I spent a long day at 495 Union Avenue Wednesday editing arts and entertainment stories. Music features and news stories. Film reviews. Pieces on visual arts and theater. Calendar items on all of the above. I didn’t edit a word about television, but that’s what kept seeping into the day.
Bob Mehr came back from covering the Elvis birthday event at Graceland and mentioned that the Quebecian YouTube teen serving as VIP reminded him of the French guy who always tried to steal Woody’s girlfriend on “Cheers.”
This got us off into a brief discussion of how well “Cheers” has held up. I watched the first half season or so on Netflix awhile back and was struck by how elegantly it was filmed, something I didn’t notice watching it as a kid or teen.
The Elmore Leonard-derived Appalachian cop drama “Justified” had launched its fifth season the night before, and chatter about that got Jennifer Biggs and I talking about how neither of us quite love the show and about the difficulty we have keeping up with television shows in real time. (I’ve seen the first three seasons of “Justified,” but still missed season four, so I’m out on the new season for now.)
A few hours later, I puzzled over whether to keep a wonderful but obscure (wonderfully obscure?) “Andy Griffith Show” reference in John Beifuss’ review of the new film “Her,” reasoning that I might be one of the few under-50 readers who would pick up on it. (I let the reference stay; see if you can spot it.)
Laying on a table near my desk? A staff copy of Entertainment Weekly with “Downton Abbey” leading its “Winter TV Preview.” On the back cover of both it and the copy of Rolling Stone on my desk: a display ad for the upcoming HBO series “True Detective.”
Near the end of the day, my sports-department colleague Kyle Veazey proclaimed on Twitter, apropos of nothing (as near as I could tell):
My Fife retort was probably a by-product of editing Beifuss’ review; I had “Andy Griffith” on the brain. Restricting the question to television alone, I’d say Jason Alexander’s “Seinfeld” creation is a pretty good candidate. Certainly the most memorable and durable aspect of that show.
And Veazey’s tweet sparked a modest appreciation thread for another show, “Friday Night Lights,” which it just so happens I binge-watched the first season of over the holidays as a palate-cleanser for all the year-end-list/awards-contender movies I’d devoured between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The verdict? Season one of “Friday Night Lights” is pretty terrific. It’s good on football, even if the Dillon Panthers seem to win every game with a miracle last-second play. But it’s better about modern small-town life and different kinds of American families. And it’s at its best on the subject of marriage, with the couple at its core presenting one of fullest, most affectionate and most realistic depictions of a contemporary marriage we’ve seen on the screen, big or small. In truth, the first season of “Friday Night Lights” (I’ll have to get back to you on the rest of the series) is better than the very good film version that preceded it. It’s better in part because Connie Britton, reprising her role as “coach’s wife,” gets so much more of a character to play. But it’s also better because the narrative depth of a television series allows for a fuller exploration of all the characters.
Television is pretty clearly our most populist entertainment medium at the moment, the one that sparks the widest interest and creates a conversational space for different types of people to interact. I’m more likely to overhear casual conversation around the office about “Scandal” or “American Horror Story” than I am a book or play or art exhibit or album, or even a movie.
And yet, what role can television -- primarily a national or international medium -- reasonably play for a local publication like a daily newspaper? I’m not sure. Are there avenues for regular, locally produced television coverage here that would be interesting or useful for Memphis readers? Or would it be -- as I suspect -- mostly a waste of resources?
If nothing else, television will be in the mix of things I write about in this space.
Housekeeping Notes: We introduced a second new regular digital feature at GoMemphis.com yesterday, our daily “Go Out.” This takes the weekly event recommendation feature in our print version and expands it into a daily digital piece, with our various writers recommending events and things to do throughout the week. The plan is to do a daily Go Out each morning, Monday-Thursday, with an expanded weekend version going up either Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. But, as with everything new, it will be a feeling out process as we figure out what works best. Check out today’s Go Out.
I’ll be on “The Chris Vernon Show” at 1 p.m. today. In addition to our usual Grizzlies talk, today’s “Movies” list will be cold weather-themed films, inspired by “Frozen” being atop the box office and, of course, by the record cold we experienced earlier this week.
Final Rec: New York-based indie rockers Parquet Courts released one of my favorite albums of 2013 with their debut, Light Up Gold. They’ll make their national television debut tonight on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Check them out, if you’re of a mind.