Television

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

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This column tri-weekly column, “From Richard’s Oft Cluttered Desk” appears every third Wednesday.

Not very often does a television program come along that tells a great story. Sure, a lot of what is written for television is quality. But when the shows go off the air, we are sad because we have become attached to the characters. Or perhaps we have become attached to sitting our asses down at the same time week after week for years to see these people entertain us.

Just take a look at the shows I have been passionate about: Coach, Seinfeld, The West Wing, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and countless others that I can’t recall at the moment. I most distinctly remember the ending of Friends and Seinfeld.

Those are two of my all-time favorites (and I own the entire Seinfeld series). When Seinfeld ended it was an event. Millions watched. Some were upset at the ending but for a show about nothing, we weren’t attached to the story, we were attached to the comedy.

As for Friends, I cried during the final episode. I had grown up with the friends and as they all placed their keys on the counter and began their next journeys, we would not be going with them. But I did not desire to have them continue. They had run their course.

For five years I lived the ups and downs of Friday Night Lights. The show that NBC tried to kill only to hear from the show’s small, but forceful fan base. I was attached to the people, the team, the school, the town. Lucky for me, and the many other fans, NBC teamed up with DirecTV to team-produce two more 13-episode seasons.

Aside from being a huge fan of the show, I have written about it in the past. One of the re-used phrases on the show came from Coach Taylor and it was simple, yet deep. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

Someday I will have that slogan, that motto, hanging for my kids to see. I’m not sure what it was meant to mean exactly, but I take it to me that if you have a clear vision, if your hearts are full of love and compassion, there is no way you can come away a loser.

As coach and his players completed their fifth and final season on television, I was struck by how different it felt. I wanted more. They made me believe. They made me dream. They made me cry and scream and sit on the edge of my seat.

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

What other television show can tackle the issues of underage drinking, teenage sex, homosexuality, absent parents, marriage, abortion and live to tell about it? Not many, but Friday Night Lights did all that and more.

In my now favorite scene of the finale – and possibly the entire series – coach and one of his student assistants are talking in his office when she says, “This has been the greatest experience of my life.” The camera pans to coach and he smirks and replies, “You know, I think it’s been mine too.”

That is all I will ever need to know about this show and these characters. That no matter the opponent, the challenge, the obstacle, if you believe in your dreams and you love those around you, you can not lose.

Say it with me: Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

Movies While You’re Sick

Recently I was sick and spent an entire day on the couch, sleeping and watching movies. That got me thinking: What are the best movies and shows to watch while you’re under the weather? I’ve broken them into three categories: (A) I want to sleep, (B) I want to be motivated, and (C) I want to laugh.

First, if you want to sleep; I’ve found that’s usually what I want to do while I’m sick, and there are plenty of good movies to do that. A great sleeping movie is anything with Meg Ryan, particulary, You’ve Got Mail. Don’t get me wrong, I love and own this movie. It’s got a relaxing story-line and nothing loud and crazy that will wake you up. Two others I’ve been known to fall asleep to are October Sky (also a good book) and Apollo 13. The latter can wake you up, so be sure to have it turned low.

Now, if you want to be motivated. Sometimes you simply can’t sleep while you’re sick and you just want to feel good about life. So, what’s a person to do? Let’s get motivated! At the top of this list are a bunch of sports movies like Miracle, Field of Dreams and Rudy. Rudy could also fit until the put to sleep category because it is a pretty easy-going film.

Finally, if you just want to laugh. I would really suggest something on television for this category. MythBusters or re-runs of Friends, Seinfeld, Will & Grace and Alf. Those are all good for a laugh and are on all the time during the day and in the early-morning hours.

I’d love to hear your favorite “I’m Sick Movies.”

Just Another ‘Reality’ Check

Poor American Idol. Poor reality television. Poor mother. Poor us. Television sucks… end of column.

Before I go on my tirade that has been building for three months, I must say, I do watch some reality television. But that doesn’t stop me from saying that giving the right cast, the right story, the right time, and a slow trigger finger, we can again have a Seinfeld.

The bottom line is that reality television is funny. Now, those ‘winners’ get to be the basis for my anger today.

Was it possible to sell worse than Taylor Hicks’ debut album? I didn’t think it was possible, but season six Idol winner, Jordan Sparks’ debut album is doing just that.

I have been a ‘fan’ of Idol, if for nothing else than the fact that it has given us a few great artists in Carrie Underwood, Clay Aiken and Chris Daughtry. But I much prefer when they make fun of people and it makes me feel better about myself.

Reality television does that. We all watch Big Brother or Survivor and say, “Oh, I would never do that!”

Really? You wouldn’t stab a friend in the back to win?

Oh sure, maybe it’s not stabbing so much as it is not returning phone calls or emails. Same difference.

I digress…

Looking the list of recent reality programs is staggering: Laguna Beach, Real World, Road Rules, The Simple Life, Nike and Jessica, COPS, The First 48, Idol, Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, Project Runway, Top Design, The Mole, and The Contender.

I’ll admit that I watch a few reality programs. I have long since been a fan of American Justice and the First 48; what can I say, I just love the law in order. I used to watch Survivor and attended three Survivor parties. I now watch Project Runway.

Back in the 1960’s, game-shows were all the rage on television and that led to the 1990’s and the rise of situation comedies and hour-long dramas. Oh, those were the days.

Must See TV. The 1995 ‘Must See’ lineup was this: Friends, The Single Guy, Seinfeld, Caroline in the City, ER. What a night that was.

Now, it’s hard to find a quality mental release on television. Shows are canceled before they even have a chance to find their niche, their audience.

Imagine if NBC had done to Seinfeld what it has done to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Joey in recent years. 60 was a great comedy that NBC literally gave up on after six episodes. Joey was just a terrible production but a great concept. Then you have a show like Jericho which was canceled, only to be re-called because their fans were “unhappy.” Screw that. I have been unhappy for years!

I bet you didn’t know, but after the Pilot episode of Seinfeld was aired, NBC offered it to FOX, to which they passed.

I’m simply tired. I’m worn out. I need some entertainment. I need that release. I need Monica to be so crazy about the cleanliness of her apartment that I don’t feel so bad about the water ring that has formed on the tea cup tonight. I want George to yet again get fired so I don’t feel so bad about my own professional career. I want Robert and Ray back so I can watch my family in action.

But I will turn on the television tonight and find the NBA on ESPN because they find that to be more appealing than the Davis Cup Final between the United States and Russia.

Oh, the loss of my television. What is a man to do?