Friday, March 30, 2018

The only hope for humanity

The "Roseanne" Reboot — I Fight the Reviews and Ask — Where's the Funny?! Also — Too Many Stormy Days and Our Very Helpful and Amusing Mail!
by Denis Ferrara

“COMEDY is the only hope for humanity,” said Roseanne Barr.
WELL, going against 90% of the professional TV reviews, I’d say if humanity depended on the comedy exhibited in the hour-long season premiere of the “Roseanne” reboot, those who identify as humans are doomed. Or at least, End Times are closer than evangelicals hope. 

I really liked, even loved the original show, especially the first five seasons. It was invigorating and quite different — if you don’t count the blue collar occupants of that awful apartment “The Honeymooners.” And it was kind of thrilling to watch Roseanne blossom from awkward stand-up comic to a real actress, bolstered by the great talents of John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf.  Then Roseanne and her show went off the rails but there were still pleasures to be found. (It’s interesting to watch people go mad in public.)
Roseanne and John Goodman in the “Rosanne” reboot.
So far, there’s no pleasure in the “Rosanne” reboot.  Let me say right off — I don’t care much for reboots, although Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” is not entirely bad. In fact, it’s fun. (I ignore “Will and Grace” because the time for minstrel shows has passed; although the time for Botox clearly has not.) 

And let me assure you I couldn’t care less if the character Roseanne Connor or the real woman Roseanne Barr voted for our current president. Having believed, fearfully, right from the start that Trump would win, I wouldn’t mind truly funny, supportive jokes about him, or some clever Hillary bashing.  Why not?  The president is excoriated every day and night in every medium.  Tit for tat, fair is fair. (And I don’t care that 45 called to congratulate Rosanne.  Of course he did — no surprise there.)
The cast of Roseanne "2.0."
But ... the political jokes on “Roseanne” weren’t funny.  The family jokes weren’t funny. Everybody looked awkward, out-of-place, not engaged, even the brilliant Laurie Metcalf, mugging and over-the-top.  Recreating the Connor’s iconic living room and kitchen is not enough.  Nor is throwing in a child of color and also a child who is, shall we say, wardrobe fluid.  I got one laugh — when Laurie Metcalf’s character admitted that in her distress she voted for Jill Stein.  And Sara Gilbert had a touching scene with her flamboyant son.  Otherwise wretched obvious writing abounded. 
Just about the only clever aspect of the show is the casting of Emma Kenney as Sara Gilbert’s ornery daughter.  Kenney is well known as the messed up Debbie Gallagher of “Shameless.”  And as the original “Roseanne” was rather the “Shameless” of its time, I appreciated this nod. 

Maybe it will improve.  Maybe everybody will learn to act again.  Maybe if politics is a continuing issue, somebody can write it funny

As it stands right now, I will say only that seeing the iconic afghan on the Connor couch, is indeed amusing and cozy.  
IF I was a woman (no smart wisecracks) I would have been somewhat appalled last week to click on and find two particular stories, side-by-side, prominently featured.  One was by Nicole Karlis who declared “Stormy Daniels is a Feminist Icon.” The other, by Mary Elizabeth Williams proclaimed “Cynthia Nixon for Governor — Just Say No.”

Now, the Stormy piece — I honestly believed this until I got to the last line — it had to be a joke, right? It was not.  Ms. Daniels is many things, including a working mom, but she is no feminist icon. However accurate her tale might be she is simply looking for a bigger payday, as is her unpalatable lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is for some reason treated by CNN and MSNBC like Thurgood Marshall or Clarence Darrow — or Atticus Finch!
As for Cynthia Nixon, I know little about what she intends to do as governor — she just announced her candidacy.  But she has been one of the least “actressy” actresses around and a passionate advocate, a serious woman.  One needn’t fawn over her, just because she is a woman, but it’s way too early to just say no or not “be with her.”  To see these two stories sharing space gave me icky pause. 

And now that I am on the subject, two pieces of advice — as long as Democrats insist the president is “on the verge” of firing Robert Mueller, he never will.  He tends to do the opposite of what he’s told he might do or should do.  Start saying “he’ll never ...” and you might get the results and “crisis” you want.
And I hang my head in embarrassment for Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon — everybody, top to bottom at CNN (in particular) for beating the Stormy Daniels story to death. Aside from the-nobody-cares aspect — and nobody does, who supports the president — there is a 12-year-old child involved, Barron Trump. (Well, no one cared about the feelings of 17-year-old Chelsea Clinton or Hillary, during Bill’s sleazy scandals, so I guess Democrats feel it’s an open, ugly field.) 

Real news that affects real people is happening in the world, Jeff Zucker, Anderson, Don, Wolf, Erin. (The census story for example, the horrific mall fire in Moscow, or the ongoing threat to the Veterans Administration.)  Leave Stormy and her lawyer to their potential coin-counting. 
MAIL!  Miss Olivia de Havilland, age 101, still has a legion of admirers out there.  I received a boatload of emails most of which come down to the thoughts expressed in this one, from Blair:  “I agree with you about Olivia de H and Ryan Murphy ... He should at least apologize and wish her well! Attention must be paid!!” (The consensus is — Ryan, be a gent. If you can.)

Others expanded. From Karen: “I, too, admire Miss de Havilland's gumption in suing Ryan Murphy but I don't believe she really expected to win. She wanted to make a statement and she certainly did, sitting in her lovely Parisian townhouse on the Left Bank. May I recommend her slim but thoroughly entertaining memoir “Every Frenchman Has One” that she wrote in the late fifties? It is back in print and I took it out of our library. The legendary Jack Warner used to say Olivia was ‘as smart as a computer’ and reading this book certainly shows off her wit, knowledge and literary chops.” 

From Sue: “Thanks for supporting Olivia de Havilland's case against Ryan Murphy and the portrayal of her on ‘Feud.’ I think the court was misguided in supporting the 1st Amendment and creativity versus accuracy, failing to take into consideration the fact that despite creative license, there is a responsibility to provide truth and fact where a real person and real events are concerned. 

“The court ignored the fact that the audience is interpreting the depiction as truth (due to its factual basis), which should be supported and valued. Creative license should not include fictionalized historical revisionism when the foundation of a depiction is factual and ostensibly presented primarily as such (albeit not a documentary). Creativity shouldn't include misleading the audience about truth, in the name of entertainment.”

Bekim Fehmiu as Odysseus in L'Odissea.
Over my musing about the ancient works of Homer, reader Omar sent info on the ancient Greek tendency toward repetition and also suggested movies based on the epic works: “My favorites are 1954’s with Kirk Douglas and gorgeous Silvana Mangano (in her double role of Circe/Penelope) and a wonderful Italian miniseries version for TV from the 1968, six episodes, with Irene Papas and beautiful Serbian actor Bekim Fehmiu. You can get it through Internet.  This one is a masterpiece!”  (I have seen the former, will seek out the latter.)

But this was my favorite correspondence. I told the other day how my interest in historical fiction was ignited as boy by reading a pulpy novelization on the lives the Byzantine rulers Theodora and Justinian. Marie, from San Diego went to Google or perhaps her local library and sent me a list of eight possible books. Most were too recent — I read the thing in the fifth grade.  And there were works by the ancient Roman historian Procopius — however I recall it was not a straightforward history. (There was some bodice and/or tunic ripping involved.)  But one title leapt out at me; “Theodora: Courtesan of Constantinople” by Clara Underhill, written in 1933. I can’t be certain, but it sure sounds like the kind of title that would have attracted me. Thank you, Marie from San Diego.

And thanks to all of you who take the time to write in!  I love you guys.
Contact Denis here.