Points of Ponderation…..Episode 2.18

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

There’s a teachers’ strike going on right now here in West Virginia. I don’t have a dog in the fight and don’t feel informed enough to offer a specific opinion except that teachers perform one of the most crucial yet thankless jobs in our society and are vastly underpaid in proportion to the importance of what they do. However, I saw the following posted on social media last week and it moved me in an odd way:

It is with heavy heart we announce that this weekend’s performances of Barnum are cancelled. We are so thankful for the support we have received from our community, and nothing can take away all that we have learned and experienced while preparing for this show. It was beautiful, and if you can take a moment to do so, please see it in your heart.

One of the local high schools had a theater production scheduled, with performances all weekend. Due to the work stoppage those shows were going to be cancelled, although eventually things were worked and the shows went on as planned. It is unlikely that many of the students involved are going to major in theater in college or go on to a career in the arts, so this may have been a once in a lifetime opportunity, a chance to do something fun and “out of the box” that they’ll never have again, and they very nearly missed out on being able to do it. What if the next Al Pacino or Kate Winslet was in the cast and performing in the play is the spark that ignites a passion?? What if a labor dispute that has nothing to do with those students would have extinguished that spark before it ever happened?? Life is about opportunities…those we get and those we miss. Baseball fans know the story of Wally Pipp, a New York Yankees infielder back in the 1920’s who, in the midst of a batting slump, came to the ball park with a headache and asked the trainer for a couple of aspirin. The team’s manager told Pipp to take the day off and inserted Lou Gehrig into the lineup. Pipp lost his job that day, while Gehrig went on to play in 2130 consecutive games, a record that stood for almost sixty years. I’m glad that those students didn’t miss out on their opportunity, whatever may come of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be candid, Kathie Lee Gifford has always gotten on my nerves a bit. A little goes a long way if you know what I’m saying. However, while channel surfing one day I happened to catch her warm tribute to Rev. Billy Graham, who had just passed away. What she shared about her relationship with Jesus Christ was one of the best testimonies I’ve ever heard, and it truly touched my heart. But then…a day or two later…I was again channel surfing, and decided to check out her show, which is the fourth hour of NBC’s Today and was being co-hosted by President Bush’s daughter Jenna Bush Hager. And what was the first thing the two ladies did?? They imbibed a big ol’ cocktail (quite strong according to them)…at 10 o’clock in the morning. Now far be it for me to cast the first stone, because I’m sure there are enough people that’d line up to enumerate my many flaws, but it struck me just how easily we can harm our Christian witness. Here is a woman that just a day or two before had made a powerful statement about loving Jesus, and now she was getting liquored up on national television. It is a learning opportunity, and a reminder that what we say & do represents us, our families, and our Lord & Savior, so we need to be mindful about representing those entities well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently chronicled my general thoughts about gun control, but to date have refrained from specific comments on the Valentine’s Day mass shooting in Parkland, FL. When such a tragedy occurs reactions of all varieties are plentiful, although it generally boils down to gun control advocates versus defenders of The Second Amendment. However, no matter which side of that debate a response may be on, the fact is that they are oftentimes emotional & extreme, which is understandable to a degree. The aftermath of any kind of mass shooting inevitably raises the question “Why??”, with answers leading to discussions about gun control, mental health, & the decay of morality in society. What tends to get lost in the midst of arguments about the larger issues are the specifics of the particular incident itself, and in this case that would be a huge mistake, because this time the question of “Why??” seems to have some very clear answers. It is obvious that protections & preventative measures on multiple levels failed miserably and cost 17 people their lives. I have a tremendous amount of respect for law enforcement and feel like they’ve gotten an undeserved bad rap the last several years, but in this situation to say that both the FBI & local police “dropped the ball” would be a glib understatement. And as usual the media can be counted on to stir the pot. I understand that it’s a story they have to cover, but I have an issue with using teenagers to advance a political agenda. I’m trying hard not to blame the kids, although it seems like some of them have been pretty quick to get in front of as many television cameras as possible, which doesn’t strike me as a normal reaction. I am by no means a firearms expert, but I know enough to recognize the half-truths & lies of omission that the press uses to spin a story, and I’m knowledgeable enough to realize that too many people reporting on this & similar heartbreaking events are either quite ignorant about guns or blatantly lie to highlight their biased viewpoint.

 

 

 

100 Memorable TV Characters…Part 2

I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.  –  Orson Welles

 

 

 

Welcome back!! If you haven’t checked out Part 1 yet please do. I think you’ll enjoy it.

As I’ve been working on this project I’ve been amazed just how varied & wide-ranging my television watching habits have been, and the span of time we are covering. I certainly have a preference for comedy and am an undeniable child of the 80’s, but have been fortunate to have been exposed to a wide variety of things in my lifetime. Syndication has helped me to appreciate programs that I may have otherwise been too young to have seen, and I can’t help but think about how kids growing up today have the advantage of streaming, which is cool on many levels. At any rate, we reach the halfway point today. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

75     The Castaways (Gilligan’s Island)

Gilligan’s Island is probably best remembered these days for its catchy theme song, but a funny show has to have more than that, right?? However, that tune does do a great job of introducing us to the group of folks who are aboard the SS Minnow for “a three hour tour” when they become shipwrecked on a remote Pacific island after a tropical storm. The eponymous Gilligan is the ship’s first mate, a bumbling screw-up (FYI…remember Jerry Van Dyke?? He also turned down the role of Gilligan. Oops.). Captain Jonas Grumby…simply known as The Skipper…served in the Navy with Gilligan, who once saved his life. The Skipper often becomes exasperated with the other castaways, especially Gilligan, but he’s also a good friend and big brother figure who affectionately calls Gilligan “Little Buddy”. Thurston Howell III & his wife Lovey are eccentric millionaires who hilariously try to retain their affluent lifestyle despite being stranded on an island. Ginger Grant is a famous movie star clearly based atleast somewhat on Marilyn Monroe. She insists on wearing expensive gowns at all times. Mary Ann Summers is a beautiful Kansas farm girl who won her “three hour tour” in a contest. She is the classic girl-next-door, much more practical & less haughty than Ginger. Professor Roy Hinkley…referred to as The Professor by the others…is a high school science teacher who joined the “three hour tour” to do research for a book about botany. He has a list of college degrees a mile long, and uses bamboo & coconuts to construct all kinds of creature comforts for the group…but can never come up with a way to get them rescued.

 

74     Denny Crane & Alan Shore (Boston Legal)

Boston Legal is an underrated dramedy that aired on ABC more than a decade ago. It was a spinoff of The Practice, which was another overlooked show. Two of the attorneys on Boston Legal are Denny Crane & Alan Shore. This was William Shatner’s big TV comeback after the 80’s cop show TJ Hooker, and James Spader’s initial foray into television after a mildly successful film career that included 80’s classics Pretty in Pink, Mannequin, Less Than Zero, Wall Street, and Sex, Lies, & Videotape. Denny Crane is a senior partner and a self-proclaimed legend in the legal profession. He’s also nuttier than a damn fruitcake, which he attributes to mad cow disease. He has questionable ethics, enjoys shooting a pistol in his office, and loves to say his own name. Alan Shore is a brilliant legal mind who, like his colleague, also has dubious ethical standards. He is neurotic and routinely finds himself in hot water for his unconventional courtroom antics. At the end of each episode Alan & Denny relax on the balcony outside of Denny’s office smoking cigars, drinking scotch, & discussing the events of the day. Alan & Denny are one of the most peculiar duos in television history, but despite the show winning its fair share of awards it never got great ratings and only lasted five seasons. That’s a shame, because even to this day I’d enjoy seeing more of Alan & Denny.

 

73     Jack & Rebecca Pearson (This Is Us)

I am violating my own rule. Usually, when compiling a list such as this, I refrain from being a prisoner of the moment. I typically opine that greatness takes time and we shouldn’t assign hyperbolic superlatives to something that is still in the present, that hasn’t had time to percolate and be viewed thru the unforgiving prism of time. However, if you aren’t watching NBC’s This Is Us…only in its second season…then you are missing out on one of the finest television programs of its generation. The premise is brilliant, the performances reside in their own stratosphere, & the writing is superb. Jack & Rebecca are the parents of three children that we get to know both as children & adults. The show time jumps between different intervals from 1980 thru the present…and on occasion even provides a glimpse of the future. We know that Jack is dead in the present, but in the past he is seen as an ideal husband & father. Yes he does battle alcoholism, but seems to successfully tackle the problem when faced with the prospect of losing his family. Rebecca in the present is reserved & tough, while in the past she is extroverted & approachable. Viewers are just beginning to understand her evolution, which is kind of the point of the whole show. Why are we the way we are?? How do events…big & small…in our childhood/youth/young adulthood shape who we become later in life?? Jack & Rebecca aren’t extraordinary. They aren’t wealthy. They don’t have cool & exciting jobs. They are average middle class parents from Pittsburgh who adore their children and do the best they can navigating the obstacles of life. And that’s exactly why we love them.

 

72     Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)

HIMYM and I suffered a bad break-up. Many fans were angered & felt misled after the series finale in 2014. I vowed to never watch a rerun and have abided by that, which is a damn shame because it was a cool show up until that horrific dénouement. Having said that, I will reluctantly give proper credit. Viewers of a certain age may remember Neil Patrick Harris for his early 1990s portrayal of Doogie Howser, a prodigious 16 year old doctor, but Barney is no Doogie. He is a thirtysomething bank executive in a clear state of arrested development, described by his best buddy as a high functioning sociopath. He’s a suit wearing, catchphrase spewing, manipulative & self-absorbed ladies’ man who fancies himself an expert on women. In reality most people would hate a guy like Barney, and within the context of the show even his friends aren’t too sure about him. However, as a sitcom character his outlandish shtick is entertaining, and NPH’s performance is all the more remarkable given the fact that he is actually a flaming homosexual in real life.

 

71     Coach Ernie Pantuso & Woody Boyd (Cheers)

Cheers had a true ensemble cast so it is difficult to choose some characters over others. However, each is so different that it seems natural that fans would have their favorites. One of the cool things about the show is that even when there were departures new arrivals plugged right in and kept the laughs coming for 11 seasons, making Cheers one of the longest running sitcoms of all time. Coach is an original cast member. He is a former baseball coach & current bartender who is an amusing blend of senile & naïve. Nicholas Colasanto passed away after Season 3, therefore Coach also died and was replaced with the equally simpleminded Woody, an Indiana country boy whose charming innocence is in direct contrast to the neurotic cynicism of his colleagues. Whether intentional or not casting directors pulled off a neat trick. They filled the void left by Coach’s death with a character who is by no means a carbon copy but nevertheless retains many of the quirky traits that fans loved about his predecessor.

 

70     Dan Fielding (Night Court)

Smarmy. That’s the word that comes to mind about Dan Fielding, the night shift prosecutor for Manhattan’s criminal court. Dan is a greedy, narcissistic horndog who looks at his colleagues & the criminals they all encounter on a nightly basis with contempt. Dan is always quick with an insult and constantly seeking opportunities to make easy money or score with easy women. He’s the kind of guy few would want to deal with in real life, but as a sitcom character he adds a layer of joviality to what is obviously meant to be good old-fashioned slapstick.

 

69     The Church Lady (Saturday Night Live)

Her name is Enid Strict. Did you know that?? Dana Carvey’s interpretation of an elderly, sanctimonious, pejorative congregant has its basis…like all of the best impersonations…in truth, or atleast our preconceived notions of it. Thankfully most churchgoers I’ve known in my life aren’t quite as harsh as The Church Lady, but one can choose to see the character as a cautionary tale. The sketch…in which Enid hosts a show called Church Chat…also serves as a vehicle to poke fun at various celebrities with dubious scruples & the assorted scandals they find themselves in. I’m a little surprised that there was never a Church Lady movie, but that’s probably just as well. Too many SNL based films have proven that a little bit goes a long way, and I’m glad the legacy of this particular character wasn’t besmirched that way.

 

68     Toby Ziegler (The West Wing)

Toby is the Communications Director in the Jed Bartlet White House. He is a soft-spoken, morose, idealistic, prickly man with a profound sense of morality and extremely high standards. He is one of the President’s most trusted advisors and rarely backs down from an argument. I’m not sure I could be friends with Toby because we would likely clash over contrasting bedrock principles and he’s way too tightly wound for my taste, but he’s the kind of person one can’t help but deeply respect.

 

67     John Walton Jr. (The Waltons)

One of the cooler aspects of The Waltons that many might forget is its framing device. The series is essentially a reflection of the past by John Walton Jr….aka John Boy…whose older incarnation does a rather lyrical opening & closing narration for each episode. Depression Era John Boy is who we see onscreen, and he is the eldest of six siblings that live with their parents & grandparents at the foot of a mountain in rural Virginia. John Boy is quietly ambitious and eventually leaves Walton’s Mountain to pursue a career in writing. Amongst the most endearing traditions in television is the end of each episode when all of the various family members lay in their beds in the darkness and tell each other goodnight. To contrast wholesome, sentimental shows like The Waltons with much of what passes for entertainment nowadays is like comparing filet mignon to scrapple. Goodnight John Boy…thanks for the memories.

 

66     Arnold Horshack (Welcome Back Kotter)

Who remembers Welcome Back Kotter??

Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh!! I do!!

Horshack is the nerdiest Sweathog, the class clown always ready with the perfect one-liner. In contrast to the others, who like to believe they’re way cool & above it all, he is kind of whiny and not really a hallmark of machismo, but that’s okay because he’s seems genuine and, rather than beat him up like tough guys usually do nerds in high school stories, at James Buchanan High School in Brooklyn, NY Horshack is just one of the guys.

 

65     Howard Wolowitz (The Big Bang Theory)

I suppose I’m going against my own philosophy again, but since TBBT is in its 11th season I think it’s fair to say that we have a big enough sample size for a knowledgeable analysis of the character. Out of everyone on the show Howard is the one who has undergone the greatest amount of growth, evolving from a clueless lecher, mama’s boy, & wannabe ladies’ man to a devoted husband & father. Oh sure he still has quirks (I don’t understand why any man would voluntarily wear a dickey) and he’s still one of the most idiosyncratic & comical parts of the ensemble, but I like the fact that he has developed & matured instead of playing the kind of oblivious buffoon that never grows up. With TBBT certainly in its last couple of seasons I would be all in on a Wolowitz spinoff.

 

64     The General Lee (The Dukes of Hazzard)

Yes, I know…it’s a car. Yet I submit to you that The General Lee is just about as important as any other character on The Dukes of Hazzard. I was part of one of the key demographics…pre-teen boys…that made the show successful back in the early 80’s because guys love fast cars, especially ones that can leap over things like Superman. Plus it had that really cool horn!! And let’s not overlook the fact that it’s the car and only the car that has made the show “controversial” the past few years, decades after its original run. There is absolutely nothing else that anyone can point to about The Dukes of Hazzard as being “offensive” since it is about the least provocative television program ever produced. I read somewhere that 300+ General Lees were used in the course of seven seasons, and that only about 17 still exist. PGA golfer Bubba Watson owns one of the 17, but during the “controversy” a few years ago he indicated that he was going to paint the American flag over the Confederate flag. I don’t know if he actually followed thru or was just saying the politically correct thing in the midst of the storm, but either way he’s a moron that I haven’t cheered for since and never will again.

 

63     Dwayne Schneider (One Day at a Time)

One Day at a Time was a preachy sitcom…sporadically funny, but the kind of show that took itself way too seriously, an afterschool special with a laugh track about a single mother starting over in the big city with bratty teenage daughters. Of course I was in grade school when it was on, so it’d be reasonable to assume that I just didn’t “get it”. At any rate, levity (and testosterone) was provided by building super Schneider, whose pornstache & tool belt make him look like the love child of Clark Gable & Batman. He’s an affable windbag, the kind of neighbor that can be annoying but you miss him when he’s not around.

 

62     Felix Unger & Oscar Madison (The Odd Couple)

The Odd Couple is a 1968 Neil Simon play that begat a 1968 feature film starring the incomparable Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau. The concept came to television for five seasons beginning in 1970, with Tony Randall & Jack Klugman in the lead roles. Though its original run ended before my 3rd birthday the magic of syndication allowed me to appreciate Felix & Oscar throughout my childhood. Felix is a persnickety fussbudget who works as a professional photographer. Oscar is a laid-back disheveled sportswriter. When Felix gets tossed out by his wife he shows up at Oscar’s door needing a place to live. The two are oil & water…they couldn’t be more different. The word sitcom is short for situation comedy, meaning that the laughs are theoretically generated by the situation, but it is clear to anyone who’s ever watched much TV that characters matter more than the situations they are put in, and The Odd Couple is a prime example. The legacy of Felix & Oscar is a formula that screenwriters for television & movies have been trying to copy for decades, but it really is difficult to measure up to the original.

 

61     Sam Malone (Cheers)

The foundation of Cheers is bar owner Sam, a former Boston Red Sox relief pitcher and recovering alcoholic. He is supposed to embody the dumb jock stereotype, but doesn’t appear to be all that unintelligent. He’s a somewhat vain ladies’ man who uses his fading celebrity to score with women. The first five seasons of the show focused largely on Sam’s antagonistic romance with erudite waitress Diane Chambers, and her departure freed him up to grown ever so slightly in the latter half of Cheers’ decade+ on the air. In hindsight one may choose to look at the show’s regulars as kind of sad…losers who waste away hours of their hollow & futile existence in a bar. Sam is their pack leader, a lonely man desperately holding on to remnants of past glory and trading in alcohol for sex to satisfy an unhealthy addiction. However, since I was a teenager the majority of the years Cheers was on I remember it as a funny, well-written show and recall Sam Malone as a cool & amusing guy who is good to a group of friends with whom he engages in humorous hijinks.

 

60     Larry, Darryl, & Darryl (Newhart)

Vermont isn’t typically the first place that comes to mind when one ponders rednecks, but three of the funniest to ever appear on television lived there…and two of them never uttered a word in 8 seasons (until the legendary series finale). They always introduce themselves the same way…”Hi, I’m Larry. This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.” I believe the characters were supposed to be a one shot deal, but were such a hit with the audience that they became a regular part of the cast, even running the neighborhood café. They remind me a little bit of The Darling Family, who guest starred in several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show back in the 1960’s.

 

59     Major Frank Burns (MASH)

Frank Burns was originally portrayed by Robert Duvall in the 1970 film, but I think the character is actually funnier on the TV series. Frank is an uptight & inept surgeon who doesn’t appreciate the sophomoric antics of some of his colleagues, and he is on the receiving end of a lot of insults & practical jokes. He carries on an allegedly secret affair with Hot Lips Houlihan that pretty much everyone at the 4077th knows all about. When she gets married to another soldier Frank has a nervous breakdown and is discharged from the army, eventually landing an administrative gig at a veteran’s hospital in Indiana. After Frank’s departure at the end of Season 5 I feel like MASH lost much of its wit and became a little more sanctimonious than originally intended.

 

58     Vinnie Barbarino (Welcome Back Kotter)

It is really easy to blur the lines between character and actor, especially when that actor is a megastar. Kotter is responsible for launching John Travolta’s career into the stratosphere. His role in the show led to being cast in Saturday Night Fever, which of course led to Grease. The rest is history. Vinnie is the apparent leader of the Sweathogs. He’s cool, good looking, confident, popular with the ladies…and dumb as a box of rocks. After Travolta’s film career took off he didn’t completely leave the show, but was only in about a third of the final season’s episodes. High school shows are tenuous anyway because eventually the characters are no longer credible as teenagers, but many such programs have found a way to evolve. However, losing Travolta meant losing Vinnie, and Kotter couldn’t survive without him.

 

57     George & Weezie Jefferson (The Jeffersons)

The Jeffersons was a spinoff of All in the Family that approaches racial issues from a slightly different perspective. George is a prosperous businessman who owns a chain of dry cleaning stores, and his success allows he & his wife Weezie to move from their house in Queens to a swanky penthouse apartment on the upper east side of Manhattan. They even have a maid. George is a fast-talking smartass, while Weezie is the classic exasperated wife who understands her husband’s faults and is often irritated by his antics, but loves him anyway.

 

56     Gordon Shumway (ALF)

The titular Alien Life Form from the planet Melmac has a name…Gordon Shumway. The show is a unique fish-out-of-water story, and Gordon is a sardonic yet good-hearted jokester who looks like some sort of Dr. Seuss/Jim Henson mashup. He’d really like to eat the family cat, but of course never does, and is purportedly working on fixing his spaceship so he can return home, but that process takes the entirety of the show’s four seasons. In what ended up being the series finale we get a cliffhanger in which Gordon is captured by the government before he can escape to Melmac, which is a pretty crappy conclusion for a memorable character.

 

55     Johnny Drama (Entourage)

By far my favorite HBO series was Entourage, about a Queens, NY born actor and his buddies living the high life in Hollywood. The movie star in the show is loosely based on the life of Mark Wahlberg, aka early 90’s hip-hop rapper Marky Mark, who of course went on to star in movies like Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm, & The Departed. You may recall that Mark has an older brother named Donnie, who achieved success as part of 80’s boy band New Kids on the Block but then fell into relative obscurity before starring in the TV show Blue Bloods, which has been a modest hit at best. It is fair to say Mark’s stardom eclipsed that of his older brother long ago. The older brother on Entourage is Johnny Chase, aka Johnny Drama. He found success starring in a sci-fi fantasy show called Viking Quest, but then his career stalled as his little brother Vince’s star rose, and now he is ostensibly employed as Vince’s personal chef & bodyguard. Johnny outwardly displays bravado & confidence in his ability as an actor, but he is obviously insecure and all too aware that his brother is much more talented. He loves Vince and isn’t really jealous of his success, but hilariously seizes every opportunity to ride his coattails. Johnny, as my grandmother used to say, has more BS than a Christmas turkey, so while everybody likes him no one really takes him seriously.

 

54     Dick Loudon (Newhart) & Dr. Bob Hartley (The Bob Newhart Show)

How can anyone not love Bob Newhart?? He is quietly & subtly hilarious, as opposed to many loud & obnoxious comedians. He essentially played himself…or comparable versions of his stage persona…in two different sitcoms. In the 70’s he was Dr. Bob Hartley, a mild-mannered psychiatrist dealing with a zany group of patients & colleagues. In the 80’s he was Dick Loudon, a mild-mannered writer & innkeeper dealing with an entire town of eccentric oddballs. I think I like the second show a little more than its predecessor, but that’s probably because I was a little older when Newhart was on and remember it better.

 

53     Latka Gravas (Taxi)

Andy Kaufman was more of a performance artist than a stand-up comedian, and he definitely marched to a different drumbeat than everyone else. His most enduring creation is a character called Foreign Man, a staple of his comedy club act. That persona was the basis for Latka, a timid mechanic at the Sunshine Cab Company who has multiple personalities, a concept that allowed Kaufman to portray different characters. Kaufman was famously reluctant to sign on for Taxi and didn’t really enjoy playing Latka, but nevertheless created an enduring character that was a welcome addition to the ensemble.

 

52         Dawson Leery & Joey Potter (Dawson’s Creek)

I am not ashamed to admit that I loved Dawson’s Creek!! High school shows are a tried & true television staple, and occasionally they appeal to age groups other than teenagers. The early seasons of Dawson’s Creek overlapped with the final years of the ostensibly cooler and unquestionably glitzier Beverly Hills 90210, a program to which I never really became all that attached. The kids in Capeside, MA seemed much more relevant & grounded than their left coast counterparts, and the writing was crisp & astute. The eponymous Dawson is an aspiring filmmaker whose hero is Steven Spielberg. Joey (a female for those not in the know) is the beautiful yet shy & awkward girl next door. Their relationship is the cornerstone of the show, and it’s one of those on again/off again will they or won’t they deals. Ultimately Joe ends up with Dawson’s best friend Pacey (and boy did that relationship cause some angst), while Dawson finds happiness with his true love…a writing gig in Hollywood.

 

51     Jack Tripper (Three’s Company)

Could you imagine a show like Three’s Company in the 21st century?? It would never fly. First of all, a guy and a couple of women living together is something most people wouldn’t raise an eyebrow about these days. And secondly, the idea that Jack has to lie to his landlord and say that he is gay to be allowed to stay in the apartment wouldn’t be politically correct now, no to mention the reactions of Mr. Roper & later on Mr. Furley to Jack’s alleged orientation. But this was four decades ago and the world was a different place. At any rate, Jack is the comedic cornerstone, an aspiring chef who hangs out with his lascivious pal Larry down at The Regal Beagle (a local watering hole), but respects the boundaries set within his living arrangement with roomies Janet & Chrissy (and later Cindy then Terri). Jack is a clumsy screw-up whose pratfalls provide many of each episode’s laughs.

 

 

 

Let’s take a break. We’ll dive into Part 3 tomorrow. Or the next day *lol*.

100 Memorable TV Characters…Part 1

The most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen is called television…but then again television at its best is magnificent.  –  Steve Jobs

 

 

I’ve always believed in God’s perfect timing, and have to say that with everything that has occurred recently in the world in general and The Manoverse specifically I am thankful for the distraction and the opportunity for a bit of levity. A platform like this can be many things…informative, entertaining, provocative, cathartic…for the reader as well as yours truly. Some folks paint. Others play music. Those blessed with a healthy metabolism pour out their sweat at the gym. I write. Throughout the near decade of The Manofesto’s existence I have endeavored to strike a balance between profound & frivolous, but oftentimes feel unsuccessful in that mission. For the next few days we’re going to skew toward fun because I think we could all use some of that right now. If you haven’t read the intro please go back and do so now. Otherwise…enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

100   Sheriff Jack Carter (Eureka)

It is likely that you missed out on the quirky Eureka a few years ago, a SyFy series about a secret government project in which an entire community in the Pacific Northwest is populated by geniuses. The one exception?? Single father Jack Carter, who is chosen to be the sheriff of Eureka. But, though his IQ is just average, Sheriff Carter uses good old-fashioned horse sense to figure out the bizarre calamities that tend to befall the town on an unnervingly regular basis. Eureka lasted for five seasons from 2006-12, and I must admit that I lost track of it in the final year or two. It was a show just a little ahead of its time, as I could see it being pretty successful nowadays if it aired on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Sheriff Carter stands out because a) he is a regular guy amongst all of the eccentricity surrounding him, & b) despite lacking the intellect of the others he exhibits more warmth, personality, pragmatism, & sincerity than most of the brainiacs, making him relatable to viewers.

 

99     Cody Lambert (Step by Step)

Step by Step is a 90’s twist on The Brady Bunch starring Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing on Dallas) & Suzanne Somers (Chrissy on Three’s Company). Dad’s nephew pops in during the first season and sticks around, living in a van in the family’s driveway. Cody is a hippy dippy valley boy that no one seems to get, but he’s too oblivious to understand that. He is portrayed by Sasha Mitchell, who had previously played Duffy’s nephew…James Ewing…on Dallas. Though he may be quite versatile as an actor Mitchell was quietly booted from the show in its 4th season after being accused of domestic abuse (the charges were later dropped). As a show Step by Step was an amusing yet bland offering typical of the kind of kid-friendly sitcoms ABC churned out in the 90’s (Full House being the most famous example), and was meant to mark big TV comebacks for Duffy & Somers. However, it was Cody Lambert that stood out from the pack.

 

98     Hank Hill (King of the Hill)

You may be surprised to know that I could probably count on one hand the number of episodes that I have ever watched of three decades old animated sitcom The Simpsons, so you won’t be seeing Bart or Homer on this list. It’s been so long ago that I don’t even recall why High School Me never became interested in that show. However, its success gave rise to similar programs, one of which is this late 90’s program that lasted for an impressive 13 seasons (full disclosure…my interest faded about halfway thru that run for some reason). Hank Hill is the patriarch of a middle class Texas family and the assistant manager of a propane store. I like Hank because he’s just a regular guy, an old-fashioned conservative with a strict moral code who is befuddled by the craziness that surrounds him. Unlike so many sitcom Dads he isn’t a total fool with a wandering eye and poor parenting skills. He’s not buff & sexy, but his wife loves him anyway. Hank Hill is exactly the kind of citizen in “flyover country” that the socio-intellectual elites in certain cultural epicenters like to ridicule, but as Jimmy Stewart once said, such folks “do most of the working and paying and living and dying” in this country, and occasionally it’s nice to see pop culture acknowledge that fact.

 

97     Lowell Mather (Wings)

Wings is an underappreciated 90’s sitcom from the same folks who created Cheers and Frasier, about two brothers operating a small airline on Nantucket, a small island that is part of Massachusetts and is where that girl in all the dirty jokes hails from. One of the employees at Sandpiper Air is airplane mechanic Lowell. He is a dimwitted sad sack, especially after he discovered his wife cheating on him & his houseboat got sank, but he usually has the best one-liners. When the actor decided to leave the show during its 7th season Lowell is forced into witness protection after seeing a mob hit, a plot that only skillful sitcom writers could make funny.

 

96     Topanga Lawrence (Boy Meets World)

Okay, I’ll admit it…I’m a dirty old man that thought Topanga was kind of hot in the latter seasons of Boy Meets World. Aside from that though, she has a cool name (taken from a real life canyon between Los Angeles & Malibu), she’s got a hippie/New Age vibe that I’d find irritating in reality but works really well in a sitcom, & is the kind of girl that stays true to herself and doesn’t back down from a challenge. JK Rowling got the inspiration for Harry Potter in 1990 and published the first book in 1995. Boy Meets World premiered in 1993. Hermione Granger reminds me more than a little of Topanga Lawrence. It does make one wonder…..

 

95     Steve Urkel (Family Matters)

Trust me ladies & gentlemen, I debated whether or not to leave him out just on principle, because it’s probably a damning indictment of our culture that Urkel was ever a thing. But he was a thing, and I cannot in good conscience ignore it. Family Matters was supposed to be a spinoff of Perfect Strangers centering on the Winslow family…elevator operator Harriet, policeman Carl, Harriet’s sister & nephew, Carl’s elderly mother, and Carl & Harriet’s two kids Eddie & Laura. But during Season 1 nerdy next door neighbor Urkel popped over for a visit and the rest is history. The show lasted for nine seasons, but the truth is that without the inexplicable popularity of Urkel it probably wouldn’t have made it half as long.

 

94     Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, & Miranda (Sex & the City)

For the first fifteen years of the new millennium The Bachelor Palace had HBO, until I discovered that Netflix was less expensive and way cooler. During those years I enjoyed…to varying degrees…watching shows like Lucky Louie, Entourage, Six Feet Under, The Mind of the Married Man, & Big Love. And, while I skipped acclaimed mob drama The Sopranos, I somehow became enamored with Sex & the City. It doesn’t feel right to rank one character over another, as they have their individual charms. Writer Carrie Bradshaw is the centerpiece & narrator. She’s a somewhat vain fashionista, but can also be sensitive & thoughtful. Samantha Jones is an oversexed & outspoken PR executive. I definitely wouldn’t call her a role model for women, but I guess her confidence could be considered…inspirational. Charlotte York is a perky yet timid WASP who works at an art gallery. She’s much less shallow & jaded than her pals and eventually finds happiness with her Jewish divorce attorney. Miranda Hobbes is an uptight & cynical lawyer. She has an on again/off again relationship with a nerdy bartender named Steve, with whom she shares a child. There was a brief moment in time, at the height of the show’s popularity, when I felt like there were too many women watching this show and trying to emulate these four characters, with the issue being that they are a) so far away from reality it’s laughable, & b) not really the kind of people that anyone should ever model themselves after. Having said that, their influence cannot be denied and I can understand why they might be considered pop culture feminist icons.

 

93     Bill McNeal (NewsRadio)

Y’all know that I consider NewsRadio to be one of the more underrated sitcoms of the past couple of decades. Its biggest star was arguably SNL alum Phil Hartman, whose portrayal of a conceited blowhard news anchor is hilarious. Despite his arrogance Bill isn’t nearly as intelligent as he’d like people to believe, and he oftentimes treats his colleagues dismissively though he seems to think of them as close pals. Hartman’s tragic death in 1998 was also a fatal blow to NewsRadio, which had to fill the gap in the cast with Jon Lovitz in the fifth season, which…not surprisingly…was its last.

 

92     Flo Castleberry (Alice)

Kiss my grits!! That refrain from the most opinionated waitress at Mel’s Diner still has staying power forty years later. Flo left Alice halfway thru its run to star in a spinoff, but that show only lasted two seasons.

 

91     Mary Katherine Gallagher (Saturday Night Live)

Saturday Night Live has had a plethora of humorous recurring characters in its four+ decades, but only a few really stand the test of time. Mary Katherine is an apparently bipolar Catholic school girl with rage issues and poor social etiquette. She habitually puts her hands in her armpits then smells her fingers, recites Shakespeare-esque monologues quoting obscure movies & TV shows, crashes thru furniture, and then plays it all off by triumphantly declaring herself a “”Superstar!”. The character got its own standalone film in 1999, but I never saw it, and judging by its 32% Rotten Tomatoes score one can assume I’m not missing anything.

 

90     Al Bundy (Married with Children)

Married with Children began a wave of change in sitcoms as they evolved from the fairly wholesome & charming shows that I grew up with and began to embrace a more lewd, harsh, & cynical vibe. Even as a teenager I understood this transformation and didn’t particularly care for it, so I never became a fan of the show. However, thru the prism of time and after running across video clips here & there the past few years I have to give credit where credit is due…Al Bundy is pretty hysterical. A terrible husband?? Yes. An awful father?? Sure. A bad employee?? Obviously. Al certainly is no role model, but I get why fans of the show think he was really funny. If you see a dysfunctional family or poor parent on TV today they owe it all to Married with Children. Perhaps that’s not the most positive legacy…but it’s something.

 

89     Eric Matthews (Boy Meets World)

Feeny? Fa-fa-fa-fa-feeny! Feenay! Fee-hee-heenay!

In one hilarious instant The Feeny Call became legendary and Eric Matthews…the older brother of Cory & a supporting character no one expected much from…bellowed himself into television history. In another episode…set in a future where Cory & his pals have drifted apart…Eric shows up as a bearded hermit calling himself Plays With Squirrels who has figured out the secret of life, which is apparently “lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself”. I quickly lost interest in the sequel series Girl Meets World a few years ago (not that I was the target demo anyway), but perhaps if they’d done a spinoff featuring Eric it would have been more successful.

 

88     Dr. John Becker (Becker)

From 2006 to 2008 my life was pretty much put on hold due to an ulcer on my tailbone. I’ve spoken of it at other times here at The Manofesto so I’ll skip all the specifics now. At any rate, during that time I watched a lot of TV and discovered Becker, which had aired on CBS for six seasons from 1998-2004. I always enjoyed Ted Danson on Cheers, so I’m not sure how I missed his big television comeback, but atleast it was there for me in syndication a few years later. The titular character is a doctor who runs a small practice in The Bronx. Dr. Becker is a grumpy malcontent who is easily annoyed by just about everyone & everything, but underneath his constant state of irritability he’s a good guy who does whatever he can to help his patients & his friends. I’m not sure I’d actually get along with someone like Dr. Becker since he leans left and seems to be an atheist or atleast agnostic, but I’m all in on his bewilderment at the craziness & stupidity one seems to run across all too often nowadays.

 

87     Endora (Bewitched)

For various reasons I am a little hesitant to give any sort of kudos to a witch, but let’s be honest…Endora was pretty cool. She is a unique interpretation of the stereotypical mother-in-law, as her entire purpose on the show seems to be to disapprove of her daughter’s marriage to a mortal and make lame attempts to break up Samantha & Darrin (who she constantly insults & always calls Derwood). Of course her schemes hilariously backfire.

 

86     Mr. McMahon (WWE)

Let’s take an excursion off the beaten path. Yes I am aware that professional wrestling is pre-determined & choreographed. It is a soap opera for men. And I realize that everybody involved…wrestlers, announcers, managers, referees…is playing a character. But, though it would be a gargantuan task and detract from our mission to get into evaluating the merits of the dozens of unforgettable grapplers that have stepped inside the squared circle in my lifetime, we need to recognize the owner & CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. Vince McMahon bought the WWF from his father in 1982 and was known to most “marks” simply as a TV commentator. But in 1997 he inserted himself into storylines as a “heel”, basically portraying a larger-than-life version of the kind of evil boss that we’ve all had at one time or another. In the past two decades he’s been booed & cheered, gotten in the ring and mixed it up with wrestlers twice his size & half his age, and even battled his own family. These days wrestling fans often question Vince McMahon’s behind the scenes decisions, but Mr. McMahon can still get a good pop from the crowd, especially since his appearances are much more sporadic than they once were.

 

85     Charles Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie)

When I was a kid I loved Little House, although I’ve never read the books on which the show was based. The patriarch of the Ingalls clan is Charles, a hardworking farmer. Throughout the series Charles is portrayed as a solid husband & father who does his best to take care of his family and raise his children right. He is a generous, tranquil, vulnerable yet tough man of faith, the kind of person anyone would be happy to have as a friend, employee, & neighbor.

 

84     Elaine Benes (Seinfeld)

Jerry Seinfeld is a talented writer & comedian, but his acting chops are…less than impressive. However, though you will not be seeing Jerry’s interpretation of a fictionalized version of himself on this list you will see three of his buddies, starting with former girlfriend Elaine. NBC felt that the show, as originally constructed, was too guy centered and asked that a female be added to the cast. Elaine & Jerry had dated at some previous point in time but had settled on being “just friends”. She’s no shrinking violet, routinely standing up to the guys and literally pushing them around. We all know women like Elaine. They’re quite feminine & not tomboys by any means, but they just seem to mesh better with men and don’t really have many gal pals. Elaine is self-confident, brash, intelligent, & just as neurotic as her friends. Much like Jerry she is shallow and difficult to please, meaning she bounces in & out of relationships looking for something she’ll probably never find. She is educated and somewhat professionally successful, though she does have multiple jobs over the course of nine years. I’m not sure I would call Elaine a role model, but she was a welcome addition to the Seinfeld wolfpack and gave us many hilarious moments.

 

83     Gomez Addams (The Addams Family)

The Addams Family was based on cartoons originally published in The New Yorker in the mid-20th century. The family patriarch is Gomez, an eccentric & wealthy businessman who at one time was a lawyer. He enjoys fencing, smoking cigars, throwing knives, crashing toy trains, & being romantic with his wife. What many may not get about the family is that they are not monsters or any kind of supernatural beings…they are a human family who just happens to be really weird, and the fact that Gomez is supposed to be the normal one is hysterically funny. The TV show was on in syndication a lot in my childhood, and two rather entertaining feature films were produced in the early 1990’s.

 

82     Carlton Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)

Believe it or not Will Smith isn’t the best part of his own television show. First we have to give a tip o’ the cap to the theme song. I don’t even like rap “music” but almost thirty years later I can still bust out the Fresh Prince theme. Secondly there is Will’s erudite & pompous cousin Carlton, who takes the uptight preppy stereotype to a whole new level. He’s such a nerd that as a high schooler he listens to Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, & Michael Bolton. To be honest that makes him rather cool in my eyes because I celebrate those guys’ entire catalogues, but I get the joke. We cannot escape the fact that even into the 1990’s black families tended to be portrayed a certain way in pop culture, and the Banks family…especially Carlton…turned those pre-conceived notions upside down. Carlton’s most enduring legacy is his love for 60’s pop crooner Tom Jones. Anytime Jones’ 1965 hit It’s Not Unusual comes on he breaks out into a hysterical dance that came to be known as The Carlton, and anyone who was ever a Fresh Prince fan can probably imitate it.

 

81     Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg (The Dukes of Hazzard)

In recent years The Dukes of Hazzard has inexplicably become a target of maniacal political correctness in connection with debates about racism, The Civil War, & the Confederate flag, but as a kid I always loved the show and continued to watch syndicated reruns up until they became virtually extinct a few years ago. The main “villain” in Hazzard County is Boss Hogg, the influential, wealthy, & corrupt county commissioner that pretty much owns & controls everything in town. He is greedy, with a voracious appetite for power, money, & food. He and Jesse Duke are former moonshiners & old frienemies. Boss is fixated with the idea of taking possession of the Duke farm, and equally as obsessed with putting Bo & Luke Duke in prison. In almost every episode Boss hatches some kind of shady scheme to put more money in his pockets, and if he can find a way to pin a crime on the Duke Boys in the process that’s fine too. Of course in Hazzard County even the bad guys aren’t truly evil, and despite Boss Hogg’s best efforts the good guys always win and we can’t really bring ourselves to hate him. There was a laughably bad Dukes of Hazzard feature film about a decade ago, and one of the many things they got wrong was casting Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg. Reynolds portrayed Boss as menacing & harsh…an actual bad guy, which missed the mark entirely.

 

80     Aunt Esther (Sanford & Son)

My Papaw Mano loved Sanford & Son. Whenever I’d visit my grandparents he’d watch reruns (the show’s original run ended when I was in kindergarten), which is how  I became a fan. The main antagonist is Aunt Esther, sister of long dead Elizabeth and aunt to Lamont. One of the funniest running gags of the show is Aunt Esther’s contentious relationship with her brother-in-law Fred, as the two continuously trade insults. Aunt Esther is a hardcore, Bible thumping church lady, the kind that gives churchgoers a bad image as she is constantly calling others heathens. She & Fred verbally spar in every episode in which she appears, and whenever he is confrontational with her she comes back with “Watch it Sucka!!”, sometimes swinging her purse at him in the process.

 

79     Herman Munster (The Munsters)

What do you get when you combine a wholesome family sitcom with the monster movies of the 1930’s?? The Munsters. Unlike The Addams Family, who are just normal human beings that happen to be really strange, The Munsters are actually monsters (obvious nods to Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, & Bride of Frankenstein), though they view themselves & live their lives as a typical middle class American family. The patriarch is Herman Munster, an archetypal sitcom Dad who is a good-natured, kindhearted, gentle, loveable goofball. He works at a funeral home (of course), has no concept of his own immense strength, & is clueless of the fact that he doesn’t physically look like a normal person. People routinely run screaming from Herman, frightened by his appearance, but he remains blissfully unaware that people are afraid of him.

 

78     Isaac, Doc, & Gopher (The Love Boat)

The real stars of The Love Boat were the passengers, typically portrayed by famous faces of the day, movie stars of yesteryear, & actors who would do big things in the future. However, we did have the pleasure of having (mostly) the same crew from week to week. Isaac is the bartender on the Pacific Princess, Doc is…obviously…the doctor, & Gopher is a yeoman purser. I spent a great deal of my childhood wondering exactly what in the heck a yeoman purser does, and eventually discovered that he is basically the ship’s treasurer. I’ve never been on a cruise, but I assume that the typical crew is much larger and that there are multiple bartenders, physicians, & business people among them, but for the purposes of The Love Boat this triumvirate worked really well. They interact with passengers, get involved with various storylines on a week to week basis, and are always good for a chuckle or two.

 

77     The Clampetts (The Beverly Hillbillies)

I just can’t choose one over the other. Patriarch Jed is a “poor mountaineer” from the Ozarks (either Tennessee, Arkansas, or Missouri…the show doesn’t specify) who finds oil on his land and receives a $25 million fortune for it. His elderly mother-in-law Granny is a spitfire who fancies herself an expert in home remedies. Jed’s daughter Ellie Mae is a smokin’ hot tomboy who loves animals (i.e. critters). Jethro Bodine is the dimwitted, girl crazy son of Jed’s cousin who comes along when the family moves to California. The Beverly Hillbillies is a classic rags-to-riches fish-out-of-water story made all the more entertaining by these well written characters. Being from West Virginia I have always been a bit sensitive about how “hillbillies”, “rednecks”, & “hicks” are portrayed in the media, but I am oddly unoffended by The Clampetts.

 

76     Luther Van Dam (Coach)

Not long ago we lost actor Jerry Van Dyke (brother of Dick), but thankfully we’ll always have Coach. Van Dyke had an opportunity to become part of the cast of The Andy Griffith Show when Don Knotts left, but instead chose to star in My Mother the Car, which has to secure him a place in the Bad Career Move Hall of Fame. At any rate, more than two decades later he was cast as Luther, the scatterbrained defensive coordinator for the fictional Minnesota St. Screaming Eagles. I have serious doubts about Luther’s football prowess, but he is perfect as the standard loyal sidekick/best friend, and usually has the funniest moments.

 

 

 

 

Let’s take a break. We’ll dive into Part 2 tomorrow. Or the next day *lol*.

Thoughts & Prayers…Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of this little ditty please take a moment to check it out…otherwise you’ll be hopelessly confused.

 

Okay, so…I don’t want to be one of those people who shriek “Do something!!” but offer no real solutions. Therefore, allow me to make a few suggestions.

 

One of the first rules of being in a supervisory position is “never ask subordinates to do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself”. In that same vein, I humbly ask all of the social justice warriors in Hollywood, the music industry, & professional sports who love to use social media and the bully pulpit of television that is readily accessible to them to self-righteously preach about gun control to lead the way. Get rid of every firearm  in your possession. Dismiss every last armed security person you employ. Every. Single. One. You’ll just have to rely on the police like the common folks here in flyover country. And finally, pledge to never again write, produce, direct, or star in any TV show or movie that depicts even a single second of gun violence. It’s a little hypocritical to criticize The Second Amendment while simultaneously making movies with a higher body count than the mass shootings about which you are shedding crocodile tears. Eliminate all music, video games, computer software, or any other product that even mentions guns. These would be more significant contributions to society than the collective glitterati have made in the past half century.

 

On a more basic level let’s talk about school security. Now I haven’t been a high school student since the first George Bush was in the White House, and have only had reason to visit a public school a couple of times in the ensuing years, but I know that things are a little more secure these days. Theoretically no one can just waltz into a school and wander around. However, I think we can do better. I am employed at a mental health facility, and we contract a security firm. On each floor of our facility there is a security guard, and much of what that person does is monitor various cameras. No one enters or exits the premises without security knowing about it. Why shouldn’t schools have the same system?? I know that most high schools have a “resource officer” that actually lives on school grounds, and that is fantastic. But especially with larger schools it seems like one person isn’t enough. Furthermore, why should a person who has no business at the school even get within sight of the building?? Why not put a check-in gate on the driveway or access road leading to the school (assuming the campus has such a thing)?? No one that shouldn’t be there would get anywhere near the students. Perhaps such things exist in some locations, but they sure don’t seem to be the norm. These two reforms alone might have saved dozens of lives the past few years.

 

And now the big one…my grandest idea thus far. I am not a politician and have no plans to ever run for public office. It was something I pondered for a brief moment in time many years ago, but life has not led me in that direction. However, allow me to offer…free of charge to any legislator that wants to pick up the ball & run with it…the Child Safety Act (someone can even rename it to something more poetic if they wish). Here’s how it would work. You want to talk about “common sense gun reform”?? Okay…I am open-minded. Longer waiting periods?? More extensive background checks?? Stricter licensing procedures?? I’m no expert on any of those things but there is nothing wrong with an intelligent discussion. You want to raise the age requirement to legally purchase any gun to 21…or even older?? I think I’m okay with that. Anything short of a weapons ban or altering The Second Amendment is on the table. My fellow fantasy football league owners will tell you how much I like wheelin’ & dealin’, and since this issue is obviously much more important I am prepared to be flexible. Liberals & conservatives alike are rather passionate about all of this but definitely approach the topic with differing philosophies.  I think though that we can all agree that mass shootings are horrific. Any such loss of life…especially when we’re talking about kids…is sad, depressing, & unacceptable. If we can indeed “do something” then let’s make it happen.

 

Now, politicians like to talk about “bipartisanship” & “reaching across the aisle”. They have been known to negotiate quid pro quo deals, and regularly include items in bills that aren’t necessarily related to the main idea. However, in this case there is common ground. It really is about the children isn’t it?? If so, then let’s discuss the other half of the Child Safety Act…”common sense abortion reform”. There are waiting periods for buying a gun, so let’s have a practical waiting period for an abortion (24 hours is a joke). 10 days?? 30 days?? It’s worthy of a conversation. And during that waiting period how about mandated, fair & balanced, comprehensive counseling, information about alternatives like adoption, financial advice, health care assistance & instruction, and training on parenting skills. And I’m not just talking about pamphlets. If a person really wants that abortion why shouldn’t they be required to jump thru some hoops?? How about background checks?? A medical facility should know whether or not there is a legitimate reason for someone to get an abortion. Take a look at the woman’s family situation, finances, psychological profile, etc. Is the choice to abort one of convenience?? Gun control advocates like to ask “Why does a person need to own so many guns??” & “Why does a person need to own this or that type of gun??”. Okay…then I think it’s fair to ask a person “Why do you want to abort this baby??” & “Why are you opposed to putting the child up for adoption after it is born??”. Age restrictions?? Let’s discuss. It is important to clarify that we are not talking about repealing Roe v. Wade, just as gun control advocates indicate they do not seek to eliminate The Second Amendment (;-)), and obviously we are excluding any situation where the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life, but otherwise perhaps the “choice” shouldn’t be quite so easy. I realize that the framework for some of these limitations may be in place in some states, but it is hardly universal. Let’s make the legalities consistent. The simple fact is that the right to keep & bear arms is a Constitutional right dating back nearly two & a half centuries, whereas a woman’s “right to choose” is based on a court decision younger than I am. Nearly 350 people were victims of mass shootings in America in 2017. There are 500k-1 million abortions annually in the United States, depending on which source one chooses to believe. So if all of this really is about the children then y’all can’t have it both ways. A Constitutional right cannot be restricted or abolished while a fairly new “right” remains relatively unencumbered, especially given the stark contrast in numbers.

 

One final thing…..

God’s Word, in James 5:16, says that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Psalms 5:3 says “my voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord…in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up”. 1 John 14-15 says “this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” God instructs us in Jeremiah 29:12 to “call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Philippians 4:6 says to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. James 5:13 asks “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray”. Psalms 17:6 reassures that “I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God”. Psalms 102:17 says “He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, and shall not despise their prayer”. In Romans 12:12 we are taught to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”. Psalms 145:18 says “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him”.  So if someone wants to pray for others…let them. Welcome it. And if you feel so inclined to pray for a person in need or a group of people you don’t know like the families of the victims at Stoneman Douglas High School then go right ahead. People like The View’s Joy Behar may think that Godly people are mentally ill, but we know that God is real and He hears our prayers. If you don’t happen to believe in God that is your right, and I respect it…so long as that respect is mutual.

 

I don’t have all of the answers. I wish I did. But I’m pretty sick & tired of people wanting to arrogantly toss aside our Constitution, and I’m really fed up with condescending attitudes about the power of prayer. One of the best things about America is each person’s freedom to believe or not believe in whatever they choose, especially when it comes to faith. We also have the freedom to disagree & debate when it comes to other issues. I am humbly suggesting that everyone engage in such discussions with compassion, consideration, & humility. That’s probably asking too much though.

Thoughts & Prayers

Back in 2006 thru the spring of 2008 I was sidelined with an ulcer on my tailbone during what I refer to as My Unfortunate Incarceration. I’ve alluded to it a few times here, so I’ll spare y’all a rehash. During that period…especially when I was homebound in my apartment for about a year…people would run into my father & sister and say “Tell Sam we’re praying for him!!”, and it would drive me absolutely nuts. I was quite lonely during that time, and I must admit that instead of drawing closer to God I became kind of angry at Him. I told my family that I wished those people would stop praying for a little while and instead pick up a phone to call me or drop by for a visit because I had plenty of free time. So…in an admittedly odd way…I understand where people are coming from when they criticize President Trump & others for expressing their sympathies either in a speech or press conference, or even on social media. I get it. It can sometimes feel like empty sentiment. “Thoughts & prayers” aren’t going to bring back those 17 students & teachers that were tragically murdered at a Florida high school, nor are they going to restore life to those killed in other mass shootings in recent years.

 

We’ve all been on both sides of this scenario at funerals. A loved one dies, family & friends gather, and folks say things to the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased like “My condolences” or “I’m sorry for your loss”. People say those things partially because social protocol dictates that is what they are supposed to say. Perhaps one would like to offer further comfort but just can’t find the words. Or maybe…just maybe…an individual really is aggrieved and truly sorry for that family’s loss. It may be unknown exactly what that person is truly feeling inside…and really, who are we to judge?? We also have no way of knowing how those words affect the grief-stricken family. Some may be soothed and find solace in such support, while others might consider it meaningless drivel. There is no way to really know that part of the equation either, but we offer our sympathies anyway.

 

It is human nature in times of tragedy to ask “What could have been done to prevent this from happening??”. In the aftermath of situations like what recently occurred in Parkland, FL people make a plea to “do something”. “Thoughts & prayers” aren’t enough for some…they demand tangible action, which is reasonable. However, there are a few issues that cannot be circumvented.

 

First of all, demands to “do something” in the wake of such unspeakable calamities are undeniably emotional, which I suppose makes sense. However, emotional decisions are rarely intelligent ones. In my experience whenever I rush into something without thinking it thru it usually ends up backfiring terribly, so I have had to learn to slow my roll. Now I know what you’re thinking…there have been more than enough mass shootings over a long enough period of time that some kind of action is overdue. Okay…I might not completely agree with that train of thought, but I get it. However, the past is the past. There is nothing anyone can do about perceived mistakes or failures after previous mass shootings, so let’s start fresh. I still believe it is proper to proceed with…if not caution, then wisdom.

 

Secondly, many of those who are demanding for Congress & other entities to “do something” lack specific suggestions, and some that do go further offer ideas that aren’t palatable to most Americans. Both sides of this coin are in abundance on television & social media, especially from self-absorbed & hypocritical celebrity types whose rambling adds nothing of substance to the conversation. Look, I don’t know the IQ of any given actor or athlete, and though their educational background is easily researched I’m not sure that means too much. I’ve known people who barely graduated high school who were profound thinkers and college graduates who are dumber than a box of rocks. However, the inescapable reality that such individuals refuse to accept is that we do not care about their “insight” on sociopolitical issues. My employer pays me to come to work and do a specific job. They wouldn’t be interested in me going around to other departments offering my opinion on the value of fellow employees or suggestions about how to streamline duties that I’ve never been trained to perform. I am expected to stay in my lane and that’s what I do. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have opinions, just that no one gives a damn about them…nor should they. Likewise, we want actors to entertain us in movies & TV shows, singers to write & sing great songs, and athletes to perform to the full extent of their abilities on the field/court/track. These folks do not help their cause when their emotional appeals are of the intellectually vacant & decidedly unspecific variety, and it really bites them in the rear when their ideas boil down to more gun laws and a thinly veiled desire for The Second Amendment to be modified or abolished.

 

Whenever this debate arises (which is admittedly all too often) I am amazed at the total lack of respect for America’s Founding Fathers. Some basketball player who has never even sniffed a college campus or a third rate actress whose talent plateaus with vagina jokes thinks they are smarter than John Adams?? Thomas Jefferson?? Benjamin Franklin?? Alexander Hamilton?? Seriously?!?!?? Get over yourselves!! The constant refrain goes something like this: “The Founding Fathers could not have foreseen AR-15s or other high powered rifles. They were talking about muskets.” Well okay…they couldn’t have fathomed television or The Internet either, but no one is talking about eradicating The First Amendment. I think we need to stop shortchanging the deep thought process of the tremendously intelligent men who helped birth this great nation. The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting. It isn’t even about home invasion. Heck, if you really want to dig deep it isn’t even about guns. Allow me to refresh your memory. The Second Amendment states that “a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” It’s about tyranny!! America exists because people successfully escaped a tyrannical government. The framers of The Constitution wanted to protect the citizenry from facing such oppression ever again, and one of the ways that is done is to limit governmental power. Sadly we live at a point in history when far too many are willing to give up control of nearly every aspect of their lives to the government, and once that Pandora’s Box is open it becomes difficult to regain lost freedom. At any rate, folks get caught up in the language of the amendment, opining that a “well-regulated militia” means that only the military should have guns, and “the security of a free state” is up to law enforcement & the military…but that is wrong. That last part is unmistakable…”the right of the people to keep & bear arms”. “The people” is you, me, and anyone else who chooses to be a responsible gun owner.

 

 

For the sake of readability let’s take a break and pick this discourse back up tomorrow.

100 Memorable TV Characters – An Introduction

The Manofesto is now taking requests!! lol

 

My pal Don, who has been amongst the most interactive & encouraging citizens of The Manoverse since its inception, enjoys my ranking/list posts and asked me if I’d ever considered writing about great television characters. The answer to that question is “yes I have”, but I had always talked myself out of it. Why?? Well, while I have been an avid television viewer (especially in my younger years), the fact is that there are many things that I haven’t watched. A plethora of superb shows aired for three decades before I even became aware of television in the late 1970’s. I developed interest in some when they were broadcast in syndication throughout my childhood & beyond, but numerous legendary programs don’t fall into that category. And as an adult there have been a ton of allegedly excellent shows that never frosted my cupcake. In some cases I gave it a whirl and just didn’t care for it, but occasionally I am dismissive immediately…without ever watching a single episode…because I know it’s not my thing. For these reasons an “all-time” kind of ranking of television characters felt intimidating.

 

Having said that, something occurred to me as I was pondering the issue. Nearly everything I have ever written here has been my opinion, based on my experiences & preferences, skewed by my generational place in the universe, & excluded that with which I am not familiar. I’ve always heard the old axiom “write what you know”, so I can’t really pontificate all that much about music genres I don’t like, books I haven’t read, places I’ve never visited, movies I’ve never seen, or television shows that I’ve not watched. That’s been the case since the very first blog post I ever wrote (on MySpace…because I’m old), and I’ve enjoyed the task anyway. I assume…I hope…that others have appreciated some of the things they’ve read here, especially if they share a vaguely similar pop culture viewpoint. At any rate, we’re going to move forward with the idea, and at the very least I know I’ll have fun doing it.

 

Now y’all know I’m not one for in-depth research, but after compiling a preliminary list I did hop online and scan a few comparable rankings. I was mostly seeking to jog the ol’ memory and make sure there weren’t any obvious candidates I wasn’t recalling, but I discovered something interesting. There are apparently no shortage of writers out there who are under the delusion that television was invented at the dawn of the 21st century. Several years ago, when writing about my 100 Favorite Movies, I opined that I was wary of any adult who says that their favorite film is something that just came out in the past few years. I am equally as irked by any list of great television shows or related ideas that are populated with names or titles that aired within the past decade or two. I immediately assume that the writer is a narcissistic, self-indulgent Millennial whose idea of a legendary actor is Matt Damon and believes that hip-hop is good music. We are all products of our environment and entertainment preferences tend to be generational, but if something is going to be called one of the greatest of all time in its category perhaps a writer for a national publication or website should dig a little deeper. For this reason I generally refrain from calling lists that I assemble the greatest or best of anything. I understand that my perspective is limited, that I haven’t experienced…for one reason or another…a vast array of greatness in many areas of life. Of the lists I ran across that weren’t so…narrow, I was pleasantly validated by many opinions that others apparently share with me.

 

Other than the various genres of television another division is clear to me. A lot of shows are built around a specific star. Maybe they were a successful comedian who has now been given their own sitcom. Perhaps they were in another well-regarded show many years ago and are now returning to television. Or possibly they were a notable movie actor who has decided to transition to the small screen. Whatever the specifics may be there is no doubt that the show is intended to be centered on that person. On the flip side is an ensemble. It could be a workplace comedy, a family drama, or a police procedural, but the cast is large and the plot may dictate that different characters are featured in each episode. It is always interesting to watch as a character breaks out from an ensemble, and even more intriguing when a supporting character emerges from the shadow of the purported star. You’ll find plenty of examples of both in my rankings.

 

I love sitcoms and usually prefer laughter over other emotions. My sister & I had a babysitter when we were children that got us hooked on soap operas that we still watch to this day. As great as they may be I’ve never really watched much of The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Leave It to Beaver, or Dragnet. More currently I have not or do not watch a whole bunch of ostensibly fantastic shows: The Wire, Lost, Mad Men, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, The Shield, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dexter, 30 Rock, Modern Family, Dr. Who, The Office, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, House of Cards. I’m not at all into cop shows, medical dramas, or zombies. I am not opposed to but somewhat tepid about sci-fi, spend much of my down time watching ball games & sports talk shows, and despise “reality” shows (though I enjoy documentary style “reality” like Pawn Stars & American Pickers). These are a few things that might be helpful to understand as we navigate thru the project.

 

So now you know how this list came to be. You know a little about me & my process. You have some idea of the methodology & logic used. All that remains is to dive in. I’m going to divide the list itself into four entries for the sake of readability. As always feedback is welcome in The Manoverse. It’s possible that I missed someone important. There is always potential that I could be convinced to give a second look to a series that I might have overlooked (intentionally or not), although I can be pretty stubborn. Relax, grab a snack & a beverage, and join me. It’ll be fun.

Winning & Musing…Bye Bye Football!!

Well. It’s been over a week since the football season ended, so I suppose we should do our traditional wrap-up. For some reason this year doesn’t seem as…bleak…as the calendar typically feels immediately after football season. I’m not especially into The Olympics, but I guess it does alleviate the emptiness just a little. It helps that the college basketball season has been compelling even before March Madness, and there has been plenty of offseason news in other sports as well. And I might even try to get back into Nascar this year, so that’ll be fun. Anyway, let’s briefly revisit football one final time before we let it rest for a few months.

 

 

 

 

I get a real kick out of looking back at my NFL Preview, which was even more off base than usual. I correctly predicted just six of the twelve playoff teams. I got 4 of 6 right in the AFC, which isn’t awful, but only 2 of 6 in the NFC, which is terrible. My AFC title game was Steelers vs. Patriots, which was half right, while my NFC title game was Giants vs. Packers, and neither team even made the playoffs. There were a bunch of other insightful gems as well:

  • “the Bills are just treading water, with new head coach Sean McDermott being the latest guy that’ll lead the team nowhere before getting canned in a couple of years” Buffalo went 9-7 & made the playoffs. McDermott’s job looks pretty secure, especially if they can upgrade the quarterback situation.
  • “I think this is a year in which the future Vegas franchise establishes dominance while Kansas City takes a step backward” The future Vegas franchise being the Raiders, who went 6-10. And the Chiefs, though they won two less games than the previous season, still won the division.
  • “The Chiefs feel like they’re in a transitional phase, with first round pick Patrick Mahomes biding his time until QB Alex Smith goes away” Well, I guess I wasn’t totally wrong about the Chiefs. They traded Smith after the season and Mahomes will be their starting QB in 2018.
  • “I’m sure everyone in Pittsburgh would deny it, but the truth is that the AFC North isn’t their true competition. The fact is that the only thing on anyone’s mind is overcoming the Patriots and getting to the Super Bowl.” Unfortunately the Steelrs couldn’t overcome the stupid NFL rulebook or the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • “Tom Savage will probably begin the season as the starter, but I really like Deshaun Watson and think he’ll be one of the league’s best QBs in a couple of years” Watson did become the starter for the Houston Texans even quicker than I’d imagined and looks like he’ll be really good. Unfortunately he tore an ACL midway thru the season during practice.
  • Of the Jacksonville Jaguars I opined that “they’ve gone backward. Unlike most people I’m not that psyched about first round pick Leonard Fournette, and QB Blake Bortles inspires zero confidence.” I’m still not completely sold on Bortles, but he led his team to a division title and an appearance in the AFC Championship. And Fournette?? He rushed for over 1000 yards and had ten TDs.
  • My thoughts on the NFC East?? “This is a tough division, but New York has to be the heavy favorite.” The Giants finished dead last at 3-13 and have the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. The Cowboys & Redskins were mediocre. The Eagles ran away with the division and eventually won The Super Bowl.
  • Speaking of the Redskins, I said that “they feel like a team on the negative side of transformation until the likely departure of Cousins and the drafting of a new quarterback next year.” Well, Cousins will be leaving in free agency, and I suppose it’s still possible that Washington may draft a quarterback, but they really don’t need to since they traded for Alex Smith.
  • My thoughts about the Seattle Seahawks included the idea that “RB Eddie Lacy has moved to the northwest from Green Bay, and I expect him to be in shape & a significant contributor.” Lacy was the team’s fifth leading rusher and got lost in the shuffle when rookie Chris Carson emerged as the starter. Even after Carson suffered a season ending ankle injury free agent signee Mike Davis won the job, and Lacy’s football future is very much in doubt.
  • “The Vikings defense will be alright, but might have to be better than that” It was the best defense in the NFL.
  • “I’d like to see QB Drew Brees lead the Saints back to the playoffs as he winds down his brilliant career, but I don’t think it’s going to happen” The Saints did make the playoffs, but lost to Minnesota on one of the most improbable passing TDs you’ll ever see.
  • Of the Saints I opined that “it’ll probably be Mark Ingram & third round choice Alvin Kamara getting most of the work in the backfield by the mid-point of the season” Kamara did indeed emerge as a pretty good rookie RB, while Adrian Peterson was traded to the Arizona Cardinals just a month into the season.

 

 

I don’t care if their fans are obnoxious Neanderthals who literally eat horse manure. I don’t care if they burn down half the damn city of Philadelphia. I am just THRILLED that the Eagles beat the detestable New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. And…if I may quote my man Forrest Gump…that’s all I have to say about that.

 

 

Speaking of The Super Bowl…

The only commercial that made a dent in my memory is the one where Eli Manning & Odell Beckham did the dance from Dirty Dancing, and I don’t even recall what it was advertising. The halftime show was just fine. I like Justin Timberlake, and thought his Prince tribute in Minnesota was a nice touch. The best part of the post-game was alleged comedian & actor Kevin Hart getting denied access to the Lombardi Trophy and the victory stage by a huge bodyguard who looked like he belongs in a WWE ring. Fans of This Is Us were anxiously awaiting the end of the festivities so we could watch the show’s most highly anticipated episode, which did not disappoint. After that I ended my nearly six month divorce from Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show mainly because the cast of This Is Us were set to appear. That ended in disappointment when Fallon went political again during a sketch when he was doing his Bob Dylan impression, and then the This Is Us cast’s interview was less than  five minutes long and had to be “spoiler free” because the live audience hadn’t seen the show. It’ll be a very long time before Fallon gets another reprieve from me.

 

 

Going back to college football y’all might be interested to know that I finished our Bowl-a-Palooza with a record of 19-21, while Zach broke even at 20-20. I started off strong and it looked like I might run away with it, but I faded fast and Zach closed strong.

 

 

I thought the College Football Playoff committee screwed up by putting the Alabama Crimson Tide in the playoff at all. Sure, they ultimately won the national championship yet again, but not only didn’t they win their conference but they didn’t even make it to the SEC title game. If the committee isn’t going to have any respect for conference championships then perhaps we should eliminate those games and maybe even eradicate conferences altogether. I have such an idea percolating in my mind and may write about it this offseason if I get bored enough to really be missing football.

 

 

I’m not even going to analyze my pre-season Top 25. I don’t think any of my predictions were accurate. I know my final four was USC, Penn St., Oklahoma St., & Florida St. The Seminoles in particular had an abysmal year after losing their starting QB to injury. It was so bad that head coach Jimbo Fisher bolted for Texas A&M after the season.

 

 

Our Pigskin Picks of Profundity ended with me at 54-54, while Zach was 52-56. We went into the final week tied and I went 3-4 and Zach was a not-so-good 1-6. But Zach did improve his 2016 winning percentage, jumping from 37% to 48%. I’m already looking forward to next season.

 

 

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018 includes receivers Randy Moss & Terrell Owens, linebackers Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, & Robert Brazile (a player from the late 70’s/early 80’s), safety Brian Dawkins, guard Jerry Kramer (possibly the last of Lombardi’s Packers to be enshrined), & executive Bobby Beathard. I’m a bit surprised that Moss & Owens got voted in the same class. They’ve been dangling the carrot in front of TO for a couple of years, so I thought maybe they’d finally vote him in but make Moss wait. As a West Virginian and an alumnus of Marshall University I’m very happy for Moss. Perhaps I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but I always perceived Dawkins as pretty good but never thought of him as a Hall-of Famer. I suppose Lewis & Urlacher were no-brainers, although I’ve never hidden my disdain for Lewis. RB Edgerrin James, DBs John Lynch, Everson Walls, & Ty Law, offensive linemen Tony Boselli, Kevin Mawae, Joe Jacoby, Steve Hutchinson, & Alan Faneca, and WR Isaac Bruce all fell short. Of those I am most surprised that Boselli didn’t make it. I’ll be rooting for him, Faneca, & Jacoby in 2019, but that’ll be the first year of eligibility for tight end Tony Gonzalez, safety Ed Reed, & cornerback Champ Bailey so the vote could be interesting.