Heartbreakers

We’ve all been there: the first look, the initial teases, the memorable first date, the breathless anticipation, the shy touches and blushes . . . and then the shocking flame-out.

Male-female relationships? That’s kid’s play. No, I’m referring to the heartbreaking cycle I’ve endured with my unrequited passion for TV series I loved and lost.

I’m reflecting on that special kind of pain after NBC pounded me with previews for its new series Revolution throughout the Olympics. I even watched the extended preview with scenes of the U.S. after the collapse of the electrical power grid. The view of a weed-choked Wrigley Field in Chicago echoed the conclusion of Planet of the Apes. I saw a young cast led by a bow-and-arrow wielding heroine, sword play, and the quest to turn the power back on. Of course the preview hinted at a vast, shadowy conspiracy and the need to uncover what was really behind the calamity.

I could love this easily imagined scenario. My passion for conspiracy-minded TV is vast. I watched every episode of 24, which rewarded me with thrills and chills and Elisha Cuthbert for eight uneven but gripping seasons. I even posted essays on 24 fan sites, a pre-blogging kind of expression I’ve never done before or since. I also loved the first season of The Walking Dead when I could get it on video; I even read the very long graphic novel afterward. Years ago, I read Stephen King’s The Stand, which was haunting, and enjoyed the mini-series with Molly Ringwald. I became a fan of Firefly, a beloved and influential series that Fox bungled, long after its cancellation — my son suggested that one for me.

But I wonder about Revolution. The tease caught my interest. Would this be the start of a beautiful relationship, or merely the latest in a dreary series of network equivalents of one-night stands? I’ve always been a sucker for sci-fi and apocalyptic TV and movies since I watched The Time Tunnel and Lost in Space in the 1960s. Raquel Welch’s Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C. also captivated me, for more hormonal reasons.

In recent years, my devotion led to naught but regret as one sci-fi series after another dished out the wham-bam-thank-you-Van treatment.

My entertainment Walk of Shame started several years ago when I fell hard for FlashForward. The first episodes were brilliant. Everybody on the planet blacked out at the exact same moment, for the exact length of time, and had disturbing visions of their future. FBI agents, wracked by their own dreams, started to unravel what happened. Even as they did, the series itself fell apart. My sense was the writers couldn’t put together a coherent explanation for the blackout or its aftermath. Loose ends piled up, conspiracies became muddier. I missed some episodes, although I hung on to the end, which hinted at the next flash forward dream. Fox cancelled the series. America yawned.

Saddened, I kept hope for quality TV alive with The Event, with semi-immortal aliens captured by the U.S. government in Alaska. The series grew on me as it progressed. The aliens were riven by intrigue and disagreement about the path to take in deciding whether to cooperate or exterminate earthlings. Since aliens are often portrayed in Borg-like agreement on everything, I found this angle refreshing. The series picked up steam and direction as it moved along. The very last scene promised an explosive second season, perhaps on the lines of the movie Independence Day, but that season never happened. A long gap in the airings (curse you, Fox schedulers!), baffling personality changes in the aliens’ leader, and the usual bogus swamp of plot clutter—always involving a sweaty, treasonous Vice President, lurking in White House hallways whispering into his cell phone—sank the series. Viewers fled in droves. Canceled.

I’m feeling sheepish about my most recent ill-starred love. Goaded by relentless promos, I watched most of Fox’s Terra Nova. Go ahead and laugh; looking back, I have to ask, “What was I thinking?” The show threw an attractive multicultural cast in the time-travel blender, built a set that looked like a pre-historic Club Med resort, shook well – and created a mess. I kicked myself for wasting time even as I watched the episodes, hoping the show would coalesce. But it stayed stuck on stupid. Terra Nova had too few rampaging dinosaurs, NO exploding volcanoes and way too much idiotic teen romance. The writers lacked the courage to truly explore the show’s premise. If you could go back in time to rebuild human society, what would it look like, and how would people interact? (Terra Nova opted for Dawson’s Creek with pterodactyls.) The concept of building a new society in the past is strong enough without gumming it up with Road Warrior-style opposition forces and yet another corporate conspiracy. The ending intrigued me—the settlement leaders discover a 17th century ship, hinting at past settlers from other eras—but by then millions of other viewers had broken up with Terra Nova and the relationship ended. Adios, dim-witted teens and brontosauruses. Raquel Welch did far more with far less with her fur bikini in One Million Years B.C.

Sometimes I recognize a loser and bail out before I’m too far in. I tried Kiefer Sutherland’s series, Touch, where he was the father of a silent, autistic boy with the power to bring people together through number patterns. Two episodes of cloying global goodness and an impending conspiracy had me reaching for the remote control. I just couldn’t handle an autistic savant.

So that brings me around to Revolution. This is from NBC rather than Fox, so the commercial breaks might be slightly shorter (less time to wash dishes, fold laundry, etc.) and the plotting more focused. I greatly enjoyed executive producer J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield, a story told completely through found footage from cell phones and camcorders of a monster wrecking New York. Abrams’ vision of a powerless America, including shapely women wielding medieval weapons, could lure me back to the TV singles bar one more time in my endless quest for love with a remote control.

Or if it bogs down in its own relentless seriousness and conspiracies, I can always do a Stargate marathon.

Tales of the Book Collector: Judaica

Here’s a recent post from the Times of Israel. As it starts:

My enthusiasm for collecting books on Jewish themes soared on a recent vacation that included a stop in downtown Kerrville, Texas. Dropping by a used bookstore, I found a volume I’d never seen before in decades of visits to stores and tag sales. This encounter with the printed word supported my long-time belief: you never know when an appealing tome might pop up, like a doggie in the window, just begging to go home with you.

The very name of the store, Wolfmueller’s Books, sounded promising, fragrant with an antique Teutonic bookiness. Old Mr. Wolfmueller probably shared the Texas Hill Country’s deep German roots. I strolled in and first perused the highlighted section of books by local favorite son, Jewish musician, author and feisty gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman—another excellent signal that something Judaic lurked therein.