Sunday, November 27, 2016

Why We Need The Hallmark Channel In This Time of Chaos

     At 71, I am in the midst of remodeling probably my last home, or if you will condo ... well, unless it's to the "home" or 6 feet under. While it was a good deal, or so I thought at the time, it is turning out to be a lot more work than I ever imagined. It turned out that every room needs to be repainted, the kitchen gutted and rebuilt from scratch. You get the picture.
     After a far too long marathon session painting what will be the master bedroom, I come back to the condo I am renting and living in until I get my own condo ready, tired ... dead tired. I shaved, showered and then napped. Waking up in a near stupor I flicked through the channels and discovered a Christmas show on the Hallmark Channel ... you know the one that always has a predictable plot and a happy ending. After all, isn't there enough violence in our daily lives? Why do we, Hollywood and television feel compelled to add any more? Happy endings was exactly all that I wanted!
     One of my all time favorite movies is "Bringing Up Baby" a frothy screwball comedy starring
Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, both very favorite actors. It recounts how the two meet, she falls for him, he is too dense to understand that so she uses her brothers pet Jaguar "Baby" to keep getting them together. It is funny, so funny in fact that the first time I rented it to watch with the kids we laughed so hard we had to watch it again to get to see and hear all the dialogue. It was the perfect movie for me as a harried parent and the kids who loved the complete silliness. There was no "dirty language," sex scenes other than an innuendo they would never understand ... it was, well, clean wholesome fun, something that most movies today, unless its a cartoon, seem to have forgotten.

     Another very funny film from the era of black and white comedies is James Stewart in "Harvey." Stewart plays a befuddled man who sees a pooka named Harvey. Of course he is a total embarrassment to the entire family. It was only after watching this silliness many times that I suddenly realized that not only did Stewart see the pooka ... so did his sister. I cannot forget the scene when she goes to get him committed, walks into the director's office, looks around and notes, "Good, we are alone, he's not here." The director isn't so sure who he should commit.

     As I watched Hallmark's, "A Christmas List" it dawned on me that there are times in our lives where we need such movies, such fantasy as we try to deal with a chaotic world.        
     That very day's news revealed, thank God, yet another terrorist plot in France that had been foiled. We have survived a brutal election only to find a state recounting the votes disbelieving the disenchantment of its own citizens, Democrats and Republican reeling at their defeat, pollsters and journalists shamefaced, tension in the Middle East that never ends ... and on and on.
     All I wanted was respite from all this. I was tired, sore, feeling my age and wanted entertainment for an occasional chuckle, to feel good not wanting horror, violence, anything else but just to feel good watching a show that would affirm what all humans want ... to be loved, love and honored.
     In fact yesterday I came back after painting what will be the "studio" for six hours, had pickles, radishes and a Diet Coke for lunch, showered and fell into bed for a nap. It turns out I missed both a phone call and text messages ... and the phone was right next to me on the bed!
     I do miss the simple comedies of old. Visiting the Ice House in Pasadena a few years back we saw Fritz Coleman, the weather guy on NBC 4 in Los Angeles. He started his career as a comedian and was lured away from comedy to do the weather on TV. Stating he knew nothing about the weather, he was told, "This is LA. What weather?" His routine was funny. What impressed me more than anything else though was that he never said one "dirty" word, an anomaly today where curse words fill the space of real comment. I can remember how CBS drummed the Smothers Brothers off the air for a blue word or two as well as their opinions about the Vietnamese War. In one sense they were vindicated when CBS's true star, Walter Cronkite, said on the air after a tour of Viet Nam that we had lost the war. And "dirty words?" Today,  regarding the use of "blue" words, just about anything goes.
     Robert Hilburn, the music critic for the Los Angeles Times for many years used to lambast any song that the Carpenters sang. People he praised we hardly hear about now but how many Carpenter songs could you hum right now? "Rainy Days & Mondays," "We've Only Just Begun," "On Top of the World?" Near the end of his career as a critic he wrote movingly about the Carpenters and in essence apologized for his reviews noting that he himself would hum one of their songs, that their music though saccharine had lasting power, something that legions of fans already knew.
     That could be the comment and need for the Hallmark Channel. Love, love lost and love regained has holding power. After all, it will be love that redeems us all ... in the end.

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