Hire the Bozo

On the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Global News Network, Stanley Lloyd Spenser III, third generation owner and CEO of GNN, sat at the head of the solid mahogany table in the corporate boardroom. He fumbled for the right words to say, words he knew would change the direction of the network, broadcast journalism, and most likely, the entire world.

“Hire The Bozo,” he said to his underling Kirk Kirfartagain, sitting across the table from him.

“But, sir, The Bozo hasn’t been seen for six months. The last he was seen was in Zwackystan.”

“You’re going to have to dun your duds, dude, and go find him.”

“But, sir, I’m allergic to traveling.”

His boss, The Third, picked up the phone next to him and buzzed his Administrative Assistant. “Miss Pinkhouse, come in here please.”

The door to the boardroom opened and Melicia Pinkhouse, Administrative Assistant to The Big Cheese, Stanley Lloyd 3, came into the room.

“Yes, sir,” Mel came back with.

“Take K. K. with you to the Banana Republic, get him some duds, and go with him to Zwackystan. You have to find The Bozo.”

“But, sir…” she said.

“And get going today. I want to see El Boz by the end of the week. We need him to save The Network. And possibly the whole world.”

“But, sir…” she said again.

“Don’t ‘but, Sir’ me. After all, I am the Commander-in-Chief of this here Network. And what I say goes.”

“But, sir…. she said again some more.

“Look, Britannia rules the waves. So salute the flag and get the hell to Zwacky before you loose your corporate head to someone who is the adventuresome type.”

“But I’m no Morton Stanley,” K. K. said.

“Neither am I,” The Third came back with. “That was my great-great-grandpappy.”

“But, sir…” Miss Pinkhouse interrupted.

“Look, Pinky…” The Third said.

And before you can count one-two-three, she jumped in with, “The Bozo is in my office, sir.”

The Third breathed a sigh of relief.

Three weeks later, The Bozo was the new Anchorman. The Third finally sold the network to TNP, which stands for Take-No-Prisoners, for an undisclosed few billion bucks. Then he retired and went to live on his ranch in Hawaii, called the Big Pineapple. He moved with his actress wife, Playne Rhonda, who had won three Academy Awards for portraying actresses in distress. In her youth, she had protested the War in Grenada, then converted and become a Born-Again Born-Againer. She also had a new line of pregnant wear called Pregs for Pregs, and had a new series of highly successful exercise videos called “Out of body, out of mind.”

Stan and Playne lived happily ever after. That is, until The Third was asked to take over TNP and make it as successful as GNN had been. And he did that too. After he got his divorce.

Binge-worthy

I prefer movies to tv shows. But occasionally I strike gold with a tv series. “Lonesome Dove,” “The Sopranos,” “NYPD Blue,” “Deadwood,” HBO’s “Rome.” And now “Downton Abbey.” And when I watched these, it was like reading a great novel.

For six seasons, PBS gave us an updated version of “Upstairs Downstairs.” Only this one was in a great house in the country. While “Upstairs Downstairs” covered the twenty-seven years from 1903 to 1930, the “Downton Abbey” years are 1912 to 1926. But both series have one thing in common, the tremendous changes in British society and how its people, including the aristocracy, had to adapt. Throughout the series, the devastation of World War One, the changing role for women, and the new job opportunities for the working class will play an important part in the story of Downtown Abbey.

“Downton Abbey” is a family story with all the challenges, conflicts and triumphs that families have. Though there is an upstairs and a downstairs, we come to see that downstairs is as much a part of the family as upstairs.

Downton Abbey is the home of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), and his wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern). They live at Downton with their three daughters, Mary (Michelle Dockery), Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Sybil (Sybil). Downstairs are the butler, Carson (Jim Carter), the housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), the cook Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol). Daisy the cook’s maid (Sophie McShera) and the footman Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier). And watching over this household is the Dowager Violet Crawley, Lord Robert’s mother (Maggie Smith), just down the way.

In the opening season, Lord Robert learns that his heir lost his life on the Titanic. Since a woman cannot inherit the estate, Robert must find a distant relative for an heir. And it is preferable that Lady Mary marry this heir. Otherwise she will be out on her own with only small inheritance.

A crippled man, John Bates (Brendan Coyle), joins the household staff as his lordship’s valet. Thomas believes the job should be rightfully his. And he will do everything he can to bring Bates down.

Meanwhile the youngest daughter takes up with the new chauffeur (Allen Leech). Lady Edith, the middle daughter, seems to have trouble bursting out of her wallflower role. And Lady Mary resists all efforts to put her together with Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens).

Then comes World War One and Downton must do its part for King and Country.

As the seasons roll along, we come to care about these people and their problems as much as we would our own families. Then we’re finished with the six seasons and the movie and we’re finding ourselves longing for the good old days of Downton Abbey.

Uncle Bardie in TV Land

I’m not much of a TV guy. Given a choice between a good TV show or a good movie, the movie wins every time. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a television show’s ability to come into my home and make itself at home.

When I do choose a TV show or series, I have one criteria: Do I want to spend that much time with these people? To answer that question, I usually give the show one episode. Sometimes less. Fleabag fits that criteria. Very seldom more. If I watch three episodes that means I find these people worth my time. The Boys broke that rule. One season of it, and I was done.

With that in mind, I thought I would list the top ten TV shows I enjoyed spending time with. And would still spend more time with.

1.Jeopardy (1984-present), syndication. As far as I am concerned, Alex Trebeck and Ken Jennings are the cat’s pajamas. So much so I have a small shrine to St. Alex and St. Ken on the shelf below my television.

2.The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-present), Amazon Prime. Here’s a comedy that’s actually funny. And more.

3.Newhart (1982-1990), CBS. Dr. Bob moves to Vermont and gets a new wife. He’s running an inn with the help of handyman George and “My name is Larry. And this is my brother Daryl and this is my other brother Daryl.

4.Mom (2013-present), CBS. You don’t have to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous to enjoy this one.

5.Seinfeld (1989-1998), NBC. Who knew nothing could be so funny.

6.Northern Exposure (1990-1995), CBS. If ever there was a show about community, this tale of small town Alaska is it.

7.The Expanse (2015-present), Amazon Prime. One of the best science fiction series on television. Ever.

8.Lonesome Dove (1989), CBS. May be just about the best Western ever.

9.West Wing (1999-2006), NBC. Who knew that politics could be so interesting.

10.The Muppet Show (1976-1981), syndication. Jim Henson was a genius.

There are others like Gilligan’s Island and Dick Cavett which I remember fondly but these are the ones that have held up over the years, for me.

What about Game of Thrones? some might ask. The series was fun while it lasted. But no way am I going to do a re-do and sit through another Winter. Winter has come and gone and I’m ready for Spring.

10 favorite moments in acting

Every so often I watch a movie or tv show and the actor(s) take my breath away with their performance. But it’s more than a performance. The actors have created life on film. This blog post recognizes ten of those incredible moments.

  1. Judd Hirsch and Wallace Shawn as brothers in Season 20, Episode 10 of “Law and Order Special Victims Unit.”
  2. Emma Thompson in the HBO film, “Wit.”
  3. Kate Winslet in the movie, “The Reader.”
  4. Al Pacino in the movie, “The Merchant of Venice.”
  5. Benedict Cumberbatch in “Richard III” of ‘The Hollow Crown” series.
  6. John Hurt as John Merrick in David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man.”
  7. Whoopi Goldberg in the movie, “The Color Purple.”
  8. Donald Sutherland in the movie, “Ordinary People.”
  9. Andy Griffith in the movie, “A Face in the Crowd.”
  10. Geoffrey Rush in the movie, “Final Portrait.”

Perhaps you have a favorite acting performance that moved you. Please feel free to mention it in the comments below.

The Three Ems

The Three Ems is “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” on Amazon Prime.

Joel Maisel has the perfect life. He has a great job. He makes beaucoup amounts of dough at the job. He has a great wife, the perfect housewife fifties-style. He has two great kids. He has a great apartment in a great city. New York City to be exact.

Yet it isn’t enough. Joel isn’t happy.

He has a dream. He wants to be a stand-up comedian. He’s wanted this since he was a kid. He wants it so bad he is doing stand-up at The Gaslight Cafe in New York City and he is using Bob Newhart’s material. Because “this is the way comedians get their start.”

When Midge, his wife, finds out, she insists he do his own material. Maybe a bit on his sweater. It has holes in it. He takes a risk. He steps off the cliff with the sweater bit. He doesn’t fly because he just isn’t funny.

But Midge is. When Joel leaves her because his stand-up doesn’t stand-up, she gets smashed, loaded, drunk. She walks onto The Gaslight Cafe stage and has the audience rofl-ing. As Jackie Gleason used to say, “Away we go.”

Fpr tjhe rest of Season One, Midge, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, has to learn how to do stand-up sober. Along the way, she gets some help, and bail money, from the legendary Lenny Bruce before he was the legendary Lenny Bruce. And she has to prove herself in 1950s America when women were not allowed to be funny. They were housewives.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is the real deal. Mrs. Maisel is hysterically funny. Besides that, she is laughing-out-loud funny. And Rachel Brosnahan nails the role. In addition to a great lead, Amazon has surrounded her with an outstanding casts. There’s the wonderful Tony Shalhoub as Abe, her father; Alex Borstein as her agent, and friend, Susie Myerson; Michael Zegen as Joel Maisel, her ex; Marin Hinkle as her mother, Rose; and Luke Kirby is Lenny Bruce.

The creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” have given me two great seasons to binge on. I can’t way to crawl back into the Amazon time machine in December and return to 1950s America. Maybe, just maybe, John Kennedy will be elected President and Midge will get a spot on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Who knows? She might get the chance to share the stage with The Beatles.