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Sunday in the Park

Let me state the obvious first — I have been watching too much television. I am, by nature, much more a reader. An avid moviegoer. A person who enjoys dinner parties surrounded by witty and clever guests. During The Season, I often attend other people’s fundraisers, plays and musical events. I work many, many nights. I just don’t have time for television on any kind of a predictable basis.

Ah, technology for the masses changes all that. I envied my friends’ TiVo system when they purchased it — first in our circle. They could record shows they wanted to watch inside some television brain that would not only allow them to replay those shows whenever they chose, but speed through them without the bother of commercials. We could power through two saved "West Wing" episodes, for example, in just over one hour. It was a thing of beauty.

Comcast apparently saw the future and adapted. Not too long ago, I learned, for a fee, but nowhere near the cost of purchasing a TiVo unit, you could add to the service already in your home, the ability to have certain shows recorded in your own television’s brain that you could replay, at will. A kind of TiVo for the masses, if you will. And I did. Sign up for the service, that is.

So on a dreary, spring-only-by-the-calendar night, when network television was not showing any program I wanted to watch, I could press a button and retrieve those shows I missed, that I would have watched had I been at home. Before I go any further, can I just remind you, gentle reader, how really ugly and grim most spring nights have been? That, and I’ve had a touch of insomnia.

I caught up on any shows I might have even been slightly interested in watching and those I find truly entertaining as well. The result is all rather confusing.

Take, for example, a new favorite, "Big Love," the HBO series about the polygamist family living in Sandy, Utah. Well written, well acted, and clearly well researched, I am already moving this to the top of the favorites category. I also like "Las Vegas," not well written, not well acted, about a casino owner and his family, which frequently features well known musical acts. In one viewing period — yet another snowy Monday night as I recall — I caught up on both series. It seems the second-in-command at the home improvement store, owned by the main character on "Big Love," a kinda heavyset guy with three wives of his own and a fourth possibly in the wings, might be moonlighting at his work as well. Because over on "Vegas" he was just hired to work security for Ed in the casino. Not only does the guy have three wives, he now has two jobs, in two states. Talk about making your life complicated. I’m also concerned because back on "Big Love," the teenage son in the polygamist family who has been seduced into attending seminary by his friend, showed up later on Sunday in Boston in a "Crossing Jordan" episode where he is a suspect in a murder case. How did he get from Sandy, Utah in one hour to Boston to commit a crime, I ask you?

Over on "West Wing," strange things are afoot. Years ago, I was disappointed when the cute, smart, Southern (gasp) Republican woman came to work in the very Democratic White House. Ansley, I think her name was. She only lasted a season maybe before she moved to Miami and wearing too much make-up, losing much of her accent, took up working with the man whose very name used to be synonymous with career stupidity — David Caruso. You remember he left "NYPD Blue" at the height of its success. Left Sipowitz out to dry, constantly replacing his sidekick for years to come. Caruso thought he had the chops to be a movie star. In a Dr. Phil kind of exchange, nearly a decade later someone must have said, "How’s that working out for you?" He was offered the role of the chief Crime Scenes Investigator in Miami. He got the tarted-up Ansley as part of the trade.

But now, with Santos winning the White House (and a fine series in its final episodes) Ansley has returned to the West Wing, without any bad tan lines from Miami, or tarty make-up. The sweet Southern girl is back looking for a job in the new White House. Which, if you switched to another channel, you could be convinced is run by a very tall woman with a dippy, clingy husband. Both Commanders in Chief are strangely in search of a vice president. While we suspect Santos will try something enlightened and pick his former Republican opponent or maybe Chief of Staff CJ Craig, Geena Davis has poached the former White House shrink from "West Wing" to switch careers and move onto her show and become her second banana.

On "24" I found the resurrection of the much hated chief of staff from "ER." The mean little man apparently exchanged two letters for two numbers. He is working with the President of the United States, who is neither Jimmy Smits or Geena Davis but some short, skinny guy married to one of the former "Designing Women," who were the working class precursor to "Desperate Housewives," who were having sex in some Southern city with a black gay assistant long before "Will and Grace" ever thought to room together.

After weeks of trying to catch up on all my shows, I find myself still sleep deprived and terribly confused. If we can’t trust the real White House to not seem like a bad television series, we should at least be able to have a good television series help us imagine what a well run West Wing could be. But for now, I’m done with my bug-eyed viewing. I went to Dolly’s on Saturday and picked up three new novels. I’m halfway through the first one, which I just might curl up and finish if the weather isn’t nice, again, this Sunday in the Park


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