Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Four TV things

Sparkle Johnson

24: Live Another Day

I cannot muster the interest for the World Cup. I haven't climbed aboard Neil deGrasse Tyson's weird little spaceship, though I longed to co-pilot the original Cosmos one along side Carl Sagan who would, on the outer stretches of the mind's glorious imagination, tell me he is my real father and ask me if I want to get wicked high. I didn't even watch all of The Wire though I know, I know...  I don't care that much about TV. I'd just as soon watch Star Trek than anything.

But I love 24. It is stupid, predictable, jingoistic. It relies on it structural conceit the way a dozing lummox does a straining hammock frame. It is essentially a giant phone ad. I love every president-personally-involving, about-to-gouge-out-your-eye-if-you-don't -tell-me-who-you-are-working-with moment. Ponk pink ponk pink goes the beat of my heart. I'm sorry.

The thing I love about this ninth season/reboot is that Jack Bauer, the unflappable stress sponge that has saved countless American hides in real time for almost a decade, is fed up. Democracy has failed him time and again. He doesn't even flinch when the government is out to arrest him one second and then he's on the phone with the president the next.  By the way, William Devane with his Alzheimer's and his Wilford Brimleyist public speaking style is the most believable president on the series.

Jack won me over this season after torturing a sympathetic terrorist a little too much as he forced doctors to waker her from a coma so he could do so, and his partner witnessed a man gone too far. Jack, for the first time, recoiled at himself and apologized, saying, "I shouldn't have done that. It's just that I hate these people." That is a great apology! Insufficient, like all apologies, but still, an honest one.

Jack is a savior, a torture spy Jesus, forever arisen from the cave. He is Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," killing people he once saved. I love it when a noble soul has had it.

Plus, Chloe is a goth now! The only thing that would have been hotter is if Agent Scully had gone goth.

The Leftovers

I'm only two episodes into HBO's latest contribution to the rapture noir genre, and truthfully, I don't yet care about any of the characters, but then, like, God didn't care about them either. 2% of the world upped and disappeared in an instant. You even got the "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned" gag, with a car plummeting driverless into trash cans as a handful of people yelled for so-and-so who just vanished.

It's great that only 2% left. Just enough to jack with the social order but not dismantle it. People join a guilt cult where you have to wear white and be silent. My wife astutely pointed out that it is the same cult John Lithgow joins in The World According to Garp. I keep hoping to see him lumbering around in the background. Otherwise, people work for insurance companies and coffee shops just like in pre-God-forsaken now.

The slight shift that the remaining 98% needed to make to get along is jarring, which is the beauty of the show. Our deal is so fragile, yet we can survive and mutate to anything. We have a much harder time living with ourselves than we do any level of adversity.

I remember right after Hurricane Gustav walking through the fallen trees in my powerless streets to Calandro's, the neighborhood supermarket, which was weirdly open. There was no power, just battery lights and people making cash purchases for whatever there was to have. I asked if there was a cold Coke in the place and Misti the cashier said, "There's Cokes, but they ain't cold."

A weary panic was in the air there, a semblance of going about one's day against a wave of futility. Lights were flickering and everyone was sweating and worn to a nub. I thought then, I bet the rapture will be like this. Not a wholesale desolation like Hurricane Katrina, but a system-wide bummer like Gustav. It kinda is, on HBO anyway.

I love it when Justin Theroux breaks the toaster at the station because he believes the rapture has taken his bagel. A vengeful god indeed!

Superjail (season 4)

This is all getting to heavy. I'm on a Beckett kick again and maybe that is informing this gloom fetish. Superjail is not part of that. It is a dense, hypnogogic, lurid eye massage. I'm a little chagrinned that they have dispensed with the opening song, what with the new version of it before every episode, but that is a small price to pay for the Bosch-like mayhem this show creates.

Sparkle Johnson commercials for Hotel Furniture Liquidators in New Orleans.

Lamps everywhere!

New Orleans TV has always played host to great lo-fi local ads. Every person of a certain age who grew up in their broadcast area knows by heart the addresses of Seafood City and Rosenberg's.

Add Sparkle Johnson to that pantheon, shilling for Hotel Furniture Liquidators.

I had a discussion on Facebook - where I saw this - about whether Sparkle was in blackface (unsure; I can't tell if the Google Image search for "Sparkle Johnson" tells the story or not. I think the white guy in the photos is a different Sparkle Johnson.) and whether it was covered by the transformation clauses of drag (possibly).  It's a send up of bounce, which is in itself a send-up of hip-hop, masculinity, femininity, urban fetishism and a bunch of things. And is a real thing unto itself. Where do you get sent with the send-up of a send-up? Does the real thing get lost? Isn't that what the web kind of is now? Either way, I'm riveted. I wonder if it works and if so, for whom? Are hipsters flocking there? Wouldn't they already be? So many questions does Sparkle pose.

New Orleanian culturalistas tend to be wildly protective of appropriation/misunderstanding of what's "theirs" so I wonder how this fits in. I wonder if this is like a bounce Moebius strip of referentiality. I'm not sure if this is offensive or in bad taste. I like it when I'm not sure how to feel about something I'm presented. I usually say that is when I'm in the presence of true art.

This one is weirder.

CHAIRS! Apply directly to your butt!  It's also got a great finish.