Monday, September 1, 2014

How should the Simpsons end?

Ramblings Post #268
This question was posed to a group I write in/read/pretend I'm a part of, and the whole thing got me thinking. I gave a trite answer then, but I've put a little thought into after sitting through some old episodes during the FXX marathon which is over 10 days long. That's a lot of TV. One person in my group said when he started watching the Simpson's he was Bart's age, and now he's Homer's age. It's a cultural milestone, whether we like it on not. So, I put a little thought into it.  

From Fox, Hulu, the Internet and now FXX
Does, what has become the longest running scripted program on TV, finish out its days with a whimper or a bang? Is a Seinfeld ending, a MASH ending or a Sopranos ending? I stopped really watching the Simpson's ages ago, even before I went back to school in middle age. But they're still chugging along, episode after episode, adding breadth to the sad South Park truism "Simpsons did it!" to every idea that can be adapted to a visual medium and minting money as they go. Why end it? Why ever? Not until you absolutely have to.  

If it were up to me, it wouldn't cop out like Dexter or the extremely disappointing How I Met Your Mother finale/last season (so bad I can't even watch the reruns now), but would actually do something the show hasn't done yet...let the characters grow older. I think it should flash forward 15 years...and then they should do a whole last season at that point in time. It's just far enough in the future for things to have changed, but close enough for it to not to be that much. 

A new opening sequence based on the original should set the tone for the season in the first show, all the familiar characters who have evolved. Bart at community college, still writing on the chalk board before skateboarding home. Lisa in a Springfield U college group, listening to jazz on her phone before dancing away. Marge with Maggie at the supermarket, only now Maggie is grown with her own ear buds in.  Consider what new products they might put on the conveyor - which could worked in during the season. Finally Homer, still at the power plant, moving a bit slower. It all continues as normal with the couch gag, only now someone always falls off because the couch is now too small.

The season proceeds as normal, only everyone aged up. It's the near future, no flying cars or Mars colonies or aliens, just slightly more advance technology, except Mr. Burns who is still alive through the miracle of technology.

The characters are older, some fatter, some fitter, all having followed natural arcs. Moe finally found someone, but now wants to return to being single. Apu's kids now run the various Kwik-e-marts around town. Wiggum is still Police Chief, but now Ralph Wiggum is a deputy. Mayor Quimby is still mayor, just older, more corrupt, with Nelson as his young aide. Milhouse is at Springfield U, but still hangs out with Bart at the community college.  

And so it's different, but a closer look and it seems like nothing has changed - Homer is still the comic everyman wrestling with the same problems of being a good father, Bart is still a prankster and now slacker, Lisa still can't make friends even in college (she found out Springfield diplomas aren't really accepted anywhere), and Marge still frets about everyone. Throughout the season Maggie gets the classic just off-screen character treatment - the other characters talk about stuff Maggie has said or quote Maggie, but the audience never hears her speak, and extension of the joke from other in the future episodes.

During the last season, you have two or three episodes that are essentially repeats - copies of the old episodes word-for-word with the characters older, reacting slightly differently (or in Bart's case exactly the same showing that he hasn't grown up). Someone might even mention that the whole thing feels familiar. But now we get to experience the world with Lisa the frustrated intellectual in teenage/young adult situations, Bart a little edgier but still as silly. Maybe a whole episode of just missing hearing Maggie speak, or maybe even a whole episode in silence. The shift opens a whole new set of stories to complete and round out the characters. And as we get down the last ten or so shows, we wrap the lives of the prominent side characters.  

At the start of the last episode, the person who falls off gets up and suggests they get a new couch.

In the last episode Homer retires, Lisa gets engaged to Milhouse. Bart finds out his girlfriend is pregnant and finally feels he has to grow up, and just as Maggie walks into the kitchen and takes a deep breath to speak...the screen cuts to black. 

Okay, so I went with the Soprano's ending. Sue me.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The House I Want (Part One)

Planning for the Future Post #1

I may have told this story before, but when I first got to Atlanta many, many years ago, my brother used to do this thing to motivate himself. During his lunchtime, he'd go down to Lenox Mall, as his office was right there, and try on Rolex watches. The feel of it on his arm would encourage him to try harder, to think bigger. And although there were good times when things were unfolding as they should and he could have gone down and gotten one, he never did. I think it might have been our upbringing to some degree, in that we're not flashy people and though we dream about it we're really more substantive people.

So to motivate myself, get the old juices flowing as it were, I'm making my Rolex the idea of my dream home. It won't be my next home, which I hope to relocate to sometime in the next 24 months (God and the GA Bar Association willing), but it's coming. I will get there.
A template for a great home.
The kind of place where I'll have friends over to watch the game, dinner parties and drop-ins. A HQ from which I can jog, walk to the market for fresh fruit, or sit out on the deck with friends under a starlit sky and tell fantastic lies about how things used to be until we just can't stand it anymore. It's coming. I can feel it. I just have to keep going.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Odd Quotes

But when I get here! Oh boy, then....

Beware of Destination Addiction - a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is always somewhere else, it will never be where you are.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri 2014 (2)

This is a political post.

I don't really go to the movies, because a) I really don't want to go alone and b) I be broke. But I do take a few minutes every few weeks to read up on the reviews, so that eighteen months from now when it ends up on cable, I'll know what I'm getting into. By the way, why hasn't the Avengers made it to cable yet? Even FX which is where Thor ended up for some reason. But I digress, this isn't about those movies, it's about a movie I read the review for, or rather a premise from that movie that I think could have been used...and still might be used...for something other than YA romance...stuff. 

The film is If I Stay, which is based on the novel of the same name and is about a young shy cellist who has been in car accident, falls into a coma and has a series out of body experience/flashbacks. She reviews her life where she's found the perfect teenage boyfriend who just gets her and listens to  pleas for her to just wake up.

My idea is to adopt the premise, the flashback/out of body experience part to the story of a young black man who has just been in an incident with the police and now is in the hospital or dying. To me, and I say this without having read the original story or seen the movie, but to me I think that properly used by another filmmaker this premise has the opportunity to show a conflicted character on all sides and tell a much more socially relevant piece of fiction.

Here is my idea. Open with the scene of the incident. It's all flashing blue lights, bodies moving in the dark, before we focus on the body of the black man in the street. Then the title comes up.

At the hospital, we get the cliche race through to ER, and we see the main character's face, and the camera then pans up to the same face, as the character's spirit watches the activity surrounding his body. We see him flashback to his first day of high school then to maybe to Sunday morning with his parents at church.

His "spirit" visits his mother and father who have gotten the news, and their expressions of rage and anguish. We flashback to see him arguing with mother. His father making suggestions at odds with his own plans for the future. The flashback continues to show him doing silly, possibly illegal things with friends - smoking, underage drinking. His "spirit" listens to his mother tell his grandmother what has happened.

He flashes back goes to his childhood, where you see him interact with grandmother and extended family, children at play, adults socializing. This leads into a seen of him socializing with friends now, then plays back to him at the playground as a child.

His "spirit" visits his friends, some of whom lament his situation, others who feel he deserved it. He visits the neighborhood, hearing how people he didn't even know thought of him. He flashbacks again, but this time to the start of this day. To moments with his girlfriend, with his friends. We see him basically living the life of an ordinary teenager. 

I don't have the whole thing fleshed out, there would be a lot more flashbacks, his spirit hearing the police officer describe the scene, hearing his friend talk about the same scene, etc. The idea just struck me earlier today as how to expand the original premise, but give both sides of the story in a generally palatable dramatic format. The whole idea of the film is to show the main character, a young black male, not as a thug nor as a choir boy, but as a whole person. And to show that one person's version of events can differ from another person's version, and that those differences are important when a life hangs in the balance.

And yes, this idea was prompted by my thoughts on Ferguson, which I'm having trouble expressing. Next week, I'm going with light stuff, not because this isn't relevant, but because my mind needs to be somewhere else for a minute.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Odd Quotes

 “The main thing you got to remember is that everything in the world is a hustle.”
— Alex Haley from The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri 2014

This is a political post.

I don't quite know what to say. Too many stories not enough facts, but enough to know this isn't being handled properly. But then I saw this picture on Twitter/Tumblr. It struck me on a number of levels.

Ferguson, MO 2014
Has it come to this? Are black people not allowed to peacefully protest in America?