You could say Paul Newman was a guy who aged successfully.
He is most well-known for an acting career that spanned more than 50 years. Many of his movies are classics, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, The Color of Money (playing an older version of the same character), The Sting, The Verdict and Cool Hand Luke (my favorite). His voice was heard as the Doc Hudson character in Cars.
As he grew older, he also was a winning race car driver (till age 81)and his big smile and blue eyes grace the labels on a line of food products that not only raise money for worthy causes but taste good too.
More than a month ago he knew his time was short and he told his family he wanted to die at home. Yesterday, cancer killed him at age 83.
He is gone but his movies and sincerity will live on.
Blame this on more Boomer nostalgia or a Gen Y lack of creativity. Either way, it’s a Wednesday night TV time waster that won’t last a whole season.
NBC has a new version of Knight Rider, the 1982-1986 show with a “plucked-from-near-death and given a new identity” crime fighter Michael Knight who partners with futuristic tools like a computer-driven talking Trans-Am called KITT.
What’s the good news/bad news about the new version?
First, the bad. It’s even less believable than the original series. In one scene, the car turns into a truck … do they have to pay royalties to the Transformers creators for this idea? A car that can drive itself? In another generation, that fantasy will be reality – we’re almost there now. A talking car with personality? The original KITT was much more entertaining than the new one; in fact the original KITT (voiced by William Daniels, the same actor who played Dr. Mark Craig on St. Elsewhere) was much more entertaining than the original human star (played by David Hasselhoff).
The good news? KITT is now a Mustang.
That’s it. There is no other good news. And if you’re on the TransAm/Camaro side of that classic car debate, this isn’t good news. For me, it’s great. I always preferred Mustangs.
Does someone at NBC really think this show will last? Or is it just something to fill time on Wednesday nights before Deal or No Deal? Do they think this will create some fond memories for those of us who watched the original Knight Rider? It never was a great show, but it was entertaining. Is it for kids? Probably not, because in the 5-minute scene I endured, the lead villain that Michael is chasing cuts off the thumb of her passenger. For teens? Maybe; the lead villain is a hottie!
If 30-somethings at the networks are trying to snag Boomer viewers with nostalgia, don’t just copy the details. The thing that made KITT so interesting in the original wasn’t that it was a talking car; it was because KITT was sarcastic, naïve and funny, which are unexpected characteristics in computer-based language software. You could almost call KITT a role model for the Terminator or Star Trek’s Data – humanoids trying hard to pass for human. The new KITT is just a dry voice (played, by the way, by Val Kilmer).
If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might wonder if the producers of the new Knight Rider also produce the shows that play in that time slot on CBS and ABC. It might have been their worst idea, so they convinced NBC to take it so their other shows would do well. Just a thought. A stupid thought perhaps, but not any, uhh, stupider than the show itself.
The signs are all there: earlier sunsets, nippy nights.
Tick tick tick tick
School busses … Tick tick tick tick… and that sinking feeling I used to have on the first day of school and still have for a brief moment at this time each year when I first see school busses on the streets.
Tick tick tick tick
Nothing you or I can do will stop it.
Tick tick tick tick
At that precise moment, it will begin, silently, unobtrusively, with no measurable change from the moment before it happens. On Monday or Tuesday, depending where you live, it will arrive … fall, autumn, the autumn equinox, the day when night and day are exactly the same length.
I’m not ready for the coming darkness, the earlier sunsets, the higher heating bills. But I am ready for the cooler temperatures we’re already having in Maryland and for the fall color palette.
I love poetry, I write poetry, I know virtually nothing about poetry.
I can’t recite poetry from memory, not even my own poetry. The only poets I ever really paid attention to in school were Carl Sandburg and e e cummings, although I know I’ve been exposed to everyone from Longfellow to Thoreau to Langston Hughes.
But tonight I heard an amazing excerpt from something written by William Wordsworth. I’ll tell you where I heard it in a moment.
What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind.
These words were spoken by a character during the final scene of a TV show called Criminal Minds. One of the plot lines running through this episode involved grief and loss. Hearing poetry on a television program is a surprise. Hearing something as eloquent as this, something that resonates so well with anyone who has ever dealt with loss, is beyond surprise.
I promise I will write about something other than hurricanes soon.
There are several fifty-something issues floating around in my head ... - changes in TV viewing (some of this decade's most talked-about shows like Sex In The City and The Sopranos never aired on the 'big three' ABC, CBS or NBC) - generational workplace differences (boomers like process, twentysomethings live totally in the moment with no apparant thought about the next moment or the previous moment) - cars almost drive themselves (everything from automatic traction control to that bell that yells at me when I don't buckle up, even though I'm only in my driveway) - why do I need a home phone when everyone calls me on the phone in my pocket? - do men really buy that hair color product that specifically covers only some of the gray?
Burning questions about aging, right?
I have a lot to say about all of that and other topics, but the words just aren't connecting with the keyboard this week. Maybe I should just speak my thoughts, record them and transcribe them.
Last weekend it was Gustav in New Orleans. This weekend it's Hanna on the East Coast.
I bet the odds makers in Vegas are busy betting on Ike.
As I've mentioned before, I'm a little obsessed with hurricanes. I've been near them and in them and even ran away from a few of them. Most of my hurricane experience came from growing up in New Orleans, but I've also evacuated from a hurricane in coastal North Carolina and have been drenched by two since moving to Maryland.
Tomorrow morning I actually get to be one of the people on the radio dissemminating storm information. Fortunately I'll be home before the worst of the rain and wind gets here.
I have both fear and respect for hurricanes. In my youth I almost liked the adventure involved with getting ready for them. Not so much any more.
Today I was thinking back to some family traditions from my youth. One was the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. I can still clearly picture the regular family gathering at Aunt Catherine’s house, with cousins, aunts, uncles and Grandma watching the telethon. I hear the sound of Jerry’s whiney but sincere voice pleading for donations, punctuated by occasional snoring from Dad or Uncle Denny during their post-meal snooze in front of the television. The entertainment on the telethon was incredible and because there were only three TV station choices, it was hard to ignore or forget the telethon.
I thought about this as I surfed past the telethon today. It is now merely one of nearly 100 program choices and I don’t recognize one single entertainer. I’m happy to see that they still can raise significant amounts of money for this great cause, even though the event is no longer a significant part of Labor Day weekend.
Hurricanes are another part of family tradition that is on my mind today. Because our neighborhood was vulnerable, we would usually evacuate to Aunt Catherine’s house when hurricanes approached New Orleans. She lived on slightly higher ground in a suburban neighborhood that was less likely to flood. My mental picture is of Mom, Dad, aunts, uncles, cousins and Grandma sitting around the huge dining table playing dominoes or cards till the power went out.
I still hear the sound of local TV meteorologist Nash Roberts in the background talking about wind speed and barometric pressure. He first appeared on TV in New Orleans in 1948, when there was only one TV station, and he was the first full time TV weatherman in the South to use radar on television weather reports.
He always warned of a specific hurricane path that could flood the city. Long after he retired, a hurricane named Katrina took that exact path, and for the first time in his life, he evacuated. He is still alive (age 90) and still well-known to baby boomers from New Orleans. (Click here to read or watch a recent interview with him)
So this Labor Day, from the safety of my Maryland home, I’m watching TV coverage of a hurricane moving in on the New Orleans area. My viewing choices include the traditional networks from my youth (NBC, CBS and ABC), several news networks (CNN, MSNBC, Fox) and something no one could have imagined in the 1960s – The Weather Channel. And I can even watch live coverage from New Orleans TV stations on the internet.