What is grief, if not love persevering? (Thank you Lucas Werneck @lukaswerneck for allowing me to use your gorgeous artwork)
Some of the best writing out there today is happening quietly in the most unusual of places. On your TV. How long have we heard that watching TV is turning your mind to mush? That it’s a drug, an addiction, a way to “tune out?” I was a Radio, TV, and Film major in college and have a Masters degree in Communications research, so I can tell you that I heard that a lot.
Right now, I disagree.
The pandemic birthed a lot of things, most not good, but one of them was this new, brave world of streaming television like we’ve never seen before and damn, the content of much of it, is excellent.
Putting aside The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit, which are already celebrated, some of the best writing came in episode 8 of WandaVision. For my money, the best line, the heart stopper, was the title of this piece. “What is grief, if not love persevering?” I actually gasped. I mean, really, tear my heart out and stomp on it, why don’t you? This a TRUTH. So much so, that when my husband listened in on a monthly staff meeting at the hospital system where he works, the chaplain who gave a short talk on grief quoted this as part of his presentation. I have a feeling that therapists will be using this line with patients.
But it’s not just heartbreaking, it is also hilarious. Episode 2, Agnes is talking to Wanda about the Cul de Sac “queen,” and says, “Well, you’ll notice her roses bloom under penalty of death.” I laughed like a banshee. It makes you glad you can pause the show and appreciate the moment.
And holy cow, you have to give it to one of the hardest working actresses you can’t quite place, Kathryn Hahn, who plays Agatha and who grew up in Cleveland Heights, OH and went to the Beaumont School, just down the road from where I live. Local girl done good. Chef’s kiss in her direction.
Another goodie is Staged, the BBC pseudo-reality show featuring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, plus their real-life partners, Georgia Tennant and Anna Lundberg. Amazing. You can watch the first season on Hulu. I live to hear David Tennant say the word “luster,” in his Scottish brogue. There’s one episode where Dame Judi Dench joins in, which you can Google, and while it is funny on its own, it is side-splitting if you’ve seen the episodes that come before it. It’s just a big Zoom meeting with some of the most killer writing and best delivery you will ever hear. No explosions, basically no sets, and its riveting.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Great writing, plus great actors, touch our funny bones and our hearts. It makes us think and stays with us after we hear it. It resonates like a tuning fork and makes us for heaven’s sake pay attention. It breaks through the blur, the ennui, the fear, anxiety, boredom, endless, endless endless endless bleary fog that blended 2020 into 2021 that we only now may, just may, be emerging from like naked mole rats into the light. (That is, if we don’t screw it up. I’m looking at you, Texas.)
When the writing is good, and the acting matches it, streaming TV isn’t about vegging on the couch. It’s about breaking through and finding something worthwhile to care about, even for a short amount of time, and when the real world is full of things you can’t impact, don’t want to think about, or make you crazy, it proves once again that whether it is Charles Dickens, or MASH, a bit of sharp, evocative language has always been great medicine.
(Note: I am posting this on Friday morning, March 5th and have not watched episode 9 of WandaVision yet, and I understand it rivals episode 8.) Again, please check out the artist whose work you see in this post: https://linktr.ee/lukaswerneck