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The Finale

*** Spoiler Alert ***

I found this episode satisfying.  Except that I would have enjoyed a final montage, watching the photo album close one last time, I thought that the conclusion of the episode was perfect.

I never liked Erica with Jackson anyway, so good riddance if that relationship is over.  Yay for Brooke and Adam.  I wanted that a long time ago.

As All My Children Comes to an End

As a kid in the 70's, I remember watching All My Children.  Though I only remember vague images and personalities.  What stood out was Tad as a child, which as a kid I picked up on, and the drama of his kidnapping by his father.  And I remember Phoebe Tyler Wallingford and her domineering personality.

Fast-forward to 1993 when I was home from college and working a summer job.  I would come home for lunch and my sister would be watching AMC.  I would sit and watch with her while eating lunch.  I started asking questions about who the characters were and what their stories were.  By the end of the summer I was hooked.

And that explains what was fun about AMC -- the characters that you cared about involved in captivating on-going stories.  Plus AMC didn't take itself seriously, it was always tongue-in-cheek in a way that the Young and the Restless, for instance, was not.

I watched AMC daily throughout the nineties.  If I wasn't hope, I taped it.  That's pretty much what my VCR was for in those days.  Sometimes, if I had had a busy week, my day off would be spent watching the week's worth of episodes, catching up.

What also made it fun was sharing it with friends -- either watching with them or talking, at length, about the show with them on the phone (this was before social networking).

In January 2002 I quit watching every day.  I felt the show had really declined in the years before that and that instead of focusing on developing the core stories, characters, and families, they were introducing too much that was new.  The quality just didn't seem to be there.  Being a Brooke fan, I was particularly annoyed with their constant, lame attempts to find her a new love interest.

In the decade since, I would watch occassionally when I was home, and usually felt the show was even worse, though I still enjoyed some of my favourite characters.  It seems that ratings had decline throughout the decade, so I was on the vanguard, I guess, of those fans abandoning it.

Knowing that the show was ending, last month I began to watch some.  I happened to catch the Leo-Greenlee episode when it was broadcast, and that was a great episode to watch.  Then I was trying to watch on-line.  I'd generally fastforward through all the current plot crap with characters I didn't care about (and even some with characters I did).  Then I fell out the habit again quickly, only to pick it back up the last two weeks.

It has been fun, even if outlandish, to see so many dead characters come back to life.  They've had some of our favourite old characters and actors back (the Sarah Michelle Gellar scenes were fun), but fewer than I had hoped.  The clip montages have been really lame -- they used to do great clip shows during anniversary celebrations.  All the sets are unfamiliar, rather than the iconic homes that we had watched for decades.  I'm really not interested in how they are wrapping up current plots and feel that they should have done more to celebrate and remind us of the stories of the last forty years.

So, today I will be ready.  I'll be sitting here eating lunch and watching.  And I bought some champagne to toast the show.

Mr. Rogers, grace, and God

A great essay on the grace-filled life of Mr. Rogers.  Do read it.  I liked this paragraph:

But Fred was not there to dispense lessons and rules. He was there to be a grace note in children's lives. Fred understood the power of grace -- how a shower of affirmation nurtures the yearning to be even more of our likable selves, something criticism and exhortation rarely accomplish.


A few years ago when I read the book City on a Hill, which was a history of the American sermon, it argued that the American sermon is not just something one hears in church, that the Presidential Inaugural Address, for instance, is basically a form a secular sermon.  The very title City on a Hill draws from Winthrop's sermon that was later used in political addresses by John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin, etc.

Today, watching Oprah's final episode, I was impressed by how it was, basically, a sermon.  At least significant parts of the show were sermonic in nature.  An entire section was specifically religious, as she addressed her theology, her view of God. 

The show was filled with the sort of spiritual and quasi-religious statements she had become famous for (Futurama predicted that in the future the major religion would be "Oprahism.").  And much of it was something I could agree with.  Many of her encouraging words are good advice.  There was an entire section of her address, when she was talking about call, that I could use in my sermon this coming Sunday which will cover some of the same topics.

It was an impressive hour of television, unlike anything I've ever seen before.  But, then, that's something she is also known for.

On Battlestar Galactica

Last night I finished the series Battlestar Galactica (the recent one).  Not having cable during most of its run, I had not watched the show when it was first on, but a couple of years ago Scott Spencer loaned me the DVD's to the first two seasons.  The last few months I watched the remaining two seasons on Hulu.

The pilot impressed me in many ways.  A simple one was how silent space and the battles in it were (this they lost as the show went on, unfortunately).  The great and unique characters (has anyone like Gaius Baltar ever been on tv before?), the interest-holding plots, and the beautiful cinematography kept me hooked.  Plus the show was grappling with serious issues of identity, humanity, politics, etc.

Of course not every episode was strong.  And there are obvious holes and questions raised by the series.  There is too much melodrama in places where a more restrained approach would have been better, particularly in Quorum politics.  And Lee Adama was annoying from the beginning and got worse.  I mean both the character and the actors unbelievably bad actin.  But this can be measured by how bad his hair gets, finally going completely out-of-control and a different colour in the final episode.

But it satisfies by getting better as it goes along.  *** Spoiler Alert***

The final seasons make faith even more central to the show, as the characters must routinely take wild leaps of faith with very little information.  I'm not a fan of the view of God that the show ultimately promotes, but it is interesting to have a show that makes religious faith so central to its identity.

The final episode was very satisfying, which rarely happens in television.  It wrapped up the story well and not with a typical happy ending.  It was a satisfying ending, with a whimsical denouement.

God in America

Last night I finished watching the PBS mini-series "God in America." 

Once you watch the entire thing, you understand some of the gaps in the first episode, though I still find the absence of Roger Williams inexplicable.
This isn't a history of religion in America, so much as it is a thematic exploration of certain themes in American religious life.  

One odd thing is that the original episode focused a lot on new innovations in American religious life around democratization of authority and religious experience and a growing reliance on individual interpretation outside of ecclesiastical structures. Oddly, that narrative was largely abandoned in later hours of the series as they focused exclusively on church & state and religion and politics. I would like to have seen more of this original narrative arc, with sections on Mormonism and other uniquely American religious groups, the birth of Pentecostalism, more emphasis on and interpretation of the growing religious pluralism of the country, discussions of the radical changes in Protestantism around race, gender, sexuality, etc.

I also found it odd to have a discussion of God in America that ignored Reinhold Neibuhr.

All that said, I did like the series.  The hour contrasting Graham and King was very illuminating.  The discussion of evangelical political power was very intelligent.  I loved the dramatization of Bryan and Darrow.
The entire hour watching Lincoln walking pensively around his office was a little much.  There was interesting stuff in that hour, but I don't think it needed to take up as much time as it did.  There was oddly little treatment of Manifest Destiny and religions role in our expansion into the West and subjugation of Native Americans.