Thursday, January 05, 2006

Just two good young boys

Still basking in the warm, relieved glow of finding out the answer to the vending machine gag mystery. Today's links: my review of the return of "Battlestar Galactica" (it's not too spoilery), and a short review on the "Cold Case" Bruce Springsteen episode where all the songs are very on the nose (i.e., pathetic ex-jock sits around a bar talking about his high school years as we hear "Glory Days").

Sometimes, the whole getting episodes in advance thing can backfire. I'd already watched tonight's "Earl" and "Office" (not to mention next week's episodes) a few days back for my review. I will refuse to watch "Dancing with the Stars" up to and possibly even after my bosses tell me they want a column about it. (Matt still owes me one for when I covered the Emmys this year, so that may be a Don Corleone at the funeral parlor situation.) I spent just enough time watching "ER" to confirm that, once again, a primetime network drama goes out of its way to keep a regular character from getting an abortion, then bailed. So that left... nothing.

Fortunately, the last week and a half of '05 had already prepared me for nothing. I suppose the answer to non-television is non-fiction. I've spent a lot of time watching and rewatching "Country Boys," an amazing PBS documentary by David Sutherland (who did "The Farmer's Wife" eight years ago) about two troubled kids growing up in Appalachian Kentucky. It premieres on Monday (look for my review then), and while I'm reluctant to overhype anything, I think it's already a lock for my '06 top 10 list.

I watched the first two hours on my plane flight to LA for last summer's press tour, and I was just riveted. I usually spend a lot of the PBS portion of press tour catching up on my writing, but I made a point to be at that session, just so I would get a chance to meet Chris Johnson and Cody Perkins, the two subjects, and to get a sense of how they turned out after the cameras went away. Chris (a poor kid with negligible parents and anger issues), unfortunately, seemed to be stuck in the same place he is at the end of the documentary, but Cody (a born-again Christian metal singer with a dark autobiography) seemed to be doing just fine. I bumped into him and his wife (his girlfriend in the documentary) at the hotel pool, and we talked for 20 minutes or so about the experience, and also about how he was finding LA. (Being flown out there on a TV network's dime was obviously a much bigger deal for him than it would be for Third Actor From Left on Crap-ass Sitcom.) He said he did the tour of the stars' homes, making sure to stop for a while in front of Ozzy Osbourne's house. Then he went to Venice Beach. After being the only guy in his school with dyed hair, painted nails and multiple piercings, he was amazed to see everyone letting their freak flags fly in Venice: "It was like the family I never had."

I laughed at the line then, but after watching the entire miniseries recently -- in which we learn about Cody's mother's killing herself when he was a baby, about his father's involvement in a murder-suicide when Cody was 12, about the aunt who didn't want to have him in her home but was just fine being the guardian of his inheritance -- I realized he wasn't just dropping a one-liner.

Life sucks a lot of the time. "Country Boys," thankfully, does not.

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