Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A funny, (somewhat) Thanksgiving-related post

This Thanksgiving dinner looks so good this family's gonna be letting out a bunch of Paul Falsones afterward.
Every time I pass some gas (silently) after Thanksgiving dinner, I'm reminded of the 1998 blog post "When Bad Actors Happen to Good Shows" by Philip Michaels, which unfortunately disappeared from's archives. (The post can be seen in its entirety here. Good lookin' out, Wayback Machine.)

So I'm posting excerpts from this scathing jab at both the writing during the later seasons of one of my favorite '90s shows, Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-99), and Jon Seda, who was in his element as a cast member on Taye Diggs' too-short-lived legal drama Kevin Hill (2004-05) but was a terrible, out-of-place addition to the Homicide cast.

When Bad Actors Happen To Good Shows
by Philip Michaels - March 27, 1998

It happens every Thanksgiving or Easter or Christmas. All the relatives get together at my parents' humble little cottage for a big old family dinner. My mom spends 12 hours in the kitchen. We all put on our Sunday finery. And then, once the potatoes have been mashed and the corn has been buttered and the cranberries have been lovingly removed from the can and stirred up to make them look like they were fresh, we all sit down as a family to have a civilized, pleasant meal.

And we give it our best, just like Frasier's David Hyde Pierce exhorts us to do in those "The More You Know" commercials on NBC. The fine china sparkles. The conversation is spirited. The ham is succulent. And love -- honest-to-goodness family love -- is heavy in the air.

Which is about when, towards the end of the meal, my dad lets out an eardrum-busting, picture-rattling fart.

And that's the cue for everything to go to Hell. My sister starts crying and my brother-in-law just sadly shakes his head and my mother screams at my father and then demands to know why I haven't gotten married before she hastily adds that she'll still love me even if I move to West Hollywood with a hair stylist named Brad, which is about the time that she runs from the room bawling about how nobody has any time for her.

Which is my dad's cue to fart again.

My point -- other than the fact that any psychologist out there who just read those last few paragraphs is probably thinking, "Hello, grant money!" -- is that it only takes one small mishap to take something wonderfully sublime and absent-mindedly flush it down the crapper. That's true of anything, whether we're talking about disaster-plagued family get-togethers or once-phenomenal television programs.

And that brings me to Homicide...

Because this post is about the declining years of Homicide, this shot is taken from the opening titles from those later years. The awesome original titles for Homicide were created by Arlington Road director Mark Pellington. The shot of a barking dog behind a chain-link fence brilliantly established the inner-city Balto setting. In season 5, NBC replaced Pellington's titles with a flashier, X-Files-inspired opening by Imaginary Forces. The overproduced titles helped usher in the show's decline.
... Jon Seda is the fart at my Thanksgiving dinner.

Seda's Falsone embodies every tough-as-nails-cop-with-a-heart-of-gold cliche that's ever graced the boob tube, right down to his Mott Street accent and emphatic hand gestures. It's almost as if Falsone was airlifted into Homicide straight out of NYPD Blue or Brooklyn South. You expect to see Nicholas Turturro burst on to the Homicide set, demanding that Jon Seda give him his identity back...

Bad enough that the Falsone character is trite. But stack him up against the other cops on Homicide with all their quirks and complexities, and Falsone assumes all the full-bodied richness of a cardboard cutout. Braugher's Pembleton visibly wrestles with his demons and doubts every week. Secor's Bayliss has spent each of the show's six seasons struggling to find happiness that always seems to be out of reach. Even Munch's sarcastic veneer is just his way of shielding himself from the unending horror of poking over one dead body after another.

And Falsone? Well, Falsone keeps muttering about how much he loves his kid...

Falsone the showkiller.
Bad Actors have doomed Good Shows in the past, they're laying waste to them in the present, and they will continue to wreak their havoc in the future unless America's couch potatoes stay eternally vigilant. Even now, in the seedy back offices of Hollywood, powerful producers and dissolute agents are conspiring in secret to ruin your favorite TV programs. Jamie Farr as an FBI agent on X-Files. William Shatner as a brilliant Army defense attorney on JAG. Shannen Doherty as Rachel's long-lost sister on Friends.

And do you really want to be responsible for that?

Act now. Make angry phone calls to TV producers. Write long, polemical letters to corpulent network executives. March down to their offices and give long-winded speeches until building security guards are forced to break out the pepper spray. Whatever you do, let the TV Powers That Be know you won't tolerate Bad Actors lousing up Good Shows, no matter how much Jamie Farr needs the work.

Otherwise, when my old man farts at your Thanksgiving dinner, you'll have no one to blame but yourself.

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