With all three DVD players loaded for action, one of today's TV Watch objects was Michael Palin's most recent travel series, New Europe, his look at the eastern part of the continent, previously so little known to him, and the location of the largest amount of change on the continent in recent decades.
It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon . . . no, wait, that's that other guy's franchise. What I meant to say was, it's been a quiet Thanksgiving Day here in the Big Apple, or anyways in my little corner of it. I haven't been out of my apartment, and haven't even done the media plug-in to find out how the Macy's parade turned out -- there was much anxiety in the preceding days over whether the winds would be stiff enough to ground the parade balloons.
I don't need to go outside, since it's quite cold enough inside to give me a feel for the season. The days are long since past when NYC landlords pumped up so much heat in winter that a person had to open windows to keep the inside temperature manageable. Last winter, I got weary enough of resorting to an overcoat (over a sweater) and a knitted cap to make the indoor freeze bearable that I invested in a couple of those cheapie digital thermometers, sure that my landlord must be shamefully below the city's legally mandated temperature minimums, only to find out that in fact the readings were pretty consistently well above
those minimums. Which was small comfort to me, huddled in my winter outdoor garb.
This morning, though, when I finally dragged myself out of bad (what a joy it was not to have to answer an alarm's summons, as I've had to do lately even on weekends, thanks to planned activities), I had the inspiration, in the interest of going along to get along, that no law prevented me from wearing two
sweaters -- and, yes, the knitted cap. That served me well enough to get my holiday kitchen labors accomplished, to the accompaniment of the first DVD of the complete Larry Sanders Show
box set that's been sitting unwatched for ages. And what a treat to reencounter that wonderful cast -- no surprise in the case of Garry Shandling himself as Larry and the inimitale Rip Torn as his producer, Artie, and so much of the supporting cast, but I found that much as I'd previously admired Jeffrey Tambor's performance as announcer "Hey Now" Hank Kingsley, I hadn't properly appreciated a truly majestic piece of work. Hank himself is such an, er, problematic character, that even such a transecendantly accomplished performance comes out looing, well, problematic.
As it happens, I had discs from assorted DVD boxes loaded in the DVRs of all three TVs. This is thanks to the successful near-conclusion of an infinitely complex shuffle that followed my second TV acquisition in less than six months, which included the forced retirement of an ancient 19-inch Sharp TV I've had for nearly 40 years (and in fact bought used from the neighbor of a friend, who I thought shamefully overcharged me, little imagining that the thing would still be in use all these decades later, simply refusing to die) and the shift of a 20-year-old 31-inch Panasonic into its spot in the kitchen, where it just barely fits. That 31-inch Panasonic has for some years been held together with bubble wrap and duct tape, following a seemingly catastrophic forward tilt; I wan't able to reconstruct the plastic of the upper part (hence the bubble wrap), but in its ramshackle repaired state the thing has continued to function pretty well, and to be honest, I'm happy not to have to part with it.
But I've formed quick emotional bonds with the new HD TVs -- first a 40-inch Samsung for the bedroom (replacing what was the newest of my TV's, which died about a week before my scheduled knee-replacement surgery in the spring, at which point I decided it was too late to do anything about it and so had no TV in the bedroom during the early weeks of recuperation; well, it got me out of bed!) and now a 50-inch Toshiba for the living room. The terrible part is that a person becomes accustomed to the new state of the art so quickly that he's all too likely to begin taking it for granted. When in my life did I ever imagine I might ever have such a TV picture as the new set produces? (From, as it happens, the very same DVR cable box that I was using with the old 31-inch Panasonic, which turned out, as I discovered upon taking it in to Time Warner Cable for swapping and waiting an hour for help -- to produce HD as well as analog output.) And now after a week and a half I turn the set on and think I've always had a picture like that.
So from the kitchen I could venture into the living room, where I had the first disc of Michael Palin's New Europe
loaded, or into the bedroom, where I had just loaded the first disc of my Amazon Gold Box Friends
set. I've seen the Friends
episodes a lot in syndication, of course. But now, starting from the start and watching them in order and uncut, I was more impressed than I expected. I always thought the show should have been a little better than it was. Now, by comparison with what the networks, both broadcast and cable, are dumping onto the air, it looks brilliant -- certainly a lot wiser about the process of discovering what Life is all about than Girls
(but then, what isn't?)
Then in mid-afternoon there was an inordinately pleasant, and inordinatley long, time spent on the phone with Howie, which developed into another extended look back at our high school days, triggered in part by the conversations he reported recently which we each had with the peculiar classmate who, as best we can figure out, is going through the James Madison HS directory that was published . . . um, I don't remember when, let's just say it was published, and apparently calling members of the class of '65. In neither of our conversations did our long-lost classmate give any indication of actually remembering us, let alone knowing anything about our post-'65 lives. (In the interest of accuracy, let me correct Howie's attribution to me of a "photographic memory," unless the photographs in question are of the kind usually associated with pictures of the Loch Ness Monster. Yes, In once had a pretty good memory. Not great, but pretty good. Now, however . . . .
With the coast-to-coast time difference, Howie had been marking time till he had to leave for his traditional Thanksgiving-dinner hosts. Eventually he realized that after that inordinate time warp, he was now late. For me it was a remarkably pleasant bridge to Thanksgiving evening, with quite happy results for both the pea soup and the pork shoulder roast.
I hope everyone out there has had and continues to have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Labels: Michael Palin, Thanksgiving, TV Watch