Lunchtable TV talk – HAPPYish: “Everyone’s f—ed and they don’t even know…”

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Apparently, HAPPYish on Showtime was meant to be a vehicle for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s boundless talents before his untimely death. The usually entertaining (in that obnoxious, this-rubs-me-the-wrong-way-but-I’m-still-laughing manner) Steve Coogan stepped in.

I don’t think it’s Coogan’s fault that the material feels tired, overworked, too much overprivileged middle-aged man at odds with the changing world. Coogan’s character is a senior ad exec, and much like Don Draper in Mad Men, he finds that the changing media landscape and its youth-oriented sensibilities seem to be moving on without him – even if those movements are actually illogical, loss-making bullshit. Coogan is the voice of reason but no one is listening. He’s struck by malaise – unable to be effective at work and unable to be particularly effective in his marriage. He can’t sexually perform, he tells his eager wife (Kathryn Hahn) that Prozac has robbed him of his libido but without Prozac he’d basically be horny but a miserable prick. The first episode makes Hahn seem like she is not able to say much aside from some variation of, “Are we gonna fuck (or not)?” And we were led to believe that men had the one-track minds.

The second episode focused more on Hahn’s troubled relationship with her unseen mother and her internal struggle about whether or not she should return a giant package her mother sent for her grandson. Somehow the parental conflict we don’t see just feels petty and Hahn’s character petulant and self-indulgent because we don’t really know the context. I normally like Hahn (she’s great in both Parks and Recreation and Transparent) but the writing and story here does not suit Hahn and seemingly does not suit anyone who is in this show – and there are a lot of names popping up, but everyone seems awkward.

Part of the problem, apart from trying too hard, is that we have little pieces of this same show already done better in other shows. We have the ad man-out-of-time in Mad Men. We have the hilarious parody of an industry that often seems to be blowing itself and praising its own insular nature at the expense of reality in Silicon Valley. We have the married-life rut and suburban ennui done to perfection in Togetherness. Like most critics, I think we don’t need another TV show about a dissatisfied but mostly spoiled middle-aged white dude complaining about everything he doesn’t have.

Do yourself a favor and watch those shows – not this one.

“Everyone’s fucked and they don’t even know…”

Word associations and inappropriate musical choices

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Watching on Al Jazeera a show about Colombian pilots flying perilous routes in rickety old DC3 aircraft through the Amazon  (apparently with clear and present danger of crashing and never being found again once the jungle overtakes the wreckage), I am struck by the background music choice, which seems entirely too whimsical and Calypso to be appropriate. As a narrator explains that the pilot/captain Raul must calculate his fuel needs precisely or else crash, there is this playful carnival music going in the background. Yes, nothing like frolicsome music to evoke the “fun” of a possible fiery crash whose remains we would never find. (Al Jazeera has a whole bunch of these “daredevil” shows where people are doing the craziest stuff to make a living. A few weeks ago I saw some Pakistani lunatics driving on narrow, twisting mountain passes in giant, ornate trucks. And I think my commute is a bad one.)

You took off like a jet girl…

Jet girl… jet ski! I had a hilarious conversation last night before leaving for work in which I was reminded that there was probably a cigarette ad that included idiots on a jet ski. I had my doubts, but my dear firewall was absolutely right.

Idiots advertising cigarettes on a jet ski

Idiots advertising cigarettes on a jet ski

Jet ski! … “Après ski”! ”This kind of evening could be life enhancing…” “She gets what she wants but still she ends up losing”

When I am not overdosing on sad movies or documentaries, I overdose on news. And this leads me to two thoughts – Ratko Mladic acting like a spoiled idiot child at Radovan Karadzic’s war crimes trial – refusing to take part in the “devil’s proceedings” and demanding that a guard bring him his dentures apparently (which makes me wonder why he went to court without dentures in the first place)? Second, the crazy urge for news outlets to be first with any news. I read somewhere that the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was reported – not just by tabloids but by the Wall Street Journal – without any concern for whether his family had even been informed (never mind confirming the veracity of the claims).

Oh well I am too tired to analyze. Instead considering Donna Summer’s roles in alternate universes and hoping for just one day when the cars outside my office window will not honk. Since they built new tramlines and stoplights right outside, not a day passes without a lot of impatient honking (especially for Sweden).

Driven by film – at least it isn’t Danish

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When actors die suddenly, à la prolific and talented-beyond-words Philip Seymour Hoffman, I want to spend a lot of time focused on watching films – whether they include that actor or not. Just to enjoy the performances that exist.

When I get sad – for good reasons or no reason at all I am also tempted by sad movies (believing while watching the stories unfold that things could always be worse).

Yesterday, apart from watching a documentary on Mitt Romney (and see his whole Mormon family pray together), I watched The Hunt (Jagten). Great film – disturbing, great performance from Mads Mikkelsen and, in keeping with my preferred theme of “it could always be worse” – I can see that the story of a man falsely accused of child abuse is one such strand. Speaking and listening to Danish is the other such strand. Any language one speaks, s/he can console him/herself that at least it isn’t Danish.

We got so far and then there was nothing

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The slight heartbreak of little things piling up has hit me tonight. Already feeling a twinge of melancholy, the evening turned into a platform of little blooms of grief.

My friend’s poor cat passed away this evening. It was not unexpected, but the loss of a beloved pet – lovely, non-judgmental pets – always breaks my heart a bit.

Of course, understated but never underrated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman also passed away, and it just seemed so deflating. Such a waste. I often wonder about people blessed and cursed with so much talent. I discussed drug abuse with someone earlier, and he said something about famous people and their drug habits, but it struck me (without having any knowledge on the subject) that many of the most talented people probably already struggled with addiction issues before they ever dreamt of becoming “famous”. There is, I like to imagine, something so intense about embodying that kind of talent and losing oneself in one’s performances, that the temptation to lose oneself in drugs or some “altered state” is too great.

Eventually I succumbed to a discussion on the fucked-up things that happen to us as children and our helplessness about it and how those things influence (but hopefully don’t control) us.

Meanwhile I reflect on my own little, private issues and how I cannot bring myself to be open about them, even when there is something optimistic about them.

Now I am just hoping the Seattle Seahawks will not destroy the only good thing that can come of this day.

Where is my Firewall?