television


Right before Christmas, back in the days when Americans didn’t believe that the holiday could be cleansed of its religious roots, the week or so leading up to the big day was awash in thematic fare. Every drama and sitcom acknowledged Christmas in a very special episode and variety shows had glittery specials.

And there were movies. Lots of old movies. Jimmy Stewart and Alistair Sims.

When I was in kindergarten, Jonny Whitaker of the sitcom Family Affair, was the little “it” boy as far as movies and specials went. He did Disney and he starred in an adaptation of a children’s Christmas book called The Littlest Angel.

It was horrific really when I recall it. A little shepherd boy named Michael falls to his death chasing a butterfly along a steep mountain path. His parents have no idea he is dead when he travels back from heaven to retrieve a box of treasures to give to the newborn baby Jesus though his mother “feels” him hug her and clutches her heart in fear.

The point of the story was that even the smallest of us can be important in the grand scheme and that God loves all of us regardless, but I remember even today watching that little boy fall and knowing that his parents would be heartbroken when they discovered what had happened.

Consequently, it shouldn’t surprise me that so much of what Rob and I watch with Dee is littered with dead parents and dead or dying children. That is the stuff that makes our tummies tighten and is an easy dramatic reach for most writers. Why mess with success.

On a whim, I searched for a clip from the original show and, of course, I found it. When I was five and six and seven, I really liked this movie. I watched it every year along with Rudolph and Charlie Brown and J.T. and that scraggly cat. I wonder at myself these days because I can’t believe I associated such sadness with the joy of Christmas in a positive way.


After a punishing massage, I indulged in a roam through Staples and a sit down at the Starbucks in the nearby grocery. I needed a notepad for rewrites of my current novel and a change of scenery. 

Since mid-winter I have been avoiding going into town unless I had no other choice. It gets tiring, the in and out of the truck, trudging through snow, shielding from the prairie wind, and tip-toeing over ice, but now that spring is stubbornly muscling her dainty self onto the scene like Tinkerbell on steroids, the cooped up feeling is pushing me out of the house.

As usual, I lost track of the time and had to hot-foot it home to get lunch for Rob. He comes home most days, but today as I was finishing the food prep, he called to say he wouldn’t be able to make it because a meeting was scheduled unexpectedly and he wouldn’t have time. Disappointing, but it happens. 

So there I was with lunch and no table-mate and no real urge to gobble in front of the computer screen. Surfing is provoking a “meh” feeling lately.

Mad  wrote a Buffy the V post recently that has run around in my mind ever since and it occurred to me that perhaps I could watch a bit of Buffy with my lunch and peruse the episode guide. Yeah, I am a geek like that.

And that is what I did. I pulled out my favorite season – six – and put in a disc then settled back with my soup for about a half hour of paranormal deliciousness.

Season six is my favorite. It’s dark, angsty and full of character evolution. It is everything that good story-telling is, including being experimental. The episode, Once More with Feeling, is actually a musical and I love me some bursting into song on a moment’s notice. I wouldn’t mind at all if real life was like that.

There was a time when I strongly identified with this collection of work. I still admire the craft that went into the creation and it was interesting to connect with it again.


I know I have mentioned before that I like my historical fiction – regardless of the medium – to be fairly accurate. It’s more than having been a former teacher and believing that there are things to be learned from the interpretation of history. I don’t believe that blatant inaccuracies make something more interesting or “artistic”. Instead it simply presumes the ignorance of the audience and inserts pointless fiction where it would have been just as easy – and interesting – to relay fact. Inaccuracy is just laziness on the part of a writer or filmmaker. If one cannot make real history live and breathe, then one is either not as gifted as one thinks one is, or the subject matter isn’t worthy of retelling. Often the latter is the case.

Not so the Tudor Dynasty of England. The real history is fascinating enough that most people have a vague idea or better of who Henry the VIII was at least, but if you have watched any of the Showtime series based on his life, you have been treated to an historical misrepresentation that would make former Vice-President Cheney proud.

Knowing English history, as I do, every re-interpretation of fact and character jars me out of my suspension of disbelief, and this shouldn’t happen with good story-telling. The reality being built should never stray so far that the audience consciously realizes it.

Granted, many people don’t know much about history and I guess that is the sadder fact. Most of the folks who watch this series haven’t a clue that much of what they are seeing is basically an excuse to legitimize soft-porn by calling it “historical”.

Four episodes in and I have decided to amuse myself by ferreting out the examples of  the Hollywoodization of Henry and enjoying the discussion that Rob and I have during the cheesy moments and afterward – aided by Wikipedia searches to verify our arguments.

And yes, that is a very geeky thing to do. But we roll like that.