This is 30 (for 30)

Just a little peek behind the curtain/a bit of fourth wall breakage to let you know how the blognificent elves and fairies of blogsburgh blog it up, bloggy style. Basically it’s a big smoke filled room with lots of clunky desks. Lots of coffee-stained mugs next to half eaten halves of coffee cake. Katie is dry for ideas and chugging a bottle of liquid antacid. Jane is scurrying around taking orders for the midnight run at the delicatessen that sits across the six lane highway. I sit with my cowboy boots on the desk trying to recall the two night stand Trapper John had in the Adam’s Rib episode of MASH (Merideth… Margie… Mildred…Mildred!) with a bank of clocks set to the times of world capitals behind me. Kerri stews in the big corner office chewing out an intern, who leaves weeping and is replaced with the indispensability and efficiency of a Kleenex box. Jane returns telling Katie that a turkey Reuben is not a Reuben and is just “pregnant lady food”; my veal parmesan has somehow become an eggplant parm. Kerri is furious – “I said a chicken salad, not chicken salad, oyoyoy”. Kerri calls me into her office (aka Kerri’s Lair-ee) to tell me she’s spiking my tribute to Yasmine Bleeth article. “She ruined seasons 4 and 5 of Nash Bridges and she’s not going to ruin me. Write what you know! In an hour….” This process happens constantly with ulcers for all and justice for none.So the focus goes toward what I enjoy watching the most these days. Everyday has its crescendo that each builds to, and invariably then takes the personality of said day. Monday – wrestling, Tuesday – New Girl, Wednesday – Dragon’s Den, Thursday – the religious channel shows Columbo, Friday – Shark Tank, and the weekend is a hodge podge. So a sort of rut develops and great haranguing happens if one of those programs is pre-empted. My favourite show has the benefit of being put on at random instances. I am most enjoying the docu series 30 For 30.

My thought process comes from what show I most enjoy eating to. I love eating while watching TV and almost do it exclusively. When eating in a TV-less restaurant with even the most charming of dining companions, I can’t help but notice…hey ..something is missing. I reserve large fatty meals for my favourite shows. You can’t have veggies and dip for Mad Men for instance. One, you lose dialogue in the crunching and it just doesn’t fit. You need something that had a mother and a face.

I find myself gorging to 30 for 30, the ESPN produced documentary series that takes a sports topic and goes through it with vigorous detail. Basically, a jacked version of a Ken Burns presentation but without the quaintness. It is on ESPN in the US I believe every Tuesday, but in Canada it shows up at random times, and I mean random, from the dead of night to lunchtime – which, while frustrating, is something I like about it. The nub of the gist is basically a sports topic is picked and then it is analyzed with archival footage, along with talking heads giving their memories and or historical significance. It usually is something I only have cursory knowledge of, but I quickly get engrossed. The last one I saw was on pro basketball in St. Lous in the 1970s. The film quickly engages you in a world of drug deals, wasted talent, and financial gurus. They are of feature length documentary quality. Yes, sports are the setting, but they are just well told stories. My favourites are the ones that capture the zeitgeist of the time culturally. How celebrity occurred just as randomly and hap hazardly as it does today in world without tweets …or retweets. I mean Zsa Zsa Gabor was Paris Hilton back in the fifties and sixties. She was just kind of around, being pretty and exotically European. I’ve never seen Zsa Zsa day on TCM. But we all know Zsa Zsa.

This is illustrated in my favourite 30 for 30 doc – The Legend of Jimmy the Greek. I’ve seen it about 6 times. Jimmy was a shlubby, chain smoking gambler. Almost a parody of a gambler with gold medallion – gravelly voice and just hinting at criminal activity. The movie ends badly as Jimmy turns out to be racist; or, just as the movie tries to argue, just somebody who was inarticulate about race as his black co-workers come to his defense. The film itself has his co–workers paint the picture of the “legend” – from buddies who’d hang out with him at the track to ex-Ms. America’s he’d make cry .He had a spot making football picks on the NFL Today pregame show, but in an era where gambling was verboten was able to dance around saying he was actually wagering. The episode has a lovely smoky leisurely pace, like a full figured woman dancing. They interview Dan Rather who marvelled at how he was a self-made man who had endorsements and a national profile…somehow. Not as pretty as Zsa Zsa –seemingly through the sheer will to be famous. The film is heart wrenching as he wins and loses big bets, makes terrible business decisions, gets a TV show all while dealing with children who have MS, then loses it all on fateful Martin Luther King day barstool interview. The Greek dies in his hometown in Ohio where he used to carouse with a young Dean Martin. The end seems trite where his ex-boss puts an uncashed victorious horse racing tickets in the casket. But it is built up well and so much pathos is put upon Jimmy that you are kind of satisfied that he got to go out a winner.

I’ve seen several Oscar telecasts where they go on about the majesty of the dimming lights and opening curtain, and blah blah blah……The Emmy’s do not defend or celebrate television in such way. It does not give it an aura. Shows like 30 for 30 provide for me the magic. I’m excited, impressed and in wonder. There is a forgotten John Fogerty song in which he just sings about how much he loves TV and the moments that affected him. Its refrain is charming and simple “I know it’s true (oh so true) …because I saw it on TV”. Good work TV and thank you.

Raphael Saray is a writer/socialite based in Flin Flon, Manitoba. He selects the 3 stars for weekend hockey games in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. And had the curvy girl in the housewares department of Canadian Tire cook his Thanksgiving turkey.

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