In Defense Of The “Bottle Episode”

imageWatch me do it, little man!

Thanks to Aspire TV, I’ve been introduced to something that I didn’t know existed: The Bill Cosby Show.

No, not the 80’s hit that reminded everyone that black people could be on TV too. And no, not the bad “Cosby” trainwreck that followed. Nor do I mean some variety or talk show or anything with “Fat” in the title. Not ringing any bells? Don’t feel bad – I was pretty surprised myself. In this early 70’s sitcom sans laugh track, Cos plays Chet, a Los Angeles phys ed teacher in a multiracial school taught by ethnically diverse teachers. He’s an everyman who gets into shenanigans with sprinkles of ballyhoo and balderdash. It ran for only a couple seasons because it’s an average show at best. Anyway, now we know.

On today’s show, Chet, the school cleaning lady, and Henry Fonda (playing a teacher) fall into tomfoolery and get stuck in an elevator. That’s where the whole episode takes place. That’s an example of a bottle episode. When you’re trying to save money on your series, now and again you’ll produce a bottle episode because they cut down on set building, location shooting and time. Now we know.

Wikipedia is here to help:
“The etymology of the phrase originates with a similar term used on the set of the original 1960s-era Star Trek . Cast and crew members of the show use the phrase ‘ship-in-a-bottle episodes’ for episodes that took place only on board the Starship Enterprise.”

Sounds like a cool scheme but they can sometimes catch a bad rap. Discerning viewers might consider it lazy or a cop out. In a certain light, a bottle episode from your favorite show might make you feel cheated. And you are if it’s badly written. That’s the trick with these things – you have to make sure you can make 30 minutes to an hour in one space interesting. “Seinfeld” was exceptionally good at this. Everybody points to “The Chinese Restaurant” as their best but I think “The Parking Garage” is better.

Furthermore, these challenges have been known to produce exquisite works. Star Trek’s “Balance Of Terror,” The X-Files’ “Ice,” Community’ “Remedial Chaos Theory” were arguably the shows’ best outings. Hell, almost every time Community does it, it scores! See “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” and “Cooperative Calligraphy.” They are masterpieces.

Even movies can do it. All of “Crimson Tide” is in a submarine. “The Breakfast Club” did it and most of “Speed” is on a bus. Truth is, I think most b.e.’s are pretty good. They offer a lot of exercise for the actors and writers and little for the rest of the contributors, and that’s okay. The bulk of my creative respect goes to writing anyway, but it’s that wonderful acting performance that makes the words come alive. Just check out Breaking Bad’s tour du force “Fly.” You’ll see.

So I’m not going to rattle off a ton of examples about bottle episodes and why each individual production is cool. That’s what Google is for. But I will go so far as to say that Lois and Clark’s “Ghosts” might be the worst bottle episode ever made.

Okay that’s no way to defend b.e.’s. Let’s rename this “In Defense Of The Bottle Episode Except That One.” Pure trash.

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Characters From Television Who Wouldn’t Miss Us.

ArchieNah. Too easy.

When you’re as obsessed with TV as I am (there I said it), strange things pop into your head. Things like ranking the women from “B.J. and the Bear” in terms of hotness and imagining a dogfight between Airwolf and Blue Thunder. Recently while thinking back on old episodes of “Dallas,” I wondered if J.R. would just be happier in life if no one else was around. My answer to my own question was “no” because then he’d have no one to pull diabolical schemes on. This abstract thought mutated into something more befitting a man with tons of time on his hands: What TV characters would benefit from being around less people? Or, if no one was around, would this person even give a shit?

Below are a few candidates to this foolishness. And I’m wholly open to further suggestions. Movie characters don’t count. As in, Hannibal or Norman Bates – TV people who originated from film.

carl

Carl Brutananadilewski

Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s disgruntled neighbor would do just fine without us, and he’d be especially happy to see the end of the boys next door. This master pervert knows he’s way too gross to be around, so he’s got no desire for a relationship. He’d be fine in life with just some porn and the occasional hooker call.

Data2366

Data

Yes, the android from Star Trek:TNG. He’s got no emotions (on the show) so he wouldn’t get lonely. In fact, if all other life were wiped out, Data would probably get more shit done. Here is a YouTube video that goes well with my topic.

morgan2

Morgan Jones

One of The Walking Dead’s best characters and you only see him in a couple episodes. Well that’s because he’s insane. And he’s built up an immunity to giving a fuck. And knowing that you can’t trust anyone during a zombie apocalypse makes him the smartest crazy person on TV.

burt c

Burt Cooper

“Mad Men’s” only real paternal figure walks aimlessly through life, all shoeless and clueless. This guy goes to work every day and no one notices because he hasn’t done shit for six seasons but get paid. If everyone just disappeared, he wouldn’t notice. He’d go to work, stare at the painting in his office for eight hours, then go home. Every day. This could probably be due to his missing testicles. In which case, I don’t blame him for giving up.

house 3 needle

Doctor House

Because he’s a dick, that’s why. He’s a mean piece of garbage. If he could have a whole city block to himself, with no responsibility or person to get on his nerves, Housey would just sit at home and do drugs all day with zero repercussions. He hates everyone and everything. Even the people he likes, he hates.

grizzly

Grizzly Adams

This man was happy living his everyman frontier life until a murder framing sent him hiding in the woods. And he liked it! With wild animals as his new best friends and the random encounter with an old guy named Mad Jack, Grizzles ended up doing better without us! Hell, one could even argue that Mad Jack was a figment of his imagination.

scrooge

Scrooge McDuck

Face it, as long as he’s got his stacks of money to roll around in, we could all go to hell for all he cares. His isn’t a story of misanthropy – it’s one of indifference. Cash > people. Just look at him up there making out with a handful of singles. I don’t even want to think what he does to Benjamins.

beavis550

Beavis and Butthead

Ever see the show? These two morons only seem to notice when the other one isn’t there. So as long as they can goof off as a pair, nobody else need exist. They can get through an entire day just throwing trash cans at each other. I’ve seen these clowns be on the verge of saving someone from mortal danger, wander off distracted and leave the bastard to die. Do the math.

TimeEnoughAtLast

Henry Bemis

From the amazing Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last,” bookworm Bemis hides in a vault at his bank job so that he can read without anyone bothering him. So when WWIII happens and humanity bombs itself back into the stone age, Bemis sat pretty inside the protective confines of the vault. When he emerges to find Earth all FUBAR’d, the only thing on his mind is tearing ass to the library. If he spent one second saying “Oh no! The world is over! Oh God, the poor people!” it was a fast second. This joker was glad to see us go.

Now, I’m no genius – in fact, I’m far from it and this blog is proof. But I think this is a pretty comprehensive list, and if I missed anyone, I need to know. Don’t feel sheepish about adding that two cents.  Sharing is caring!

The Women Living Inside My TV Seem Different Somehow.

It was uncanny, like a mirror image. The German had her face but nothing else. Under that garish makeup and loud clothing was the secret as to why at least three women in that otherwise boring city could be her identical twins. A ripple riveted into the windshield and the German fell lumped onto the backseat. Someone had killed her. Someone was shooting at them. And if the German knew who or why, she’d take it to the grave.

orphan

That’s a scene description from the first episode of “Orphan Black.” I was hooked within the first three minutes. The show is fantastic. More of a spy novel than comic book, it tells the story of clones being hunted – and one actress masterfully plays the varied personalities of every victim. It’s original, smart television with suspenseful writing and an expert performance from the lead.

orange 1Showing up to an engagement wearing the same outfit: Major fail.

Another show I like is called “Orange Is The New Black” – a Netflix franchise about women in prison. Despite the dark subject matter, it’s actually funny as hell. Not to mention nearly devoid of sexualized characters, and that’s a good thing. I’m no Idris Elba, but there isn’t a woman in that cast I’d ask out on a date. Poor things, left to just get by on acting talent alone. I bet Jayne Mansfield is rolling over in her grave!

stoneI take it back, Yael Stone is pretty cute…

Come to think of it, what’s going on here? Do we really have two modern examples of good TV showcasing deep female characters? Is my nightly dose of ass and boobs gonna have to be internet-only?? But what about my sex drive?? I’m only a stupid caveman who can’t fathom the concept of powerful women, so I’d better develop a ladies business-suit fetish or I’ll never understand “The Good Wife!” According to my demographic, I don’t wanna watch this stuff! I’m starting to think we male viewers actually like good TV no matter the lead gender.

1345572339806_5144379 No way, he’d wrinkled his dope tweed jacket!

Lifetime made an honest effort at first but started shelling out bullshit: “Coming up next, the Lifetime original ‘He Cheated On Me With Whores,’ followed by the highly publicized docu-drama ‘Life Of A Vagina.’ And later tonight, the spine-tingling thriller ‘Castration Party II: Penis Destroyers.'” Face it, men just aren’t the target market for We, Oxygen, OWN, etc. so I’m not interested in any of that. While I understand the good intentions of those efforts, I’m going for an equal playing field across the board.

maid“He’s about to say “nuts.”‘

Speaking of thrillers, I’d like to include “American Horror Story” too but can’t for two reasons. One, I only started watching it because that young ginger maid drove me nuts, and that’s not what this post is about. And two, every episode was becoming a man objectivity machine. Either the dudes were piss weak, evil monsters, or always naked and that’s not fair. The ladies have upped their game, but at the male’s expense. Shame too, because the diva brigade of Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates made for some epic line delivery.

womenYou are cordially invited to my Black Party…

Yeah, I don’t know how you gals did it, but somehow you managed to prove that there’s enough room in my TV for you to have top notch representation when the powers tried to keep you down. I’m not talking about “Dark Angel,” which was largely a Jessica Alba droolfest, and “She’s The Sheriff” (dated myself there) was pure shit. I’m talking about “Broad City. I’m talking about “Homeland.” I’m saying that if quality product keeps getting pumped out, the equality train should keep on grooving. Way too often do we get a “Golden Girls” and then nothing for long stretches while “The Man Show” had a segment called “Girls Jumping On Trampolines.” Which I enjoyed, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous.

Keep that momentum going because the Native Americans have waited long enough and it’s their turn to fight. Seriously, how the fuck do you hire Johnny Depp to play Tonto?? 

Tonto-deppMan come on…

Celebrating Interracial Couples In The Media

I’ve been banging out tons of television lately – partly because I’ve yet to find a job at my relocation – partly because I love television. And as one who loves dating the rainbow even more, I’ve taken notice of the many mixed-race couples on TV and in film and print. From Moses’ nameless Ethiopian wife to Troy and Britta on “Community,” love has proven itself more powerful than ignorance since the early days of running from Egyptians. And no two would be more groundbreaking in that display than Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball.

lucyanddesi

Thanks to Ball’s insistence that the network cast Arnez, her real life husband, as her spouse on the show, we have our most pioneering integrated on-screen couple. And then the steamroller…

guess“Good thing you were here. This cab would’ve NEVER stopped for me alone.”

“Matt and Christina Drayton are a couple whose attitudes are challenged when their daughter brings home a fiancé who is black.” ~ IMDB. That’s the breakdown for “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” as in “there goes the neighborhood!” This is an important film in all its hammy preachiness and it shocked 1967 audiences to see such a hard topic get attacked so fearlessly. Great performances all around, during the spike in Sidney Poitier’s career.

320x240Only TRUE bff’s rock secret handshakes.

“Star Trek” had no peer when it came to giving hope for a more tolerant future. Sure, Kirk and Uhura had the first white/black television kiss and God knows Kirk was no stranger to chasing alien tail. But on the subject of love, Spock’s parents Sarek and Perrin gave us something else entirely: the first inter-species couple. Thanks to television’s most famous Vulcan/Human pairing, creator Gene Roddenberry was able to show us that our hangups over taboo “race mixing” couldn’t have been more ridiculous.

Tom-HelenI got nothing…

But since we humans are still too barbaric to even fathom such things, let’s get back to something we can almost deal with. Probably television’s funniest black and white couple was Tom and Helen Willis of “The Jeffersons.” All through the 70’s and early 80’s these two played foils to racist comedy, courtesy of Mr. George Jefferson. Yet, none of it was mean-spirited. In fact, Mr. Jefferson and his two “frenemies” showed us that this was a topic that didn’t have to be taken so seriously after all.

oth2“Your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs!” ~ Iago, Othello

Hundreds of years after Miriam and Aaron hated on Moses’ black wife, William Shakespeare’s Iago wanted war hero Othello D.E.A.D. in one of the bard’s most powerful tragedies. It’s not just a sad story of insecurity and betrayal, it’ s an interesting window into an era we simply don’t know enough about. But we do know that interracial couples either widely existed or were on people’s minds. And moreso thanks to Shakespeare’s brave writing.

 luke-cage-jessica-jonesPlease…no “white wife-beater” jokes.

As a former comic book collector (shocker, yes) and full-time cartoon lover, I’ve come across some awesomely artful examples of interracial love. Iceman and Opal taught me was falafel was. Power Man and Iron Fist’s Luke Cage and Danny Rand were tag-team champions of colorful loving with their gf’s Misty Knight and Jessica Jones. And Green Lantern Jon Stewart’s dating Hawkgirl came to mainstream audiences via the amazing Justice League cartoons. Thank goodness the younger generations are being exposed to such beauty.

gl and hgHe must not get many “come hither” looks.

On a side note, The Vision and Scarlet Witch even went so far as to express human/android relationships as a thing of wholesome innocence – a subject Star Trek: TNG even touched on a couple times. Hey whatever floats your boat!

torchowoodINTERGALACTIC ORGY TIME!!

But when it comes to a full on, balls out, go-for-broke display of love, sex and zero judgments, Britain’s “Torchwood” wins hands down. Not only do we get the incomparable Captain Jack Harkess – a man who will screw ANYTHING hot, but almost every character on the show has either experienced interracial relationships, homosexual encounters, cyborg love, alien banging, everything you can think of. All sentient beings are equal on this show and that’s why I love it so.

VASTRA-JENNY-2014-TEASER“Hey gurrrl. Your world or mine?”

Yet “Torchwood” was the spawn of something bigger. It’s the progeny of the “Dr. Who” universe, one of the most important creations of all time. Spanning fifty years as I write this, and running the gamut of television, radio plays, and print media, this is an unstoppable thing of epic power. And the show has used this clout to depict an existence where not only do interracial couples prosper, but they are commanding relationships throughout the modern series. One duo goes even farther with their lesbian union by hailing from different planets!

doctorwhoIs there a Doctor in the house?

God bless Doctor Who for showing us a world (or worlds) where it absolutely does not matter what color you are as long as you practice that one blissfully incredible, achingly beautiful, sweetly perfect emotion called “Love.”

Honorabe mention: That adorable Cheerios commercial that features a mixed race family doing not a damn thing but being awesome.