Tag Archives: Family Guy

Travel Channel – bad blood spills over.

Recently, I was contacted by a Hollywood producer. “You should be on television doing a travel show,” she said. “You’d be great at that.”

Oh yeah?

“Where have you been, lady?” I said – paraphrasing – “FYI, I did have a show. It ran on Travel Channel for two seasons and has since aired all over the world, garnering a whole new bunch of enthusiastic fans, especially in Brazil, where it seems to run on a continuous loop.”

“Great,” she said, jumping in, “well, I have contacts at the network and I’m going to suggest they give you a new show. It’s time you were back on the air.”

Oh. How amazing.

Truthfully, I hadn’t imagined myself ever having another TV show. I’d done it once, and that was enough. But she was so enthusiastic, and so convinced that the network would not only remember me, but simply rubber-stamp a new venture, that I left her to it. After all, there seemed to be a lot of support by the audience.

  • The managing editor of an Oklahoma newspaper complained to them, pleading for the series to continue.
  • Others sent in petitions. Instead of taking this as a sign that people liked the show, the network head wrote to ask them to stop, I hear.
  • A glowing review of the show just turned up on a Hawaiian website, four years late. Where were these people when we needed them?
  • One woman still has her TiVo set for it, she said recently, in the vain hope that it will come back.
  • Only yesterday I received this message on Facebook from a viewer: “We’re DONE with the Travel Channel,” it said. “and want to know who we could write to in order to bring back the Stranded show!…Please let me know if there’s anything we can do…we all miss you and want you back!” It happened with Futurama and Family Guy, I guess they’re thinking, and other shows short-sightedly axed by networks that returned to great success later.
  • One fan wrote today: “[T]he Travel Channel (save for Mr Bourdain) absolutely sucks nowadays. Programming run by committees KILLS creativity no matter what the medium. Would be great to see you back on the air again. Except for Bourdain on Monday nights, I couldn’t even tell you what’s on TC anymore, as I tuned out after you left.” Which is pretty harsh, right?  I never knew people felt so strongly or that they loved Stranded so much. But many more have echoed the same sentiment.
  • “I now boycott Travel Channel,” they tell me, “I won’t watch it any more since they cancelled your show.” Which is ridiculous, albeit quite gratifying.

“Oh for goodness’  sake, watch it,” I tell them. “You might find something else you like.”

And of course I laugh.

Alas, the T.C. and I haven’t been in touch for about four years, not since I was asked politely to stop redirecting viewers’  irate complaints to them. I do recall that we parted on good terms, however. Pat Younge, the guy who canceled my show in favor of making a sports show featuring Drew Carey, which was on its best day mediocre, if not downright awful, sent me an email. Told me he liked Stranded very much and was sorry it didn’t catch on as he’d hoped, then asked me to pitch him an idea for a new show. But I was tired. I’d shot, written, and helped produce 32 amazing episodes in 15 months. That’s a lot. Also, there were a couple of books I wanted to write. “Maybe later,” I said.

Now, four years on, later had finally arrived. I figured I’d be ready to dip my toe back in the water again and start afresh.

“Great,” the producer said. “I’ll set up a meeting.”

That was mid-June.

Then the bombshell hit.

Days after, I was busy picking out clothes for the meeting, and had just settled on a matador outfit when the phone rang. It was the producer’s assistant, sounding flustered. They called it off, she said, before it’s even fixed. “Apparently, there’s bad blood between you and Travel Channel.”

Well, you can imagine, I was shocked. There is?

But why? What could I possibly have done? How very odd.

It was the biggest mystery ever.

The contract I signed for the show forbids me from badmouthing them. That’s not my style anyway. Besides, the people I worked with were very pleasant and we got along great – I loved working for Travel Channel. Which makes this bad blood thing all the more perplexing. Though obviously, as a TV critic, I do have an opinion about travel shows in general, which I can voice openly, and it’s this: many of them are not very good.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

With the exception of Michael Palin’s various outings over the years, most of these programs are either exceedingly lame or drearily repetitive. I’d even call them retarded, were it not such a taboo word right now.

In other news: there was a show last year – on Discovery, I think – called Dhani Tackles the Globe, that was so contrived in its narrative and such a feeble concept to hang a travel show on that it fair winded me and I had to hold onto a banister ’til I got my breath back. Ten minutes of one episode was all I could get through, and that was it; I was done. Unbearable. “Who the hell thought it was a good idea to commission this?” I wanted to yell. “Get him on line 1, so that I can berate him for wasting ten minutes of my time. Oh, and get me Dhani on line 2. I want to tell him he’s cancelled.”

What I need is an override button so that I can veto some of the more ludicrous programming decisions. Please, someone, make that happen. When I lived in the UK I’d only have to watch ten seconds of Wish You Were Here?, and all the color would drain from my face. Most weeks I’d have punched the button before the end of the opening title sequence.

If I had to nominate one show that truly missed the mark in a cataclysmic way, however, I think it would be 1000 Places to See Before You Die, based on a bestselling book that I was convinced nobody could botch or mangle on its way to the screen. The concept was so simple and the execution so easy to pull off, even a laboratory rat high on experimental food colorings could make it work. Surely, the result would be magnificent and make us all want to travel in the hosts’ shoes. For once, I was genuinely excited.

Then I saw it.

As a TV reviewer, I remember being nonplussed bordering on apoplectic about what a terrible program it was. The concept had been left intact, but it was presented with zero creativity. TV by committee. All cooks and no broth. You could see the executives’  handprints all over it.

The producers took two ordinary people with seemingly no talent, charisma, or personality to speak of – I assume they won their casting in a raffle – and showed us various amazing places through mediocre eyes in a way that actually put me off going. “If the world is that boring and that bland, I’d rather stay at home,” I told my radio audience. Proof of the pudding:  the hosts had barely visited 17 of those 1000 places before the show was canned. Or maybe they died.

Sometimes you just want to wrench a jewel of a concept like this from the ostensibly clueless producers’  cold, dead hands and say, “Here, give it to me. Let me show you how it should be done. Oh, and by the way, you’re fired. Go and stand over there with Dhani.”

There are many more series around right now across several networks that are, in my opinion, just as complacent and undeserving of being shown in our homes. That’s why Stranded stood out. It didn’t pander. It was unique and real. It assumed you had intelligence and could keep up, and was very, very interesting, as well as funny and unpredictable. It gave you a perspective on different cultures that you couldn’t see in a complacent show. Most programs aren’t like that.

Globe Trekker clone, smiling – natch

For way too long, the travel TV landscape has been a ghastly sprawling quagmire of flimsy offerings hosted by dummies for dummies. People who finally make it onto TV, but then have nothing to say when they get there. Or by egocentric grown-up kids who’ll put anything in their mouth for a dare. Or else the shows are just wallpaper: brightly-colored moving pictures aimed at old people, because, as TV executives are taught at television-making school, old people love color and they love movement. But nothing real, that’s my point. Nothing you and I can relate to. No real characters saying and doing real things in a way that’s riveting to the audience at home, who tell us the inside story rather than fobbing us off with gloss and gimmickry, and some cozy facts we could have looked up for ourselves in a book.

Globe Trekker bucks that trend a little, but it’s like a giddy puppy, way too eager to please.

Samantha Brown, for my money, is still the most professional travel host out there, even if she does commit the sin of blandness with every bed she turns down, every pillow she squeezes and goes “Aaaah” at, and every waiter she pretends is walking into shot spontaneously to serve her when really his entrance has probably been rehearsed five times already and coordinated to the second. It’s contrived, it’s hokey, and Brown is bromide in pants and a blouse, but I love her to bits and hope she’s still squeezing pillows and going, “Aaaah” when I’m ninety.

Anyhow, that’s why, plain and simple, nobody watches cable travel shows any more, at least not in significant numbers anyway – a hundred thousand viewers is not uncommon, which is another way of saying that 365 million people are regularly boycotting your network – and also why dear old Travel Channel, for instance, which I always thought had such glorious potential to be something great and eye-popping on the TV dial, is traded constantly from one owner to another like a cow at market. It’s a terrible shame.

We really want it to succeed and be popular and make shows that we  love to watch. “Come on, T.C.,” we’re yelling communally, “show us travel, not pretty scenery. Give us intelligent commentary that is forthright and candid, not a bunch of trotted-out factoids that the local tourist office wants us to hear. Show us eager, enthusiastic, passionate traveling personalities who teach us about the world because they actually know something about the world, and make us eager to follow in their footsteps, not celebrities who just like being on TV and have been primed with relevant info by a team of researchers before they set off. And show us you have some truly original ideas and the balls to not only commission them but to see them through to greatness, rather than drop out at the first sign of pressure or when some bigger or brighter bauble comes along. As viewers, that’s all we ask. Then we’ll watch you in our millions, we promise.”

And you know what? We may be on the way to getting that. Travel Channel’s just changed owners yet again, and this time the new brooms are sweeping pretty clean, from what I hear. So there’s hope yet. Yay!

Veering off-topic for a second, I have a theory about why TV generally is in such a pickle. It’s very basic. The reason runs rampant across so many networks and is responsible for generating so much of the horribly trashy television we’re subjected to nowadays. Summed up, it’s this: good choices require passion, and most executives are not passionate about the shows they make.  They’re slaves to committees, focus groups, and numbers.

I mean, they’re passionate about some things. Overnight ratings, for example – nothing matters to them more. They’re passionate about their status as executives. They’re passionate about paying their mortgages and putting their kids through college and meeting their alimony settlements. In other words, they’re driven by survival, not love of the craft. As a result, they make formulaic, derivative, uninspiring, focus-grouped-to-within-an-inch-of-their-life shows, and do so as a way of keeping their jobs, not because their heart is in it or because they’re inspired to create something new that will take TV to the next level, which is what we, the audience, are craving. Fearful, they stick to what’s safe, recycling the latest fad – currently, in travel and the culinary areas, it’s masochistic hosts who eat weird food, but that will change at some point, and when it does, the networks will blindly and blandly follow, falling in with whatever comes next. It’s this lack of spunk and creativity that is the cause of the rot. Where are the leaders? Where are the people with backbone brave enough to step out and raise the bar?

One of my friends runs Nickleodeon. Thanks to his genius, they have several global franchises, including Spongebob Squarepants and iCarly. In the case of Spongebob, I know he had to champion this oddball concept over countless hurdles before it made it to the screen. Almost everyone opposed it except for him. The guy came to my birthday party recently and we chatted for a long while. I’m always amazed by his intelligence and how excited he is. He’s not only passionate about his shows, but has the conviction to make bold decisions and the balls to back them up. In that respect he stands out as an incredible visionary and also the kind of executive you want in charge of a network.

Similarly, the guy who commissioned my show five years ago was a visionary. To spare his blushes, let’s call him Mr. X. Mr. X is a risk-taker with the common touch, driven to create interesting content. He’s the executive who brought me, and also the amazing Anthony Bourdain, to Travel Channel – two of the best moves they ever made. Mr X sought to consign the bland travel shows and boring hosts of the past to the dustbin and replace them with appointment programming, featuring strong, opinionated presenters with a lust for their subject. I loved the personal investment he had in this plan. So refreshing.Then, shortly after, a new administration came in and….well we know what happened then. Luckily, Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations was a break-out hit for them and gave them something to cling onto, mainly because he called the shots, and that man doesn’t take crap from anyone. Aside from this, though, the network veered more towards eccentric food shows on the one hand, and the kind of output that mass audiences don’t like on the other. Rather than succumb to this, I guess, Mr X made good his escape. Now he’s achieving great things at National Geographic, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

All of this is common knowledge and, as I say, very old news. Since then I’ve turned my back on it and moved on as well. Nowadays, everything’s good from my side. No bad blood here. So it’s a shock to find the network has been pissed at me all this time, and I never knew. Though after the problem was brought to my attention, I did uncover one interesting snippet: the executive who refused to meet me that day was in fact the woman responsible for producing 1000 Places To See Before You Die.

Maybe she heard me reviewing it and took umbrage.

“Aaaah,” I thought, “of course she wouldn’t want to work with me. It would mean doing something innovative and different, wouldn’t it? Plus, I am passionate about travel. That makes it a double no-no. I get it now.”

Just last week, I happened to speak with a phenomenally gifted psychic called Christopher Emmer in Sedona. Intrigued, I asked him about the so-called bad blood issue, and he confirmed it. “It’s not that they hate you,” he said, “but one person has spread bad feelings like a virus, contaminating everything. They’ve no reason not to give you a show, and you would be good for the network, but they’ve bought into the gossip and it’s unlikely anyone there is perceptive enough to see past that.”

He also reminded me that Scripps, T.C.’s new owners, is downsizing rapidly. Many people have been laid off, with more to come, which is always tragic to hear, though I wonder if they’re picking the right ones. Mediocre, timid executives with no vision make mediocre, whitewashed programs – trim the ones with no talent, Scripps, and leave the good ones, I implore you. Usually, it’s the other way around: the good people go and somehow, improbably, the weakest executives survive. Speaking of which, is it too much to hope that the woman who spread this rumor about me will be among the fallen? I’m not a vengeful person by nature, but that would certainly be a sweet treat indeed.

Anyway, I am glad I found all this out. Thank goodness for psychics. Without them, we’d never really know what was going on, would we?

You can read more about the raw meat of what goes into making a travel show like Stranded in my book Naked in Dangerous Places, which is now available in the US, the UK, and also Australia. In the meantime, here’s a clip from the show, which some ardent viewer stuck on YouTube. The comments below it are fascinating. One or two haters, as you might expect, then a whoooooooole bunch of lovin’.

TV Swami – he say NO to having bad feelings about Travel Channel. Nevertheless, he still perplexed.


Filed under Television commentary

How Betty White put me back on the road to wellness.

I probably should have quit when doctors started complaining. Back in January, as many of you are aware – God knows, I never stopped talking about it – I fasted for two weeks, surviving only on a daily diet of cayenne pepper, lemonade, salt water, maple syrup, laxative tea, and more determination than I thought any human being had, much less me. It was quite an achievement and I was very proud of myself, bordering on smug for a while.

But then, when I happened – in my euphoria – to mention on my BBC thing, that I wasn’t eating, it drew a flood of complaints. A flood.

“How dare your correspondent suggest,” insane medical people wrote to the show’s producers, “that he can live on salt water. If you drink salt water, your brain grows bigger than your skull and you die.”  

master cleanserTo which my general response was: “You morons. I’m not living on salt water, I’m using a tablespoon of it in water each morning to flush out my system. It’s called The Master Cleanser, dummies. It’s been around for fifty years.”

But  because everyone takes the opinion of the medical establishment as law, the topic was considered dangerous and I was banned from mentioning my fast ever again on the show, lest I set a bad example to any corpulent, sick, uneducated, self-destroying listeners by being a model of health – because that would never do.

Well, anyway, what many people didn’t know at the time was that I was filming the whole two-week drama for a little film. That ridiculous spat with doctors – which made me more dead set against their extreme and ridiculous practices than ever – even made it to the final cut. And the best news is, you can now watch it too.

The movie, which is called Fast and Very Loose, has been showing around various film festivals recently. But that’s done, and today I can announce with some pride that it’s available for general viewing on Vimeo.

If you’re interested – and really, how can you resist seeing me suffer? – you can watch it here.  

Odd that this should happen this week actually, because it coincides with a radical lifestyle choice I’ve just made. After much discussing and dithering, I’ve decided that, as from July 5th, I am going totally raw. Raw, I tell you! For the next 100 days, I will eat nothing but raw foods – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and so on. (Actually, there isn’t much “and so on”; I think that’s pretty much all I’m allowed to eat). And I will film this experience too. That will be my next little movie experiment.

The final straw, the one that made me resolute about changing my diet, was an extravagant event I attended Saturday night in Los Angeles, called The Beastly Ball. My partner and I go every year as a guest of actress and icon bettyBetty White, who’s considered some kind of higher being in zoo circles for her concern and love of animals.

The event takes place at the zoo itself and is attended by a bunch of dignitaries – the mayor, a senator, etc – and celebrities (if you can count local TV weathermen as celebrities). Ticket prices run at around $1000 a head. Yet, despite the cost, thousands showed up to support the zoo, though mainly, I suspect, to get at the free food and drink, which this year was divine.

It’s the free food that makes this my favorite event EVER. You’re supposed entranceto be walking around, ogling all the animals, but honestly, who wants to see a chimp doing backflips when there’s free lasagna around the next corner?

Every so often, as you walk around, you come across a booth. There were 25 of them this year. And in each booth a top L.A. restaurant is offering a sampling of its food. It’s all steaming vats and sizzling pans and bustling activity. Like an upmarket soup kitchen crossed with an easter egg hunt. Very nice.

But the pressure is on, of course. Because basically, it means you have to find the booths and eat 25 little meals – everything from hotdogs to green corn tamales to chicken pot pies – in about an hour. Something I’m up for and prepare for, and eagerly anticipate.

Only this year, for the very first time, I noticed something bad happening. I had an adverse reaction.

The whole event culminates in an auction. You sit around at tables, eating and eating and eating, while one of the TV weathermen bounces about a stage eliciting bids for several top of the line items, some of them quite inspired. For $4000, for instance, you could buy yourself a walk-on part in an episode of 24 – “with a character who’s not just anybody, he’s got a name, so he’ll go down in the mythology of the show!’   

“Oooh,” I squealed, “I want to be Butch McGibbon, faded prize-fighter with secret ties to Hamas and a simmering hatred of Jack Bauer.” 

Unfortunately, since I wasn’t willing to pay $4000 for a walk-on in anything, let alone a show I don’t watch, I was outbid instantly by a man at the next table, so it’s him you’ll be seeing get beaten up and tortured in a future episode, not me.

There was also a speaking role in Family Guy on offer, which I thought was cool, as well as a personal tour of the reptile house by Slash, the rock guitarist person.

And while all this was going on, even more restaurants were serving up food around us, including my very favorite: potato martinis. Oh my God, I love these so much, and ate tw0 of them. It’s a martini glass filled with mashed potato, then drizzled with all manner of toppings, from chili to sauteed mushrooms. 

That done, I followed it with my favorite dessert, a little squishy chocolate square that I look forward to all year. Oh, and on the way back from the dessert table, I spotted chefs cooking mini-quesadillas, and who can say no to mini-quesadillas? Not I. So I nabbed three of those too.

And that’s when I hit the wall. Suddenly, I was smacked in the face by reality. That I can’t eat this much. Nobody can. Not without bursting. That my system was overloaded. That a bloated riptide of nausea and disgust was rising up inside of me in reaction to these obscene levels of overindulgence and overconsumption.

My problem is: when I see free food, I have to eat it. And when I eat it, I do so like a starving orphan, as if I’m never going to be eating ever again, so I’d better stock up now. And it’s this ridiculous instinct that was my downfall on Saturday night. By the end, I was feeling really sick. As if I’d gone ten rounds with Butch McGibbon, faded prizefighter.

Worse, the next morning, I was still bloated and ill. So I ate nothing all day. And yesterday, Monday, was pretty much the same. In all, my body took a full 48 hours to readjust, and to simply expel all the crap I’d loaded into it on Saturday night. I was utterly disgusted with myself. Disgusted and ashamed.

And that’s when I made up my mind.

From July 5th – it would be a mistake to do it on July 4th – I am taking on the 100-day raw food challenge. For the next three months, and then some,  raw foodnothing will pass my lips that is cooked. Because cooked food is dead food. Apparently, anything heated to over 120 degrees or so loses all its nutrients. Sadly, that includes cake – the food of life.  

But it’s worth it. Raw food, apparently, if you eat it c0rrectly, brings your whole being into alignment. It enables your body to cleanse and lose excess weight; it affects you spiritually by raising your consciousness, allowing ideas to flow into and through you more easily; and it leaves you feeling balanced, alive, and energized – the exact opposite, in fact, to how I felt Saturday night.

I mentioned my new plan to friends and, naturally, everyone’s horrified. “So does that mean you’ll be eating raw meat, then?” someone asked.

Raw meat? Are you crazy? (Sometimes I don’t think my friends are very bright.)

No, only vegetables, fruits, seeds, sprouts, and nuts. The real food of life. For one hundred days. No coffee or tea. No milk, no sodas, no cookies, no cakes, no bread, no chips, no….well, you name it. Whatever it is, chances are I can’t eat it.

So I guess I should thank dear Betty White. Her largesse this year is double-edged. She not only bought me a ticket to the Beastly Ball, my favorite event ever, but she also unwittingly drove me into an entirely new lifestyle, one that will set me on the right road to future health, while also, incidentally, annoying my friends and loved ones intensely with the extent of its selfishness. 

It should be an interesting summer.

TV Swami, he say YES to raw food.


Read the disclaimer yet? You should, you know. It’s at the top of the page.   

NOTE: I received this comment for one reader called Zac who asked me if I’d include certain extra information. My own message is always: don’t take anything from anyone as gospel. Always check for yourself before doing anything. I’m not a doctor, and we’re all different.

Here’s what he said:

 “Cash, can you somehow slip in one caveat that people experiencing any immune system impacting diseases or procedures (HIV, Lupus, Chemo Therapy, and/or Transplants) should check with their doctor prior to starting a diet based on Raw foods? The nutrients you speak of often consist of biotic agents, “flora”, that are either good [probiotics] or if neutral or bad are eliminated by a health immune system. People without a health immune system can see an overgrowth of these flora, and such an overgrown of even the good can have serious impacts. I wish you the best of luck with the whole experience!”


naked bookDon’t forget, two signed copies of Naked in Dangerous Places are up for auction on Ebay, with a special bonus chapter thrown in. They’re here. And here

ffAnd Mommy’s Little Freedom Fighter, which also comes with a signed book, is here.





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Filed under Television commentary

The ultimate sitcom: a central character bows out.

Last night, to relax, I did something I hardly ever do nowadays: I watched TV. An unusual thing to say, you might think, for someone who, over the past eleven years, has been a weekly TV reviewer on the BBC. 

But that’s the great thing about TV nowadays, you don’t have to watch it.

In this modern age, a critic no longer has to bother with the very device he’s meant to be an authority on. He just has to be prepared to spend inordinate lengths of time in front of a computer, trawling sites from Yahoo! to YouTube to Hulu to the networks’ own sites, looking for snippets of shows that seem moderately interesting, then skipping through them with his cursor, cutting out any extraneous dialogue, filler or scenic shots, and all tender moments, to just focus on the key action. In the average hour-long drama, this amounts to roughly four minutes of watchable material.

The process saves hours of my time. Time I can devote to more interesting things: such as learning the oboe, designing my own moon rocket, or eating cake. (I’m doing these in reverse order. Right now, I’m focusing on the cake.)

Anyway, last night, as I said, I did the unthinkable, and caught an episode of Family Guy, which has officially taken over from The Simpsons as the cartoon du choix of all right-thinking people. The Simpsons just doesn’t cut it any more, not since the movie came out.  I know it was a massive hit around the world, but truthfully it wasn’t that good. I laughed twice. And one of those times was at my own foolishness for renting it.  

But anyway, my point is, I watched Family Guy and was immediately reminded, as I always am when I see phony, invented families on TV, of how dysfunctional my own family is.

Current state of play: mother dead; brother not talking to me for eleven years due to his wife’s unspeakable fear of brothers; father not talking to me for a million other reasons. It’s not a happy set-up on the whole and could have been scripted better. Especially the ending, which is imminent but hasn’t happened yet, though already I can tell it’s not going to go well.

In sitcoms, endings are always neatly tied up. Even the most convoluted plotlines are manhandled to a satisfying conclusion in which people decide to get along despite their differences and somehow lessons are learned, redemption earned, and the basic threads of love that knit the family together prevail. Because nothing’s more important than love, right? At least, that’s what I take away from these things.

And I should know. I grew up watching every sitcom around, American and British, from the Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched to On The Buses and ‘Til Death Us Do Part. They were a major influence. Though at the time, I couldn’t help wondering why it was that fictional families were painted so idealistically on TV and why they bore no resemblance at all to families in the real world. My family, for instance.

Then I realized: it was my family that was bizarrely out of step. 

On American TV, in one season alone, sitcom families resolve their differences and move on with their lives twenty-two times. And they do that year after year. Because there’s an undercurrent, albeit contrived, of love and respect behind their actions. The message: nothing is so serious that it should be allowed to break bonds christened in blood. Something I myself believe very firmly. It’s just not within my personal experience, that’s all.

I’ve often wondered why my dad isn’t speaking to me, and why it’s gone on for so damned long. In fact, I’ve debated the issue many times with psychiatrists and other experts I meet during reporting assignments. They always have theories, but nothing concrete, because they don’t know him.   And he’s not a bad guy. Honestly. If they met him, they’d like him. He’s funny and intelligent, exquisitely honest, with a great brain for learning and analysis. We’re very similar in that respect. His influence is all over my work. In theory at least, our relationship should be going gangbusters. So it’s hard to figure out what went wrong.

Having said that, I at least know where the current problem started – with one particular storyline, involving a small misunderstanding that should in theory have led to hilarious consequences, but didn’t. All my fault, it seems, but it caused a rift so divisive and grim that it went into syndication, and is still there.

I won’t bore you with too many details – I’m surprised you made it this far, quite honestly – but here it is in a nutshell, because it’s a lesson in bad writing. Someday, I’m convinced, they’ll teach this crap in colleges.

In 1999, I worked for a public radio show in America called The Savvy Traveler, now defunct. One day, my editor received a press release from my home town, Manchester in northern England, which was being touted as a new vacation destination, albeit a somewhat twisted, you’d-have-to-be-a-maniac-or-high-on-drugs-to-want-to-go-there-on-holiday one, and decided it might be fun to send me back as a tourist. Terrific premise, I thought.

So a three-day press trip was arranged. It was like a combat mission. Fly to Britain, see Manchester in a day, pretend it would make a vacation destination for anything other than lunatics, and fly out again.   

While there, naturally I called my dad to say hi. (He’d since moved to York, which is on the other side of the country.)

“Guess where I am,” I said. “I’m in Manchester.” 

“Oh,” he  replied, sounding happy.  “Are you coming to visit me?”

“Sorry, I can’t. I’m on a press trip. I have to go straight back to America again. Maybe next time.”


And that was that. An innocent moment. All very civil and friendly. 

Yet, apparently, somehow, without even realizing it, I’d sparked an inferno, one that continues to rage with the same intensity ten seasons later as it did when I inadvertently lit it.

“You come to England, you don’t visit your old dad. How could you do such a thing?”

It was a slight but not a slight, if you know what I mean. I’ve apologized a million times, but to no avail. He doesn’t understand. So his anger smolders on, growing exponentially, never to be extinguished.

At the very least, this helped me understand real world issues a little more. I mean, if my own father couldn’t bring himself to forgive me for such a minor infraction, what chance was there of ever satisfactorily ironing out difficulties between Israel and Palestine, for instance? Zero.

Since then, all sorts of peculiar plot twists have happened. So many that it’s hard to keep up sometimes. In fact, some of them are so implausible that I think the show may have jumped the shark. I sent him a lovely card for his 80th birthday, for instance, one that happened to be a whole lot smaller than cards he received from other people. No big deal, but that too was perceived as a slight. As if I could foretell how big the rest of the cards were going to be – c’mon, now! 

It’s all quite funny on one level. Yet immeasurably sad on every other one.

But wait. Things are shifting.

Uh-oh. There are signs that the present season may be the last. 

To begin with, one of the main characters has decided to leave, citing creative differences, and few sitcoms can survive that. 

They could try replacing my dad with someone else, I guess – a younger, more accepting guy, for instance – but it didn’t work on Bewitched, why would it work here?  The original is the best; my dad is my dad. The audience has grown used to the old curmudgeon, they  like him, he’s irreplaceable. So I’m the one who’s moving on. 

For me, the plot of this soap is becoming thin and tired, and beginning to test my allegiance. Much as I love the grumpy old goat, I’ve grown weary of the drama. Being ignored year upon year can really test your patience, I find. Fights without hope of reconciliation eventually lead to a dead end and viewers lose interest. That’s what’s happening here.

These days, I’m driven to flick to other channels in search of fresh material. My partner, for instance, has a large, hearty family that runs like a well-tuned locomotive, fueled by deep love and respect and joy for one another, and they’ve embraced me unconditionally – a set-up I’ve never known, and which feels totally alien, yet the pay-off is very appealing. So that’s what I’m glued to now. My new thing. Though in the back of my mind, I always secretly wish my dad would reconsider: come around, and sign up for another couple of seasons while he still has the chance.

But he won’t. I know him. That’s just how it is.

In the meantime, I can always catch the old show in reruns. My memory is phenomenal for small details and odd situations. Plus, I have relatives who keep me posted on developments. Beyond that, though, I think it’s over.

This painful, yet oddly intriguing, piece of homespun theater has been such a major part of my life for so long, even more than Bewitched was, or the Dick Van Dyke Show, or Til Death Us Do Part, that it’ll be hard to let go. I was there at the beginning, so of course I’ll always treasure a certain fondness for the characters and their bitter-sweet interactions. 

The ride wasn’t fun, or even emotionally rewarding, but it was a story I knew and thought I understood, and it shaped me and my world-view in very many positive ways, so I’m grateful. I may not tune in any more, and there’ll be no reunion shows in the future, so everyone will lose track of everyone else. But one thing’s for sure, I’ll always be a fan. 

After all, I still love the main character. I can’t help it.

We’ll be right back after these words….


TV Swami – he say YES to Family Guy.   


Watch the video for Cash’s new book, Naked in Dangerous Places. 


Filed under Television commentary