Sunday, September 26, 2021

A VERY GOOD WEEK

This was a good week for Sharon Gless. Apparently There Were Complaints, the memoir my wife has been wrestling with for an awfully long time, finally went to print; Simon & Schuster sent out a preview copy or two, resulting in a lovely review from Publisher’s Weekly, and recording sessions began on the audio version which, like the book itself, should be available the first week of December.

The recording of the book is being done at The Kitchen, a Miami based film dubbing center owned by our good friends Deeny Kaplan and  Ken Lorber. It was there, just one block west of Biscayne Boulevard, that I recorded the audio version of my own memoir, Cagney & Lacey… and Me.

This time is different. I read my book aloud. Sharon is performing hers. I have always prided myself on my reading aloud for interpretation, but there is no competition regarding this skill set in our house hold. My EMMY award winning spouse brings it all to the mic and, as always, I am in awe of her talent.

What was (until now) unknown, was just how well her writing would be received by others. It is one thing that I have read and loved the book… I have already confessed to being a sucker for La Gless. But now a professional critic has joined the club. Here is an excerpt or three of that Publisher’s Weekly review… one that might very well set the tone for other critics in the trade to follow:

Emmy Award-winning actor Gless debuts with a no-holds-barred look at her long and storied career…

…As she reflects on her ascendance through Hollywood, her signature wit and bold personality take the stage in entertaining stories…

Written by a masterful storyteller, this smart account boldly reveals both the grit and the glamour of Gless’s life, candidly contending with her substance abuse, various affairs, and the fact that writing her memoir took almost seven years. Fans will be delighted.

Publisher’s Weekly is more than a disseminator of information; it is one of considerable influence in the trade. If that holds true in this case, this will be more than a good week in the life of Sharon Gless. It could be transformative. Or, who knows, maybe a prequel to a sequel?

Barney Rosenzweig

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

TRIBUTE

Show business is beyond notorious when it comes to slimy characters. Films like The Big Knife, All About Eve, or the more recent Mank are illustrative, and not altogether fictional. Despite all that, every now and then I reflect on the good guys in a business that has precious few.

Fess Parker always comes close to the top of any list I might conjure. Aaron Rosenberg is up there for me as is Oscar winner Nathan “Jerry” Juran, along with Cagney & Lacey’s Al Waxman, Sidney Clute, and Dick Rosenbloom. Tony Hope and Bill Allen are right up there as well. They both had to earn their good guy stripes despite having very famous fathers. Among the many Network chiefs I have known, only Jeff Sagansky and Harvey Shephard gain entry to this exclusive club.

None of the above were as successful as some of the best known in the business, but on any list of people in this life (or the next) you would want to lunch with, or trust in… “Trust me”… unless you are writing a tell all book with plenty of sleaze, you could not do better than to choose Mr. Parker or any one of the aforementioned.

All this is by way of remembering one of the “bestest” good guys of them all: Ed Asner.

Ed came into my life with a bit of a sneer, since it had been his belief for some time that it was Cagney & Lacey that was responsible for knocking Lou Grant off the air. That wasn’t strictly true, but Ed believed it nonetheless. His “proof” was that we did, in fact, replace his beloved show on the CBS Network.

The sneer did not last long and several years later, Ed came to work for me on The Trials of Rosie O’Neill. He did his usual great job without a ripple. It is something special…easily worthy of comment…when an actor merits such an accolade. The entire process of performing is so personal, so revealing, that it is truly remarkable (not to mention unusual) when a star of Ed Asner’s magnitude repeatedly proves to be an absolute pleasure to work with and to be around.

I was fortunate to see Ed quite a bit post Rosie: on Broadway, then as he toured the U.S. for some radio plays with my wife, then at some celebrations of his work… or his life… or his politics. They all blurred together but he was always the same good guy. Always strong in his beliefs, and always ready to give you his knowing smile of approval… provided you earned it.

If there is a heaven, Ed has earned a special place there. As I said… one of the very few good guys. And I was one of the lucky ones honored to know him.

 

Barney Rosenzweig

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

PROMISES, PROMISES

 

 

A reader asked that I view and comment on the CBS series, Clarice. I intended to do that, but frankly, these days I hardly ever watch much of anything on Network TV. The Equalizer, starring Queen Latifah (also on CBS) might help clarify why that is:

Ms. Latifah has authentic star power, as this CBS series so vividly demonstrates. The show is produced about as well as a series such as this can be, and the scripts are fundamentally solid and well crafted. My problem is with the Network’s insistence that everything be wrapped up in 46 minutes.

I understand the Network’s reasons. It is a solid business decision… especially when you factor in the news that The Good Wife… one of the finest Network television shows EVER (also CBS)… has proved to be a disappointment in its Network afterlife because each episode is not “stand alone.”

It is the aftermarket where the true financial reward for any Network series exists, and the admonition to “follow the money” remains a compelling argument for any corporate executive. The aftermarket “explains” why “streaming” has been left to other platforms such as Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime… and why on the Networks there are so many versions of series such as Law & Order and CSI, which do not require following a story line stretching from episode to episode.

In this era of “streaming,” the requirement that one must resolve a complicated well thought out story in a mere 46 minutes is, for me, a real buzz kill. I have only seen two or three episodes of The Equalizer but each of them was rich enough in theme to have easily (and interestingly) been elongated into at least six or eight one hour-long episodes on almost any non-network streaming platform.

Back in the day, things were different. Episodic series (such as my own Cagney & Lacey, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, and Christy, or Steven Bochco’s Hill Street Blues, LA Law, or NYPD Blue) were not serialized, but they moved smoothly from one episode to the next as a novel goes from chapter to chapter. The lead characters “strung their beads” so that the Chris Cagney who lost her father in the penultimate episode of season six, mourned that parent throughout the remainder of season seven and even into the reunion movies we made years later.

The Networks didn’t mess with us very much about stuff like that…oftentimes even encouraging a “two, or three-parter” for certain “sweeps” periods. (Sweeps being those times in the year when advertising rates for each Network are set for the rest of the year based on how shows performed during that limited time frame.)

In those days, the Networks paid no attention to the aftermarket. It didn’t matter to those corporate giants how a show might perform once it was off their Network because they had no skin in the game. This was all because a legal precedent had long been set that separated those who owned this kind of “intellectual property” from those who distributed it.

It has been over 70 years since U.S. vs. Paramount forced the motion picture studios to divest themselves of their ownership in theatres to prevent the monopolistic restraint of trade that had built up in that industry. And ever since that decree, television was under enormous pressure to pretty much follow suit.

That all changed a little over 20 years ago when the government’s Financial Interest and Syndication ruling was changed, allowing the Networks to gain ownership of the shows they broadcast.

Twenty plus years ago, the Networks pledged to Congress that this change would not impact who they picked to make shows or who would own them. Today it is all but impossible to find a television show that is not primarily owned by the Network on which it is broadcast.

So much for promises… as well as a partial explanation as to why I moved to Miami… walking away a winner from what had become a losing game. But that is another story, and perhaps a blog for another day.

****************

Back when I was a Hollywood hotshot, my answer to the question regarding what I watched on TV was always, “they pay me to make shows for television, not to watch them.” Well, they no longer pay me to make them, so here are some of my latest “views:”

Outsider on HBO… a limited Stephen King series…well made on every level. If you like Mr. King’s “thing” (which I respect, but do not particularly care for) then this is right up your street.

The Flight Attendant on HBO is more to my liking and is incredibly stylish. Try it, I think you will agree. One caveat for the semi-reserved: it is very raunchy. Add Hacks, about which I have raved previously, and you have an HBO hat trick that is hard to beat.

Ted Lasso (APPLE-TV) is the current rage… 20 EMMY nominations for best comedy for this series set on what we Americans call the soccer fields of England. My wife loved it. I liked it. You should see it. I chose to watch it without subtitles, thus missing out on a whole lot of what was said. (Please insert here any of the many jokes about England and America being two nations divided by a common language.)

If nostalgia is your mood… I recently cranked up three oldies, but goodies in the motion picture realm: Chinatown, Casablanca, and Body Heat. The first two are simply brilliant (I always cry when they sing La Marseillaise at Rick’s… and I don’t even particularly like the French).

Body Heat is not in that league and did not hold up quite as well as I remembered, but it is still good and features a very sexy performance by Kathleen Turner. If you have seen her as Michael Douglas’ ex in The Kominsky Method, you might want to make a real effort to see her in this film that made her famous.

You should also know that anytime you might be feeling a bit dysphoric, watch Michael Douglas and Annette Bening in the 1995 Rob Reiner production of The American President, written by Aaron Sorkin. Guaranteed to chase all your blues away.

If you are too euphoric, there is Halston on Netflix. A sad… and all too real…mini-series that is very well done and brilliantly performed by the entire cast, led by Ewan McGregor who you might remember as Nicole Kidman’s leading man in Moulin Rouge.

This piece began with a reference to Network Television. A top-flight example of what was once being done on the Networks is NBC’s SMASH. It can now be streamed on Amazon Prime and if you like Broadway musicals this series is a real treat. Season two sags a bit in the first few episodes, but ultimately the show runner, who took over from the originator of the Steven Spielberg production, finds the way and recaptures the pace and style of season one. It is a wonderful series.

Finally, if seeing pretty people in pretty places is to your liking… and you don’t mind shots of swollen testicles or someone graphically defecating right there in your living room… White Lotus on HBO might just be your thing. I am none too sure it was mine… Hawaii is gorgeous, but none of the people were that pretty, nor for my tastes, was the writing smart enough to fully entertain or engage.

….to be continued.

Barney Rosenzweig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

THE VISIT


I happily took a time-out from my notes, my filing, my journaling, Fisher Island politics, and more--- to host two of my three kids who flew out from their California homes to visit their old dad and their stepmom.

I still call them “kids” even though both are probably older than many of the readers of this piece. They are aging beautifully, and it was great to see them… especially since, because of the pandemic, it has been so long between visits.

We all had reason to anticipate a perfect four days on my Island paradise, but it was not to be. At least not completely. First of all, it rained for two days. Not at all typical for Florida or the sub-tropics. Our summer rains here are usually torrential, but brief. This was California-like rain… not too heavy, but relentless.

All of that played havoc with the pickleball schedule, and all but eliminated lounge time on the beach. The “kids” compensated. They sat on the deck and read, there were some conversations about their mom and the family crisis of Alzheimer’s, there was some info on the grand kids, and all that they are accomplishing, as well as what their entire generation might be facing in the future. There was also some rain induced movie watching

The consensus was for a comedy. Sharon and my girls indulged me by watching one of my favorites (and one they had never seen), The Lady Eve, a Preston Sturges masterpiece of the 1930s screwball comedy genre, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda.

Besides being very funny, the film has (arguably) one of the most romantic scenes ever filmed, as the two leads stand nose to cheek at the bow of a luxury liner (eat your heart out Leonardo DiCaprio).

The kids were not as overwhelmed as their old man and countered with The Big Sick, a lovely, fairly new movie starring Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano.

Ms. Hunter’s appearance as Kazan’s mom of course brought up Broadcast News, as well as her brilliant tour de force in the TV series, Saving Grace. We considered both and then somehow concluded everyone craved a musical. My girls had not seen the Netflix mini triumph, The Prom with Meryl Streep, James Corden and Nicole Kidman… it was loved by all in the room.

The departure time from Miami International loomed and my children departed. More than the guest room was empty. Tyne Daly’s mother’s admonition haunted me. Like her I longed for “deeper, richer, fuller, better.”

Ever since my kids became full-fledged adults, I have always believed there was a wonderful closeness between us; that our extended family was really something special. I wondered if the whole COVID thing has taken us all off our game, that  because of sequestration we were simply out of practice

Like most of the world, my children are heavily engaged with major issues on their own home fronts. They were here in Florida on a vacation from all of that. I should have taken that under consideration but didn’t… at least not very much.

I continued to dwell on my “review” of the four days. Could I have been anticipating this visit for too long, prepping for it all too much? For some time, I have been editing---for their eyes only---my 30-year-old never published autobiography (Zero to 50: Life in the Hollywood Fast Lane), building a new folder in Google Drive entitled For My Heirs, meticulously censoring nearly 50 years of my personal journal, and recalling a previous visit so satisfying that I began putting together notes for a new book titled, Conversations with my Daughters.

None of this amounted to a syllabus on The Tempest or King Lear. I was thinking more on the level of a few select episodes of Father Knows Best….

Isolated during COVID I began digging into all these files as I found myself focusing on what I have come to know is certain: I am dying. Not soon, mind you. At least I hope not. Nor do I have any fatal disease. I am just doing what all people eventually do….and without a clue as to when or how.

And I don’t mean to make a thing of it… am not looking for any tribute dinners and have even pretty much given up the fantasy of Ken Burns making me the subject of one of his documentaries. I just want… while I have all my faculties and a modicum of energy… to pass stuff on. Things I have learned. Folks I have met. Failures, and successes, and how I conjured it all up… out of… pretty close to nothing.

My “candle’s” illumination may be “brief,” but so was their visit. I pause to remind myself that they were on Fisher Island seeking respite from family mishigas. There is no question that, right now, the one needing the most attention is their Los Angeles based mother. In the eyes of my offspring, old dad is fine… and for the most part they are right to think so. Truth to tell, I gave no indication otherwise, nor did I hand out a schedule of events that included “Have In depth, Heavy Conversation About Dad’s Eventual Demise and Preservation of History.”

Once they had returned to their homes I checked in with “my girls” by email. The younger of the two… who besides dealing with her mother is, herself, the mother of two very wonderful young women, wrote back: “I guess we’ll have to dig deeper next time.” She sounded so very grown up and parental. My oldest was a bit more effusive:  “I think,” she wrote, “…there was a general lack of connection this trip and we are all left feeling a bit wistful about it. Perhaps coming out of quarantine has left us each in our own bubbles more than usual… Here’s to next time and trying again.”

I lift my glass to that. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a journal to censor.

 

Barney Rosenzweig

 

Friday, July 2, 2021

A Blast from the Past

 

The roll call I put together in a recent column of “dearly departed” folks with whom I have worked in show business elicited a lot of comment from readers of these notes, partially (I believe) because the list was so long. It is one of the side effects of being in a business where one’s colleagues are older. That was most certainly true for me at the outset of my career in 1959.

 

At MGM, where I started right out of college, I was at least 20 years junior to anyone else in my department. It was the era memorialized in the film, The Last Picture Show. Movie theatres all over America had closed and the studios that supplied the films for those now empty houses were hardly a growth industry. That pretty much explained why I was the only member of the so-called Silent Generation in the building; to most of my contemporaries Hollywood must  have looked like a poor place to begin any kind of a career. I rationalized the move as part of my understanding of the philosophy of contrary opinion. Simply put: when everyone else is zigging… zag.

 

In the late 1960s, on my first producer job (Daniel Boone), my associate producers, Joe Silver and Merwin Gerard were closer to my father’s age than my own. Ted Schilz, my production manager was at least a decade older than I, and even older than that were my three top directors Bill Wiard, Jerry Juran and John Newland.

 

There was one exception, an Associate Producer who was six months younger than I. He was my first hire for my second year on the series and I write about this now because it only recently came to my attention that this alumnus of mine had also passed on. It merits comment as I reminisce, because of all the folks on that long list of the departed, this was one I absolutely do not---and will not---miss.

 

I was at my desk when I belatedly learned of the passing of this former associate. It was a rainy June afternoon on my Island Paradise, gloomy enough for reflection, recollection, and then (ultimately) the referral to notes I had made in the long ago. It had been over 50 years since I had hired this young (to everyone but me) associate producer. And, to everyone but me, it was clear that the mistake I had made in doing so was huge. I spent months defending him as well as my initial decision to bring him on board. The majority proved out to be right, as more and more my unpopular minion demonstrated a pathological need to “stir the pot,” culminating in his even turning against the one defender/benefactor he had left. The pain he was to cause me in the years that followed came crashing over my memory like the California surf of my youth.

 

I began to write fast and furiously, recalling with the help of my copious and contemporaneous notes, this Iago-like minion who tried so hard---and in so many ways succeeded---to cause me harm. As if by reflex, others in my rogues’ gallery came to mind. One who has passed on, and two others who, judging by actuarial tables, may soon join my little list of the never-will-be-missed. At least by me. When one considers the cutthroat reputation assigned to show business, it is a remarkably short compilation. Still, there is a lot of rich material there: one former boss, one erstwhile Network chief, and one other used-to-be-boss. These last two still linger on the planet, lending credibility to the poetic statement that only the good die young.

 

I pounded my keyboard, writing at length about each of them. It was not merely cathartic, the naming of names and the calling out of the villains of my life added (I thought) verisimilitude. More than one of my editors wrinkled their collective noses at what I had written. They considered it bad taste…or at the least…inappropriate, no matter how purifying it felt to me.                                                                                                   

 

Chastised, I nevertheless wondered what authority had decreed not to speak ill of the dead? Turns out it was Chilon of Sparta (6th century BC). His admonition (“De mortuis nil nisi bonum”) does have a ring to it. Still, I am betting he never had a career in show business.

 

 

Barney Rosenzweig

 

 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Lisa Banes, who so wonderfully played Rosie O’Neill’s sister in our series The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, has passed away in New York City, the victim of a hit and run. How sad… and how ironic that she would get through the entire Pandemic without a hitch, be preparing to go back to work in New York’s theatre world, only to have some criminally careless scooter operator run her down as she was crossing the street.  Lisa struggled for over a week in hospital before succumbing. Besides our series, where she was truly a stand out, Lisa had numerous guest appearances on top TV shows, was featured in motion pictures such as Gone Girl and Cocktail, as well as stage, including Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia on Broadway.

With Memorial Day just behind us, and now with Lisa’s passing… it all brought to my mind so many others with whom I have worked who have gone to whatever the “reward” is that awaits us all (or so we live and hope). And so, this moment of personal privilege to honor some of those who honored me with their fine work over the years. Besides Lisa, from Rosie O’Neill there was Georgann Johnson (who played the mother of both Lisa and Sharon in the series), directors Reza Badyi and Nancy Malone, cinematographer Jack Priestly and post production supervisor Jim Gross. The list is even larger for Cagney & Lacey: Al Waxman (Lt. Samuels), John Karlen (Harvey Lacey),Dick O’Neill (Charles Fitzgerald Cagney), Harvey Atkin (Sergeant Coleman), Sidney Clute (LaGuardia), Paul Mantee (Corassa), Jason Bernard (Marquette), Stanley Kamel (Solomon), Jo Corday (Josie), Robert Hegyes (Esposito), Vonetta McGee (Claudia Petrie), directors Ray Danton, James Frawley, Joel Oliansky, Ted Post, Joel Rosenzweig and John Patterson, post production supervisor Dick Reilly and guest stars Brian Dennehy, Peggy Feury, Estelle Getty, Mercedes McCambridge, Lois Nettleton, Jeanette Nolan, Doris Roberts, James Stacy, Susan Strasberg, Susan Anspach, Rose Marie, Production executives Ed Feldman, Richard M. Rosenbloom and Stan Neufeld, writers Barbara Avedon, Fred Freiberger, Max Jack, Shelly List, Brian McKay.

I will not go through every show and series, but just from the top of my head, other one-time close associates I think of so fondly must include Aaron Rosenberg, Fess Parker, Julie Harris, Gail Kobe, Maurice Evans, Roger Miller, Jimmy Dean, Yaphet Kotto, Jack Guss, John Newland, and Merwin Gerard (Daniel Boone), Director Harvey Hart, Howard Duff, Lloyd Bridges and Soon Tek-Oh (East of Eden), Celeste Holm (This Girl for Hire), and Jack Klugman (One of My Wives is Missing). I miss them all and find myself smiling as I reflect on the many memories. Lisa Banes is a more than worthy addition to this prestigious list, but she is included here way too soon… and way too tragically.

By way of a segue… and a legitimate enough way to get my mind refocused on more pleasant things, I turned to my television and season three of the Netflix comedy, The Kominsky Method. It opens with a funeral… and not just any funeral, but one for Michael Douglas’ lead co-star in the series, Alan Arkin. Big mistake. Mr. Arkin will be more than missed and as of this tiny toe-dip into the third season I am not at all convinced this superior foil for Michael Douglas can be replaced. On to find a drama:

Mare of Eastown is another crime piece from the darker regions of HBO. It stars Kate Winslet and is without question a good show, well worth your time, but I gotta tell ya, folks, it had me really missing Frank Capra’s America. Mare takes place in Eastern Pennsylvania in a small industrial town that has (apparently) seen better days. The photography, the direction, the acting, and the writing are all top quality… the kind of thing we have been conditioned to expect from the HBO platform which has excelled in the mystery format (True Detectives, Perry Mason, Watchman to name only three). All that said, throughout my viewing, I kept hearing a nagging voice in the back of my head saying “if this is America, what is all the fuss about? Let Donald Trump have it.”

I am just objective enough to know that smacks of coastal elitism potentially taking me down the rabbit hole of Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables.” I really don’t want to go there, but there is a reason Shakespeare focused on the foibles of his “betters” (as in Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello), and that Aaron Sorkin usually picks his locales and situations (American President, The West Wing, Charlie Wilson’s War, Moneyball, The Social Network) carefully, so that when one or more of the leading characters falls from grace, we (and the world) just might give a damn.

I get it that not every show should focus on the English royal family, a wannabe chess champion, or a media mogul and the lusting of his offspring for the power that will (perhaps sooner than later) be vacated by the greedy group’s patriarch. Game of Thrones cannot (should not) be replicated every season and, just maybe my dissatisfaction with the HBO elite is simply that they oughta know we all only just (hopefully) got through a pandemic of monumental proportions… I mean…c’mon, folks; whatever happened to escapist entertainment?

Maybe that’s it. Just maybe I am objecting to the timing; to the lack of social awareness about just what it is that is happening in this world of ours. Pick your spots, people. The Oscar nominees let us way down with tomes featuring a homeless woman who wanders the more dismal parts of America in her van, then, there is a family of immigrants who struggle against the land, a culture, and a language they barely understand and with which it is all but impossible to cope. There is the flick about a musician who loses his hearing and therefore his career and his livelihood … the list goes on. Does “there is a time and a place” resonate? Heck, if you have forgotten Frank Capra, what about Fred and Ginger?

Don’t get me wrong; film noir is among my favorite genres, but Mare and her neighbors are not that. They don’t come back with slick one-liners or make comment on how the mighty have fallen (or soon will). Mare’s family and friends are sullen, beer guzzling under achievers herein memorialized in a screenplay by an avowed alumni of the neighborhood who, I am sure, could not wait to escape to Hollywood or Manhattan so he might achieve some sort of payback for having been raised up amongst such a shabby group. His revenge is complete, if unsatisfying.

I did appreciate that police detective Mare took the actions of a cop that most of us, as well as Black Lives Matter, would applaud, such as putting away her gun when chasing the suspect, talking him to safety, helping him find shelter and generally being a Good Samaritan. Many more innocent men and women would be alive today if law enforcement followed Mare’s lead.

On that upbeat note, HBO has also brought us Hacks, a new filmed comedy starring the exceptionally fine actress, Jean Smart. Having washed off the grit of Eastown (Ms. Smart plays Kate Winslet’s mother in that limited series), in Hacks she is a fading super star of a comedienne, fighting for that piece of the Vegas stage she has occupied for more than a decade. Ms. Smart is brilliant and the show… once you give it a more than a two- or three-episode peak… is damn good as well. Here the HBO platform rightly famous for Veep and Barry serves up another show worthy of those tentpoles.

Finally, because of HBO and Jean Smart, let me remind you once again to see Watchman. Not only is it timely (its roots are in the Tulsa massacre of one hundred years ago that has so recently been featured in multiple documentaries and commentaries). but Watchman mixes idioms so brilliantly that the limited series is both serious and escapist. It is an interesting high wire on which to walk, and the film makers here pull it off brilliantly. I commend this show to you… even though it takes an episode or two simply to adjust to all that is coming at you from nearly every possible angle. In the middle of all this, Jean Smart completes this column’s hat trick with another wonderful (off-beat) performance.

I am married to another blonde and talented actress of a certain age. I therefore compose this ode to Jean Smart with some trepidation since it is clear to me Ms. Gless would have probably been every bit as good (maybe better) in Watchman or Mare of Eastown. But truth to tell, Sharon could not have done what Ms. Smart did with Hacks. I don’t know anyone else who could, except (perhaps) Julia Dreyfus. Julia had her turn with Veep, now, with Hacks, Jean Smart gets hers.

 

Barney Rosenzweig

 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

THE CONFEDERACY OF THE HUMBLED

 

I am tempted to call what follows “reviews for the slothful.” First, they come from me… arguably the most sedentary individual of my generation without a wheelchair.

Secondly, although I know most editors expect primarily show business commentary from this TV veteran with a resume, including producing something like 400 hours of prime-time television dramas over a 50-year period, I am (as previously indicated) somewhat slow to get around to things.

Take Borgen, for example. It has been out for a while. I am mid-way through season two of this Danish drama and I find myself belatedly commending it to your attention for the very first time.

Better late than never.

It is on Netflix and it is, to the parliamentary system of government, what West Wing was to politics in the U.S. of A. (or at least what we all like to think politics in the U.S. of A. used to be).

I am also crazy about Dead to Me. I understand there will be a post pandemic third season (again on Netflix) and I cannot wait to see it. Christina Applegate may just be the best female lead to hit your television screen since Sharon Gless (and most of you know of my heavy bias toward that multi-Emmy Award Winner).

While alluding to La Gless, let me disclose that we were just co-occupying New York City…. fully expecting to find a ghost town and rather amazed that old NYC is alive and well... not yet fully recouped… but on the road to becoming (again) its former self.

Without theatre, Sharon and I visited with friends and such celebrity pals as Renee Taylor, Lee Grant, and Brenda Vaccaro. We missed Tyne Daly who had only recently closed her New York apartment to relocate on the West Coast, to be much closer to her three daughters and her grandchildren.

We dined al fresco and enjoyed one of the best weeks of Big Apple weather I can remember, all the while alerting our friends to tune into Amazon Prime and our 30-year-old wonder, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill. Watching it all these years later, I do not think I have ever been prouder of something I have done, and I now spend a fair amount of my time commending its viewing to anyone who will listen. Try it. It is a very good show (even if I do say so myself---again).

I write this piece while on the road returning by car from NYC to my home on Fisher Island, just off the coast of Miami’s famed South Beach. It is something like day six of the driving trip and a rainy day in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where I have stopped for a day or three, and so have decided to dash this column off in between chapters of the delightful novel I am now reading.

Once again, I am behind the times. Published in 2016, I am only now getting around to A Gentleman from Moscow; the best book (by far) I have read in the more than 10 years that have passed since reading Water for Elephants. The latter made a pretty poor movie, and the Moscow book will likewise not be an easy adaptation. Still, with the right cast I would stand in line to be among the first to see it.

Readers of these notes of mine know I am far from a voracious reader. I am, however, a passionate one and I revel in realizing, within a very few pages, that I am in the hands of a professional who knows writing and how to tell a story. And if on top of that the author writes passages that are quotable…. Well, there is little that compares to that…. Especially when the passage touches something with which the reader can identify; something that brings to the fore an idea you know you have had, but just never really expressed before.

As a former somebody…  and only recently someone accepting the title of “has been” … I particularly sparked to this paragraph about the “Confederacy of the humbled:”

…a close-knit brotherhood whose members travel with no outward markings, but who know each other at a glance. For having fallen suddenly from grace, those in the Confederacy share a certain perspective. Knowing beauty, influence, fame, and privilege to be borrowed rather than bestowed, they are not easily impressed. They are not quick to envy or take offense. They certainly do not scour the papers in search of their own names. They remain committed to living among their peers, but they greet adulation with caution, ambition with sympathy and condescension with an inward smile.

I am not going to top that piece of writing and so will simply adjourn until next time…. Maybe from the Carolinas, Georgia or (most likely) my warm Island off the coast of Miami Beach.

 

Barney Rosenzweig