Our Ten Terrific Tricks for a Stay-at-Home Comic Con

Quarantine Jazz Hands!

With your host, Dr. Bane-ton Forrester!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for the past several years my wife Anne and I have made a tradition of going somewhere — anywhere but home — for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events, such as last year’s tour of the Art Institute of Chicago, give me the gift of new experiences and distract me from the physical decay at hand. It was a nice tradition while it lasted.

For my 48th birthday we had hoped this weekend would see us returning to Motor City Comic Con up near Detroit. Our first trip to Motor City in 2017 was a fantastic experience, and this year’s guest list had a few larger-than-life personalities we would’ve loved to meet. Then, much as has happened to You, The Viewers at Home, our best-laid plans gang agley. In the wake of COVID-19, businesses closed or severely restricted their services, workplaces were scuttled, my employers enacted strict rules about out-of-state travel, and any and all events involving two or more people were canceled. All one-man events, such as the worst YouTube channels ever, were allowed to continue on schedule. I haven’t had a birthday party in years, but the state of the world has derailed our road-trip tradition for my big day. Whether we can resume our practice on Anne’s birthday in October will hinge on a number of variables, none of them within my personal control, though I’d totally be on top of that for her sake if I had Dr. Manhattan’s powers.

Anne and I were determined to line up an enjoyable weekend for ourselves anyway. Between the two of us we made the most of these past two days with the resources safely available. We found a way to recreate ten (10) commonalities we’ve encountered at various entertainment conventions over the past several years. Welcome to what I nicknamed “TakeoutCon 2020”, which included the following comic-con-esque features:

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“McMillions” and McMemories

McDonald's pins!

Just a few of the souvenirs we still have from our years with the Golden Arches. All of these are from Anne’s old pin collection.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our family doesn’t subscribe to HBO, but from time to time our cable provider will offer free preview weekends that let us watch all we can within 72 hours that are meant to entice us to add it to our already overstuffed lineup. Instead we save up our HBO watch-lists, pace back and forth waiting for those rare weekends, then see how much we can speed through whenever we’re granted the opportunity. It’s a bit like composing lunches entirely from free samples handed out at the grocery, but in the proper frame of mind, satisfaction can be found in limited quantities.

At least, all that had been our usual approach. Among the more recent developments in the interim normal is both Hulu and our cable provider are now offering access to the HBO libraries for a nonspecific “limited time”, presumably with an end date their corporate overlords can shift back and forth as the winds change. Until then, we plan to see what we can work in while we’re busy catching up on other watch-list materials.

Naturally for us, priority #1 was a recent show that brought back memories of our old jobs.

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #18: Temporarily Free HBO Presents “Watchmen”

Sister Night!

Sister Night and the tea. Your move, Baby Yoda.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. Plan A for Thanksgiving weekend had been a combination of reading, writing, and watching. One of those three won out thanks to a confluence of unrelated factors, all involving TVs and streaming media.

Anne and I are old-fashioned cable subscribers, but I cut all premium channels from our lineup over a decade ago for (mostly) cost-cutting reasons. A few times per year, our provider will allow limited access to one or more of those high-falutin’ deluxe stations for the space of an entire weekend, a taste of what we’ve been missing to lure us into throwing more monthly money at them because only they have the cure for TV FOMO. For me those free weekends represent surprise binge opportunities, an indulgence that staves off any temptation of permanent signup. For this past holiday weekend they granted us free HBO from Thursday through Monday. I could’ve picked up where I left off on the previous “Watch-a-Thon” and continued my dive into Flight of the Conchords…but I decided to go with something a bit more current, much harsher and a lot less melodic.

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Our Dark Summertime Binge: HBO’s “Chernobyl”

Chernobyl!

Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, and Jared Harris handling the truth.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: with weeks to go till vacation and no pressing obligations, my wife Anne and I have been bingeing a few different shows together, while I’ve done some additional grim watching on the side. Certainly not through careful planning on our part, each of the shows has had their own depressing and/or tragic aspects. Veronica Mars season 4 had its mad-bomber mystery and its upsetting finale. Season 2 of Hulu’s Light as a Feather made teen horror out of a slumber party game. The Netflix documelodrama The Last Czars reminded us Russian history is more fatalistic than many of our TV stories. Season One of Chopped revealed its secret origin as a parable of man’s inhumanity to man.

I had expected this special MCC miniseries to conclude with the Chopped entry. Then one unexpected August day our cable TV provider announced their next annual or semiannual “preview weekend”, that generous time of year when all subscribers are allowed to watch HBO free for a limited span to see what pop-culture touchstones they’re missing. We haven’t subscribed to any premium channels in ages. We live on, find other things to do, and satisfy ourselves with the money that our uncoolness saves us. But we will occasionally brake for free prestige TV when opportunities intersect our path and trip us up.

Apropos of too many things, we ran right back to the subject of Russian history. This time, though, it was ripped from the headlines within our own lifespans.

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Top 10 Signs You’re One of Those People Who’ll Never Shut Up About “The Wire”

Slim Charles!

Life and headlines won’t let you put The Wire out of your mind for long. If you’re not spotting its alumni in shows like Community or The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones or True Blood, they’re randomly resurfacing in your daily headlines, such as Sunday’s news that Anwan Glover, a.k.a. Slim Charles (pictured above), was attacked at a Washington nightclub (but he’s doing better now). The worst is when you catch their obituaries, as with last year’s passing of Robert F. Chew, a.k.a. Proposition Joe. They’re kind of everywhere if you know who you’re looking for

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? You can’t looking because your refuse to stop. You don’t want to live in the here-and-now, and move on to shows that haven’t been dead for six years. You’re afraid you’ll begin forgetting all those intricate, internecine subplots. You’ll forget the exact moment when you began hating McNulty. You’ll lose track of the names of all of Marlo Stanfield’s crew. You’ll convince yourself you never saw Amy Ryan in anything before The Office. You’ll think of Baltimore as just another city, maybe even plan a road trip there. On purpose.

It’s hard, I know, but if you don’t get over it, other internet users will track you down and stage an intervention. And no one wants that, because airfare is expensive and interventions take valuable time away from tweeting or Netflixing.

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Holding My Breath Until I See Spinoffs from “The Wire”

Bunk, McNulty, The WireAfter months of squeezing in an episode here and there whenever time permitted (which was rarely), tonight I finally finished watching all five seasons of The Wire. It’s sixty episodes of the most politically charged, complicated, incisive, meaningful, profane, discomfiting, provocative, challenging television I’ve ever seen. It’s not a show for everyone, but following the storylines of its roughly eight thousand different characters (give or take three) became an unprecedented adventure that part of me secretly hopes has left me scarred and ruined for any other TV show or fictional tale that dares to try impressing me in the future. Its multifaceted examination of life on the streets of Baltimore at every level made my own lower-class upbringing look like the life of a prince, put my comparatively benign hometown in perspective, and has made it hard for me to read any local crime news without wondering how much they’re not telling us.

That being said: the fan in me is disappointed that five seasons is all there is. I’m glad David Simon and company were allowed to tell the stories that deserved to be told, though a September 2012 interview at Salon.com reveals he had more ideas in store and collaborators itching to join him. Unfortunately, no more stories or extensions are forthcoming because America forgot to tune in the first time around.

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