Just some thoughts on the cancellation of my favorite TV show and also humanity

I know I just wrote about TV, but you must have heard that we’re in the golden age of television. There is so much good TV. And also lots of bad and mediocre TV. You can really do a number on what should have been a productive weekend (or a random Tuesday night) with all the choices you have. But, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. And, if you’re already a fan of HBO’s original series Getting On, you also already know it’s one of the most brilliant shows in recent history.

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But, if you haven’t seen it, don’t feel bad for a couple reasons. 1 – Most people haven’t. This little gem flew under the radar for three seasons, during which I asked pretty much everyone I knew if they were watching it. (No one was.) It was critically acclaimed, but it wasn’t supported by a ton of publicity. Plus it takes place in the extended care wing in a decrepit, under-funded hospital. It doesn’t have the drama of ER or House’s mystery. Its cast is mostly elderly, and the staff is typically dealing with grim, un-sexy issues like constipation and wound care…

(So, maybe this is why the show was a bit of a hard sell?  You mean you don’t want to tune in every Sunday night to watch a clinical staff wrangle anal horns – a thing, btw – and medicate dying patients?)

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So, the second reason you shouldn’t feel too bad about missing it is because, thanks to the way we know consume media, you’ll be able to watch on-demand in a million places, I’m sure, from now until eternity. And, really, you DO want to watch it.

There’s the amazing cast. This may sound a little “duh,” but you get the sense that the cast was really cast. Like, they didn’t just pick some people that look hot in lab coats, and there wasn’t a big “star” (in the traditional sense of the word) to draw people in. The actors they picked for the main roles– Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash and Mel Rodrqiguez – are believable as their characters and bring layers and layers of comedy and tragedy to their roles and the writing.

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Oh, and dear god, the writing. The wizards in that writing room found comedic gold in topics like bi-polar disorder,  insurance fraud, and fecal matter studies. And I’m not talking about cheap laughs. I’m talking about smart, complicated, expensive, if you will, laughs about fecal matter studies.

And then there’s the final episode, which I can’t stop thinking about and is sort of the inspiration for this whole rambling post. I guess I should type *Spoiler Alert,* even though plot twists and surprises aren’t really the show’s main selling points. In what I like to think is a very meta, art imitating life turn of events, the extended care unit is closed down and the staff is forced to think about moving on. Even though none of the characters were particularly satisfied in their current positions, they feel displaced and disempowered. Like their hard work never got the respect it deserved, and they were unceremoniously nudged out before they really got the chance to show everyone what they could do. (Like how so many of their dying patients probably felt!)

Maybe because I love the show so much, I’m reading into things, but the final scenes also felt like a commentary on the show’s cancellation. The characters – Didi (Niecy Nash) in particular – put up a fight, but ultimately they give in to the inevitable, unfair hand they’ve been dealt. The hospital closes. The show ends.

The last thing Dr. James (Laurie Metcalf) says to Nurse Dawn is this:

“There is no justice, but there is mercy, because that is what we can give to each other.”

And THIS is what’s been on my mind. I fell in love with the on-screen moment (I won’t ruin that plot point with more detail), and the quote imprinted on my brain. I think because it is a near-perfect of expression of what I’ve been learning and relearning and starting to actually understand as time passes.

What your parents and teachers told you is actually true: life isn’t fair. We don’t get what we need or deserve. The wrong things happen to the right people, and vice versa. Life is often very sad and disappointing. But you can find relief, comfort and sometimes answers in human relationships.

And, as I bawled over the final moments of the final episode ever of Getting On, I was grateful to Dr. James for the reminder.

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Related questions: Is life fair? Do we, as humans, have truly have the power to give one another mercy? Is it healthy to become this invested in a TV show?

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7 Dance Movie Tropes that *Flesh and Bone* Gets Right

Vulture totally called it when they wrote that Flesh and Bone, the new series from the Starz network, “is filled with clichés, but they’re melodrama clichés, specifically ballet melodrama clichés, and that automatically makes them feel less wearisome than cop or gangster clichés.” Exactly. Dance drama has its own brand of tropes, and it is the best, most stylish brand, like Lululemon or Nancy Rose Performance. And what’s fun about Flesh and Bone is that we get to see all of these clichés live and breathe in a decidedly edgy (and maybe a teensy gratuitous) cable TV world that’s so different than the filtered PG-13ness of most dance-focused flicks.

That’s why I was a little bummed when the article just sort of moved past this point, and then past Flesh and Bone all together. I suppose there are other new shows and movies that deserve to be reviewed, but as someone who owns the DVD of Center Stage and makes So You Think You Can Dance appointment TV every summer, I yearned for a deeper exploration. Hence this (not exhaustive) list of all the on-screen dance tropes that Flesh and Bone totally nails in its series pilot.

If, like me, you have a weakness for rehearsal montages and a good, old-fashioned final performance scene, wrap yourself in a pink cashmere shrug, grab half a grapefruit and read on.

Trope #1: The wide-eyed rookie that has to prove herself.

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This trope is our nucleus, and I’m not sure a ballet melodrama would work without it. Claire Robbins is Flesh and Bone’s ingénue. She’s beautiful, skittish and tragic, which infuses her dancing and makes everyone lose their minds. The super jaded ballet fascists that run her dance company are convinced she’s a star, but not before they’re convinced she’s a waste of time. They make her prove herself on the spot, which she does with aplomb and then almost gets to the studio door with her legwarmers and enormous duffle bag before they’re like, “Wait. Okay, fine. I guess you can stay.” Like everything she encounters, this totally surprises her. I guess it makes sense that ballerinas, because they spend their formative years chained to the barre, grow up as sheltered adults. But, then there’s…

Trope #2: The sassy, foul-mouthed dancer who shows her the ropes.

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Baby had Penny in Dirty Dancing. Nina had Lily in Black Swan. And Claire has Daphne. Daphne offers Claire plenty of real talk as well as carte blanche of her closet, a curated collection of racy cocktail dresses and designer stilettos. Then she takes her to the strip club where she, of course, is gainfully employed. Predictably, Claire responds with an adorable combo of shock and intrigue. But what’s that glimmer in her eye? What’s that about? We’re pretty sure it won’t be Claire’s last trip to that fine establishment.

Trope #3: The entitled OG dancer.

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Kiira, complete with a frosty eastern European accent and a cocaine habit, doesn’t waste any time letting Claire know what’s up. Don’t take Kiira’s spot at the barre, and definitely don’t take one of her solos. Seriously, Claire…You’re not gonna listen, are you, Claire?

Trope #4: The crazy/brilliant/abusive artistic director.

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“I WANT CHAMPAGNE!” Paul Grayson screams this at his humiliated staff within the first 20 or so minutes of the show. This is after dismissing an audition finalist for her too-wide hips, but before using Claire to manipulate one of the company’s most moneyed patrons. Like Smash’s Derek, this guy’s a tool. But a tool with a vision and a British accent, which means we’ll indulge his bullshit.

Trope #5: A burning desire to push the envelope.

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 “But every year we do the same, tired dance. Why not do something different?”

“Something different? Who do you think you are?! You can’t just go changing what we do every year!”

“But I have ideas!”

“Ideas? Are you crazy?”

You get the idea.

Trope #6: Busted feet.

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If you know one thing from dance movie tropes it’s that, for all their swan-like elegance and 1% body fat, ballerinas have gnarly feet. While most movies like to remind you of this with maybe a two-second shot of some poor dancer carefully sliding her bloody foot from a tattered toe shoe, Claire takes things up a notch with a dead toe nail and unhealthy amount of self-flagellation (even for a ballerina).

Trope #7: This guy.

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You know. The straight man (in regards to both his sexual orientation and the predictably grounded person he manages to be despite ballet world craziness.) But, also, this actual guy:guy

Once Center Stage‘s Jody got bad boy Cooper and his headbands out of her system, she settled down with Sascha Radetsky’s reliable, if slightly dopey, Charlie. And I’m pretty he’ll be there for Claire (this time as Ross) when she eventually crumbles under Derek’s Thomas’ Jonathan’s Paul’s impossible demands.

Flesh and Bone is on Sunday nights on the Starz network. If you don’t have Starz, you can still get a healthy serving of delicious dance tropes at Starz.com where the pilot episode is available for free.