The Good Place. A great show.

Every now and then I watch a series as it unrolls on Netflix, but more often than not I’m late to the party and can devour the whole thing as fast as my spare time allows me to. Before this last week, my last escapade was with “Dark,” a wonderful German fantasy dealing with time travel, dimension, other worlds, and the interconnected lives of several families in a small town in Germany.

On the heels of that, interspersed with re-watching episodes of “Midnight Diner,” I picked up “The Good Place” as recommended by the Goodwoman of the House.

The last series that delighted me so much was The Dark Crystal – Age of Resistance, which some cretinous executives at Netflix decided not to bring back for a second season, may all their teeth fall out after having had a root canal in every one. The Good Place was fun and charming and thoughtful and provocative from beginning to end.

Maybe, like me, you have been living under a rock and never had a chance to watch this before now. I tend to be late to the party on a lot of modern things, just because life has been so busy for the last 4 years retrofitting a 200-year-old farmhouse and working in a warehouse at the same time. But I’m grateful that this lovely show actually made it onto my radar.

I won’t spoil anything, but according to Wikipedia,

the original premise follows Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a woman welcomed after her death to “the Good Place”, a highly selective Heaven-like utopia designed and run by afterlife “architect” Michael (Ted Danson) as a reward for her righteous life. However, she realizes that she was sent there by mistake and must hide her morally imperfect past behavior while trying to become a better and more ethical person. William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto co-star as other residents of the Good Place, alongside D’Arcy Carden as Janet, an artificial being who assists the residents.”

As the show goes on, it asks a lot of good questions about the nature of human behavior, good and evil, and human relationships – and does so while weaving multiple threads from pop culture and a lot of really funny bits into the mix.

I would love for every individual involved in this show, from the writers and producers to the cast and crew, to know how much pleasure their craft gave me. Ted Danson was superb, and every one of his fellow cast members absolutely knocked it out of the park. The ending was bittersweet but satisfying, but I have to confess I wished that there were more.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Netflix and “The Age of Resistence”

Every now and then a company makes a hideous mistake in the pursuit of maximizing shareholder value.

Twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter manuscript. I would be willing to wager that each of them has moments when decision makers wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning in a cold sweat, screaming “What the hell was I thinking‽”

Gail Berman, the former president of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting Company, was the one who pulled the plug on “Firefly” because “[it] was a big show, a very expensive show and it wasn’t delivering the numbers.” Similarly, Fox cancelled J.J. Abrams’ amazing series “Fringe,” again for the same two reasons:  falling ratings and an expensive production budget.

Popularity doesn’t matter. Quality doesn’t matter. Ground-breaking content doesn’t matter. All that matters is those eyeballs on ads.

Dark Crystal Netflix series

So let’s talk about Henson Studio’s breathtaking return to the world of Thra, a re-imagined prequel to the original “The Dark Crystal.” The first (and now only) season ran for ten episodes, and fans were delighted – everyone I know who resonated with the show was waiting for a continuation of the saga with bated breath.

And then, despite the show being awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program – 2020, “88% fresh” ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, and universal acclaim from Metacritic, some yeast-headed executive at Netflix made the decision to “un-renew” the series, and I’d bet a buffalo nickel that the reason was “not making enough money.” The original film was only modestly received when it was first released back in 1982; it earned $41 million at the box office over a production cost of $25 million, but later gained a cult following when it was released to VHS. I have not been able to find production costs for Age of Resistance, but I guess revenue and ratings led the bean counters to conclude that it wasn’t worth the investment.

This is an absolute catastrophe. My poor little Deet; I fell in love with her and now Netflix is going to leave her wandering around in the wilds of Thra, consumed by the Darkening.

How AGE OF RESISTANCE Gives THE DARK CRYSTAL a Happier Ending - Nerdist

How could they? A show that absolutely captured the magic and beauty of the original, and added to it with new layers of technology and beautiful storytelling. I tell you this: If I ever get hold of the person who was responsible for the decision to cancel this series, they will think that being attacked by a thousand Garthim looks like a picnic with Miss Julie’s Romper Room class. Jumping H. Jehoshaphat! My heart is broken and I summon legions of Mandalorians and Chaotic Evil Paladins to wreak vengeance!

The only glimmer of hope on the horizon is a statement by Lisa Henson, the executive producer:

“We know fans are eager to learn how this chapter of ‘The Dark Crystal’ saga concludes and we’ll look for ways to tell that story in the future,” said executive producer Lisa Henson. “Our company has a legacy of creating rich and complex worlds that require technical innovation, artistic excellence, and masterful storytelling. Our history also includes productions that are enduring, often finding and growing their audience over time and proving again and again that fantasy and science fiction genres reflect eternal messages and truths that are always relevant. We are so grateful to Netflix for trusting us to realize this ambitious series; we are deeply proud of our work on ‘Age of Resistance,’ and the acclaim it has received from fans, critics and our peers, most recently receiving an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program.”

Now from where I stand, she’s being phenomenally charitable to Netflix, but I’m hopeful that Henson Studios can find a way to continue the saga in another environment before I go the way of all the world.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

In praise of the writers

I’m just coming down from a rather intense Blue Bloods high, after having binged Season 4 on Netflix. Not exactly sure what prompted me to start watching this one, but it hooked me right away… perhaps it was Tom Selleck, whom I have long adored as an actor, or perhaps it’s because at heart and always I’m a New York City boy.

Commissioner Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck

Mr. Selleck, as usual, plays an excruciatingly ethical character. He seems to ooze goodness, even when his rôles portray very human (with all the warts) individuals. And the lines he delivers leave one breathlessly hoping that there really are people like Commissioner Frank Reagan out there.

But those lines… well, they aren’t really his. He takes them from the script, and makes them his own, and follows the director’s guidance, and delivers them with incredible grace and stolidity and aplomb, much like Patrick Stewart does as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, but they were written by someone else. Or several someones. And it is not lost on me that an incredible speech or soliloquy delivered by Mr. Selleck or Sir Patrick are lines from the minds of people who only get a single line of text as credit for each episode. People in the background, whose faces we never see, but people who deserve just as much praise as those in front of the camera.

Picard’s line, “The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity” probably came from Brannon Braga, Rick Berman, or Ronald Moore. The incredible soliloquy by Soren in the TNG episode, “The Outcast,” was likely written by Jeri Taylor, who also wrote “The Drumhead.” Melinda M. Snodgrass examined in excruciating detail the issues of what defines a human being as a free agent or property. And unless there’s some unrevealed ad-libbing in Blue Bloods, every amazing thing that Frank Reagan says (along with all the other recurring characters) came from the pen of a writer.

Now, forgive me for waxing a bit scriptural here, but in the New Testament book of Matthew we read,

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”

(Matthew 7:17)

Good fountains don’t bring forth bitter water. Bad human beings don’t write the amazing kinds of things one hears in TV dramas like this. Someone who is not dedicated to the cause of humanity clawing itself out of the mud and reaching for the stars can’t write like this.

In the end, the outstanding quality of a show like Blue Bloods, or the Next Generation, or Fringe depends on everything coming together – producers, directors, writers, actors, cameramen, editors, sound technicians, stunt people, special effects people… the whole ball of wax. It’s seldom that you get everything clicking just right. But it’s usually the thoughts behind the show that provide the biggest takeaway, and for those feelings that we are left with we have the writers to thank.

Hats off!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

♬ We Belong to a Mutual Admiration Society ♬


Saw this on my Facebook feed the other day, and just sort of glossed over it. This morning I saw it at reddit and looked more closely, and then i got the joke.

I was immediately reminded of this little bit of silliness which I saw when it first came out, oh, back in the Cenozoic Era or thereabouts:

I always thought these two guys were an absolute crackup; my father, an actor, was full of nothing but contempt for Joe E. Ross for some odd reason known only to himself, although he had great respect for Fred Gwynne and did a small part himself on one episode of The Munsters.

For you young’uns, this is a clip from “Car 54 Where Are You“, a comedy show about two New York cops, back in a day when the police for me were personified by the likes of Officer Joe Bolton instead of the Predator.

The Old Wolf has spoken.