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I have watched a lot of television in my time. My father was in television and believed in it for education and entertainment. My husband is particular about his television shows, but has turned me on to many. Of all the thousands of hours I have spent watching TV, I could count, on one hand, the shows that made me laugh, consistently, out loud, several times over the course of a 20 or 40 minute show. Off the top of my head, I come up with two: the original Dick Van Dyke Show with its amazing crew of writers and talented cast, and Mork and Mindy, with its odd characters and funny dialog. I have no wish to cast these as the only funny series in the last 50 years or so. I’m sure there are others which could live up to my laugh meter. I only wish to make a point that they are few and far between.
There was a sign at one of Obama’s town halls this summer which read, “Please, Obama, Bring Back Arrested Development.” I would have to agree with that. Well, after he’s taken care of a few other things or with the quick signing of a declaration.

Arrested Development (2003-2006, Fox TV) could well be the funniest show ever shown on the show show-er. An excellent, very funny cast, and great jokes that linger on and provide a few extra chuckles long after the show has drifted into memory. And well into its third season, the scripts continue to deliver a high ratio of laugh-out-loud moments to time spent.

Now, I can find little in the way of spiritual messages from it, even redeeming characteristics. (I realize I have found meaning in the words of a wavy-haired serial killer). Arrested Development is about an extremely dysfunctional family. No one shows any sign of growing or changing from their experiences. They seem to become more of who they are, more crazy and dysfunctional.

There was a brilliant movie in the early 40s, Preston Sturgis’ “Sullivan’s Travels.”  One of those they-don’t-make-‘em-like-they-used-to pictures. Starring Joe McCrea. Joel is a successful Hollywood director of big budget comedies. He longs to give back, to do a film that’s about something Important. Figuring he has been too pampered all his life, he decides to strike out on the road with a bandana on a stick, the shoes on his feet, and the clothes on his back.

This is a wonderful film, not to be missed. So I don’t think I’m giving anything away to say the message of the film is there is much good in giving people a chance to laugh.

Today, we have Arrested Development to add some much-needed light and laughter to the world. Well worth the time.



I figure it’s time now, after the opening episode of Showtime’s fourth season of “Dexter” to talk about him.

I’ve come on this boat late. Over the last three weeks or so, we’ve watched the first three seasons of Dexter at a rather rapid pace. Perhaps it’s seeing it in this way, in this speeded-up version that has exposed all that I see.

Dexter Morgan is an all around good egg and a serial killer. His foster father, Harry, a cop, taught him how to channel his urges to kill. Harry developed a Code for Dexter so that he only kills people who deserve it.

Dexter lives by this Code and it helps him make all kinds of decisions about what is right and wrong. We should all have such a strong belief system. Thanks to Harry’s teachings Dexter is good with kids and a dutiful boyfriend to his somewhat damaged girlfriend. He’s also a team player and cheerful co-worker in his job as blood spatter expert at the Miami Metro Police Department.

The narration he gives of his internal dialog keeps us connected to him. We get a good view of how he thinks. With each exciting adventure and revelations, Dexter learns more about himself and about the Code Harry so painstakingly taught him. Since Harry is long-dead, Dexter must work with the Code, shaping it and molding it to fit himself and the situation at hand.

Rule No 1 is Don’t Get Caught. This forces Dexter to live very much in the present moment, being aware and careful. Sometimes I think there’s also a piece about going with your urges and living by your passions, but I’m not sure about that.

With all that exposure to blood and death, Dexter has an ability to remain detached. It’s a rare scene in which Dexter’s calm is disturbed. He retains an air of Zen about him.

The people in Dexter’s life, though more distant without an ear on their thoughts, seem to be changing as the seasons go on, softening and growing. The scripts use them to show how people are affected by the movements of the characters.

There’s a sense humor and lightness around all this killing. It’s not really as gory as you’d think. The cast is quirky and unusual. I get tired of cardboard, predictable characters. These have depth and with one guest star each season, he interactions of the cast are kept surprising and fresh.

Dexter himself, whether through the performance of Michael C. Hall or the writers, is a multi-dimensional character. Inside the head of a serial killer is a unique perspective, to say the least. Dexter is a truly new and intriguing character. Couple that with the wonderful ramping of tension, easing off and ramping up again, surprises around each corner of this engaging storytelling, it’s no wonder this is a popular series. Makes me want to read the books!

I want to write about Dexter. We have been watching it constantly lately, trying to get through the first three seasons before the 4th season of this wonderful show begins next Sunday. Haven’t seen much else. I have plenty to say about Dexter, the character and the show, but I haven’t yet figured out how to explain the positive slant on this delightful serial killer.

So, instead, I shall wing it, with some memories and a glimpse. Not too long ago, I saw a bit of 1996’s Sling Blade. (I guess I’m into killers these days.) Billy Bob Thornton wrote, directed and starred in this film about Karl Childers, a convicted killer who did his time and is sent out into the world. Karl is a kind, gentle and interesting character, played brilliantly by Billy Bob. Goodness knows, he’s not bright, certainly not well-schooled. There is an innocence about him. Karl lives right there in the present moment. No unnecessary questions asked. He’s a man of simple tastes. He killed the man who was killing his mother. Might have been his father . . . these killers are so complicated.

Karl committed murder, did his time and now here he is somewhere else. He doesn’t wonder why. He is detached and unaware of other people’s problems, preferring the company of a young boy, who likes the way he talks. When John Ritter’s character Vaughan is trying to explain to Karl his difficulties as a gay man, living in a small town, Karl has nothing to say. This is all above his head, but he’s more interested in the fries he’s eating. Not to be rude, just because he’s not all caught up in the same chattering the rest of us are.

Another character like that is Chance, the gardener, from the 1979 classic, Being There. Chance, portrayed by the amazing Peter Sellers, like Karl isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. But Chance is right there, in the moment, saying what he feels, telling what he sees and everyone mistakes it for wisdom. Which, in many ways it is. He changes lives and opens people to new thinking, because of his simple, in the moment statements.

It’s a lot more fun, of course, to have a brain that can conjure and ponder lots things. But it’s unwieldy, and sometimes difficult to corral. We end up chattering on in our sharp brains and miss the point, don’t feel the breeze, ignore the reality.

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