Monday, March 28, 2011
Friends is one of my all-time favorite sitcoms. I watched almost every episode when it was newly aired, and I still watch them in syndication, almost every night. The show is still funny and touching and real to me. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.
One of my most favorite episodes was when Chandler and Monica got engaged. That episode was perfect. Joey was running around in his Mr. Beaumont outfit. Chandler called Richard a “big tree” and yelled at him because he “made my girlfriend think!” Monica was all torn up because Richard finally loved her enough to marry her when all she really wanted was for Chandler to stop talking about pig sex and propose to her.
How could it have gotten any better than Joey telling Chandler that Monica had left, Chandler falling quickly into depression, only to be bowled over when he found Monica in their apartment with about a hundred candles burning? When Monica said, “You wanted it to be a surprise,” I got a lump the size of a baseball in my throat. I thought that was the epitome of TV marriage proposals.
I was wrong. Michael Scott – and the rest of The Office – upstaged Friends this week.
I’ve been rooting for Michael and Holly ever since Amy Ryan walked on the set. They are absolutely perfect for each other and no matter what else you can say about Michael Scott, the guy deserves to be truly loved. He’s wanted it - and worked for it - for so long.
When Pam asked to see the engagement ring and Michael popped the lid open on the ring box, Pam and I both about collapsed. The ring was as big as a robin’s egg. Pam said (what I was thinking), “Is that real?”
Michael looked at Pam and said, “Yeah. Three years’ salary, right?” I knew then the proposal on Friends was in danger of being knocked off its pedestal.
I don’t know if I could pick a favorite part of the episode: Michael’s bad ideas for the restaurant proposal that Pam, Jim, and Oscar talked him out of; Michael’s bad idea of getting a corpse that was supposed to be him falling off the roof and losing his head over Holly; Michael stopping Holly from proposing to him. Yeah, those were all great and made me belly laugh, but they weren’t the best part.
The best part was the actual proposal. It was so typically Michael, so sweet, so weird, so from-the-heart. When he opened the door to the kitchen and everyone in the office was standing there with a candle, the guys taking turns asking Holly to marry them, that lump in my throat started growing again. When Michael and Holly made it through the kitchen (without Holly accepting any of the other proposals) and into the annex, when Michael popped open the ring box and asked her, in Yoda-speak, if she would marry him and Holly answered yes, in Yoda-speak, I heard the distant tumble of Monica and Chandler falling from the perch they’d held for so long. And I wiped my eyes.
I can’t really imagine The Office without Michael Scott. But if he has to leave, I’m really glad he isn’t going alone.
Monday, March 21, 2011
A Big Love affair of mine ended Sunday night. Yes, Terry knew all about it. In fact, he was having his own Big Love affair, and so was Tori. It was a family thing.
In case you’re not familiar with the HBO series, Big Love, well, that’s the affair that’s over. The series came to a shocking end Sunday night, and I have to say, I’m really going to miss Bill, Barb, Nicki, Margene, and their special kind of polygamist big love.
We got hooked on Big Love with its pilot episode back in 2006. Bill Henrickson was your typical suburban husband living outside Sandy, Utah, with his wife and three kids. He owned Henrickson’s Home Plus – a family take on a big home improvement store such as Home Depot. Barb, his wife, was a substitute teacher. Their kids were wholesome (when their parents were looking), normal kids.
And then, in the house next door to Bill and Barb’s house lived Nicki with her two sons, who were also Bill’s two sons because Nicki was also his wife, although second in line behind Barb. Nicki was the queen of do-it-herself, fix-anything she can get her hands on, prairie-dress wearing, braid-down-her-back wife from the compound. She was one of many daughters of the prophet of Juniper Creek, Roman Grant. With Nicki and the Grants came boatloads of trouble.
And, finally, in the house next to Nicki lived sweet, innocent, always happy, always perky, Margene, Bill’s very young third wife who started out as a babysitter for his kids. Marge had two sons with Bill when we first met her; she would have one more – a girl – before the series ended.
It was quite a tribe to keep track of, and believe me, I haven’t even scraped the surface of minor, yet infinitely important characters. This show was so well done, though, that it was hard to get lost in all of the faces. The characters were so well drawn – Roman, Alby, and Adaleen Grant; Don Embry (Bill’s business partner and fellow polygamist); Hollis and Selma Greene (fundamental polygamists such as the Grants with very violent tendencies – a lot like the Grants); and a host of others who came and went through the three houses and the compound at Juniper Creek over the course of the last five years.
I loved this show. Last season (Season 4) wasn’t the best for me, but the other four, especially this last of the series were original in their conflicts and characters, plot lines and settings. Big Love is an unforgettable show about people trying to live the lives they believe they are destined to live.
The Henricksons – Bill, his three wives, and most of their children – believe in plural marriage. All three wives entered into it freely and their children were free to choose their own paths, if plural marriage wasn’t for them. (For some of them, it wasn’t.) The conflicts, crises, and celebrations that came about because of these unusual dynamics made me laugh, cry, rage, rant, and clap my hands. I felt I knew these people, and I cared about them as much as anyone can care about fictional characters. That’s what art does, right? It stirs something inside you.
Big Love also made me think about plural marriage and made me consider why it’s illegal. If you only look at the compounds (the Warren Jeffs of the real world), then you think – that’s horrible! But there are real polygamists in the world living as the Henricksons lived in Big Love. They live hidden in the open. But what I wonder is, why should they have to hide?
It’s not against the law for a man to marry a woman and have countless extramarital affairs with other women. It’s not illegal for him to father children with women who are not his wife. He will not face an indictment for those crimes – those are moral and ethical issues but they don’t make him a criminal.
So here’s what I don’t understand. Why is it illegal for a man to marry more than woman? I’m not saying I condone it, or that I’m a fan of it. But what I am saying is, it seems hypocritical for the affairs to be legal and the marriage to be illegal.
In Big Love’s case, Barb was willing to open her marriage to Bill to Nicki and then to Margene. Bill and Barb had ceremonies making the other two women part of their marriage. It was these ceremonies that broke the law. If Bill had simply built Nicki’s and Marge’s houses, moved them into the houses, fathered the children, provided for them financially and otherwise (as he did) but did all of that without a ceremony, the state would have had no problem with him.
The state also would have had no problem with him if he’d had affairs with Nicki and Marge and then forgot they existed.
How can this hypocrisy be acceptable? We have laws in place to protect children from abuse; we have laws in place to prevent human trafficking. These are the crimes Warren Jeffs was charged with. Why not go after him for that? Isn’t that plenty? Why does polygamy have to be a crime?
I know I’ve digressed, but I don’t really care. Big Love was a great show. I wanted one more season so badly, but the ending of the series was breath-taking. It tied things up so much better than I ever thought they would be able to do.
I own the first three seasons on DVD and will soon own the last of it as well. That way, Bill, Barb, Nicki, Margene, Alby, Roman, Lois, and Frank will never be that far away. And I know that they’ll continue to make me laugh and cry, rage and rant, and clap and gasp for years to come. Good TV never goes stale.