If you think I'm unsophisticated now, imagine how much less worldly I was when I was twelve. So in my tender adolescence you wouldn't expect me to be clever enough to recognize that the TV show, "THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS," was stupid and stinky, (in today's slang; unwatchable). ABC-TV's powers-that-be shared my opinion and canceled this this lame crap in its first season, (twenty-two episodes, September 1967-March 1968).
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These days, my adult taste in TV is limited to, "THE BIG BANG THEORY," "AMERICAN PICKERS" and police dramas. My current cop show favorites are, FOX's "BACKSTROM" and CBS's, "BATTLE CREEK."
Both of these detective shows premiered this year. It's unusual that I get in on the ground floor but in these cases, I looked forward to seeing two actors in new roles.
BACKSTROM is cleverly written and artistically photographed, (outdoor locales in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). It is so well-layered that the depth of the main character and off-chutes of the universally likable supporting cast can be examined for a long time.
Hidden behind a veneer of humor, the stories are intentionally far-fetched, In justifying the implausible situations, the show's true genius stems from grabbing the far-reaching sympathy of its viewers. The crime solving is secondary, the real allure comes from how the self-sabotaging, human time-bomb tip-toes through life's little mine field while doing a great job and surviving despite himself.
BATTLE CREEK features Dean Winters as detective Russ Agnew, in a improperly funded small town police department. I recognized Winters as the star of the "mayhem" commercials for All-State insurance, (other such companies have their TV spokespeople; like the Geico gecko and Flo from Progressive).
I liked Winters' stage presence in those ads so much, that I once said, "He should get his own show." Maybe I'm more sophisticated than I thought because he is the co-star of, Battle Creek.
The battle of Battle Creek is outwardly Winters, (as Russ Agnew) struggling with his insecurities. He uses his dedication to the job to hide his fears and perpetuate his loneliness. Those problems are heightened by the unenviable situation of competing against Mr. Perfect FBI Man.
Agent *Chamberlain appreciates the local cop's predicament and along with Agnew's supportive coworkers, try unsuccessfully, to show their friend and colleague, a better path through life.
* I like the homage to Wilt Chamberlain that the Battle Creek writers used, in naming the pristine FBI agent "Milt" Chamberlain. Even better, upon closer examination, both Milt and Wilt weren't as perfect as they seemed.
The psychology behind Russ Agnew's inability to help himself is the cornerstone of the show. Unlike a schmaltzy soap opera, the viewer is tantalized by how the hero must sift through his issues and find the deserved happiness that everyone else can envision for him. If that wasn't enough, simultaneously we take a guilty pleasure at how Agnew tries to unmask the real reason why the federal golden boy has been banished to an inferior position, (his town).
My DVR has been instrumental in helping me see each episode of BACKSTROM and BATTLE CREEK. In the VCR days, I lacked (still do) the tech savvy or patience to learn the complications of setting the damned thing. The DVR is so simple that even I can do it.
Back in the VCR days, I remember seeing snippets of, "THE X-FILES" during breaks at work. I was never a sci-fi guy but in those fifteen-minute windows, I always intrigued. Of course I wasn't intrigued enough to go through the rigmarole of remembering to go home and program my VCR. So I never saw more than a scene or two at a time.
|THE AWARD WINNING "X-FILES" WAS A MAINSTAY ON TV FOR NINE SEASONS, (202 EPISODES, 1993-2002). BEYOND SCI-FI, IT APPEALED TO A WIDE AUDIENCE BY CUTTING ACROSS MANY GENRES INCLUDING; HORROR, DRAMA AND MYSTERY.|
Times are different now. So while on a recent break at work, I got heavily into watching a cop drama on TV. You could have heard a pin drop the whole time as everyone in the room was absorbed. On my way out I whispered to an electrician, "What show is this?"
The show was, "FOREVER." It had slipped through my fingers but through the miracle of "ON DEMAND" and my DVR, I can easily go back see everything I missed.
Gruffudd is charming as Dr. Henry Morgan. Complete with a British accent, in a Sherlock Holmes-like manner, he assists the NYPD in solving murders without letting on about his "condition" or two centuries of medical expertise. Through deduction and the experience of his colorful past, the audience is treated to history lessons through flashbacks to Morgan's doctoring on; a slave ship, involvement in the Jack the Ripper case, the D-Day invasion etc.
"Forever" has many built-in devices to keep it going..."forever." The most compelling one is, Dr. Morgan frequently looks at his immortality as a curse. He is often shown as pre-occupied as he investigates how to sidestep his "gift" in order to finally rest in peace.
At the same time, a recurring character "Adam" is apparently "infected" by a 2000-year version of the same evil affliction. However, Adam wants to murder Morgan, but the doctor wants to die on his own terms.
Additionally, a female detective finds Morgan fascinating. Several times when he puts together obscure clues and comes up with a solution, she says, "How could you possibly know that?" Through this partnership, her admiration blossoms beyond a mere fondness until she suffers from unrequited love.
This show is so good that despite the para-normal gimmicks, I appreciate the acting, its intelligence, depth and high production value.
So between, BACKSTROM, BATTLE CREEK and FOREVER, I'll be entertained with cool triple features for years...or so you would think. Sadly, yesterday, I came up with a startling revelation or should I say, I got kicked in my balls.
Suddenly, my "nothing's better than a triple-header," line has gone sour. Upon researching "Backstrom" I found out that its ratings were putrid...and Fox cancelled the show earlier this week!
I cared what happened to Backstrom. I made an investment of time, thought and emotion but came up empty. It felt like I had the character's metaphoric blood and guts in my hands. Rather than cry about my loss, I rushed to make sure that "Battle Creek" wasn't slashed... But CBS had already done its fiendish worst. I was stunned. The world will never learn Detective Agnew's fate or what his nemesis did to be dumped in Battle Creek?
When I stopped feeling sorry for myself, an impulse of fear careened through my nervous system. I concluded, what if "Forever," (my latest and only cop show gem I had left), was also gutted and tossed atop the dung heap of cancelled shows.
I knew it was impossible but to be on the safe side, I was motivated to see it in black and white. Holy cow! I never counted on the color red. After all, how could corporate bigwigs cut such an ingenious program especially with an eternal title like,"Forever"...but due to marginal ratings, it was axed! That means, I wasn't kicked in the balls once, I wasn't kick in the balls twice...I was kicked in the balls thrice! OUCH, OUCH and OUCH!!!
Maybe I should contact a certified wordsmith to help me find a negative counterpart to my; nothing's better ...than a triple-header line. So far the best I can do is; anything's better...than a triple-header.
Oy, it's time to crank-up the old DVR and get ready to settle in for an inferior triple-header of, "THE THREE STOOGES," "MY THREE SONS" and "THREE ON A MATCH."
|"THREE ON A MATCH," (1971-1974) WAS A DULL QUIZ SHOW HOSTED BY BILL CULLEN, (above).|
Sometimes you can't account for people's taste, (tripe like "THREE ON A MATCH" lasted three seasons). So I'm left unhappily baffled. I can't believe all three of my cop show favorites will be forever linked to and be considered the same lame crap as, "THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS."