Today I’m celebrating being wrong.
It seems to me that no one should ever be allowed anywhere near a regular newspaper column without the ability to occasionally admit – with nothing but love and joy in your heart – that you were wrong.
One of the greatest of all newspaper columnists, in fact – H.L. Mencken – made handling such matters part of his regular MO. Whenever he’d get letters contradicting something he’d written, he’d send back a form letter that read: “Dear Sir (or Madam, as the case may be), You may be right. Sincerely, H.L. Mencken.”
No one should be right all the time. You can’t learn anything new that way. A sure sign that someone is a blithering idiot is an inability to admit error. In the words of baseball catcher Crash Davis, teaching pitcher Nuke LaLoosh how to ply his trade in Ron Shelton’s “Bull Durham,” don’t always go for strikeouts. Why? Because “strikeouts,” says Crash, “are fascist.”
So is being always right.
Here are a couple of things I was wrong about recently – one sizably, one not so sizably:
1. The sizable one is this: “The Good Wife” is indeed pretty good this year. My initial reaction to Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) and the two Carys leaving the law firm of Lockhart-Gardner was that the show was in danger of turning into so much dithering and legal rigamarole that the eyes of all of us non-attorneys in the audience would glaze over and we’d curse ourselves for not opting for “Homeland” across the Sunday evening dial (even though our DVRs were catching it for later viewing).
But God bless “The Good Wife” writers/creators Michelle and Robert King. They hung in there with their insurrectionary plot and the show last Sunday finally took off into Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal” land. That is, it exploded.
In a giddy, high-energy episode, a betrayed and wounded Will Gardner threw the contents of his protégée/lawyer/partner Alicia’s desk onto the floor of her office and tossed her out of his firm, along with all of her fellow conspirators.
Everything after that from the episode’s director James Whitmore (formerly known as James Whitmore Jr., when his extraordinary Buffalo-raised character actor father was alive) was performed at molto vivace tempo. So that meant a very quick and almost fully dressed nooner behind closed bedroom doors with husband and wife Peter and Alicia in her apartment while her new law firm was trying to form in her dining and living room. It also meant a few frantic visits to an eight-figure client and a couple other wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am appearances in front of a judge to quash – and defend – some injunctions.
It was all a wild, high-energy and crazily graceful performance on the TV drama series version of the high wire – and every bit of it rewarded faithful admirers of the show with a big, fat, juicy question as we sail into the November sweeps: So just whose side is the firm’s investigator, Kalinda, on, anyway?
While all this was going on, the show’s soundtrack music (as it did last week) even stole a killer acoustic bass riff from a jazz masterpiece by Charles Mingus called “Hora Decubitus” (you’ll find the tune on an Impulse disc called “Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus”). On the show, of course, the hard-swinging glissando bass riff was heard over and over in a loop instead of doing what it does on Mingus’ classic, which is turning into a wildly careening horn riff in tribute to one of Mingus’ favorite swing bands, the legendary Savoy Sultans. That is one hip TV show.
As I watched Sunday’s episode, it couldn’t have been more obvious that the Kings – the folks in charge – are having a grand time this year. It’s almost as if they decided “oh, we’re up against the World Series and Sunday Night Football. We’ve got some 40-yard sideline pass patterns and draw plays of our own we can break out – not to mention our equivalent of stolen bases.” (Stolen basses?)
2. “Sleepy Hollow.” When its first episode ended by promising us lots of witches and covens, I checked out. It’s that kind of stuff that, to me, often puts the “weeny” in “Halloween.”
And then I watched the “Sleepy Hollow” marathon over the weekend and realized how I wrong I was about where the show was going. Where the show, in fact, left things was with a hidden 16th century colony in Sleepy Hollow that suffers from a black vein disease that only proves fatal when the hidden colonists emerge into the modern world and start speaking middle English.
Its first victim, it seems, was Virginia Dare, long before her name became famous through a cookie.
The basic premise of the series is a ripoff of “Elementary’s” oddball pairing of a character from classic literature – in this case, an unlikely heroic Oxford grad version of Washington Irving’s skinny, gluttonous, superstitious hypocrite Ichabod Crane – with the most unlikely investigative partner. While all that is going on, Orlando Jones – a hugely gifted comic actor – is completely wasted thumping around as a sour, scolding cop.
So “Sleepy Hollow” isn’t really about what I’d thought it was at all. And it isn’t, as I’d originally thought it was, very good, either. It’s just a busy, busy, busy fantasy trying so hard to be “the coolest show on TV” that its strenuous overwrought time-travel hooey can leave you ice cold.
At any given moment in every episode of “Sleepy Hollow,” the show is in imminent danger of losing its head.
If you watch the show faithfully, you might conclude that the folks in charge need to put their heads back on. Especially now that it’s been renewed for another season (on the strength of its stars Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie and their pseudo-“Elementary” relationship, I think).
But then, you never know. I could be wrong.