A blogging friend, Calmgrove, commented on my previous post, saying how strange it is that in modern times, despite an abundance of comediennes, there are no female tricksters. Then it struck me – and it’s so obvious, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier.
In an era when tricksters come to us on screens rather than stories told around a campfire, we cannot forget Lucille Ball’s role in “I Love Lucy.” The show ran from 1951 to 1957 and was the most watched the American television program during four of those six seasons. It is still in syndication in dozens of countries around the world.
Lucille Ball and Orson Welles.From a 1956 episode. Public domain.
Lucille Ball, with her clowning and physical comedy, set a tone that is still at the core of many sitcoms. Most of the best known women comics who followed cite her as a groundbreaker, an inspiration, a mentor, and often a friend. In terms of our “classic trickster” test, that is what she was, at all times. Never just a funny housewife, Lucy was an outrageous but charming disrupter, whose pioneering humor enlivened the spirits of millions who watched her.
I dare you to get through the chocolate factory scene with a straight face.
Quite a few full episodes of the show are available on YouTube.
Thanks to a tip from our niece, Theresa, we’ve discovered a promising mystery show on A&E. Longmire, based on a series of award winning novels by Chris Johnson, premiered in June, 2012. Now in its second season, the first years’ shows are available on Netflix.
In the pilot, we find Walt Longmire (played by Australian actor, Robert Taylor), sherif of the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming, returning to work a year after his wife’s death. He gets a call from his deputy, Vic (aka Victoria, played by Katee Sackhoff), formerly a Philadelphia homicide detective. Joining her on a remote ridge, they discover a dead sheep and a dead man, both killed by bullets from an antique Sharps rifle.
The victim is a teacher whose wife thought he was in Laramie. With more digging and the help of his Cheyenne Indian friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), Longmire discovers the dead man was the father of a 16 year old girl whose Cheyenne mother reported her missing three months earlier. That could present new problems; Longmire isn’t popular on “the Res,” having jailed the tribe’s chief for extortion. A gun expert warns Longmire that the Sharps rifle can kill a horse at 500 yards. Such an antique sniper’s weapon would only be used “by a coward or a professional, and both can be very dangerous.”
Longmire echoes the square-jawed defenders of justice from earlier era westerns – he reminds me of the McLoud mysteries that starred Dennis Weaver from 1970-77. This show, like our times, is darker and more full of angst than the earlier series. Look for the show on Monday’s on A&E, or on Netflix. I plan to.
Readers of this blog know I am a fan of things Icelandic and a fan of The Simpsons. I was delighted last night to discover a little known saga on the final show of season 24 of our longest running television show.
If I’d only been more active last week on Facebook, where I follow The Simpsons, I would have been able to pass along advanced notice, but sooner or later, “The Saga of Carl Carlson” will show up on Hulu, so here is a brief description to whet your appetite.
When the gang at Moe’s tavern wins the lottery, Carl mysteriously disappears with the loot. Lenny, Moe and Homer track him to Iceland, his native country since he was adopted by the Carlson clan as a child. His pursuers learn that his goal is to clear the family name from a stain in a thousand year old saga.
Greed hangs in the balance with male bonding, but at last Homer speaks up in defense of Carl. There are some great scenes of volcanoes, tiny horses, and northern lights, as well as appearances by Sigur Ros, the internationally known Icelandic band. They provide the soundtrack as well, and their own take on the theme song.
Reunited at last back at Moe’s, Homer reflects on the strength of male friendship: “We don’t get together to share our feelings, we come here to escape them!”
“The Saga of Carl Carlson.” Remember that if you are a Simpson’s fan and missed the show. Check back on Hulu. This episode is a lot of fun.
The Vikings – a new, 9 part series on the History Channel
On Sunday night, I watched episode one of The Vikings, a new dramatic series on the History Channel that begins with the ambitions of an 8th century Scandinavian warrior and farmer, Ragnar Lothbrok, who has heard rumors of wealthy places to the west called England and Ireland.
I was especially interested in the series after visiting Iceland last fall and delving into Icelandic sagas which chronicle the same culture 200 years later, after they’ve mastered the art of navigation on the open sea. (search on “Iceland” on this blog to see the writings and photos that followed that trip). All the details on episode one fit what I learned in terms of historical accuracy. I’m looking forward to watching the next eight episodes in the series.
Episode one depicted a violent culture, but one with its own detailed code of honor. In that respect, it mirrored the Old Testament world presented in episode one of “The Bible,” which came on next on the History Channel. Plenty of smiting in both cultures.
I recommend the series. Anyone who is interested can check out episode one on Hulu: The Vikings on Hulu.
In 1984 I joined Intel as their graphic workstations were shrinking from video arcade sized units to large desktop computers. In my spare time, I sometimes played with a Commodore64 and saved quarters for Space Invaders. The first IBM personal computer did not roll out until the following year.
That was the state of technology when Max Headroom was born. The creation of a British trio, George Stone, Annabel Jankel, and Rocky Morton, Max was an artificially intelligent, disembodied personality who lived in cyberspace before the term was coined. Computer animation wasn’t advanced enough to portray the computerized look the group was after, so filming Max required a four hour makeup session that actor Matt Frewer described as “a very painful, torturous and disgusting enterprise.”
Rocky Morton described Max as a “very sterile, arrogant, Western personification of the middle-class, male TV host,” but he was also “media-wise and gleefully disrespectful,” which endeared him to younger viewers.
Max appeared on American TV in 1987, as a talking head – literally – in a TV newsroom in a dystopian near-future dominated by large corporations and television. Although he became a spokesman for “The New Coke,” and appeared on Sesame Street, only 13 shows aired.
Part of the problem was that Max was down right irritating, with his visual and vocal stutter and an op-art background that was the best computer animation could do at the time. Here is a 3o second sample from his Coke commercial:
The fact remains that Max Headroom was decades ahead of his time. In one episode, for instance, terrorists blow up all TV towers in the city, pushing the population to riot when they find they have nothing to watch. In the nick of time, city officials pacify everyone by distributing hand-held video viewers loaded with old reruns.
Remember, this was 1987, when the best technology Hollywood had to offer wasn’t enough to capture the vision of Max’s creators.
So what brought Max Headroom to mind right now? Beyond Max’s “dystopian future dominated by large corporation and television” that is. Why today, December 3, 2012?
Yesterday, after a series of storms, I ventured out to the supermarket and walked in just as they played the Christmas carol holiday song I hate most, “Little Saint Nick,” by the Beach Boys. I had to compliment the store, however – the sound was just barely audible. Not loud enough to cause real annoyance, I thought, but enough to keep silence at bay, which might cause people to riot.
That brought Max to mind. “Ha-ha-ha-happy Ho-ho-holidays, everyone.”
Okay, time for a mea culpa on the recs contained in my last post on the National Geographic Channel’s Hunting UFOs series http://wp.me/pYql4-2b2. I grabbed the clicker after 20 minutes. The program was part Blair Witch and part reality TV, and I’m not fond of either.
And as for the tweets, I think we better hope the aliens don’t speak English. On the other hand, if they do, it probably means they’ve been tuning in to our TV signals for years. If they’ve been watching commercials and Fox news, this set of tweets won’t phase them.
For me, the most interesting item to emerge from all of this was a quote from Stephen Hawking that I pasted into a comment and will repeat here. He warned that if more advanced alien life forms landed on earth, we could see a replay of the fate of Native American populations at the hands of European colonizers.
“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.” – Stephen Hawking
So life continues, as do our explorations, for as two researchers who are beyond reproach observed, “The truth is out there.”
Tonight at 9:00pm, the National Geographic Channel will present “Chasing UFO’s,” with a team of three investigators checking out reported sightings in Texas, Fresno, and other hotspots of alien activity.
The National Geographic Team – move over Men in Black!
In a recent survey, National Geographic discovered that 80 million Americans – a third of the population – believe in UFO’s. Seventy-nine percent of us think the government has kept UFO information hidden, and more than half believe there are real Men in Black who threaten people who report sightings.
Aliens grok Geena Davis in “Earth Girls are Easy,” 1988
But wait – there’s more going on tomorrow than just watching other people have all the fun. There’s something to take our minds off wondering how to land a job as a UFO Chaser. It’s the Wow Reply Project.
In August, 1977, Jerry Ehman, a researcher at the Ohio State Big Ear radio observatory, spotted a coherent alpha-numeric sequence on a computer printout of signals from deep space. He grabbed a red pen, circled it, and wrote “Wow!” in the margin.
And in case you’re a bit stuck in figuring what to say, the Geographic has solicited suggestions from several experts, including Stephen Colbert, to help us. Check out Colbert’s recorded message, which begins, “Greetings intelligent alien life forms. I am Stephen Colbert, and I come to you with an important message from all the peoples of the earth. We are not delicious.”
From “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” 1951
It isn’t easy to make up a tweet for space beings. What can you possibly say? “Greetings, aliens. I had cheerios for breakfast, how bout you?” See, this is going to take some work, and there isn’t much time, so we better get busy!