We’ve Been Given A Green Butt Skunk

Some people give flowers, some a Starbucks gift card, some an edible fruit arrangement. All are pretty good gifts from a co-worker. But, when Harry S. Truman was tasked with getting a going away present for a two-and-half-week visitor to his town, he settled on something a little bit different. Harry gave Special Agent Dale Cooper a “Green Butt Skunk” fishing lure. He explained that when those fish are heading up stream they are thinking of only one thing: SEX. Nothing can break their concentration more than a Green Butt Skunk. This summer I feel like Mark Frost & David Lynch gave me a Green Butt Skunk, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

If there is one rule in 2017, it is to not get political with strangers. At any moment things can get ugly. You live in your bubble and I live in mine. Its the law. We try really hard not to burst any bubbles around here. I will not take a stand on politics, but I will say, no matter which side of the stream you were swimming on in May 2017, there was probably only one thing on your mind: The state of our country. Things were bad in May, they are worse in August. Again, no matter what side you are on, chances are, you think the other side is really, really wrong. What could possibly turn our segregated heads? A Green Butt Skunk.

Frost & Lynch dropped that lure into the waters of television and the school of television fans, starving for something new, changed direction and all swam together. Yes, even me, who had theories that contradicted with EVERYONE ELSE. (I still wanna believe that Richard Horne is from Johnny, but I doubt even the Red Room small gold ball can make that happen.) The distraction I was given this summer has been so much fun. So rewarding.

Every Sunday night, I was taken away to another world…and sometimes multiple worlds. Afterwards my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feed was filled with theories, pictures, quotes and Memes. It was nice to see us all wondering where the music was. Wondering where Big Ed was. Heck, just plain getting to wonder was a gift. Not knowing is fun, isn’t it? What’s the fun in knowing? You want to KNOW something, turn on the news. Was that fun?

That has always been my favorite part of Twin Peaks. As I write this, we are days away from the ending of Twin Peaks: The Return (TPR). I don’t know if we will get answers, but I am kind of hoping we don’t. Just dangle another lure in front of me and make me swim in another direction.

On September 4th, we will go back to a life without a sprawling mystery to wonder about. I will deeply miss my Sunday routine. I will miss my Monday morning, afternoon and evening calls with my Twin Peaks friends in different time zones. Arguing about gold orbs, if the Nine Inch Nails song was too long, or discussing a fake website that you could actually go to. How about the people that typed in the coordinates to find where Mr. C was going to? I love those people. It was all just so much fun. It was a television experience that will never be repeated because it can’t. No other show will wait 25 years to answer a question like Who’s Judy.  I think its The America girl, or the girl in 1945, or Diane or I think its Laura…no Sarah. (See what I mean. It is fun not knowing.)

So we will all go back to our lives, and will, of course, still talk about Twin Peaks. John Thorne, Courtenay Stallings, the Blue Rose Magazine staff and I are just getting started with our analysis of this 18 part fishing lure. There is line from the new series that took place in a scene that I will eventually dissect in an upcoming essay. It was from my favorite new characters in TPR, The Mitchum Brothers.

People are under a lot of stress. TPR relieved it for a moment, changed the story in my mind and gave me the most fun experience I ever had watching a piece of art on television. Will there be things to pick apart and argue about? Of course, it wouldn’t be Twin Peaks if there wasn’t. Some of it is supposed to please us, some of it is suppose to enrage us and some of it is just to distract us from our lives.

So to Mark Frost, David Lynch and Sabrina Sutherland I say, “Thank you so much for my gift. It worked. You caught me. Hook. Line and Green Butt Skunk Sinker.”

Scott Ryan is the managing Editor of the Twin Peaks Magazine, The Blue Rose. Order the Dougie Special to get all 4 issues. Follow on Twitter.


Tribute to FWWM25

I wrote this for the 20th anniversary of Fire Walk With Me. I was going to update it, but decided it is more fun to see how much Twin Peaks has changed in only 5 years.  I have added new commentary in parenthesis. One thing that has not changed in 25 years, FWWM is my all time favorite Lynch movie and one of my top 5 films of all time. It is beautiful, moving and has the single best acting performance ever captured on film. Let’s find out if I said the same thing 5 years ago…

For this essay, I thought I would focus on FWWM’s legacy in the world of David Lynch.  This movie has been reviewed many times and 20 years later we are still trying to figure it out.  How cool is that? All of his movies are a bit of a head scratcher, but this one should be a breeze.  It is set BEFORE the series ever begins, so we already know the plot as back story.  Also, it is based on a character that an entire book was written about, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer.  Still it was a shock and surprise to critics and Lynch fans back in 1992.  This year being the 20th year, there have been all kinds of revivals on the subject of Lynch films and characters.  I believe FWWM is the best David Lynch movie ever made.  It is his masterpiece.  It has everything a Lynch film needs.

1. Horror – BOB behind her dresser drawer is the scariest thing ever. (My sister called me after seeing this scene literally screaming and crying.)

2. Creepy characters – The old woman at Fat Trout Trailer Park makes her presence felt in less than 30 seconds of film.

3. Dreams – Laura’s dream where she ends up in the picture hanging on her wall haunts me to this day. (OK, how freaking cool is it that now we know she is actually inside the Convenience Store? I often thought it was the gateway to the Red Room, never considered she was above the Store. I don’t ever remember anyone else saying that either- SR 2017)

4. Split story structures – Lynch loves to drop us into a linear story and then rip us out with his bare hands.  The scene with David Bowie cuts together years of a story in a few moments.

5. Love – (Yes, all of his movies are about love.) When BOB leaves Leland for that brief moment before bed and he visits his daughter’s room to tell her that he loves her is a moment of the purist love of all.

If it is quintessential Lynch, then why is it not beloved like Blue Velvet or lauded with awards like Mulholland Drive?  Simple, movie watchers are dumb.  OK, maybe that is a little harsh. How about I say uneducated? (Again, look how things have changed. No critics or Twin Peaks fans say they don’t like FWWM. In just 5 years time that has totally been washed away. SR 2017)

The trick to FWWM is being very knowledgeable about Twin Peaks.  That is asking a lot of someone who just popped in a DVD to watch after the kids went to bed. (DVD? Streaming is the future, Scott – SR 2017) Critics who say Lynch just throws things up on the screen that make no sense have not paid close enough attention.  In a very early scene of the movie, FBI director Gordon Cole shows Agent Chet Desmond a dancing girl named Lil.

She dances in place with one hand in her pocket and shows her tailored dress off while wearing a blue rose. Chet looks at it and moves on. In the following scene his partner, Sam, asks him about the dancing girl. Chet goes on to explain each detail of the girl and how that pertains to the case. To me (and I admit, I didn’t get this the first time I watched the movie) this was Lynch telling us: Everything I show you matters and has a meaning. The dancing was referring to leg work.  The tailored dress referred to drugs.  The Blue Rose?  He can’t tell us about that.  (I can, in 2017 we know what the Blue Rose is. It is a magazine that…oh, it also is a Task force that Gordon was on the first case of. See, we know so much more in 5 years. SR 2017) Leaving the viewer intrigued.  The jaded viewer may say, that is dumb, why have that dancing girl? It is weird just to be weird, even if they explain it. Except, we know that Gordon Cole has a hearing problem and talks loud.  It makes sense for him to give his direction with code. Everything in a Lynch movie means something.

On a personal level, I have to admit an oddity.  I watched this movie every year on my birthday.  Creepy I know, but why?  The reason plain and simple is Sheryl Lee’s performance.

The story of Laura Palmer is really fascinating.  If Laura doesn’t die none of us meet her.  She had to die to bring Twin Peaks to life.  She had to die to escape a horrible existence.  The reason you watch most movies is to see the end, but this movie you know the end before you hit play.  She dies.  Come to think of it, why isn’t this movie the number one grossing movie of all time instead of Titanic?  Everyone knew the boat sank, everyone knew Laura Palmer dies.  It is inevitable.  It takes the idea of fatalism and the meaningless of life to levels that Kierkegaard never dreamed of.  I see all of that in Sheryl Lee’s performance.  I believe that her performance in this movie is the best female acting job ever put on film. (I had a feeling I thought this 5 years ago. SR 2017) Her huge cry when she goes to Donna’s house asking if Donna is her best friend.  Her amazing smile of innocence when she simmers an angry Bobby outside of the school.  Her abusive and scary behavior as she threatens Harold Smith.  Her losing all control as her father and the One Armed Man argue in the car.  Her seductive actions at the Roadhouse where she can even make the name BUCK seem sexy.  I can not think of another role for a woman that covered so many levels. And if you know Sheryl please tell her the Red Room is awaiting an interview about this acting job. (OK, this is just mean. 5 years later and still nothing. I feel like I am in a play called Waiting for Ga’Lee. SR 2017)

So why are we still obsessed with this movie 20 years later? (25 now) Simple.  It is art.  20 years means nothing to Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  20 years isn’t a drop in the bucket to Bach’s “Wachet Auf.”  I believe that FWWM is a moving painting.  It is a piece of art that needs to be looked at, studied, and is meant to horrify us.  It is a reflection of a society that hides its darkness under small town goodness.  I know that this movie still causes rifts in the Twin Peaks fan base; although over the last couple years it is not as controversial as before, but I will make a bold statement.  If you don’t love FWWM then you are not a Twin Peaks fan. (Wait till I find out that when Twin Peaks: The Return happens, it will actually all happen again. SR 2017) What you are is a television fan, and that is OK.  But when you truly have Twin Peaks in your blood, as in owls, scorched engine oil and Douglas Firs in your veins, then FWWM is just the cure you need to help wash away the dreck of movies that will be released this year. (And it gets so much worse once Hollywood only makes Comic book movies. SR 2017) Movies you will see, forget and never ask the question: why the hell did that monkey just say Judy?  I thought we weren’t gonna talk about Judy.

I have to admit, 5 years later, I stand behind that essay. There are only 3 hours left of TPR and I would still say FWWM is my favorite section of Twin Peaks. When TPR references FWWM I think the show comes alive. Probably by the time most of you read this, we knew who Judy was. I kind of like that 5 years ago, I didn’t even think there was a chance I would ever find out. Happy Birthday, FWWM. You don’t look a day over 20.

Scott Ryan is the managing Editor of the Twin Peaks Magazine, The Blue Rose. Order the Dougie Special to get all 4 issues. All Day August 28th The Blue Rose Facebook Page will post a picture an hour to celebrate #FWWM25

Twin Peaks Really Is Coming Back

As a life long Twin Peaks fan, I am more accustomed to waiting and hoping than I am to receiving. I mean think of it. I have loved Twin Peaks since 1990. That means that since the show went off the air in June 1991, I have had only 3 releases spread over 26 years.

  1. Fire Walk With Me in 1992.
  2. The Twin Peaks Music Archives in 2011. (Only had to wait 20 years for those bad boys.)
  3. The Deleted Scenes in 2014.

That is about it. Now, you are telling me that in a few short weeks I am going to see NEW TWIN PEAKS. I don’t know how to process that. Big Ed and I are used to being in the doghouse. We are not accustomed to living it up in a Great Northern suite.

I was one of those that never believed that Lynch/Frost would ever return to Twin Peaks. I have never been happier to be wrong. I think to us long term-ers this release has to be viewed through the prism of Star Wars. We all expected so much from Episode 1. We were given Jar Jar Binks. Then when Episode 7 came out and they gave us pure nostalgia; everyone rejoiced. I don’t think either of those options are viable to Lynch. He is incapable of giving us Jar Jar and he has never made any art that is pure nostalgia. So then what will we get? We will get David Lynch.

I have no expectations about new Twin Peaks on Showtime May 21st. What I do know is that I have loved every Lynch movie. (I don’t count Dune and Inland Empire, so I can say that sentence.) Lynch challenges a viewer. I love that. That is what drew me in back in the summer of 1990 when I watched the pilot episode with my girlfriend and her mom on their sunken couch. It played on one of those old television sets that was an actual piece of furniture. The couch I sat upon was referred to as a “davenport” and it rested on shag carpeting. Everything was old in that room but Twin Peaks. It seemed so fresh it practically warped the wood panelling that encased the screen. It inspired me as a college student. It spoke to me in a way that I can’t explain to my children 27 years later. “Dad, why do you like this old show?”

Only a few months later I had the Rolling Stone cover hanging in my room. There has never been a day since, that some piece of Twin Peaks art hasn’t hung on my wall. There isn’t a week that has gone by when I didn’t listen to Angelo’s music. I have travelled the world visiting filming locations and debuting movies I made about the show. I have done hours of podcasting on the series and have promoted a magazine that I co-created. There isn’t a day that I don’t text, tweet or Facebook another Twin Peaks fan. Sometimes I wonder if I am Leland and the series is Bob. Does it inhabit me or do I inhabit it?

So, I will spend these last few days of living in a time when Twin Peaks was only 29 episodes and a movie. Soon it will be more and so much more. Somehow, I have gone from that old rec-room to being in the position to cover the new series in a magazine, The Blue Rose. Somehow I have gone from a reader of Wrapped in Plastic, to working side by side with John Thorne. Somehow I have gone from looking at Sherilyn Fenn on my wall, to talking to her on the phone. You know, I know Charlotte Stewart. We talk. We email. How did this happen? Trust me, I have never taken the show or my good fortune for granted. I just love the series and all the people I have met.

So strap in folks. We have no idea what will come, but we know it will be wonderful and strange. And what is even more exciting is soon, we will have new phrases like that to use to end blogs and articles. Aren’t we all sick of trying to work them into our stuff?

I’m ready to sit down on a couch from any era. I am ready for new Twin Peaks, new phrases, new obsessions and new art for my wall.

SCOTT RYAN IS THE AUTHOR OF THIRTYSOMETHING AT THIRTY:AN ORAL HISTORY and THE MANAGING EDITOR OF THE BLUE ROSE MAGAZINE. FOR MORE INFORMATION from Scott Ryan Productions CLICK HERE.

Order the only magazine dedicated to Twin Peaks. Click here.

Top 10 Fan-picked thirtysomething Episodes

As we celebrate the thirtieth birthday of thirtysomething, I have been trying to think of fun ways to discuss the show. Of course, one way is my new book thirtysomething at thirty: an oral history which will be released on June 7th. You can pre-order it from this website. The book lets the actors, directors and writers talk about the episodes. But what about the fans? I thought it was time for you to have your say. I put out the word for fans to send me their top 5 episodes. I gave each vote a weighted number, 10 points for #1 and 2 points for #5. The votes have been tallied. Here are the top 10 episodes voted on by you, the fans, and this time there is no electoral college to mess things up.
Let the countdown begin:
10. Happy New YearWritten by Richard Kramer Season 4 Episode 72
Michael and Hope have a New Year’s Eve party and all but one of the group attends. This episode, according to writer Richard Kramer, is his tribute to the James Joyce novel, The Dead. Richard told me about the challenge and the gift of writing an entire story that had to stay in one set, the Steadman household. I am not surprised this is a fan favorite because this episode shows all of our friends together. It feels like family. The problem is, death is hanging over everyone. Nancy is not in this episode, but her cancer lingers over every smile that Elliot (Tim Busfield at his very best) shows. He tries just a little too hard and we can feel his sadness. I loved getting to talk to Richard about this episode because I totally disagree with him about what this episode means, but I guess he gets to win because he wrote it.
9. Fighting the ColdWritten by Joseph Dougherty Season 4 Episode 77
Another gathering at Hope and Michael’s house where death is an uninvited guest. Viewers were put through an emotional roller coaster the week before this episode aired. Now the show comes to a cold, cold place where everyone has to deal with the loss of Gary. This is another episode that takes place in one set; we have everything we need here. Joe Dougherty says this is the best directing he has ever done. It is some of the best directing that anyone has ever done. The way this episode handles flashbacks is spot on. The set looks cold and we feel the pain that Susannah is going through. Patricia Kalember gives a great performance in this one.
8. StrangersWritten by Richard Kramer Season 3 Episode 44
Last week I wrote an entire blog about this episode. You can read a detailed explanation of this episode here. This episode mattered to people because it displayed homosexuality just like it showed everything else on thirtysomething – just how it is in real life. Television and America needed to be told to start facing AIDS and homosexuality back in 1989. I am hopeful it doesn’t need to be told those things today, but it probably does. Love is love is love is love. As I mentioned in the blog, it is the Melissa story that is truly moving in this fan favorite.
 7. Tie: Michael Writes A Story Written by Joseph Dougherty Season 2 Episode 34
 
Michael Writes a Story is very pivotable in the journey of Michael’s life. He is out of work and decides to take a stab at writing. It doesn’t play out as he hoped. In the meantime, Miles Drentell is offering Michael an offer he can’t refuse, a job. The juxtaposition of art and commerce collide to tell a story that, for me, is the most personal. After seeing how high this ranked, I must not be alone. This is a fun episode to watch the first time, but the second and third time, you start to see how much this decision changed the Steadman family.
Closing The Circle – Written by Richard Kramer Season 4 Episode 80
In Closing the Circle, Michael’s life is changed because of forces outside of himself. Everyone else has moved on from Gary’s death. This episode brings to a close the story of Gary/Susannah/Michael. An unlikely threesome of people who were all headstrong. I am never a fan of ghosts on television. When people ask me why, I always say because thirtysomething did it right, so no one else should even try. When I interviewed Richard Kramer, who also directed this episode, he said the above shot was his favorite. It shows how alone Michael feels at this moment. The end of this episode breaks my heart every time. I have told Richard that no man has made me cry as much as he has.
6. Tie: Ellyn’s Wedding – Written by Jill Gordon Season 4 Episode 79
Just when the show was at its darkest point, they give us the highest peak of happiness in the series. Ellyn and Billy get married. This episode is structured as a fun flashback that tricks us and plays with our expectations. But it is the end musical montage that sticks with me. Director Scott Winant designed the ultimate wedding montage set to the Ray Charles classic, “Come Rain or Come Shine.” I don’t see how anyone can watch Polly Draper’s acting and not cry at the end of this episode. After having so many sad cries, we needed a happy cry so badly at this point in the series.
We Gather Together – Written by Susan Miller and Richard Kramer and Edward Zwick Season 1 Episode 6
 
My guess is fans of the series watch this episode every Thanksgiving, hence it ranked high on the list. The gang gets together for Thanksgiving while Hope stays upstairs and looks at pictures. One thing that ties all of these top episodes together seems to be the feeling of friendship. This is the first episode in the series that really showed us that they are actually a family, not just friends. That theme grew deeper and deeper as the series continued. What could be more familiar than gathering together at Thanksgiving with our loved ones?
5. The Go Between – Written by Joseph Dougherty Season 3 Episode 61
The two part story about the take over of DAA begins here. This episode probably has the most plot of any in the series. We have watched Michael and Elliot grow in the business world since the pilot. This episode brings all those moments to a head. The cliff hanger ending of Michael firing Elliot is shocking as he sits next to Miles, the heir apparent. When I was doing research for the book, I found out they were supposed to win and Miles was supposed to leave the show. At the last minute, Marshall said, “Are we crazy? Why would we lose Miles?” Good choice.
4. Arizona – Written by Susan Shilliday Season 3 Episode 59
Not that anyone asked, but this is my all time favorite episode of thirtysomething. Michael and Hope visit Hope’s parents to celebrate her parent’s anniversary. This put our favorite couple trapped in a house where they can’t escape each other. This is where we see the cracks in their marriage, magnified by the watchful eye of Hope’s mother, the wonderful Shirley Knight. This was the last episode written by Susan Shilliday and the last episode that Edward Zwick directed for the series. I guess when you hit perfection you get out. I like to say this episode is an hour of what marriage is really all about. If you have forgotten this episode, go watch it again and thank me later. The fact it ranked #4 I guess means, you haven’t forgotten it.
3. Therapy – Written by Susan Shilliday Season 1 Episode 11
I feel like I could spend the entire paragraph just writing about how this is only the 11th script for this series. This episode is so good it should be much later in the series. One of my greatest honors in writing the book was the fact that I got to interview Susan Shilliday. Her scripts are so personal and well written. This episode finds Nancy and Elliot working on their marriage in therapy. The arguments between the characters are so real that viewers forgot that they were watching television. You know how I said I can’t stand ghosts on TV, well that goes double for shows that use a therapy session. If you can’t do it as well as this episode does, then don’t even bother. Also, the “B” story, Ellyn’s tattoo, is the best use of a “B” story. If anyone ever asks me to teach a class on television, I will use this as an example of a perfect script.
2. I’ll Be Home For Christmas Written by Richard Kramer Season 1 Episode 9
I consider this the first great episode of thirtysomething. It isn’t that the first 8 aren’t good, they just aren’t to the level that the show develops to. In this episode we really see who Michael is, we see how important family is and we learn about Melissa and Michael. I watch this episode every Christmas and cry. I always think that when Melissa steps out of the shadows, I won’t cry. Not this time. I can hold it in . . . but nope, I cry. This is my favorite Richard Kramer script. It came in second place with a bullet. No doubts, no ties. This is obviously an episode that the fans cry at too. It’s Hanna-claus. Happy Pagan Ritual.

AND THE #1 FAN EPISODE IS . . .

1. Second Look Written by Ann Lewis Hamilton Season 4 Episode 76
There are some twists that we just don’t see coming. There are moments of television that will live in us till we die. Second Look is one of those episodes. This episode came in first place by a ton. It crushed everything else. With a script that handles death so simply, direction by Ken Olin that doesn’t give the viewer a moment to prepare and acting from Patty Wettig and Timothy Busfield that is just heart breaking, I am not surprised this is the number 1 pick. Cancer, death, friendship, loss and love. This episode has it all. Here is an excerpt from thirtysomething at thirty from writer Ann Hamilton about how she was chosen to write this script.
Ann Lewis Hamilton: Ed and Marshall were very democratic in how they would hand out big scripts. It was kind of the luck of the draw that I got to kill Gary. My dad had died ten years earlier and I never liked on television when death is too Bergman. I wanted to write about the simplicity of it. I wanted people to say, “Gary’s dead. Gary’s been killed.” When my father died very suddenly of a heart attack, there was not a lot to say except, “My father died.” It was the simplicity of the lines that I really like. -Except from thirtysomething at thirty
 Great list of episodes. Thanks for voting everyone. There is one thing I want to point out. Every list submitted by a fan had 1 episode on it that no one else voted for. Think about that. Everyone has that one episode that only they love. I think that speaks volumes about the series. So while episodes like Nancy’s Mom or Undone or Her Cup Runneth over might not have made the top 10 list, they received votes by fans who love the series. Next week’s #thirtysomethingthursday is going to be huge. Tune in and see what I have in store for you. Be sure to pre-order the book, thirtysomething at thirty, at this site to get the free postcard of the front cover and for me to sign it.
SCOTT RYAN IS THE AUTHOR OF THIRTYSOMETHING AT THIRTY:AN ORAL HISTORY and THE MANAGING EDITOR OF THE BLUE ROSE MAGAZINE. FOR MORE INFORMATION from Scott Ryan Productions CLICK HERE.

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Listen to an interview with Ken Olin.

Watch Author, Scott Ryan discuss thirtysomething at thirty on Page Turner

Debunking The Moonlighting Curse

If you have ever read an article about Bones, Castle, Friends or How I Met Your Mother, chances are you have heard of something called the Moonlighting curse. At least once a year I read a blurb in the Entertainment Weekly that quotes some producer saying he doesn’t want to get his “Dave” and “Maddie” together because he doesn’t want to be Moonlighting.

Network executives fear that what happened once Dave and Maddie finally made the leap in March 1987, in an episode called “I am Curious….Maddie,” will happen to their series. That episode, by the way, was its highest rated episode. I remember being thrilled with this 4 part story arc that ended with what we had been waiting for 2 years. “Be My Baby” played and so did our favorite characters.

After that episode, Moonlighting never drew that kind of audience again and two years later the show went off in a ratings whimper. So doesn’t that mean that the executives were correct? Getting your two main characters together is the kiss of death ratings wise and creatively? Of course that isn’t what it means; otherwise, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

Before I get into defending the decision, let’s just take a look at how much television has changed since 1987. Moonlighting only waited 2 years or 38 episodes until the great Glenn Gordon Caron, executive producer, decided to get the couple together. Heck, I bet Bones and Booth didn’t even hug in the first 38 episodes of Bones. Now, writers put it off and off and off until the realtionship is totally fake and we, the viewers, are over caring about the couples. I just love the naivety of the time that they thought, “Hmm, its been 38 Episodes we better get them together.” I think one of the reasons I love Battlestar Galactica and The Wire, is they move the characters and the story. A true writer isn’t intimidated by the characters changing and growing; they are inspired by it. Executives and business men want stability and no changes; writers and artists want risks and growth.

The part of the story that is left out of every article written about the so-called Moonlighting curse is that Cybill Sheperd was bed ridden during her pregnancy with twins. Bruce Willis went off to make Die Hard and injured his leg in a skiing accident. In fact, when they filmed their famous sex scene, Cybill was pregnant so they filmed the scene standing up. The set designer built a sheet on the wall to make it appear as though they were laying in bed. After filming this episode, they had to let Cybill leave the series for a bit. Even the great writers of the world could not continue that show without either actor available to film. So, the front half of Season 4 is full of episodes that Bruce and Cybill are not in together. They filmed all of Cybill’s scenes during the summer hiatus before she was bed ridden and then worked those scenes in.

Separating the stars from each other never creates appointment television. This idea didn’t work in Three’s Company when they had Suzanne Summers phone in her scenes to Jack and Janet and it didn’t work in Moonlighting. We don’t want to watch our characters call each other. This meant that in March, they had sex and the audience had to wait till the next February until the characters were together again. Today, waiting that long isn’t without precedence. So, the writers made a huge mistake. They tried to do the show with David not having a partner. I believe if they would have brought in someone to take Cybill’s place for a half season story arc, Moonlighting would have been fine. Even more so, whether Dave and Maddie did it or not, the show would not have kept the ratings high missing half of the duo. So, the true curse has nothing to do with the characters getting together and everything to do with making creative choices and using your cast well.

I believe that once Cybill returned from maternity leave and Bruce returned from Yippee Ki-Aying, the show went back to what it was. I would match Season 4 and 5 episodes: Track Of My Tears, Maddie Hayes Got Married, A Womb With A View, Shirts & Skins and Lunar Eclipse with any of the episodes of its apex. The show didn’t know how to react to not having its stars. You can’t blame the writers for that. ABC should have closed down production until they could both be back.I know that idea is funnier than a David Addison one liner because no network cares if quality stays up, just money. And in defense of season 4, I think “Cool Hand Dave Part 2,” is one of the most creative hours of television ever. Had they filled those first 9 episodes of Season 4 with creativity like that, Moonlighting would have kept the ratings. Part of it is adapting and part of it is network pressure. It would be interesting to know what really went on behind closed doors. I would love for this to be my next book.
Let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t consummate your characters when the time is correct. I would bet that everyone who loves Friends, remembers when Phoebe says, that Ross is Rachel’s Lobster in the season 2 episode The One With The Prom Video. But who really remembers how they got together in the final episode? I mean they already had a kid and now we are supposed to care? It just isn’t true to the characters. By the end of Friends, Ross had become such a shell of what his character started out as that you couldn’t possibly think he should have ended up with Rachel. I actually bought Rachel and Joey more.

That is something I never would have thought after watching that Season 2 episode where Jennifer Aniston crosses the room to kiss David Schwimmer. The audience screamed and everyone at home swelled. By Season 10, you were more interested in other characters. In fact, I would say Monica and Chandler are the true couple to care about in Friends and they broke all the rules of what producers are doing. They got together behind our backs and the show only improved after they coupled it up. We watched them date, marry and have kids just like we do with our real friends. The idea that a character like David Addison would pursue someone for years and years and never succeed takes away his cool factor and turns him into . . . well someone like Ross.

So, the next time you read an article that tells you that the producers are trying to avoid the Moonlighting Curse, remember that means they are trying to stop their lead actress from getting pregnant, their lead actor from landing the best action movie role ever, and their writers from using life circumstances to enhance their show. Two characters should get together when the story dictates, not when ratings do and that is exactly what Glenn Gordon Caron did.

Listen to Scott Interview Glenn Gordon Caron.

SCOTT RYAN IS THE AUTHOR OF THIRTYSOMETHING AT THIRTY:AN ORAL HISTORY, THE MANAGING EDITOR OF THE BLUE ROSE MAGAZINE. FOR MORE INFORMATION CLICK HERE.

When Carrie and Big Cheated on Aidan

 

American television doesn’t have many rules, but one of them is that women are either Evil Bitches (Alexis from Dynasty or Carla from Cheers) or saints (Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show or Edith Bunker from All In The Family) Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw accomplished something that was never before (and I bet, never again) played out on television. In season 3 of Sex and the City, our main heroine does the unthinkable, she cheats on the perfect man, Aidan, with the shows main hero, Mr. Big. Watching Season 3 today, it plays differently than when it aired in 2000. Mostly because now we know she ends up marrying Mr Big. This fact means that he is her destiny. One would think that would lesson the blow of her actions…Nope.

When Season 3 played the first time, you could view Big as a villain who is only out to destroy Carrie’s life. But we all know the only person who is hell bent on ruining Carrie’s life, is Carrie. The return of Big occurs in Episode 7 of Season 3, “Drama Queens”, and runs through Episode 11, “Running with Scissors.” I believe this stretch of episodes is the best writing this show ever did. It also was very brave. If you take David Duchovny’s character on Californication, you would expect this story arc. But allowing a female character to behave this way is shocking. Shocking because Carrie is 100% wrong in her actions. Women are rarely allowed to make the wrong choice, unless they are under the influence of a chemical or in reaction to an abusive man.

Claire Danes’ character is allowed to cry at every CIA meeting and have an affair with a suspected terrorist, but its not her. Its the pills that made her do it. She is crazy, that is all. Samantha on Sex and the City is allowed to cheat, but she doesn’t have a man like Aidan. That is the kicker in this story arc. Aidan is a perfect man. He gives Carrie everything she wants, therefore she does not respect him – just like a male character would. If you remember, they even have Carrie wear male briefs for underwear in this stretch of episodes.

SEX AND THE CITY: Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall.

Yes, women’s roles have gotten better on television. The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Weeds, and Revenge. But they have not gotten as human as Carrie Bradshaw. She is flawed, wrong and her stories are always told from the point of view that she is 100% right. The story is told as if Carrie is always right because her friends never tell her that she is wrong. This subversive narrative is so well done that Carrie became a role model for women. Carrie is a writing role model but not a life role model. When I have the task of ranking my favorite series, Sex and the City always comes out in the top 5 because of this. I give all this credit to Sarah Jessica Parker who was brave enough to tackle this story line head on. My guess is, she used her Executive Producer powers to make Carrie be as awful as possible.

I bet even HBO thought this story was too much. In some ways it is, only because it points out the weakness in how other shows write for female characters. Women have affairs as well as men. It is such a simple statement, but is rarely seen on television. It has been 17 years since this played on television and yet my heart still breaks for Aidan. That is powerful writing, especially when now I know that the person she cheated with is going to be her husband. Revisiting a show can be just as exciting as watching a new one. A well written show will make that experience all the better the second, third, fourth time around. Watching someone make a mistake is so much more rewarding than watching people be perfect and unbelievable on television. Humanity is always the right choice, even when the choice they make is wrong.

SCOTT RYAN IS THE AUTHOR OF THIRTYSOMETHING AT THIRTY:AN ORAL HISTORY, THE MANAGING EDITOR OF THE BLUE ROSE MAGAZINE. FOR MORE INFORMATION CLICK HERE.