the subject of a previously grand flop of a Broadway musical some decades before (“Marilyn: An American Fable”).  Nor is it easy to accept they’d be tempted to do so because they have the singular temptation to perform and write a single musical number about, of all things, baseball (!) in a show about the sexiest movie star who ever lived. (Note: Yankee Clipper baseball hero Joe DiMaggio was at one time married to said movie star).

Bedazzled Yankees' jerseys are flying off the shelf!

All of this happens in “Smash” – and more.  Or perhaps, less.  Certainly, less reality.  Okay, you can’t judge a show by solely a pilot.  And, I mean, does it have to be real?  Well, not if it’s objective is to entertain.  But can it be entertaining if it evokes little reality to a situation?  Not unless it’s really really bad like “Showgirls” or even moderately mediocre like last year’s “Burlesque.”  “Smash” is neither of those.  It evokes none of the nuance, rough edges or full reality of 2012 New York but its clichés and circus-like atmosphere aren’t quite campy enough either.  It exists more in a nether land  of, well – oddness.  As it unfolds it can either be that a) in this case full reality is not preferred or that, b) clichéd reality is much more entertaining because c) we know it, d) we want to escape, and e) hell, it does have a few toe-tapping fun songs to disrupt us from the slow economic recovery and international crises that have become our true reality.

Except – except – if we want to truly escape reality – why has reality TV become a genre all its own and why is the most popular series program on the major networks this week a reality TV show that serves as the lead in — (that means it airs right before it in industry speak) to “Smash.”  I’m talking about a sublime show called “The Voice” that yes, on paper should be contrived and cliché as “Smash” can be and as manipulative and perhaps dishonest as the Komen Foundation has been on the national stage.  On the reality honesty meter, “The Voice” should come in third place to Komen and “Smash” but the truth, according to my Chairmeter, is that it leaves them both in the dust.  Far, far in the dust.  In fact, in our ratings (and the Nielsen’s) it is #1.

That’s because “The Voice” knows what it is – and doesn’t try it hide it.  It’s a reality show fantasy with feel good endings.  But like all good entertainment it traffics in the real by using actual real life people who tell their own stories, often a bit more unvarnished than we are used to from talent competition shows like “American Idol” or fictional shows that present the making of a Broadway musical.  (Certainly more real than some real life charity organizations).  “The Voice” features singers who are 40, even 50, men and women who are not always attractive, young and older people who are openly gay and bring their  spouses  partners, performers who perform in pairs, vocalists who sing everything from opera to down and dirty soul, and famous pop/rock/country star judges who actually must face some (but not all) of the same rejection as the contestants.  Is that why it’s a ratings bonanza?  Partly.  But also because it uses real, often times very experienced actual singers who are real life tested and entertaining.  The fact they haven’t yet become stars feels like the only odd and made up thing here since one can imagine hearing the voice of any of the contestants on their iPod right now –  the 50 year old Black Diva; the preppy male opera singer with the Josh Groban range; the sweet voiced but 37 year old undiscovered country singer.

I can't argue with anything that features chairs so prominently

“The Voice” evens the odds at a time when getting a break seems impossible in today’s economy while “Smash” feels like a piece of fantasy that puts the 99.9% of us who are in the majority out of the running – not exactly an appealing scenario right now.

Unlike Komen ,“The Voice” takes us from the reality to a real life that is possible.  And unlike “Smash” it knows how far to stray before we find its stories ridiculous.  And unlike all of our all too real lives, it can be counted on to always give us a believable happy ending, despite whatever adverse circumstances its hero comes up against.

If only real life could indeed be counted on to be just like that.  Then we could all keep running forever – both alive and happy.