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Monday Notebook

By admin Published: May 11, 2009

Notes on recent events, and on watching "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice," "The Office" and such, after the jump.

I spent the greater part of Friday at a middle school in the region, working with eighth-graders on how to perform parts of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Regular readers here know that I am back in school, pursuing an education degree, and Friday was a chance to get some hands-on practice. You may also know that some 30 years ago I was a teacher, with most of my students in eighth grade. It was something I very much liked doing, and I was vividly reminded why on Friday. Like my eighth-graders long ago, these students were full of energy and enthusiasm, and when they directed those qualities toward Shakespeare, the result was stimulating and fun. Exhausting, too, but it was a good exhaustion, and it made me even happier that I am looking toward teaching if and when I decide I am done with the newspaper business. (Not yet, let me emphasize, not yet.)

To see young people go from the rough currents of Shakespeare's text to understanding and expression, to see someone blossom in a way that seemed unlikely on first meeting, to see how much they cared about what they did -- and to come to the end of the day having seen them navigate those currents and even master them ... It was so fine. I know from past experience that neither every day nor every student will provide moments like Friday's. Still, it's a joy when it can happen.

-- Channel flipping diary: On Sunday afternoon I watched a little bit of Bravo, which I had not turned to in some time simply because of convenience. I spend most of my time in the HD tier on my TV, and so have made my viewing choices among those offerings rather than try to remember the distant locations of non-HD channels. Bravo came onto my radar again because it was added to the HD tier, and so is easily spotted, and so I will probably be watching it more in the future. This is a reminder of how important channel placement can be on a TV service provider -- why some services fight for favorable placement -- because so many of us -- all right, I -- are both creatures of habit and a little lazy. It also makes a point about the vastness of TV offerings: broadcast networks, regular cable channels, HD, on-demand packages, not to mention the replays made available online. It is just too much for one brain to bear. So while I was amused by "Millionaire Matchmaker" on Sunday, I would have just as readily settle for something else -- or turned the TV off entirely -- if it wasn't there.

Did a lot of viewing in recent days. Still would have liked to see Mike & Mel win "The Amazing Race," but of the final three teams, as I've said, Tammy & Victor were the ones I preferred. They played a cleaner and more upbeat game than Margie/Luke (insufferable whining and complaining) and Jaime/Cara (Jaime still hating on everyone, while Cara sat silently by). That said, I was very impressed by Luke's work on the memory test; if he hadn't gotten so frustrated as to lose his temper (which we have seen before), he might have won. And Jaime's helping Luke was a good example of sportsmanship.

"Lost" continues on an impressive roll this season, and I look forward to the season finale. Many possible things, and a lot of them bad, could happen.

"Grey's Anatomy" did mist me up with the wedding episode. As has been noted, I am no fan of Izzie and still hate the whole Dead Denny thing. But, even if Denny was in the mix, the wedding was well done and continued a good string of recent episodes. I still wish that "Grey's" was not so maddening over the course of a season, careening between terrific and awful. I want a show to be a regular source of enjoyment, not an offering with no guarantee of good or bad.

"Private Practice," the "Grey's" companion, seems to be trying once again to right its course (and yes, I just got to the season finale this weekend), with many shakeups in the emotional arcs and the characters' direction. But it had so much going on, it did not need the Violet-in-jeopardy story. It was harrowing, to be sure, but there were plenty of things left tantalizingly unresolved without piling a grisly crime on top.

"The Office" has been intensely focused in recent weeks, with the resolution of the Michael Scott Paper Co. story and the return of Michael, Pam and Ryan to Dunder Mifflin. So it was nice to have an episode that was just plain funny, and to see the characters enjoying themselves. Of course, "The Office" had more than that, what with Phyllis's glimpse of Bob Vance's secretary, and the Andy/Kelly bonding on the dance floor, and the sweet little business with Jim & Pam's wedding plans. (Too bad they're not coming to Youngstown, though.) But it boiled down to fun. I wonder if my office has a corner for a cafe disco.

Brief notes: OK "30 Rock," and I like the idea of Alan Alda being Jack's dad. But I was also hard-pressed to remember the episode a few days after seeing it.

"Survivor" continues a good, twisty year, and the loved-ones visits are often good for emotion and insight, like Coach saying that the others called him Dragon Slayer when it's been a name he has attached to himself; still, I remain amazed that the other players haven't taken repeated opportunities to get rid of Coach. They must think that anyone could beat him with the jury.

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