Did You Know That We’re All in This Together?

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(Pictured: Deadwood cast members Timothy Olyphant, John Hawkes, Ian McShane, Kim Dickens, and Robin Weigert at the 2019 movie premiere.)

Here in Wisconsin, we’re still on lockdown . . . for now. We’re waiting to see whether the governor’s Safer-at-Home order, which he extended last week to May 25, will be allowed to stand, or whether the 80 percent of us who favor the order will be forced to yield to mob rule. A tiny, unrepresentative group of protesters is noisily demanding that the virus crisis be declared over and the economy “reopened.” The legislature’s GOP majority is wedded to a single principle—that whatever the governor wants must be thwarted—and is taking a challenge of the extension to the state Supreme Court, where its 5-2 conservative majority is in the pocket of the state’s biggest business lobby. It doesn’t take a genius to guess the likely outcome.

The GOP’s April 7 murder election has already affected our virus curve, although the curve is still under control. A premature reopening of the economy will explode it. Well done, everybody.

My wife is still working. I’m writing and watching a lot of TV. Recent Amazon Prime binges of mine include season 3 of Goliath starring Billy Bob Thornton. Thornton plays a burned-out lawyer who takes on impossible cases, and despite that somewhat familiar premise, it’s resulted in two pretty good seasons. (Seasons 1 and 3; season 2 was dreadful.) I also watched season 2 of Fleabag, starring the completely fabulous Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I liked season 1 better, but they’re both worthwhile.

But stuff that’s familiar is most appealing to me right now. I’ve started over with The Sopranos for the fourth time, mostly because of Talking Sopranos, the new podcast just launched by Michael Imperioli and Steven Schirripa, who played Christopher Moltisanti and Bobby Bacala on the show. It’s not necessary to have recently watched the show to enjoy the podcast, but it couldn’t hurt.

I’m recently done with my fourth trip through Deadwood. Seasons 1 and 2 are as good as it is possible for filmed art to be; season 3 is less so, spending time on what turned out to be dead ends with the program’s unexpected cancellation. Last year’s HBO movie, set 10 years after the conclusion of season 3, did not resolve the dead ends, but it did provide closure for many of the main characters. My only complaint was that it didn’t bring back Brian Cox as theater company owner John Langrishe, my favorite Deadwood character. When asked by Al Swearengen how he’s been since last they spoke, Langrishe says, “It’s the learning fuckin’ nothin’ keeps me young.”

Feelin’ you, sir.

Streaming or watching the DVR or DVDs all spare a viewer from the current crop of TV ads in which brands express their deep concern for us, their customers, with the same “someday soon it will be all right” tone that one might use with a terminally ill patient who will never be all right again. (Note to advertising copywriters: if your draft contains the phrases “in these uncertain times” or “we’re all in this together,” delete it and try again.) That tone of overly solicitious concern was the default during Saturday night’s One World: Together at Home broadcast, which was simulcast on the four broadcast networks and many cable channels. Ann and I had been watching a movie, so we caught only about 45 minutes of it, and it was fine—Taylor Swift should fire all of her producers and do an album unplugged at the piano—but that tone was oppressive from the jump.

Our Saturday night movie was Yesterday, the one about the singer who wakes up in a world where he’s the only one who knows the Beatles existed. We weren’t far into it before I found myself wanting to turn it off and put on an album—why am I listening to this ersatz McCartney when the real thing exists? If you’d made this movie in the 70s or 80s, you might have signed somebody like Elton John to play himself; in this film, they got Ed Sheeran. But Sheeran has absolutely no charisma at all. In his sequences, quite literally nothing happens. Apart from the goofy ginger looks, there’s nothing distinctive about him.

(I’ve found the same to be true about Sheeran’s music. His melodies are never hummable and his lyrics have the sparkle of a weather report. That he’s one of the biggest pop stars in the world is an indication of how cheaply we can be bought, and how little we’ll settle for.)

In these uncertain times, What are you watching? How’s it going with you?

4 thoughts on “Did You Know That We’re All in This Together?

  1. Charlie Gamble

    Try Amazon’s “Tales from the Loop”. It’s thought provoking science fiction kind of like the Twilight Zone in small town seventies.

  2. magicman526

    I don’t agree politically with you but on music and thoughts about it I am pretty much lined up with you, even on some of your personal reminisces… except I absolutely love “Taxi” and “Same Old Lang Syne”

  3. Gary Omaha

    >>if your draft contains the phrases “in these uncertain times” or “we’re all in this together,” delete it and try again<<
    Absolutely on the money, Jim. Back when I was a copywriter, we compiled a list of overused terms. When I left that place, the list was up to two pages, typewritten, single spaced. I wish I had saved it; it was hilarious. Today they're still doing it — now with new and improved "virus" phrases.

  4. Yah Shure

    Since you brought up Sir Paul, JB, I’d laugh out loud if some enterprising copywriter canned the cliche line and replaced it with “and in this ever-changing world in which we’re livin’.”

    Conversely, the Four Tops’ “In These Changing Times” might be due for a reappraisal on ’70s-centric playlists.

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