When I watch a movie (or a TV show), it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. POPCORN: Damn, dude, that was traumatic. CINEMA: I know, but at least it’s finally over. Now we can have about three years without a bunch of divisive campaign ads or those ridiculous debates – POPCORN: Not that, man. I just finally saw that episode of THE WALKING DEAD. CINEMA: Oh, you mean the slaughter on the premier episode? Well, now that’s brutality of a different kind. POPCORN: Dude, not gonna lie, it was pretty bad-ass. CINEMA: Yeah, it’s been a couple weeks now, and I’m still recovering. Seriously. Like many fans of the show, I’ve watched Glenn go from a pizza delivery boy who just happened to survive the end-of-the-world, to this compassionate and good man with a wife and a child on the way. Then Negan arrives, smirking and swinging a baseball ball wrapped in barbed wire – POPCORN: <in faux Little Richard voice> “I woke up this mornin’, Lucille was not in sight, asked my friends about ‘er, but all their lips were tight . . .” CINEMA: Heh, funny. POPCORN: Pretty sure he’s my favorite character on the show now. CINEMA: Negan?? No, come on, that’s not right. POPCORN: For real, dude. Everybody’s all, like, oh no, it’s the end of the world. But this dude, man, he’s laughin’ his ass off, crackin’ jokes, and bashin’ skulls. The dude’s just having a blast. CINEMA: You’re a deeply troubled individual, you know that, right? POPCORN: Don’t get me wrong, I’m all disturbed and shit. I mean, Glenn’s eye was hangin’ out, skull all caved in, and he was still trying to tell Maggie he loves her. He’s all like, I will find you. That was probably the worst part, bro. And you’re forgettin’ about Abraham layin’ over there. I really liked that dude too. But that’s what made it so good. CINEMA: Seriously, you might want to talk to someone. POPCORN: Come on, man. They had to play it that way. I mean, they can’t just take out some random red-shirts. That wouldn’t be legit. Dude, it’s a show about the freakin’ zombie apocalypse. They gotta shake you up with that shit. If you wanna keep it safe, your ass might wanna stick with MEET THE PRESS. CINEMA: Actually, that hasn’t been very safe lately either. POPCORN: Worst part was waitin’ four months to find out what happened. CINEMA: Oh, come on. You’ve been stuck in front of the TV since you were still sucking on a baby bottle. I’m sure you remember how DALLAS went out in the summer of 1980. POPCORN: That was the soap opera that was on after DUKES OF HAZARD, right? CINEMA: Really? Yeah, it was a nighttime soap, for lack of a better description. The Ewing’s were a filthy-rich oil family in Texas, fighting and scheming over their father’s empire. They had finished the third season pretty much the same as the first two, but then CBS ordered up two more episodes. So the writers had J.R., the conniving eldest brother and biggest star on the show, pull a few more nasty tricks than usual – POPCORN: Oh, yeah, yeah. He got shot, right? CINEMA: Yes, he did. They ended the season with him laying in a pool of his own blood on his office floor. Fans of the show went ape-shit. Nothing like that had really been done before, outside of adventure serials like FLASH GORDON. Definitely not on television. POPCORN: Yeah, dude. I remember my grandma going on about it all summer. It was all, like, that bastard, he was cheating on his wife, it serves him right. Then she’d get all serious, like, gosh, who do you think did it? For, like, months she went on. CINEMA: She wasn’t the only one. By the time the show returned in the fall, there were Who Shot J.R.? t-shirts and coffee cups. People everywhere were placing bets. At a fundraiser in Dallas, the president even joked that he was there to find out who had done it. The funny thing was that the writers didn’t really have an answer when they had him shot. POPCORN: Bet that shit was all a dream, right? Or the son-of-a-bitch rolled under a dumpster at the last second and missed the bullet. CINEMA: No, he’d really taken a bullet. The cliffhanger worked like a charm, with more viewers than ever tuning in for the fourth season. Ninety million people camped out in front of their televisions on November 21st when everything was finally revealed. POPCORN: Wasn’t it, like, Bing Crosby or something? CINEMA: No, but – spoiler alert! – it was the character played by his daughter, Mary. She was Kristin Shepard, the sister of J.R.’s wife. He’d been cheating with her and then wanted to break things off – POPCORN: Freakin’ soap operas, man. Imagine Negan comin’ up in there, bustin’ J.R.’s head wide open all over his desk. Eyeballs hangin’ out, brains all over the office walls. Now, that’d of been some shocking shit. Grandma would-a loved that. CINEMA: Wow, your entire family was messed up, weren’t they? But yeah, that would indeed have been some shocking shit. POPCORN: The Who Bashed In J.R.’s Brains? episode, dude. Ratings, through the roof. CINEMA: You know, TV was first presented to the public in 1927, though it wasn’t really a thing for most households until the late 1950s. Then its presence in every living room became as predictable as a dream episode. By 1962, 90% of Americans had a television. Most of us have more than one now, plus all the streaming that’s available for computers and smart phones. POPCORN: Yeah, dude, I could watch J.R. get shot right now if I wanted to. CINEMA: And plenty of real-life shocking shit moments that have been horrifically televised – POPCORN: Like September 11. CINEMA: That’s probably right at the top for most Americans. There are more images of those planes hitting the Twin Towers than even funny-cat videos. It’s not surprising, considering that every news agency in the country had that footage playing in a damn-near continuous loop. For our generation, it was like our parents remembering exactly where they were when Kennedy was assassinated. POPCORN: Seen that shit a few times too. CINEMA: Of course, that wasn’t broadcast live into every home, but everyone was watching when Jack Ruby stepped out of the crowd and popped Lee Harvey Oswald. POPCORN: Yeah, dude, I can still see that oh-shit look on his face. Kinda like the one on Janet Jackson’s face when she had that so-called wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl. Oh, hey man, did you ever see the one with Yolanda Bowersley? CINEMA: Yolanda – POPCORN: Yeah, THE PRICE IS RIGHT, dude. They were all, like, come on down, you’re the next contestant. So she starts comin’ down, and she’s wearin’ this, like, tube top, and it comes on down too. She’s all runnin’ and jumpin’ and floppin’, and she doesn’t even know it, and this chick next to ‘er is, like, hey, pointin’ at the free puppies. Bob Barker is bein’ all lecherous, and so is that announcer dude. Probably cuz his name was Rod Roddy, and, I mean, how else are you gonna be if your name is Rod Roddy – CINEMA: You do realize that we just spent more time on game shows and exposed breasts than we did on 9/11, right? POPCORN: Just tryin’ to keep it light and bouncy, bro. CINEMA: Uh-huh. POPCORN: Were you watchin’ when Sinead O’Connor ripped up the Pope’s face on SNL? CINEMA: Yeah, I saw that. It kind of came out of nowhere. It was just an average episode, with a ho-hum performance, and then she turned to hold this photo into the camera – POPCORN: Fight the real enemy! CINEMA: – and tore it right up. POPCORN: Dude, if somebody was, like, stoned when they saw that – I mean, not like I was, but if someone was . . . man, they might-a started trippin’, thinking she was talkin’ about some kinda alien invasion or something. CINEMA: Yeah, because that would happen. POPCORN: Just sayin’, man. I mean, you wouldn’t be watchin’ Monday Night Football and think somebody’d snap their leg right in front-a you either. But that shit happened. Or when that one dude was at that press conference and whipped out a gun – CINEMA: Budd Dwyer? POPCORN: Yeah, man. He was accused of takin’ bribes or somethin’. Guess the dude really didn’t wanna do any time. Hey, we did something about him already, didn’t we? Like, way back in episode 12 – CINEMA: Shameless plug. Yes, we did. But these events, shocking as they were, are not why we’re here today. While many people turn on the television to be informed of the world’s events and, oddly enough, to get a dose of supposed reality, there are many more who find reality far too depressing – POPCORN: So they watch reality shows. CINEMA: Basically. Or they tune in to catch serial killers with the BAU, screw each other over with the messed-up family of EMPIRE, or get freaked out by all the bloody supernatural shenanigans of AMERICAN HORROR STORY. POPCORN: Better than watching another damn debate. CINEMA: Sadly, that’s true. POPCORN: Life’s too brutal, dude. So here’s another picture of Glenn with his skull smashed in. CINEMA: Or a sketchy female gunning down an even sketchier businessman, Leland Palmer murdering his own sexually promiscuous daughter, or Walter White poisoning an innocent child. It’s like there’s a blood-thirsty beast in all of us that must be satisfied, and the only way we can do it with a clear conscience is through fictional characters. Or maybe, sometimes, with public figures. POPCORN: Man, soon as there was more than two of us we started killin’ each other. CINEMA: True, but most people think of themselves as too “good” and civilized to actually raise a hand to someone else, regardless of what’s sometimes lurking in their hearts. So our means of scapegoating have gotten more sophisticated. We put our effigies on their respective crosses so they can suffer in our place . . . and suffer they must. POPCORN: Happy shit don’t make good stories, man. Like, what if Walter White beat cancer, then figured out meth was bad. Then he was, like, hey Gus, I just can’t do this no more, man. All this power ain’t gettin’ it for me. I got a family and shit – CINEMA: Instead, he goes dark-side, watches his partner’s girlfriend die, and makes sure that Gus is taken out of the equation – POPCORN: : Gus Fring, man. You wanna talk about shocking, that was the one for me. The bomb goes off. Dude walks outta the room, all calm and cool, straightening his tie. Then the camera moves around and, damn, half the dude’s face is gone. He drops down dead right there. That shit stayed with me for weeks, man. CINEMA: Great TV shows know just what to do to keep the fire burning. We’re not just talking about cliffhangers, which have more or less become a requirement ever since J.R. was gunned down. What we’re talking about is the unexpected, those shocking events that few could have seen coming, the real show-stopping plot twists, when the writers, directors, and actors have completely outdone themselves. POPCORN: You mean, like, THE WALKING DEAD, every other week. CINEMA: Well, like GAME OF THRONES, they might have mastered the art of overdoing it. When you start to see shocking shit with ever more frequency, it starts to lose its effect. Then you either end up with the less traumatic stretches of the show – POPCORN: Where everybody bitches about it gettin’ boring. CINEMA: – or you have to do something even more brutal, just to get their attention again. But then you have a moment like they did on THE GOOD WIFE, where good-guy Will Gardner was shot and killed by an unstable client. This was not a show based on life-and-death occurrences, but a kind of soap opera in the form of a legal procedural. These kind of things just didn’t happen on that show, but – POPCORN: Bang. CINEMA: – there it was, in the middle of the season, with no build-up whatsoever. Just a sudden and random act that brought the show’s fans to their knees. There was a similar death on THE WEST WING, when the president’s secretary was driving home in her first-ever new car. Nothing else in the storyline was about her up to that point, but then – POPCORN: Smash. CINEMA: There’s a phone call, informing them that she’s been hit and killed by a drunk driver. It was the randomness of it that left everyone reeling. Sometimes life is like that, even the manufactured life we find on television. POPCORN: Like when that Kutner dude just up and killed himself on HOUSE. CINEMA: Ironically, Kal Penn, the actor who played Kutner, was leaving the show for a job at the White House. Some critics dismissed his suicide as clumsy storytelling, as Kutner had never been portrayed as a depressive character, but sometimes, even in reality – POPCORN: You just don’t know. CINEMA: Right. Sometimes you can see the event itself coming from a mile away, like some of the characters on THE WIRE – POPCORN: Stringer Bell, dude. No surprise he got whacked. CINEMA: Nor was it a surprise that Omar was killed in the final season. He was a renegade, crossing both the cops and other criminals alike. But he had his own kind of decency, refusing to ever put a bullet in anyone who wasn’t somehow involved in the game. Anyone watching this show figured that he’d probably be dead by the final episode. When the moment finally came, though – POPCORN: That was just wrong, man. CINEMA: Wrong, sure, but somehow perfectly right too, considering his line of work. No clever plot machination, no dramatic showdown in the middle of the street, but just the whim of a random child with a gun. In what seemed like such a clumsily lobbed death scene, the writers actually managed to create something that was really quite poetic. POPCORN: Alright, dude, best shocking moments ever on TV. CINEMA: Colonel Henry Blake’s death on M*A*S*H. The poor guy actually makes it out of the combat zone in Korea, just to be shot down on his way home. POPCORN: Okay, on ER, when, like, Doctor Carter goes to find his student, you know, Lucy Knight. There’s, like, a big party goin’ on in the hospital, all this music and stuff. He walks into a dark room and some crazy dude rams a knife in his back. Then, when he, like, drops down on the floor, he sees Lucy, and she’s layin’ there all bloody and shit. CINEMA: That was a good one, though I’d offer up the episode where the chief-of-staff, Doctor Romano, is on the roof trying to secure a patient into the chopper. He makes some kind of wrong move, goes to reach for the clipboard he’s dropped, and – POPCORN: Whack! CINEMA: – his arm is sheared right off. Or how about in THE X-FILES, when Scully has a serial killer trapped in her apartment? He’s terrorized her a couple times already, escaped from prison, and (most alarmingly) revealed another face that might just belong to the Devil. Mulder subdues the guy, who throws up his arms. He’s going to be returning to prison, but then Scully marches out of the bedroom, pulls her weapon, and blows him away right there. POPCORN: No, dude. The one where that guy, like, fed on people’s cancer and stuff – CINEMA: Oh yeah, he was played by the same actor who was Doctor Romano. POPCORN: Yeah, man. He’s, like, got her cornered in the ambulance, and he’s all, like, you have something I need – CINEMA: Yeah, yeah, and you don’t immediately understand what that means. POPCORN: Naw, dude. You want shocking, I got shocking for you. When, like, Pee Wee Herman had been caught boppin’ his baloney in a movie theater. That shit was all over the news, man, like the only thing anybody was talkin’ about. Then he walks out on the MTV Video Music Awards stage, and he’s like – POPCORN and CINEMA: Heard any good jokes lately??? POPCORN: Heh-heh. Hey, here’s another one, dude. It ain’t really shocking, but when Bob Newhart is on the one show, and he wakes up at the end of the last episode, and he’s, like, in bed with the wife from his first show. CINEMA: No, no, I’ve got the best moment ever. Are you ready? POPCORN: Born that way, dude. CINEMA: It was the sixth season of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. We had frequently heard them mention Chuckles the Clown, though I don’t think we ever actually saw him. In this episode, cheesy news anchor Ted Knight was upset because Chuckles had been chosen over him to be grand marshal for a circus parade – POPCORN: Oh yeah, dude. CINEMA: Well, Chuckles was dressed up as a peanut, but then a rogue elephant – POPCORN: Shells his ass. CINEMA: Uh-huh, and almost everyone on the WJM staff is cracking jokes. Mary, of course, is appalled by the apparent lack of respect for the deceased. Their reaction, they tell her, is just an emotional release. It’s a natural human response to our fear of death. Everyone does it, they say. POPCORN: But Mary’s like, I don’t. CINEMA: She’s so very somber that it just shuts them down. Everyone is silent. A little later in the show, the entire news crew shows up at Chuckles’ funeral. Right up to the moment it begins, all of them – POPCORN: Except for Mary. CINEMA: – are elbowing each other, making their jokes. But when the minister starts to speak, they are immediately quiet. The sadness and finality of the moment has finally hit them, and some of them begin to weep silently. But Mary, listening to the minister talk about the various characters that Chuckles portrayed, starts to laugh. Just a little bit at first. POPCORN: Heh. CINEMA: He talks about Peter Peanut and Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo and Billy Banana. Everyone is together in their grief, quietly crying, while Mary is laughing just a little harder, trying to hide her reaction. POPCORN: Heh-heh. CINEMA: The minister talks about how Chuckles, as Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo, got hit by a giant cucumber. He picked himself up, dusted himself off, and said, I hurt my foo-foo. POPCORN: Heh. Heh-heh-heh. CINEMA: Life’s a lot like that, he says, From time to time, we all fall down and hurt our foo-foos. All of Mary’s friends are looking at her now, growing ever more horrified by her reaction. Then the minister shares a little more of Chuckles’ philosophy of life. A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down my pants. POPCORN: Buh-HAHAHAHA!!! CINEMA: So Mary is just about on the floor with laughter now. Her friends and co-workers are mortified. But the minister tells her to rise. She does, standing up in front of the entire grieving and horrified room. He tells everyone that it’s okay. POPCORN: Huh-huh, bah-HAHAHAHA!!! CINEMA: He tells Mary, and everyone there for Chuckles funeral, that Chuckles lived to make people laugh. Tears were offensive to him, he says, deeply offensive. POPCORN: Oh, man. CINEMA: So go ahead, my dear, go ahead and laugh for Chuckles. And everyone looks around at each other, slowly starting to laugh again. POPCORN: Dude. CINEMA: And that’s when Mary starts to sob. POPCORN: Dude . . . his eye, man. I will find you. And Gus, dude, he just wanted to run a successful business. But Walter, man, Walter . . . and those planes. Dammit, dude, the planes. But Ned, he really shouldn’t have, I mean, he said what they wanted him to say. You know what I’m sayin’? And did you see her speech, dude? What do they call that shit, concession? Swear, man, that was the first time I’d seen her show emotion. Like, it almost looked like she was gonna cry. Dammit, dude . . . it was so sad. CINEMA: There, there, my friend, it’s alright. Everything is going to be okay. – j meredith Do you remember Chris Carter’s other amazing show, MILLENIUM? Well, POPCORN CINEMA does, and you can check it out here in two weeks. Meanwhile, feel free to drop a comment or click a ‘Like’ . . . it makes the guys feel good. Check out all our previous editions on PSYCHO DRIVE-IN. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.