Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"A Barely Bearable Burden"

Now I’ve done it!

I promised myself I would never get myself into a situation like this.  And now here I am – smack dab in the middle of a predicament I never wanted, and had hoped desperately to avoid. 

I mean, I asked for this.  It was totally voluntary.  I just don’t think I can handle it.  I can feel the strain building.

And building.

Sometimes it seems more than I can bear.  Time will tell, I suppose.  But it really feels like…

Too much.

Oh, woe is me. 

And alack-a-day to go with it.

What is going on is this.

I’ve been watching TV since I was five years old (when my Dad brought one home.  Before that, at the appropriate time, meaning when Howdy Doody was about  to begin, I would find myself walking zombie-like out of the house and watching over at the “Wagmans.”  I have no idea who the “Wagmans” were.  And I probably didn’t then either.)

I’ve been an habitual TV watcher ever since.  And a pretty indiscriminate one.  A show comes on, and I watch it.  My greatest annoyance always:  When – this happens primarily in hour-long shows – the broadcast hour is about to end, but the episode’s story isn’t. 

To this day, this remains was my worst televiewing nightmare – a multi-parted episode.  (Invariably broadcast without the audience being alerted to it ahead of time.)

No closure.  No resolution.  At least not that week.  I would have to come back. 

“What if I couldn’t?” is one concern.  But the more enraging issue is this:

I committed to one hour of broadcasting loyalty.  Now you’re saying “That’s not enough.  We require another hour.” 

How dare they!

That’s cheating. 

It’s like saying,

“The candy bar’s a dollar.”

And when you reach to take it, they suddenly break it into two pieces and say,

“… for half of it.”

Okay, this situation is different.  This time, I’ve been informed ahead of time that the series in question, the BBC murder mystery Broadchurch involves a single, continuing story that will be broadcast over eight consecutive episodes.      

My standard reaction to this extended format?


The thing is, however, Broachchurch got a great review in the paper, touted as one of the most skillful renderings of a genre I am already a sucker for:  The police “procedural” set in England.  Dorset, in Broadchurch’s case, an English seaside community.  I adore English seaside communities.  (I am also an enthusiastic fan of Doc Martin, set in Cornwall, which, though not a murder mystery, is also breathtakingly coastal.)

I watch the first episode of Broadchurch, and they’re right.  I do not have the intellectual capacity to define what precisely makes good writing.  The closest I can come to describing it is that good writing includes surprises.  Particularly in the interstices.  For example:

Broadchurch concerns the murder by strangulation of a young boy from a closely-knit community, where everybody knows each other.  Demonstrating her response to the local tragedy, a female detective who immediately recognizes the dead boy’s body, stands alone, pounding here fists against her car, screaming,

“Shit!  Shit!  Shit!  Shit!  Shit!”

That, to me, is good writing.

In a later episode, having been called to the door by the police ringing her bell to ask her some questions, a surly woman arrives, and the first words out of her mouth are,

“You woke the dog.”

A third example:

A police officer comes in to bring an anxious murder suspect left alone in the interrogation room a cup of tea, and when he leaves, he says to the suspect,

“Chin up.”

Again, good writing.  Why?  Because it didn’t need to be in there, and the show was better because it was.

Okay, so having mentioned “a later episode”, you know that, of my own volition, I have impulsively gone and done it.  I have committed myself to watching the entire series.  And by so doing, generated the inevitable, anxiety-inducing question:   

“Can I be certain I will be able to be present in front of my television eight Wednesdays at 10 P.M. in a row?”

The odds against it seem overwhelming.

What if I have to go out?

What if the cable breaks?

What if there is discord in the household and for my perceived transgressions I am required to join my spouse to watch Househunters International to smooth things over, which happens to broadcast at the same time as Broadchurch?

What if, precisely when Broadchurch is coming on, a dog, who has somehow broken into our backyard, is drowning in our pool and I have to race outside to yell, “Help!”

What if it’s the Jewish New Year and I’m supposed to be, not watching English murder mysteries on the “telly”, but sitting quietly, contemplating my sins?

What if I watch something boring on TV at nine, and accidentally fall asleep?

Or conversely,

What if O.J. Simpson escapes jail and there’s another slow Bronco freeway chase galvanizing the nation on another channel?

What if, to my complete surprise, a respected documentarian has put together a feature-length “The Amazing Earl Pomerantz” and he has unexpectedly dropped by to show me a “rough cut”?

Okay, that one’s a stretch, but you get the idea.

So far, I have successfully been available for through three.  I don’t know how I did it, but I did.  But as my viewing responsibilities continue to pile up – I have to be certain I’m available for the fourth episode, and then fifth episode, and the sixth episode, and the seventh epis… I’m telling you, the accumulating stress is virtually unendurable.

And so, An advisory.

If, during the next five weeks, I am found not alive, and there is no evidence of forcible entry or “bodily interference”, please alert the authorities to this document as a determining explanation of events.

Earl Pomerantz – (Deceased)

“Cause of Death:  ‘Terminal Stress’

The murderer:


For not finishing in one episode.”

I don’t know…

Maybe I should just stop watching.


Lyle said...


Like you, I am a fan of "Doc Martin."

There is an answer to your dilemma and it's called "Hulu."

I went back and watched every single episode of "Doc Martin" from season one through current.

I suspect "Broadchurch" is also, or will be, available on Hulu. You may have to watch an occasional advert . . . or, if you pay a small fee you get the premium version which means no commericals.

Being a cheap bastard, I watch the commercials.

Good luck.

Read your column daily. Love 'em!


lyle e davis
The Paper

Lyle said...


Forgot to add that I watched "Doc Martin" on Hulu, continuously, for seven nights in a row. That's how much I love the program.