would be a thorn in my side–if its first name was Charlie.

I’m well aware that Charlie Rose interviews interesting and often brilliant people.  We’re not talking Dr. Phil here.  Or even Oprah.  Rose invites really intelligent people who deal with matters that don’t necessarily make the headlines.  True, he also does his fair amount of headline hunting.  But even there he chooses people and perspectives that the major networks often ignore.

This realization makes it harder to hate him.  And more difficult to flip the channel.  But I just can’t stand Charlie’s interview style.

That, I really, really hate.  Rather than dig into his guests’ knowledge of their specialty, Rose insists on showing how much he understands about that subject.  I know he’s learned a lot over the years, that his researchers do a fine job, and that it’s his program.  Still, it’s the guests I’m interested in, not his know-it-all pretentiousness.

Charlie often won’t let a guest finish his or her thought or sentence before breaking in and finishing it for them.  I guess the risk you take when you invite really bright people onto your television show is their desire to speak for themselves.

And interruptions aren’t the worst of it.  All too many times, Rose won’t even bother with a question but simply asserts (often emphatically) what he believes to be in his guests’ minds.  Recently I watched an interview with the winner of The Masters Golf Tournament.  Apparently the player was behind heading into the final nine holes.  Charlie leans across his plain round table, arm outstretched, and pushes his horse face into the middle of the screen while telling the guy (and I paraphrase) But you knew you would nail all those birdies on the back nine.  You knew it, you had to!

A puzzled look crossed the golfer’s face and you could almost see him getting ready to say huh?– but then he simply responded, (again I paraphrase) I had no idea at all about what was going to happen.  I just tried to play one hole at a time.

If this had been an exception rather than the rule, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed.  Only I find this two-part crime, especially annoying.  First, stealing the punch line of a guest’s story is remarkably ungenerous.  And I just don’t believe in clairvoyance.  Over and over.  You always know what Charlie believes is in his invitee’s mind.  Or what the guest plans to do, or what he knows about his or her field of expertise.  I guess it ain’t called The Charlie Rose Show for nothing.

And woe to those who participate in a panel discussion on the program.  I may not be the best facilitator on the planet, but the golden rule is to give people an opportunity to participate.  And, if they are reluctant to do that themselves, it’s the moderator’s job to include them.

No golden rule for Rose.  I’ve seen discussions where he’ll let one person remain silent for the entire conversation until, as an afterthought, Charlie will ask a quick question to that person, then switch to another before his afterthought even finishes answering.  I’m sure it’s his producers who create the gathering, but I’m equally sure that Rose okays them.  He clearly has a hierarchy of people he’s interested in during his group presentations–or this form of rude is his payback to all the mean kids in high school who used to ignore him.

From where I sit, if you invite someone onto your television program you really ought to talk to them.  Not Rose.  Even Bill Maher, a snotty snoid if there ever was one, makes sure to let all his guests speak.  Even those who actually have nothing to say.

Finding something good and intellectually engaging on television is hard enough.  Most of the people Charlie invites are never on the tube anywhere else.  Where else can you hear world renowned physicists discuss the Higgs boson particle discovery?  Or modern architecture?  Or unusual museum exhibitions?  Or any non-pop culture phenomena that’s actually interesting to people with curiosity and want to expand their knowledge.  If Charlie lets them.  The one interview show that doesn’t cater to Kardashian followers and it gets smothered by an out-of-control ego.

Back in the day, I always believed that Dick Cavett’s best interview would have been with a mirror.  Certainly the one that he’d be most interested in.  Today I’d rather watch Cavett and Rose interview each other at the same time.

Shame on me for blood lust.

There are those that are wise. Then there are those that are otherwise. ~ Arushi Nayar


If I had imagined that “A Tough Write,” the last four posts chronicling my relationship with my dad, was going to be cathartic, I was wrong.  I do feel good about my honesty and my ability to get it down on ‘paper’, but I don’t feel much different than I did before I wrote the series.  Presumably I’m learning a lesson that many people already know—time helps more than venting, however well written and honest that venting is.

Maybe it’s that I don’t feel as “light and airy” as I had hoped.  Maybe it’s that I feel drained.  Maybe it’s the countdown to Jewish Christmas (Chinese and a movie).  But it’s one of those weeks where, as my friend Bruce Turkel put it, “I got nothin’.” (see: http://turkeltalks.com/index.php/2011/10/16/i-got-nothin/)

Rather than make something out of that nothin’, which Bruce already did so well, I’ve decided to let the week’s thoughts, ideas, insights, lack of insights, wishes, and experiences lope onto the page.  Or at least some of them.  I may be honest, but I do have some limits. (Where are they?  Where are they?)

In no particular order:


NCIS, which has one of the highest television viewerships is my “comfort food.”  And like mac and cheese or take-out pizza, familiarity is probably more important than quality, especially when you’ve had a bad day. Nothing on NCIS makes you jump out of your skin and the relationships between the characters never surprise—that’s sort of the point.  Despite the above, Mark Harmon, in his role as Gibbs, has serious ‘duende.` ((P)RAISING THE DEAD): http://www.zacharykleinonline.com/1/archives/07-2011/1.html).

If you do want to jump out of your skin, Homeland, Showtimes’ series based on Gideon Raff’s Israeli Hatufim or Prisoners of War, makes that happen.  Claire Danes, as Carrie Mathison, is terrific as a manic on a mission to prevent a major terrorist attack.  Her intense mishagas is wonderfully offset by Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), Carrie’s calm, soulful, mentor who mostly believes her hunches, but spends as much time trying to keep Carrie’s head together as hunting down any potential attack.  Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody (whose acting is also marvelous) is an American Marine held captive by Al-Qaeda for eight years, originally the object of Carrie’s suspicion but becomes…well, I’ll let you discover what happens.

If you have Showtime and On Demand, I suggest you start from the beginning.  The show is that good.

Another pleasure on the television front is Starz’s Boss, which chronicles Mayor Tom Kane of Chicago (Kelsey Grammer, cast against the grain).  Although the series takes place in the present, it’s really about how the first Mayor Daley ran his town.  I think the series is worth watching, but I’m biased since I Iived in Chicago during three or four years of Daley’s term.  Again, if you do have On Demand and Starz, I’d suggest watching the show from the beginning.

(If folk have different recommendations, please let me know in the ‘comment’ section.  I’m always ready to hear about something decent on the tube.  Grateful too.)

Books I’d like to read:

Coming through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje

House of War by James Carroll

Time Bites by Doris Lessing

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

On the recommendation front:  But Beautiful (A Book About Jazz) by Geoff Dyer.  Truly fabulous as he riffs about jazz greats, writing those riffs in the style of each particular musician he profiles.  A stunning book for anyone who loves jazz.

Movies I want to see:

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocal.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  (LeCarre’s second best book next to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.)

Dangerous Method (Viggo as Freud?  He’s been great as everyone else).

My Week with Marilyn.

Documentaries I want to see:

Page One: Inside The New York Times.


Eames: The Architect & The Painter.

The Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975.

 Art I want to see:

Degas Nudes at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Play I’d like to see:


But mostly I want to finish the work of getting my Matt Jacob Mystery Series prepared for download.  It’s been a hell of a lot more effort than I imagined and I’ve yet to even figure out how to cut through the noise of the Internet where the books will live.  How to get the Matt Jacob series a following despite the overwhelming infoload of virtual reality? Of course, if anyone not on my mailing list wants to be, please let me know at zacharykleinonline@gmail.com.

I want finish because I’m chomping at the bit to write new ones.

So I plan to take the next two weeks off of my Monday posts.  I won’t finish my project, but it will give me an opportunity to do some catching up.  It will also allow me to recharge my Monday post batteries.  A Tough Write was tougher than I realized

I hope you all will return when I do.  Have a great, safe holiday; then let’s meet up again online Monday, January 9, 2012.

Feliz Navidad

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods. – Einstein

Part 2: Television Giveth, Television Taketh Away

Given the nature of my personality I’m starting with the “takes.”

Like it or not, we live in a capitalistic society where viewership rules commercial television. (That is, stations whose programs are interrupted by commercials as opposed to those that are not.)  Hell, you can’t sell four-hour erections if no one is watching.  I also understand, maybe better than most, that sometimes the best thing to do is to let a program die.  Writers or actors can “burn out.”  Or, their shows can–as character arcs or plots are plumbed past the point of authenticity.  It’s not for nothing that our standard phrase for artistic burnout, “jumping the shark,” was named and defined by a specific episode of a long running show.  (Curious? http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=jump%20the%20shark.)

The above factors also play into corporate decisions made by “non-commercial” television as well–a prime example, The Sopranos on HBO, which didn’t depend upon specific sponsors.  Truth is, I was fine with the way they ended the show—it was time and rather than milk their cash cow, they gave viewers plenty of warning and resolved many of the ongoing subplots.   Although I wasn’t particularly jacked by the last shows, I felt the station handled the conclusion in a timely and fair manner.

Not so with a couple other HBO programs, which I believe also had significant artistic merit.

About two weeks ago HBO announced that In Treatment was going to be cancelled.  No explanation, no viewership numbers, no warning, no tying up of loose ends, no nothing.  In a statement, the network said: “It’s true that we have no plans to continue with ‘In Treatment’ as previously formatted. However, we are in continued conversations with the executive producers to find another way to continue telling these rich stories.”  I hope they do, but given their bullshit about Deadwood, I frankly don’t believe them.

For those unfamiliar with the show, In Treatment was based on an Israeli series about a psychiatrist and his work with clients,Bi Tipul, which copped every possible drama series award at the Israeli Academy Awards.  The American version didn’t do too shabby either, scoring an Emmy, Golden Globe and Writer’s Guild during its three year run.  The show starred Gabriel Byrne as a psychologist who worked with four different clients (one a night the first season then his own therapist, Diane Wiest, on the fifth.)  Later HBO changed tinkered with the nightly set-up, but the format (four clients then his shrink, Amy Ryan, who took over when he moved to Brooklyn) remained the same.  As a former therapist, I was impressed with the interactions Byrnes had with his clients and especially those with his own therapist in season three when his life was dissembling.  His ability to both succeed—especially with adolescents–and fail despite his best efforts, reflected a reality with which every counselor must deal.  The show also presented the difficulty of keeping ‘clinical distance’ from people with whom a therapist has an intimate relationship—one sided as it may be.  The presentation of Byrnes’s interactions with his own shrink was often brilliantly written with undercurrents of his clients’ issues permeating his own.

Then In Treatment was gone–as if you were in the middle of a fine book, movie, or play that was simply snatched away.  This is not only lousy television business, but a psychologically damaging situation that any decent therapist would find extraordinarily painful.  It is as if the cancellation spit upon the very nature of the show itself.

The other series HBO taketh away much too soon was Deadwood, a sprawling western that, season by season, tracked the establishment of the Dakota Territories—from wilderness to outposts, to towns, then states–along with the beginning of western capitalism.  Not for the faint-hearted, Deadwood had no qualms mixing Shakespearian language and drama with over-the-top profanity and violence that actually occurred in the settling of the West.  Through the three twelve episode seasons, Deadwood, with the use of historical characters like Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and George Hearst told the story of an evolving country and economic system.  This was no “shoot ’em up,” but the depiction of actual American history delivered in a unique and incredibly interesting manner.  Not for nothing was it awarded eight Emmys and a Golden Globe.  But no matter, the show was simply shut down mid story.

This time though, HBO promised a consolation prize—finishing  the series with two full length movies.  Seduced and abandoned, I’ve been waiting since 2008.  My popcorn is stale.  Time to stop holding my breath.

Bottom line: Viewers deserve better from both network and cable television.  There needs to be room in this medium to carry critically acclaimed shows whether they attract enough subscribers and dog food buyers or not.  And why stop at television?  Artistic merit needs to be a commitment that every publisher, producer, and studio adhere to.  It simply cannot just be “show me the money.”  Yes, commerce is all—we live in America—we get it.  But perhaps our entertainment media should tithe—devoting a percentage of their budget to artistic books or programming that deserve to be out there just because they’re worthwhile or make their audience richer, better people.  And if they can’t do it “for art’s sake,” producers and publishers can think of them in commercial terms—loss leaders.

And now for the “Giveth.”

Two shows immediately spring to mind.  Since I just slammed HBO it’s only fair I give it its due for carrying Tremé, a program named after a New Orleans neighborhood.  The action begins three months after Katrina’s devastation of the Black community.  We follow musicians, chefs, Mardi Gras Indians and regular New Orleans citizens as they try to rebuild their lives.

Again, the interpersonal relationships seem spot on and the horror of the storm’s damage and our government’s indifference is immensely moving.  Although there are multiple plot lines carried by Melissa Leo, (Academy Award winner for Best Actress from the movie The Fighter), Wendell Pierce (from The Wire), Khandi Alexander (CSI Miami), and more, for me, and many people I know, the show is really about the redemptive quality of music in the face of tragedy.  An intangible phenomena but one that wails loud and clear from Tremé’s constant foreground and background musical notes.  Even the opening credits’ song and dance brings a smile despite the depiction of the ravages of people’s lives.  From where I sit (which is often in front of my TV), the show wraps its arms around the healing quality of music, food, and people’s refusal to give up.  As an aside, the show uses actual New Orleans residents and professional musicians to create this healing process.

The Killing, shown on American Movie Classics, (AMC), concerns a Seattle-based murder investigation of a young girl with each episode lasting one complete day.  The lead detective is Mirelle Enos (a Tony nominee [Honey] for the Broadway playWhose Afraid of Virginia Woolf and the twin sisters, Kathy and Jodeen Marquart, in Big Love.).  The New Yorker has trouble with her low key acting, but my take has her playing off the surrounding characters except during her personal life scenes when Mirelle’s inner intensity and conflict are clearly apparent.  Her partner is a strange young man who seems more criminal than cop—someone who Enos has a great deal of trouble trusting.  Nonetheless, they manage to work together well enough to move the investigation forward, if not always in the correct direction.

The other aspect of the show worth noting is what Ms. May from The New Yorker calls “atmospherics.”  That is, the constant, unending drizzle Ms. May decries as rain making machines.  I beg to differ. We celebrate “atmospherics” (lighting) in film noir. In The Killing, like in Blade Runner, the rain becomes another character that underscores the loss and pain of losing a child and control of one’s life.  Tears.

For me, the primary draw is the dead girl’s parents.  The Killing follows their slowly devolving emotional spiral rather than presenting one note grief, anger or an accelerated 5-stage Kubler Ross demo.  The show takes its time and pulls no punches when it comes to their pain, rage, impotence, and demands to the police.  There are suspects, but as the days pass, the plot twists and turns in some pretty complicated and surprising ways.

The Killing is an adaptation of a Danish series called Forbrydelsen, (The Crime) but the AMC producers, directors. writers, and actors have managed to create an original, unique procedural detective show.  Bravo, AMC.

My concern, however, is whether the station will actually allow the show to continue since it’s not your garden variety Law & Order or CSI.

A fear for all that I find special on television.

“When you re-read a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before.” Clifton Fadiman