Boston Legal- Is it fun being you?

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Why would a series that debuted almost a decade over have one hooked? In this era of fast moving TV series and even shorter public memory, there has to be something about Boston Legal that Star World is telecasting it long after it should have been buried and forgotten. One of the wittiest series I have seen, Boston Legal obfuscates all lines between black and white taking us into the hitherto unchartered areas of grey. There is no doubt that the series owes its success to Alan Shore and Denny Crane. Played superbly by James Spader and William Shatner with their Mad Cows, inimitable style and unparalleled chemistry, the duos are the heart and soul of the series. Rest of the cast could at best be a supporting cast. That is not to say that they aren’t good. Candice Bergen as Shirley Schmidt, Julie Bowen as Denise are all great. Just that they are not Alan or Denny.

Probably the best courtroom drama series I have seen, Boston Legals genius, to my mind, lies not in the questions it raises about “America” or all that America stands for or the Bush administration but the human, philosophical issues it makes one think about. Who would have thought that an American courtroom series, with a bunch of eccentric, if genius, lawyers could make you delve into the deeper philosophical questions about human existence. “Is it fun being you?” – Ever since Denny Crane asked this seminal question, I’ve been wondering the same – “Is it fun being me?” Never mind the roller coaster ride that life is with all its successes and failures, at the end of it all it has to be “fun” in the wider sense of the word. If all that you do and go through, it is fun being you, the world be damned. If not, well, you are damned.

Alan Shore and Denny Crane, with their lopsided personalities, eccentricities and psychological issues exhibit a male camaraderie and bonding that is rarely seen. Be it with cigars in their ears in their private balcony, or dressed as flamingos or tied together with a rope around the ankle, theirs is a relationship not easily seen especially among men. In fact, Denny Crane himself points it out- what they have, not many men have. With subtle sexual undertones and witty repartee they are soul mates in the true sense of the word- “I can’t imagine going through life without you as my best friend. I’m not going to kiss you however”.

If we are lucky, we’ll perhaps have one person in life that we can say this about – someone we can agree to disagree with; someone we can expect to pull the plug on us as effortlessly as sip scotch with- someone who will make it “fun being you” and who you look good together with. If not, one can live it vicariously through Alan-Denny madness-  lock and load!

 

Go…Going…Grey’s Gone….

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“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going” – something to this effect was written at the Fitness First gym in Ambience Mall Gurgaon that was my favourite haunt during my few years in Gurgaon. Strangely, with the end of Grey’s Anatomy Season 9 around the corner, this is what I found myself thinking last week. What is the correlation between Fitness First and Grey’s Anatomy I asked myself? Nothing- nothing at all. The only thread in common was the word “habit”. So, if I was to modify the above line and apply it to Grey’s Anatomy, I would say something like – “Novelty and quality is what got me started. Habit is what kept me going”. Not that the quality nose dived so drastically over the seasons but by the end of season 9, it was sheer habit that kept me turning to the telly at 10pm like clockwork. Experts say that it take about 21 days for a new habit to form and become deeply engrained. No wonder then, that after a yearlong telecast, Grey’s became a serious habit, almost an addiction.

If I can trust my memory, it was sometime last August or September that Grey’s Anatomy premiered on Star World. Except for a 2-month gap in March- April, 2013, when it went off the air on Star World and Zee Cafe had not started airing Season 7, 10 pm on weeknights was a time slot that was taken, no matter what. This time, however, I realised that the vacuum I faced at 10pm after the Season 9 finale was qualitatively much different from the one I did in March. In March, it felt as if a part of my daily life had been taken away- an inalienable part without which life seemed empty. Grey’s Anatomy and the trials and tribulations of the doctors and patients of Seattle Grace were as much a part of my life as my own friends. Viewing their life was a respite from the monotony of mine. And I put it all very succinctly in my post at that time (http://madwomanintheatticblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/life-post-greys-anatomy/)

This time however,a part of me was almost glad that it was over simply because the pain, suffering and the never ending tragedy that the lives of these doctors seemed to be all about had become a little too overwhelming for me. Outside a Shakespearean tragedy, Grey’s Anatomy seems one place where Gods are always angry with the mortals. I can very well imagine Richard Webber or Bailey uttering the Bard’s famous lines while reflecting on the fate of their own lot –

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods;
They kill us for their sport

Is there a single character in the series who has not seen unwarranted pain and misery? Perhaps not. In fact Season 9 has ended with nothing but a series of mishaps, the only ray of hope being the new born of Grey and Derek. Rest all, is well, brooding dark – more than the storm that was unleashed in all its fury. Richard, having already lost his wife, may well be battling for his own; Owen-Yang are yet again at crossroads; Torres- Arizona, having been through enough already, may not be able to survive Arizona’s betrayal; Karev and Jo may or may not become a couple; April may just break off her engagement realising her feelings for Jackson- there never is a happy ending to any of the seasons is there?

Perhaps this is Shonda Rhimes’ way of keeping her audience on tenterhooks and may be it does work. The fate of these star-crossed doctors has had millions waiting for more with bated breath. Am I too one of those? In a way yes- I am eager to watch Season 10. But wouldn’t it be infinitely more pleasant if the clouds would clear, the sun would shine and the beloved doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital would have a normal life- not a life bereft of pain and misfortune for that is not possible. But a life where tragedy doesn’t reign supreme. Shakespeare may be more renowned for his tragedies but his comedies are no less. In any case, Grey’s world is not a world of Shakespearean tragedy- why try so hard to make it one?

 

 

All the Grey’s Women

 

Watching Grey’s Anatomy the other day, it suddenly struck me that the most interesting characters in the series were not the men but the women. Whether it seems so to me because, being a woman myself, I can identify more with them ,or is it really so, I can’t say for sure. But when I did get down to thinking about it, I realised that this was the case with not only Grey’s Anatomy but even the series I have religiously followed earlier- namely Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives. Exceptions are there is the form of sitcoms like “Friends” or “Two and a Half Men” and some series like “White Collar” but when it comes to the immensely popular series, it is the women who are the scene stealers . Even in “Castle”, it is Castle’s partner cum love interest, Kate who is the more interesting of the two.

A recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy dedicated to the male characters is what made me really sit back and take notice. So far it was the women who were always the centre of attention. The men figured only in relation to the women. As far as I can remember, this was the only episode focussing solely on the men and the functioning of the male mind. Was it so because, in the light of the recent debacles in the personal lives of Meredith and Yang where both were deserted by their respective husbands at a time of crisis, the makers saw a need to give an insight into the men’s inner life, almost explain them as it were?

Ever since Meredith messed up Derek’s clinical trial and Derek just failed to see why she would do something so blatantly “wrong”( incidentally I could almost instinctively understand Meredith’s reasons), I have been wondering about this immense gap between the Martians and Venusians. Anyone who has been following the series religiously will, to my mind, also understand Meredith’s reasons- the overbearing guilt of a good woman’s life and marriage ruined because of her mother, a guilt that aggravates manifold when in one of her memory lapses, and one of the most poignant moments, Adele mistakes Meredith for Ellis and asks Ellis to return her husband . That she would try and give this woman a few years of marital bliss in the sunset of her life, isn’t so difficult to understand is it? Understand. Not accept or agree let alone forgive – just understand. Rest all follows. Derek sadly fails to understand the woman he has loved more than his life so to speak. Quite to the contrary he starts wondering if he can spend his life with a woman, who to his mind cannot distinguish between right and wrong.

Yang on the other hand, battling a crisis of her own, just understands. Just as Meredith understands Yang’s dilemma. There are no explanations, no judgements- only silent understanding. And with that understanding comes the confidence, the trust that, come what may in life, no matter how you may fall, how you may err, there is someone who will understand you and stand by you no matter what. Yang may not agree with Meredith’s decision to interfere with the trial; Meredith, desperate for a baby, would most likely not have agreed with Yang’s decision to terminate the pregnancy. Nevertheless both of them understand and stand by each other when their own husbands fail to do so. They truly are each other’s “person”. Or if I might say so, soul mates.

That men and women are wired differently, we have heard often. Women it would seem have a much rich inner life- not only do they not block out whatever is going on in their minds, they talk, they share, they cry if need be- they reach out howsoever they can. Perhaps that’s why they make for more interesting characters to base a series on. Things are not always in black and white- there are shades of grey, and often more than fifty shades of grey. Meredith, Yang, Izzie- none of them see things as black and white. All of them have erred, almost unpardonably in the male eye. But they have followed their heart, their conscience and emerged much stronger as persons and as friends to each other. The men, on the other hand, don’t share, don’t communicate much and fail to understand the women in their lives. That doesn’t make them “bad” or anything of the sort- just different. All that they do to come to terms with the unsettling on goings of their lives is to hammer it out, literally. All hands on Derek’s deck seems to be the guiding motto. That they do a crappy job of it is besides the point.

The whole concept of a “soul mate” always had me wondering. Can there really be a “soul mate”- someone who really knows you, understands you? Considering how we bulldoze our way through life, hardly ever pausing to take out the time to know ourselves, expecting that someone else will “know” us seems too much to ask. Yes there are people we meet with whom we bond, who understand us and vice versa, almost instinctively. And strangely this person is more likely to be a member of the same sex rather than the opposite sex. Not that there is anything wrong with the men or women- they are just different. There may be no dearth of love, of affection, of caring. Just of understanding and that too at a crucial moment. What Yang is to Meredith or Miranda is to Carrie, neither Derek nor Big can be to them. Should that make one despair? Or make one cynical about man-woman relationships? May be. Or perhaps it should give you a reason to celebrate- that one’s true soul mate can only be one’s own self. Others, both men and women, are your co passengers in the journey of life, who even when they don’t mean to or want to, will let you down as also give you unexpected joy at the moments you least expect it. Such is life. So seize the day, take out take out time to befriend yourself for you are the only constant in your life. And as you do so, be more understanding of the people in your life- they need it far more than you can ever imagine.