Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Head of My Time?

Last night's third season premiere of Survivorman was everything I'd hoped it would be. If you aren't familiar with Survivorman, on the Discovery Channel Friday nights, the show's website sums up its premise most concisely: "No food, no shelter, no fresh water, no tools . . . no camera crew. One man -- alone in the wild for seven days." Sure, several shows mimic this concept, but Les was the first to launch it successfully, first in his native Canada then here in the United States. He often simulates outdoor excursions gone wrong, like in last night's new episode, in which Stroud role-played a lost backpacker in the Sierra Nevadas. By far his most comprehensive exploration of survival, Les not only implemented his usual food-capturing, fire-starting, and shelter-building innovations, but also discussed the psychology of getting lost (which reminded me of Blair Witch, still lingering in the back-brain after Halloween) and the logistics of the local search and rescue office. In a world ruled by cell phones and wireless Internet connections, is it strange to feel reassured by the reminder that one can still get lost, even if the results are fatal? One part entertainer, one part educator, Survivorman does his best to both proudly boast and reassuringly alleviate the thought.

Yet the contents of last night's episode are only part of why Survivorman remains in my thoughts today. I've anticipated few things on television lately. Yes, Fox's Monday nights are still beloved, thanks to Prison Break and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but if this week's episodes were the series' last, I don't think I'd mourn too much. In fact, both shows are written in such a way that they seem prepared for that inevitability -- that, as much as Michael's quest to unravel Scylla and Sarah's attempt to save her son for the impending apocalypse are respectively multifaceted, they're each just a single revelation from culminating in an explosive finale. Also, I'm moderately excited about next week's premiere of Batman: The Brave and the Bold on Cartoon Network, but I'm equally skeptical of its depth and longevity, as well. Alas, the end of the Presidential election means no more political partisan antagonism for awhile, either; the fight has actually gone inward, at least for the losing Republicans, which strikes me as just a rerun for all of the liberal criticism they received months ago -- in other words, boring. So, Stroud's search for some morsel of food in the Sierra Nevadas is somewhat reminiscent of my flipping through the cable channels these days. His is just more exciting to watch.

When it comes to what entertains me, I was simply born in the wrong decade . . . which is something I've heard plenty of people say, so I claim no originality in that regard. Though, I think I can pinpoint the disconnect; had I been born in 1959 instead of 1979, the original releases of my most favorite acts in entertainment would've corresponded with the age in which I liked them. Never mind that I would've been two years old when Spider-man premiered in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962); the argument for comics can be made in any decade, and in fact had I been more attune to comics culture as a kid, I could've been shaped by the likes of The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen in real time rather than retrospectively. No, I'm thinking about the Monkees, whose 1966 debut would've paralleled my love for them when I was six-years-old. (Their 20 year reunion in '86 was great, including my seeing them in concert in Connecticut, but no Nesmith . . .? The first time is always the most memorable.) A genuine love for the Monkees then is like the kids' fanaticism for any American Idol now. Now, when I proclaim myself a Monkees fan, folks cock an eyebrow and ask, "They didn't even play their own instruments, right?" For the record, the Monkees were a multifaceted franchise that began as a television show, transitioned into a failed feature length film, and still continues to be a successful pop rock band, if only when the guys perform separately.

In fact, Davy Jones is performing in Orange County tonight. When I first researched his tour schedule over a year ago, I had just met Peter Tork, which was just on the heels of my meeting Micky Dolenz, so I was stoked to find out when the other two might be around. Unfortunately, tickets to Davy's show range from $30-$60, and since I've seen the Monkees perform three times not including those solo Micky and Peter shows, I'm less interested in the music than I am the meet-and-greet. I've called the venue twice and reps can't confirm if he'll be signed and picture-taking with fans. So, I've opted for this Wednesday's commemorative showing of Head, the Monkees' movie, which will precede a Q & A with Peter and Davy. I don't know if they'll mingle with fans there, either, but the opportunity is too definitively Monkees to miss -- definitely the better of the two upcoming options on a budget. Why must the circumstances of adulthood often restrain the fulfillment of long-standing childhood dreams?

Further, had I been born in '59, I would've been in my teens in the '70s and experienced the hijinks of Andy Kaufman as he first hatched them, rather than vicariously through the release of Man on the Moon and Bob Zmuda's book. Like this Wednesday's showing of Head, I was lucky enough to attend my generation's definitive Andy Kaufman event, the "Andy Kaufman: Dead or Alive" variety show at the Hollywood House of Blues in 2004 . . . but I wasn't smart enough to stay until the bitter end, which including a Kaufman walking tour and an invitation to the Bunny Ranch. This comes to mind because of a recent ad in the L.A. Weekly featuring Tony Clifton and the website for Two Boots pizzeria, which has a special slice named for Kaufman's lounge act alter ego. Initially, I'd hoped for a real Clifton appearance, but tomorrow's supposed press conference may be better -- fortuitous that I found it searching for the Two Boots connection. Perhaps his is one phenomenon that plays better in retrospect, considering the myth of Andy's resurrection . . .

Such are the thoughts that assure me of my place in history. In the heat of the moment, one never knows if their pop culture passions are fleeting (like, say, any American Idol after season one), but years later, one can benefit from the fellowship that comes with nostalgia. For example, sure, I wish I could've experienced the success of the Monkees in real time, I prefer the older crowd that will attend the Head showing today versus the screaming, teeny-bopper masses from their '60s concerts. Now, Monkees fans, or Kaufman fans, can enjoy developments with the clout of hindsight, with the relief that their beloved personalities are still influential if only through that pre-established work. Of course, this is the "nurture" side of the argument. I wonder, since my parents were born in the '50s and experienced these things in my stead, could it be that their absorption of it all instilled an appreciation of it all in me? Through . . . osmosis? Could it be . . . natural? Yes, I'm just trying to survive in a habitat of my own outdated tastes. Screw the Sierra Nevadas, Les. Trying getting out this one.

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