In 2005, I tried to watch Six Feet Under. I got through the first season and partway through the second before I had to stop.
It’s not that the show wasn’t good; it was excellent. Maybe a little too excellent. I was going through an awkward period in my life -that post-college phase where you’re no longer a kid, but you don’t quite feel like an adult, and have no idea what you are supposed to be doing in life. You spent 20-some years going to school and now that it’s over…what do you do next? (Anyone? Anyone?) I wasn’t in the happiest state. So, watching a show where bad things continue to happen to (semi) good people was a little too much to handle. For weeks, I found myself in this constant state of melancholy. It wasn’t overwhelming; it was just always there. I tried and tried to place it, and then one day it just hit me: it’s Six Feet Under. I had to stop watching, or I’d end up in a permanent state of depression.
So I did. And I felt better. (But don’t worry – I caught up in 2007 during the Writers’ Strike, and damn, that’s some good TV.)
I have had a similar feeling all day today, and I know why: I had the most depressing weekend of film and TV watching.
With the Academy Award nominations announced last week, by Friday, I had added a slew of films to my Netflix queue. The problem? I currently had three movies from Netflix sitting on top of my DVD player, where they had sat, untouched, for weeks. I wanted to see them; they just weren’t exactly, “Hey, come watch me!” movies. But I have a goal to see as many nominated films/films with nominated actors and directors, etc. as I can before the awards. My actual goal is to see everything, but I know this is not possible.
So, Friday night, I watched Mr. Saturday Night, on my queue from when I added Helen Hunt films after The Great Mad About You Re-watch. You guys…this is a real downer. And honestly, not particularly great. The only real reason to see it is for David Paymer’s Oscar-nominated performance. But seriously – the life of a mediocre-at-best comic, who’s basically an asshole? Not exactly uplifting. Why, Billy Crystal? Why?
Saturday, I had tentative plans to hang out with Liz, eat soup, and have an Aaron Sorkin/presidential marathon. But, I was sacked with a major headache that took up most of my day. So I stayed in bed and watched Stevie, a documentary by acclaimed filmmaker (and graduate of my school and film program!) Steve James. I saw this movie when it premiered at my school’s film festival back in 2002. It’s a great piece of film-making, if self-indulgent on James’ part. However – the story follows this dude, Stevie, whom James mentored while a student at Southern Illinois University. Years later, James decides to visit Stevie, see what he missed, and it turns out Stevie has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing his 8-year old niece. The film follows Stevie and his family for the 2 1/2 years in between the abuse charges and Stevie going to jail. Again, this is a great film. But not exactly uplifting. Also, it has these great shots of the southern Illinois landscape, which just made me homesick for my college town. (Weird, I know, in a documentary about child abuse, but there ya go.)
As if that wasn’t enough, I accompanied my parents to see The Wrestler on Sunday. I’d seen it before, and wanted to see it again, to soak it in a little more. The first time I saw it, I liked it a lot, thought Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei were excellent, and that the film was sad but not overwhelmingly sad. This time…I was heartbroken. It affected me so much more. I don’t know if it’s because I had already seen it, and so could concentrate more on performance and noticing little things, or if it was because I was with my parents, whom I knew would be more affected by it, or what. But by the time Randy walked in for his last match, and Sweet Child of Mine started playing, my heart was beating a mile a minute, my lip couldn’t stop quivering, and the tears came.
So there was that.
Then there were the SAG Awards, which were kind of depressing only because Sean fucking Penn won best actor over Mickey Rourke AND Richard Jenkins, Hugh fucking Laurie won best actor over my boy Michael C. Hall, and Dexter did not win best acting ensemble.
To top it all off, I decided to end my weekend by watching the Cheers season 5 finale (More on this re-watch in a later blog post.) I wrote my immediate reaction to that in my personal blog. Here is what I said:
“Have a good life.”
I just watched the last episode of season 5 of Cheers. The one where Diane leaves. And um….I just spent the last 10 minutes weeping. WEEPING.
Maybe I am a little overly emotional this weekend, but, damn.
I watched the first four seasons pretty quick. (Side note – the final episodes of season 4? When Diane is spying on Sam and the politician? some of the hardest laughing I’ve ever done, right there.)
Then I got to season 5, and Sam and Diane were finally happily together, and I started slowing down my watching. I didn’t want to get here. I remembered what this episode did to me.
It’s weird, how I watch old TV. I can watch it through my adult eyes, but I can also turn that off, and watch it through the same eyes I did as a child. So, when I watch old episodes of Lois and Clark, for example, Adult Sarah recognizes that this is not stellar television. But Child Sarah remembers how pretty they are, and how wonderfully schmoopy they are, and how I would get so excited on Sundays, waiting for 8 o’clock. It’s a nice thing to be able to do, actually.
This is how I’ve watched Cheers. And it doesn’t help that Cheers is actually a stellar show, both in acting and writing. So, Adult Sarah can get some of the more adult jokes she didn’t get as a kid. But Child Sarah still holds on to that feeling and joy she got to watching Sam and Diane. And Child Sarah was absolutely heartbroken when Diane left. (Let me just stop here and say – I totally watched the show through repeats. I was only a year old when the show started. I discovered it in sixth grade, and fell in love immediately. So, Child Sarah was heartbroken watching the reruns. In case there was any question.)
Anyway, Child Sarah was heartbroken. Even though she knew that Diane left the show. She cried then. And it hurt just as much tonight, even though I knew it was coming. Again.
But you know what I had forgotten about? I forgot that Sam flashed forward in time halfway through, and imagined his life with Diane, and that they had grown old together. And I completely forgot he flashed again, and that is how the show ended. So, I was already getting ready for a good cry during the scene where they say goodbye to each other. But the part after? Oh, man.
Sam and Diane were the first TV couple I ever cared about. I LOVED them. LOOOOVED. Just ask my parents or my sister. You think Luke/Lorelai was bad? They had nothing on Sam and Diane. I don’t remember this, but my sister said that when the show ended, I cried and cried – not because the show was over, but because Sam and Diane didn’t end up together.
And yeah, it’s just a TV show, and I know that, and I’m tired and it’s been kind of an emotionally exhausting week, and weekend, so that isn’t helping any. And yes, this now happened over 20 years ago. But, it still makes me sad that Shelley Long left the show. Sure, we wouldn’t have had Rebecca, or Robin, and maybe Lilith wouldn’t have joined the cast as a series regular. Maybe the attention would have stayed on Sam and Diane, and the supporting cast wouldn’t have gotten more to do. And without that, maybe there would have been no spin off, no Frasier, and then we wouldn’t have Niles or Marty Crane, and that would be a shame in the world of TV.
But I do wonder what would have happened, had she stayed. Because this right here is freaking beautiful.
Now, my reaction was most likely 50% Cheers and 50% emotional exhaustion from all the other media I’d seen over the weekend. But the bottom line is, I cried for a good half hour last night. And getting ready for work this morning, a bit of the song from the above video got in my head, and I got all teary again and had to force it out of my head. (Which, BTW, is not an easy thing to do.) And all day today, I have had the same feeling of melancholy I expressed above.
The point of all this? Well, I guess it’s twofold:
1.) It’s kind of amazing how much good storytelling can affect a person.
2.) I am in need of a laugh, and some mindless, lighthearted entertainment.
To that end, I give you something that never, ever fails to make me laugh, as my Video of the Day