Watching television

I am not what you would call an early adopter. Our one-and-half year old granddaughter was poking the buttons on our television set and somehow she broke the thing! The screen would light up, showing no picture, and then fade to black. Since that set dated from about the time when her mother was her age, we decided to buy a new one. I find that you can’t just get one with a cathode-ray tube anymore, so we ended up with a high-definition TV. I’m marveling. We are literally watching TV. Not watching programs, just watching our television set, surfing around for striking visual images. I realize that most of the rest of you have already had that experience with HDTV and now take it for granted, and I realize that some of you are standing tall against the baleful influence of this device. I salute that. But I am enjoying the stunning clarity and beauty of these pictures.

One small step for a man

July 20 was the 41st anniversary of a human being landing on the moon.  The tiny spacecraft was guided by computers with far less capability than the one you are using to read this blog.  “One small step for a man,” said Neil Armstrong, “one giant leap for mankind.”   Was it really?  Watch the video of that dramatic 1969 telecast.  (If it isn’t appearing in your browser, click “comments.”)

Pitch a new TV show

Lost is over. Law and Order and Numb3rs are cancelled. The networks need to come up with new programming and are searching for the next Lost. So far, program directors seem to be coming up with new ideas like these: Let’s have another police procedural! And to make it new, we’ll have it be just like our other police procedurals, only it’ll take place in a different city! Let’s have a situation comedy about a bumbling husband with a wife out of his league and some smart aleck kids! And when audiences get tired of that, let’s do another one just like it!

We can do better than that. What would be some good ideas for television series? I’ll go first:

(1) Washington Espionage. Set in the Cold War of the 1970s. The main character is a counter-intelligence agent with the CIA, but it includes a web of spies from all sides, their handlers, and their targets. Stories hinge on CIA, KGB, and other agents recruiting traitors, turning double agents, spycraft, and living their lives while hiding their true identities.

(2) School Days. Follows a group of incoming college freshmen at a state university and their progress from year to year until they graduate (whereupon, after four years, the series ends, or starts up again with a new class). We see their friendships, temptations, loves, and struggles. Also what they learn, the things they get into–from radical politics to campus Christianity–and how they grow up during their years at school. (I realize that the networks would probably focus on frat parties and sex in the dorms, but still. . . )

(3) Church. Follows a small-town pastor as he deals with the problems, the crises, and the joys of the people in his congregation. We get to know the families in his parish and watch how the pastor ministers to them. Sometimes the issues he deals with are humorous. Sometimes they are life-and-death serious (troubled marriages, rebellious kids, suicides, addictions, health problems). Each episode includes a scene at church, where we hear a snippet of the sermon and see all of the people in all of their problems come together for worship.

Wouldn’t these make good series? These brief paragraphs, by the way, are called “pitches” and are exactly what go before the network executives who sometimes invest millions on as little to go on. Any of you Hollywood producers who read this blog, if you want to use any of these ideas, fine, but give credit and a cut of the profits where they are do. Now your turn. . . .

They once were Lost and now are found


So Lost ends with the sacrifice of someone with bloody hands and feet and a wound in his side.  Whereupon everyone, including everyone who died in the series,  ends up in a church–complete with a statue of Jesus–where they forgive each other, are reconciled, and experience a joyous reunion.  The door opens and they walk out into the light.

I can’t remember any prime time series with so much explicit, overt Christianity.  It’s given in symbols, but symbols are far more evocative than prose in a work of art.   In addition to the Baptismal imagery that ran throughout the series, we also had in the last episodes Holy Communion imagery, with the mysterious God-figure saying “take this cup, and you’ll be like me.”

Pundits were saying that Lost has unique significance for our culture at this time in our history, to the point of proposing that the first decade of the 21st century–lacking a good name so far–be called “the Lost decade.”  So what does it mean that it takes Christianity to resolve all of those intractable problems and unravel all of that confusion?

I suspect that there will be a lot of howls from critics about the ending of Lost.  I’m not sure the literary critic in me is completely satisfied with the narrative resolution.  But still.   It shows that all of those Christian interpretations that people were reading into the show for the last six years were right after all, that all of that scattered symbolism was, in fact, the key to the show.

More importantly, the ending shows that traditional Christian concepts and imagery still have a powerful resonance in a Lost world.

American Idol final two

Usually, my “American Idol” favorites never make it all that far.  This year, though, the two performers that I have been pulling for and voting for all along are the two finalists!   Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze.

Of the two, I’m not sure who I want, since I like them both a lot.  Lee is a kind of diffident, shy guy, the sort who doesn’t make eye-contact when he talks, but he is a really fine contemporary singer.  Crystal is an alternative, bluesey Bonnie-Rait-type singer with amazing chops.  She never watched the show before, and she considered pulling out several times earlier.  Neither come across as egotistic divas, nor as pop star stereotypes.  Both are down-to-earth, non-assuming, and genuine musical artists.  Critics have said this year’s contestants are bland, but I’m tired of the Idol big voiced over-projections and I appreciate these two in particular.

Who deserves to win?  I’ll listen carefully to the final show next week.  I’d have to give the talent edge  to Crystal.  But I’d be glad to have Lee win it.

Any opinions?

DeWyze, Bowersox left to duel on ‘Idol’ finale.

So how will “Lost” end?

Many of you have followed, with me, the labyrinthine ways of “Lost.”  Now, the television puzzler is approaching its finale.  What do you think the final explanation will be?

HT:  Larry Wilson