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Men of a Certain Age: PaleyFest2010 Salutes a Unique Show April 12, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Andre Braugher, Blogroll, Entertainment, Men of a Certain Age, Mike Royce, Paley Fest, Scott Bakula, TV production, Uncategorized.
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Photo courtesy of Paley Center press release

On March 12, 2010, I attended my third and last for this year PaleyFest2010 tribute. But it was for a unique show on the air, so it was quite worth it. Men of a Certain Age is not the kind of show I would normally tune in for, but it speaks truth not only for mature men, but women as well.

I wrote up an article about it, which you can find here: http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/men-of-a-certain-age-reaches-beyond-sex–age

Due to space limitations for the article set by the website, I couldn’t write up all the fascinating bits on the panel.  So here are some deleted tidbits:

Andre Braugher was asked about his underwear scenes.  Not only did he say that he would do anything in a script as long as it was right for the show, but he described Owen as a ‘tighty whities’ kind of guy.

Asked about why they liked working in TV, Andre said that it was all about the writing.  But he also added that every show he’d worked on had struggled to find an audience (Homicide, Gideon’s Crossing and Thief.)  It was nice to finally have a show he didn’t have to beg people to watch.

Scott admitted that the lure was that this show was on cable and had a totally different feel to it.  And he loved TV because it was so immediate.

The party store apparently was Ray Romano’s idea.  Mike Royce described it as “both a funny place and a sad place” and as a great metaphor.  “Everyone’s coming in to celebrate something and he is going through all this stuff in his life.”

Mike Royce said that they actually went to a Norm’s in Sherman Oaks to shoot for the pilot but they have now built a Norm’s set in their shooting stage.  I actually drove by the Norm’s by accident the other day… and I have to admit, I would have never noticed it but for this show.

For other deleted tidbits, check out my CAT Scratchings blog at:  http://dannygirlpaceyjack.blogspot.com/

For the actual article I wrote, check it out here at Suite101: “Men of a Certain Age Reaches Beyond Sex & Age: PaleyFest2010 Salutes Ray Romano’s New Series” at

http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/men-of-a-certain-age-reaches-beyond-sex–age#ixzz0kg3Ygxph

Abrams’s Star Trek Great Summer Popcorn Movie, But Anemic Star Trek May 25, 2009

Posted by gollysunshine in Abrams's Star Trek, Blogroll, Star Trek, Uncategorized.
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I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either.  This is undoubtedly a good movie and very entertaining.  But is it good Star Trek?  For what attracted me to Star Trek for all these years and made me a fan, I think not.  For me, Abrams’s new movie is no different than any other blockbuster action flick that is all razzle-dazzle daring feats, special effects and banter.  Yes, I had fun at it, but do I care if I see it again, or see sequels?  I think not.  But it will be interesting to see if this movie has legs (longevity) with today’s audience, even if it doesn’t with me, for the problem with flash and dash is that it is usually forgotten when the next big movie comes out with more spectacular feats created by ever-evolving technology.

To give credit where credit is due, I thought I was going to be bothered by changes in canon, but they brilliantly side-stepped that by using a different timeline.  So that worry didn’t come into play.

The actors are all fine actors and did a credible job reminding us of the characters we love while giving it their own stamp, although some were better at it than others.  And I have no problem with new actors playing my beloved iconic characters.  After all, I participated in a major fan endeavor, making a new online episode of original Trek with all new actors, called “World Enough and Time” for Star Trek: New Voyages.  But what drew me to be involved with WEAT was that it wasn’t all razzle-dazzle daring feats, special effects and banter.  Like original Trek, WEAT was about something, it had something to say, the writers had something to say, to give us to think about, to take with us.  WEAT was about love and sacrifice – whether you can have the strength to sacrifice that which is most dear to you for the good of others and how you handle afterwards what you’ve done and lost.  And that’s what I believe gave original Star Trek its longevity, not just the good looks of the actors playing the roles, but what the characters stirred inside people in terms of ideas, actions, emotions, and thoughts.

Granted that I’m sure one could point to episodes that didn’t have this kind of thematic spine, because fans have been ridiculing certain episodes for 40 years.  But for the most part, episodes and films have had their creative team stand up and say something that resonated with you long after you left the theater.

This movie’s theme is about friendship and how Kirk and Spock became friends, one friend told me, and I must admit that that is an important draw that lured me to the movie.  However, being used to episodes and films which actually explored their cultural differences in viewpoint and showed us how they’d overcome them in friendship and united front, this movie isn’t any different than any action film which starts out with two different thinking guys and wow, at the end of the movie, they’re friends.  Cultural differences and even personality traits play no more significant part in this movie than they did with Crockett and Tubbs in Miami Vice, blond Hutch and curly-headed Starsky in Starsky and Hutch or Stallone and Russell in Tango and Cash.

Mind you, I’m an action/sci fi, male-male buddy banter junkie and so I love all that coming together in friendship and love, but after 40 years of seeing it done better, of reading fans writing about how this unusual friendship came about, and even reading Shatner’s book version of it, I expected better out of Paramount’s re-defining movie than the same shtick I’ve seen over and over again in any big blockbuster action film with two male leads.

The theme is about loss, another friend said.  Watching the fan-created WEAT, people openly sobbed at the sacrifice Sulu and his daughter Alana made.  The death of Spock in Star Trek II had people sobbing in the theater and even before the release, the mere idea of Spock dying threatened to derail box office expectations until Paramount ended STII with the potential of Spock’s resurrection.  People sobbed over the loss of the Enterprise in Star Trek III and Harve Bennett had to defend his decision to fans on the basis that saving lives is more important than saving machinery, no matter how beloved it is.

Here, in this movie, Vulcan, a planet that so many fans care about was destroyed, and Spock’s mother was killed and I didn’t see much concern coming from actors, characters, writers, director, or even audience for that matter.  If there was, I didn’t feel it.  In fact, I suspect the audience was more involved in how cool the special effects were in destroying the planet than any feeling for what was lost.  Did the writers have anything to say about loss or was it just cool to blow up a planet and kill off Spock’s mother?  Even Star Wars treated doing the same thing with more respect and caring.

I did feel loss, though.  Loss for the depth that Star Trek always had – for what I suspect drew people for 40 years from all occupations and education levels, whether they realized it or not.  The friend I went to the theater with said the writers would tell me that they were re-working old myths to appeal to today’s audiences and I can’t disagree.  It seems very much like any other big action movie I could go to today — just change the setting or the name of the ship or the character names and you have the same surface themes and engaging surface banter all taking second place to the wow factor of special effects.  Any weight these characters have seems to come from the history we bring to them, not from their own deserving.

It’s amusing that they promote this film as ‘not your grandfather’s Star Trek’ – and boy, are they ever right.  It will be interesting though if today’s youth actually want to grow up to this new Star Trek and how long they will consider it relevant – or if in the end, they will return to their grandfather’s Star Trek because it had substance, and hence, is still relevant.

There is another thing that was disturbing about this movie that also seems to be an unfortunate sign of the times, and that is the lack of respect or consideration for ‘experience.’  Gene Roddenberry’s Kirk may have been the hotshot, brilliant officer and youngest starship captain in the fleet, but he also came up through the ranks.  In the series, there is reference to Kirk being a midshipman and a lieutenant posted on another Starship under another captain’s command.  This gave him time to learn all the other things that an essentially ambassador to unknown worlds and the Federation’s representative and even legal authority needs to know, beyond how to blow up the enemy and save your ship from destruction.  Because the Enterprise is out there on her own, not just one ship in a line of ships patrolling together.  To have cadets (“Vulcan is in trouble.  Cadets report to the Enterprise…”) running the starship on the basis of performing brilliantly in one battle is ludicrous.

I know that there are time-honored field commissions in which non-commissioned men become officers and officers get promoted on the basis of heroics that show brilliance on the battlefield, but I doubt you can find me an example of a corporal being handed command of a battalion based on one brilliant performance.  My brother and I both skipped grades in grammar school and while my mother was okay with that, she also made us both read the books that we would have had in those classes.  She said we weren’t going to learn by osmosis what was taught in those classes – it required reading a book to know what’s in it.

Unfortunately, this blithe ignoring of the steps that Kirk and bridge crew should have to ground them and just handing them the end prize does seem too indicative of today’s youthful work force, who seem so eager to cut corners themselves that they don’t bother learning to spell or write with proper grammar, or even how to add, subtract, or multiply because their computers can do it all for them.  Back when I was young and in science, we had to work through the math on paper to show that the computer was programmed correctly and coming up with the right answer – we had to know why and how the computer spell check and grammar check was right or wrong.  Today too many people can twitter using their shorthand, but can’t construct a literate sentence or make change or determine a tip if the computer or calculator goes down.

Middle-aged and mature writers and workers can’t get work because suddenly they are viewed as having nothing relevant to say any more or have no experience relevant to today’s business models.  And young ones have little life experience to get something relevant to say and are in such a hurry for that money ring that they can only rework other people’s ideas under the guise of ‘homage’ or ‘making the old relevant for today’ which usually means just substituting today’s gadgetry and technology, not new imaginative ideas.

And judging by the abuse that has already been thrown at anyone expressing less than total love for this movie, and which I expect to receive for what I say here, I mourn the loss of another concept that has been an integral part of Star Trek for 40 years: IDIC.  [note: a friend who read this said I should explain this concept, but upon thinking about it, if you don’t know what it means,  you don’t really know original Star Trek, or what you are missing with this one.]

The best thing about this movie was Ambassador Spock talking to both young Kirk and young Spock about his friendship with his Kirk, which they had to look forward to.  Perhaps it is due to the craft of a veteran actor or perhaps it is due to Nimoy living through those same 40 years of Trek, but those few seconds were more exhilarating and meaningful than anything else.  Those seconds resonated with me, carried weight, and said something to me.  In fact, as I write this, those brief snippets of genuine joy and love are what my mind recalls and what brings a smile to my face.

As I said, Abrams’s Star Trek is a good, exciting ride.  I enjoyed the ride.  I enjoyed laughing at its humor.  And I appreciated the banter.  I just wished they had called it something else, for to me, this is something else wrapped in Star Trek’s clothing.  And I wish that in the future someone will come up with a fresh adventure of ‘grandfather’s Star Trek,’ for what grandfather’s Star Trek had and still has resonates more with me.  And, I suspect, will last longer.