Friday, August 31, 2012

Frasier's Listening

Frasier (1993-2004)
Created by David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee
Starring Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, Peri Gilpin, John Mahoney, and Moose (as Eddie the dog)

My son (nĂ© 1996) and I watch a lot of movies and television together, though he'll only watch t.v. shows that overlap his life.  So 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001) and Frasier he loves, That Girl (1966-1971) and Remington Steele (1982-1987) not so much.  The nineties was the decade of the singles sitcom, most of the Peter Pan ilk, i.e. Friends and Seinfeld, but Frasier, a Cheers spinoff, is a sitcom for adult singles.

Frasier Crane, who lived in Boston when he was a character on Cheers, moves back to his hometown of Seattle, where he lives with his father and works as a radio psychiatrist.  As befitting an adult, everyone on Frasier has a career.  Frasier's brother Niles is a practicing psychiatrist, Daphne a home health care worker, Roz a radio producer, and father Martin a retired cop.  Much of the show's comedy comes from the dichotomy between Frasier and Niles, the two most pretentious conspicuous consumers ever to grace television, and the more down to earth Martin, who loves sports and beer, Daphne, a working-class girl from Manchester, England, and the promiscuous Roz.

Though all of the characters are usually alone or in the wrong relationship, everyone is looking for that one true love.  Frasier sums up the point of their lives in the last episode with his interpretation of the last stanza of Tennyson's "Ulysses" (see below):  "While it's tempting to play it safe, the more we're willing to risk, the more alive we are.  What we regret most are the chances we never took."  All of the characters on Frasier are willing to take big risks to find real happiness, no matter how many times they fall flat, and none are willing to settle for less.  Most of us could learn from that.

From Ulysses:
"It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Amazon links:
Frasier: The Complete First Season
Frasier: The Complete Series

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mad Men

Mad Men (2007-)
Created and written by Matthew Weiner
Starring Jon Hamm, Elizabeth Moss, and Vincent Kartheiser
Costarring January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Aaron Staton, and John Slattery

I'm late coming to the Mad Men party.   Nevermind that it's won Golden Globes, been nominated for Emmys, is the most watched show ever on the AMC cable channel, and features one of the hottest actors on the big or small screen:  I'm just now seeing the show for the first time.  Of course, I don't have cable, so I can't watch cable programs until they come out on DVD.  My daughter has been trying to get me to watch Mad Men for quite some time.  Likewise I've been trying to get her to watch Boston Legal.  Finally, we settled on getting together once a month to share DVDs.  First up was Mad Men.  We watched a few episodes from Season One, and now my 15-year-old son and I are trying to cram four seasons in before school starts; we are that hooked.  As my son says, this show is really addictive.

Mad Men is "a term coined in the late 1950s to describe the advertising executives of Madison Avenue.  They coined it."  So begins the cable soap opera, which opens at the dawn of my favorite decade:  the 1960s.  It's no surprise that the ad execs would promote themselves with such a dashing turn of phrase.  Says Roger Sterling, co-owner of Sterling Cooper, the ad agency in which Mad Men is set, ad execs are shameless self-promoters.  All of them save our hero Don Draper (Jon Hamm), who keeps his head down where his personal life is concerned and his past well buried.  Good thing his talent speaks for him.  A veteran of the Korean Conflict, Don is a hard-drinking, smoking philanderer.  Oh, and he has a wife and kids in the 'burbs.  But despite the glamor in this most prestigious of advertising agencies--or maybe because of it--sexism and racism are rampant.  And yet Don's secretary Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) with a little help from Don and a lot of talent manages to rise from lowly secretary to lowly copywriter.  She has plans for her life that include a lot more than the traditional marriage and children.

Amazon links:
Mad Men: Season One
Mad Men: Season Two
Mad Men: Season Three
Mad Men: Season Four