Let’s (Not ALL) Go to the Movies: A Handy 4-Step Safety Guide (Safety Not Guaranteed)

AMC at Night!

What’s missing from this picture? The answers may not surprise you!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: once upon a time I used to go to the movies a bit too often and write about my experiences. In 2020 I managed to catch Birds of Prey, The Invisible Man, and Onward on the big screen before the Age of Coronavirus slammed the doors shut on that hobby for the foreseeable future. On a related note, next January’s “Best and Worst Movies of the Year” entry should take me far less time to write than usual.

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Today’s Unrelated Things: Joss Whedon, Action Hero; and “The Killing”, Inaction Victim

For Rosie Larsen, justice was served far, far too late.

Last Friday AMC announced their cancellation of The Killing after two controversial seasons. What launched as a grim-‘n’-gritty crime drama with a unique tone and a promising premise strained to sustain viewer patience, culminating in a season-one finale that launched a thousand ‘Net-fits when it ended To Be Continued. TV fans raised on the complete, self-contained, season-long arcs of superior shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars were unaware that any showrunners in this age would still rely on the ancient TV model of ending a season with a DVD-boxed-set-ruining cliffhanger. We former might have been more forgiving if the season had been more satisfying. Alas, ’twas not the case here.

Before season two premiered, my half of a conversation with a friend digressed into a diatribe about my discontent with the show and my bold plan not to watch a single episode of season two, despite the thirteen hours of my time already invested without benefit of closure. My tantrum went like so:

I patiently allowed myself to be strung along for thirteen hours’ worth of watching one truly original character, several mopey characters, and one aggravatingly incompetent protagonist. I labored under the delustion that the season would be a fulfilling story in and of itself. I waited it out through thin and thinner, enduring unbelievable acts of stupidity committed in extreme slow motion by characters that would’ve been fired or murdered long ago if the same had happened in real life, under the expectation (fostered by precedents set by other, better shows, not to mention 99% of all other whodunits throughout recorded entertainment history) that closure for the simple question of “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” would be forthcoming in a timely manner.

When the show revealed itself to be an extended tease for a resolution that might or might not occur in some future season, unless they decide never to solve it, which they totally could if they wanted to, meaningless press releases in recent months notwithstanding, and when showrunner Veena Sud confirmed that they never intended to solve the mystery in season 1…I was not remotely happy.

And it wasn’t just for my own sake, but for my wife’s, whose reaction was even more vehement and scary than mine. She and I rarely watch any new TV shows together, but just this once she had trusted my recommendation and given The Killing a shot. It was fun to watch the show together, to compare our notes and thoughts on a shared experience.

So that blew up in my face. When the finale ended with the complete non-solution and the one original character betraying us, she instantly swore off the show, and she’s not fully trusted a TV recommendation of mine ever since.

So thank you, Veena Sud, for helping me not spend more time with my wife. I’ve never been this excited about not watching a TV show, but now I’m zealously anticipating any and all Schadenfreude I can derive at your show’s expense.

…but I’m feeling much better now. I honestly expected this to be a minority opinion that would long forgotten somewhere around the show’s fifth season. Apparently I wasn’t the only upset customer who upheld their promise, refused to tune in again, and passed the time until the finale aired and online news sites reported the mystery’s solution.

For what it’s worth, my wife bought me season one of Sherlock for our eighth anniversary a couple of weeks ago, in hopes that we’ll have time to enjoy it together. Neither of us has seen an episode yet (I’ve watched one brilliant scene online, under the title “Sherlock Holmes, Grammar Nazi”), but trustworthy people keep recommending it. Here’s hoping.

* * * * *

Since I’m not really in the mood for a complete downer of an entry, enclosed below is something completely different. If you’ve already seen it six times in the last week because your friends flooded all your Internet inboxes with links to it, I’ll understand if you groan and fire up your escape pod now.

From the producers of The Guild, a new Web series called Written by a Kid springboards from simple storytelling segments with children ages four to nine, who still say the darnedest things after all these years. Whereas Bill Cosby would only allow each of his interviewees a brief moment in the spotlight, Written by a Kid moves one step beyond and turns each child’s improv short-story into an animated tale of whimsy and wonder.

Episode one is called “Scary Smash”, about a one-eyed monster on a milkman-murdering rampage and the SQUAT team captain that takes seven days to stop him. Starring Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall, NewsRadio, A Bug’s Life) as the dead milkman, Kate Micucci (stuff I’ve never seen) as a latecomer to the war, and, in his first starring action role, TV’s Joss Whedon (TV’s Angel, TV’s Firefly) as that steadfast captain, Gerald by name, who wields a sword and a shield and a gun and a small gun.

…and now you know how to count to ten hundred.

If you watch as many YouTube shows as my son does, you may also recognize some of Gerald’s poor, ineffective soldiers in split-second cameos, including YouTube stars Rhett and Link, and executive producer Felicia Day herself.

For a first effort, it’s not bad. It may be the last time in this kid’s life that he will know the joy of having a script produced without a rewrite by a meddling studio hack.

Y’know what I liked best about it? It told a complete story in four minutes flat.

My “Mad Men” Season 5 Finale Predictions, 100% Accurate on Some Alternate Earth

Mad Men has already thrown a plethora of unexpected twists and pivots at us this year, but has one more hour at its disposal to see if it can top itself even more outlandishly. One can only hope the season 5 finale, “The Phantom”, will join the ranks of “The Wheel” and “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” as another finale to end all finales.

I’m terrible at guessing what happens next in any given show. Like all other failed prognosticators, that never stops me from trying. I may look weird keeping a book by my side while I watch, for something to occupy my time during commercials or sex scenes, but rest assured I’m otherwise paying attention, keeping mental tabs as best I can with my aging memory, and harboring my own half-baked theories about what ought to happen next. Fortunately, whatever happens is usually much more stunning.

Momentary pause here for courtesy spoiler alert before I proceed. If you’re not caught up through the June 3rd episode “Commissions and Fees”, or if you just don’t care, your exit strategy should be executed right about now. Please allow me to have you escorted to safety by this authentic 1960s artifact, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

The Ghost of DC Movies Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

And now, on with my false prophecies about “The Phantom”:

* With Mrs. Pryce left behind in surprise financial dire straits, Pete offers to buy her green Jaguar as a gesture of charity, albeit for a song. For some reason the car starts just fine for him. Pete spends his long drive back to the suburbs with all the windows down, the radio cranked up, and imagining himself a Real Man. Halfway home he’s pulled over for doing 80 in a 25 MPH zone. The Jaguar is impounded. Pete is not happy.

* The funeral is a somber yet extravagant affair. With Lane’s overseas colleagues all declining to attend and Mrs. Pryce unable to speak, Don steps to the podium and delivers a eulogy that was written by Megan in about six minutes on the back of a funeral program. It is the Greatest Eulogy of All Time. Pete fumes with envy.

* A suddenly lucid and desperate Roger proposes to six different women: the twin models who witnessed his heart attack, Peggy’s brash friend Joyce, Don’s receptionist Dawn, his ex-wife Mona, and li’l Sally. We have to wait until next season to find out which one said yes. Pete overhears Roger’s end of the phone conversation, then stomps away muttering like an angry child about how he wishes he could go out and remarry every two years.

* Two months into her new job, Peggy is flourishing as a creative force at Cutler, Gleason & Chaough. Shockingly, Ted Chaough has proven not to be a lech. She later attends a business mixer with one of CGC’s major clients, the life insurance company that employs Pete’s commuter buddy. She has a chance encounter with Pete’s one-time fling, Mrs. Commuter Buddy, who’s attending the party dutifully with her husband. Casual small talk escalates into a tearful confession. Peggy somehow puts two and two together from the scant clues, makes a beeline for her old offices, kicks Pete right in his Campbell Soup Cans, and exchanges strained pleasantries with Don on her way out. Pete cannot breathe for the rest of the day.

* Don rehires previously laid-off copywriter Danny Siegel (Danny Strong) to handle the Jaguar account for him while he himself, emboldened by the Dow deal, decides go after a bigger fish than Jaguar: the great and powerful Rolls Royce. Don is convinced that their Phantom series (we have episode title!) is Where It’s At. By episode’s end, Don can’t close the deal without Megan’s help, but she refuses because of auditions and ambitions and such. The chase proves to be just another Dulcinea that teaches us the real “phantom” is the fleeting nature of happiness or business success or absolute manhood or whatever. Pete’s only moment of joy in the episode occurs when he realizes Danny is the first adult male he’s ever met who’s punier than he is.

* Betty and Henry have a mild argument or something. No one cares.

* Ed “the Devil from Reaper” Baxter calls Don, tells him he has some nerve!, and awards him with Dow’s business. All of it. After a series of fake meetings and fake intense arguments, Roger formally announces Ken will be handling the account under extreme duress, but totally solo due to fictional client mandates. Pete’s blood boils.

* The bigwigs at Heinz announce they’re so in love with the work that Michael Ginsberg and Stan Rizzo have done for their baked bean ads, they’re moving all of Heinz’ other accounts to the firm, including Big Catsup. Pete finds an excuse to leave the meeting abruptly with his face red and hot steam whistling out his ears, even though this subplot has virtually nothing to do with him.

* Trudy puts on the frumpiest dress she owns and announces she’s pregnant again. She wonders if perhaps they’ll need to move into a larger house even farther away from Manhattan, possibly as far as western New Jersey. Pete responds by climbing to the top of a water tower, wielding the trusty rifle that he obtained years ago in exchange for a duplicate chip-‘n’-dip set, and begins firing indiscriminately at innocent passersby. He doesn’t hit a single live target, but shatters the window of a beauty shop, where the bullet destroys a Clearasil display. Pete’s father-in-law is not happy. After he runs out of ammo, Pete throws his emptied gun at Trudy (missing by a wide margin), slips off his perch and onto the ground. The authorities toss him into a paddy wagon and wave him off. Our last sight of Pete is him clawing at the windows and frothing at the mouth. Trudy is later consoled by her new neighbors, Troy and Abed.

* The firm name is changed to Draper Sterling Cooper Harris. Pete’s head explodes.

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