Sunday, May 15, 2005

TV's Small World and Other Notes from the Road

Another weekend, another road trip, this time to New Jersey and New York City to visit family. But thoughts about TV and show business were never far away, and not just because I knew that I'd be watching and writing about ''Survivor: Palau'' tonight.
A few notes:
-- Ohio didn't seem far off, since ''Good Morning America'' on both Saturday and Sunday morning had stories with Northeast Ohio connections.
It doesn't matter what the stories were. They simply brought me a piece of my day-to-day world even when I was not physically in it.
And that's TV does for all of us, all the time. We are taken to places we might never be if it weren't for the images on the TV screen. And when we travel we are reminded by TV of what we left behind.
Even something as simple as a weather map can create an emotional connection -- envying what we're missing, loving what we're returning to, worrying about what our loved ones are returning to.
-- Saturday evening, we settled down to relax, have a pizza -- and watch an ''America's Next Top Model'' marathon on VH1.
One of my favorite things about cable is watching the marathons that channels use to fill hours of time. It's an easy way to catch up on what I've missed or to revisit something I've enjoyed.
Marathons are at their best when they don't feature a challenging show or one that requires much concentration. Then you can do other things, exchange wisecracks with other watchers and still let the hours float entertainingly by.
''Top Model'' was perfect for that. It is not heavy lifting, but it does have a passable amount of entertainment. And it flows by more easily in marathon form, since you're not faced with the weekly decision whether to watch or not, especially when there might be something really important on at the same time.
Of course, with a DVR or VCR, I could have recorded each week's episode and had my own at-home marathon, but that would have required a commitment of time and energy that seems more than ''Top Model'' would call for most weeks.
But it was fun to sit and watch, even if the marathon was an extended trailer for the upcoming season finale of the show.
In fact, the promotional spots for the season finale took some fun out of the marathon because the promos told who the show's three finalists are; that shrank the suspense in individual episodes, since you know where it's all going.
On the other hand, contestants' declarations of their wish to win were amusingly undercut by our knowledge that they would be gone soon. And the marathon was successful with at least one viewer: My wife is now curious about the finale, having invested all those hours in the events leading up to it.
-- My 21-year-old son gave my 16-year-old son the book ''Silent Bob Speaks: The Collected Writings of Kevin Smith,'' showcasing the director of ''Clerks,'' ''Dogma,'' ''Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back'' and other movies.
(An aside: We went into Forbidden Planet, a comic book/fantasy store in NYC and I, carrying the Smith book, asked if I had to check it. The clerk said no, and asked if the book was any good. I explained it was the sons' gift, and I hadn't read it. He seemed surprised. ''You looked like the type,'' he said. I leave it to wiser souls to figure out what that means.)
Anyway, the book includes an interview with Ben Affleck, a friend of Smith and frequent actor in his movies. In it, Affleck talks some about his latest romance, whom Smith considers ''the love of his life.''
Affleck recognizes that some people are more cynical about the relationship and says, ''It may take a minimum of ten years of marriage and a couple kids, but sooner or later, people will get that we're in love.''
Do I need to point out that he's talking about Jennifer Lopez?
Of course, that did not work out, and Affleck is now with Jennifer Garner, and there have been reports they are expecting a baby.
When you read something like that, can you begin to understand why some actors and other celebrities are reluctant to talk about their personal lives?
If they do, they may put into the public record declarations of love and devotion that may in the long run come back to bite them. Affleck is far from alone in doing such a thing. But it makes me think sometimes that the smartest performers are those who keep their private lives private.

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