Confessions Of A Remote Hog: Smiles, Lies And Gunfire

This was a really big week for television and as someone who is supposed to write a weekly column on the subject of all things television I should be in my glory. I should have a lot of material to write on, the premiere of Survivor, the finale of The Amazing Race, the Emmy’s, NBC premiere week are all great topics. Heck, my whipping boy Fox seems to have even more fall out from their new “creative” approach to year round television and may not be able to afford to properly produce it’s existing shows. Yet, all that interesting fodder is secondary to another pop culture event that is happening this week. You see, four year s before I was born Stephen King had a short story published in a small magazine. That story, sort of a mismatched fantasy with a western tint, was called The Gunslinger. Thirty four years and six huge novels later, the tale is about to end.

I picked up my first copy of The Gunslinger when I was 13 years old, and voracious for something to call my own. I grew up relatively poor, and the majority of the books I read were hand me downs from my sister and selections from the children section of the library. My mom was a watchdog for the content of my entertainment, my music, movies, and books where greatly scrutinized for content. So, for me to have to read anything by the “evil” Mr. Stephen King, it would take cunning and sacrifice. So, I had to carefully hide the book, sneaking a page here or page there. I would go out for long walks, find a place in the woods, to just sit back and enjoy a good read while swatting at mosquitos and other pests..

So now, years later, the seventh and final book in the series has hit stores on Tuesday. Now, even though this column is appearing on my normal Thursday spot, I am writing this on Monday, because I know come Tuesday, I’m going to be no good to anyone.

Yet, the ending of this series has me thinking about well, endings. Yesterday I watched the Emmy’s and “endings” were a big theme. The Practice, Friends, Frasier, Sex and the City, all long time shows, all appealing to different demographic, all over. All the series finale episode had some sappy, emotionally charged, final moment that fit nicely into a montage that award shows have become known for. All the character that we have grown to love, together in a familiar place for one last time, for one last moment together before life and circumstance tears them apart, thus ending the show for everone, including us the viewer.

The history of endings are not as stellar as this year’s final moments. Who can forget the monstrosity of a bizarre mega-clip show finale that ended probably the greatest sitcom of the modern era, Seinfeld? Yet, this year, the were handled with a bit of class. At least the ones I watched. The ending that touched me the most was probably The Practice. David E. Kelley hasn’t had a great track record when ending his series. Allie McBeal was nothing to scream home about, Boston Public just seamed to flutter out with little hoopla, and the great Picket Fences turned into a sentiment crap-fest with all our favorite character acting like rejects from a poorly written soap opera.

So then comes the Practice. I remember the first episode of the show, well sort of. They were playing it on the TV at The Brook, a local watering hole in Norristown, Pennsylvania on $3.00 Yuengling carafe night. When I realized that the new David E. Kelley show was premiering, I carefully stumbled away from my dart game and found a spot near the TV wear I could read the subtitles, since there was no chance I could here it over the sounds of Paint in Black being played on the jukebox. Since that day, I was hooked, ummm… on the show.

So, over the next years, as I grew from a drunken college boy to a responsible adult, The Practice became my favorite show. Yet, slowly but surely it began moving down the road once blazed by Picket Fences. Tales of complex legal issues, slowly transformed into tales of the shaking marriage of Bobby and Lindsey and whether they still loved each other. Ho, hum, blah, blah, blah. So, blasé storylines and a a disastrous move to Monday nights had the shows ratings tanking and it’s future uncertain. Which was probably the best thing that ever happened to it.

Then David E. Kelley, in a seemingly cost cutting move, fired the cast. Well, not all of them but, enough. Of course, this had fans screaming bloody murder, well most of the fans at least. I wasn’t screaming bloody murder, I was screaming, “It’s about time.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the Bobby and Lindsey characters, I just thought that there story had been told. Then, to the outrage of most fans, Kelley brought in most creepy actor James Spader.

In the end it would turn out to be a brilliant move by Kelley. Spader reenergized the series writers. Spader was slimy and snarly and was a breath of fresh air from the self righteous whining that this show was plagued with in years prior. Spader was everything you hate about lawyers, and reveled in it. There were no scenes with Spader crying on the shoulder of one of his partners disgusted by his role in the representative of some slimeball. Of course, this attitude was in direct contradiction with those of his partners and of course it lead to the eventually destruction of the firm, and the end of the series.

So even justify his move more, Spader took home The Best Actor Emmy this year. Many people called this one of the big surprises of the Emmy ceremony, yet I am pleased to note that our experts here at Inside Pulse weren’t among the surprised. Four of the five writers in our Emmy panel were able to recognize the work he did this year, and the Academy followed suit.

So, back to endings. The Practice did something this year that a lot of dramas on TV really don’t acomplish, they revitalized the series and then ended it on a high note. Spader’s Alan Shore character was such a hit, that it merited its own spin off series, Boston Legal premiering soon.

So all this leads me back to one place, Stephen King. Tomorrow I will head out to my local book retailer, plunk down my $30.00 and for one last time enter into the ever shifting moved on world of Roland, the last gunslinger, and his Ka-tet. This is unlike the ending to any television series. This is a world that has been with me for all of my teenage and adult life. It’s a bittersweet feeling, an ending both anticipated and feared by the hordes of Dark Tower obsessed fans. As a topper, King plans to make the release of this final tale in what he calls his Magnum Opus, the official beginning of his much rumored retirement.

So, that is my ramblings this week. Next week I plan to return once again with a well thought out, thoroughly researched column dealing woith some intricacy of the television world. But this week I just say my good-byes. Good-bye Bobby, Lindsey, Rebecca, Jimmy, Eugene and Eleanor. Good-bye Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy. Good-bye Sex and the City, Frasier, Friends, The District, Hack, and the numerous other shows that closed down production all over the dial. And lastly, good-bye and good luck, to the master of modern horror, Stephen King. I will leave you with the words of your greatest creation.

“First comes smiles, then lies. Last is Gunfire.”