TV: The understated villain

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Does anyone remember the TV sitcom Dear John? Newly divorced John Lacey (Judd Hirsch, appearing these days in Forever) joins a support group, which is full of its own oddball characters. But the most memorable character is the slimy, would-be “ladies man” “Kirk” played by Jere Burns. Back then, who would have thought that Burns would show up just about everywhere as shady, menacing villains who appear so unassuming that they just slip under the radar? In the last decade, Burns has turned up in these kinds of roles so many times I can’t count. When I caught his turn in Bates Motel, I had to think, of course, of his long-running role in Justified playing exactly the same kind of criminal and his equally surreptitious bad guy role in Burn Notice. (He has also turned up in roles, such as in Breaking Bad, as Jesse’s rehab group leader, but these roles are not the ones in which Burns shines.)

I love this guy.

Why I Changed My Mind: Cheesy TV Action Shows

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We can’t be highbrow all the time, can we? My personal tastes – those that really speak to me and mean something to me – seem to align with the PBS and arthouse/foreign film crowd. But, as a multitasker, I like mindless entertainment to play in the background while I focus on other things. This realization dawned on me after quite some time, when I finally succumbed to the fairly harmless and unrealistic lure of TV action shows.

At some point I fell under the charming and sometimes hilarious spell of Burn Notice. Stretching believability in every episode, I could set aside all concerns about reality, what could actually happen and suspend all highbrow notions and get lost in the Miami world of burned CIA covert officer, Michael Westen, and his merry band of vigilante co-conspirators. The show had a number of one-time and running jokes (notably, when Tyne Daly guest starred to play opposite series regular Sharon Gless, reuniting the TV cop duo Cagney & Lacey; the character Sam Axe – played by the inimitable Bruce Campbell – always gave his cover identities the name “Chuck Finley”, which is not funny and means nothing to non-baseball fans). Burn Notice went on for a number of seasons, and though it ended in a satisfactory way, and I thought I was ready for it to end – I miss my mindless action show!

I have shifted my allegiances and started watching the remake of Hawaii Five-0, which is actually full of fun and interesting characters. Not deep characters, not deep stories, not great acting. But it’s enough to fill the need for mindless laughs and action. Scott Caan uses humor to escape the shadow of his actor father, James Caan and plays well off his counterpart and Five-0 partner, Steve McGarrett, played by Alex O’Loughlin (I’d only seen him in the late, great The Shield before this). I am thrilled to see Grace Park in this after her killer role in one of my all-time favorites, Battlestar Galactica. With all the cast chemistry, casual fun, Hawaiian views (me being an island-born Honolulu girl), the updated version of the original theme song (who doesn’t love that?) and Magnum PI references, this should satisfy my need.

But it does not quite fill the hole left by Burn Notice – and none of the other mindless shows out there (action or no) quite fill the void.

Christmas Day mistakes

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I made a huge mistake – a Christmas Day decision to go to the grocery store. Many stores were actually open all day during regular hours. I figured it would be empty, but not quite. Everyone else – well, those immigrant families (who are probably not celebrating Christmas) and hordes of pasty, single dudes buying low-alcohol beer and frozen pizza – had the same idea. It was a madhouse – and I had somehow expected it to be empty. No such luck.

My need for abundantly guilty-pleasure tv is no longer being adequately met. I miss Burn Notice. No amount of Hawaii Five-0 or Grimm cuts it for me.

Still I just should have stuck with tv and not ventured out.

Sweet TV

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The pre-emptive breaking of one’s own heart – not just on TV anymore

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