The Times recently did a story about the town of Jamestown, which is seeking an economic lift in tying itself to the late Lucille Ball, who is buried there. Jamestown has been saying and singing “I Love Lucy” since 1991, re-enacting favorite episodes in a regular Lucy Fest. The Lucy Desi Museum draws 20,000 visitors a year and they celebrated Lucy’s 100th birthday last year.
Well, I’m all for Jamestown raising money on Lucille Ball. But some of the celebrators would be “shocked, shocked” to find that everyone did not love Lucy. And they were some of the most celebrated guests ever on the “I Love Lucy” show. I’m talking Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
In the upcoming book “The Richard Burton Diaries,” compiled by Chris Williams for the Yale Press, Mr. Burton devotes at least four pages to hating Lucy and the experience he and his famous wife had in working with her. Richard says a lot more than the following. But just to give you the gist, written in May 1970:
“She is a monster of staggering charmlessness and monumental lack of humor. ... I am coldly sarcastic with her to the point of outright contempt but she hears only what she wants to hear. ... She is a tired old woman and lives entirely on that weekly show, which she has been doing and successfully doing for 19 years. Nineteen solid years of double-takes and pratfalls and desperate upstaging and cutting out other people’s laughs if she can, nervously watching the ‘ratings’ as she does so. ... I loathe her today but now I also pity her. I make a point of never seeing her again. ... Milady Ball can thank her lucky stars that I am not drinking. There is a chance that if I had, I might have killed her. Jack Benny, the most amiable man in the world, and one of the truly great comedians of our time, says that in four days she reduced his life expectancy by 10 years.”
And he goes on and on.
Well, I do love one of Lucy and Desi’s children, the talented Lucie Arnaz, but I didn’t love Lucy either. In fact, she is one of the rare big stars I was sorry I ever met.
It’s always horrible when the stars disappoint and disillusion us. Putting stars on pedestals as we do, I suppose is equally bad.
At least so many of them think so.
“‘You chicken?’ he asks, freshly razored scalp gleaming under a distant streetlight. ‘You a scaredy-cat?’ He’s not even Walter now, and in his pitiless blue eyes, I’m everything weak and human...
“He’s just Bryan Cranston, an avuncular 56-year-old actor at the end of another 13-hour day of playing what he calls ‘the role of my life’ – the one that’s won him three Emmys and counting.”
That’s Rolling Stone’s writer Brian Hiatt describing an interview with the cast and company of the hit show “Breaking Bad,” which is seen on the AMC network.
Well, I – Liz – can glance down at my prized “Breaking Bad” wristwatch, sent to me by Cranston himself. I had been writing about this incredible show and it became a focus of interest for me, so ever since I received the watch, I’ve felt like a character in the show.
I’ve been watching it from the beginning five seasons ago.
When I mention “Breaking Bad,” people seem to shy and shudder like frightened horses. Or they don’t know anything about this TV phenomenon and believe they wouldn’t understand if it they tuned in late. (The New York Times recently published an entire article explaining one of the “miracles” of a scientific happening on an episode. Fascinating!)
I say, get in line, like members of the cognoscenti, and watch all of the series of “Breaking Bad” from the first – in replays.
I will quote writer Hiatt again who presents it as “TV’s Most Twisted Show.” He says, “ ‘Breaking Bad’ is, at its core, a story of transformation – unlike nearly every character in the history of television, Walter White is changing beyond recognition over the show’s 62 episodes. It’s less a character arc than a plunge down a moral elevator shaft.”
I don’t quite know what to say about folks who don’t seem to know how great an actor Bryan Cranston is, or how good are his co-actors (Aaron Paul, to name just one) or how gifted the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan. People who just get TV from the big three networks are really missing out.
There are moments in “Breaking Bad” that are so startling that you simply never can forget them. A teddy bear floating in an Arizona swimming pool ... a villain being killed by a drug lord, slowly, with a box cutter ... a shootout between a detective and two Mexican drug thugs in a parking lot ... a wife very, very afraid of her mild-mannered husband ... in-laws, druggies, handicapped children, a new baby, a poisoned baby. Yes, get on board!
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