3.23.18: a rebel alliance of quality content
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imaginary friends and enemies
tv characters the strike makes me miss... or not
by jael mchenry (@JaelMcHenry)

Hold onto your hats, folks. The 1988 writers' strike lasted almost 22 weeks, and we're only on week 8 of this one. I was going to open with a good news/bad news, but honestly, the good news is a little thin on the ground. Maybe the Worldwide Pants exemption that brought Letterman and Ferguson back with writers? Ish?

What we’ve got on TV these days is a mishmash of reruns and "reality", not exactly the discriminating primetime viewer’s regular diet. Now, I’m not saying I’m not excited for the return of "American Gladiators", but one of the things I enjoy most as a writer and a viewer is witnessing the creation of an amazing, entertaining, breathing character who I can’t wait to see from week to week.

Right now, I’ve got none of those.

So instead, I’ll sit here and be quietly sad, and list for you the characters I miss most (shhh, they’re just napping) and the ones I don’t miss at all.

The Missed:

Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, “Battlestar Galactica”. BSG’s third season ended a while back, so it’s not like Starbuck was torn from me by the writers’ strike per se, but the ache got fresh again during her brief scenes in the November broadcast of “Razor”. She was saucy and strong and far, far more interesting than anyone else on screen. I know it won’t be the same -- she did, y’know, die and all that -- but whenever the new season starts, she’ll be at the center of the action.

Plus, this promo gives me serious chills. Get her back here ASAP! So say we all!

The Brothers Petrelli, “Heroes”. They count as one, because they’re two sides of the same coin. A hot, hot coin. Peter traded in his Emo Bangs of Sadness for the Buzz Cut of New Purpose, while Nathan went wild with the Unruly Curls of Dissipation. No, I didn’t particularly enjoy Peter’s plotline during the fall season (Peter : “Caitliiiin!!!” :: Michael : “Waaaaalt!”), but I enjoyed having him on my screen anyway. And Nathan’s endearing rapport with Parkman (“Get out your gun.”) was priceless.

Barney Stinson, “How I Met Your Mother”. I love everyone in the HIMYM gang, especially the wonderfully doofy Marshall, but the relentless and persistent power of my childhood crush on Doogie Howser tips the scales, and Neil Patrick Harris’ performance as Barney is what I miss most about the show. It’s a flashy role, but the great thing is, the writing is generally good enough that I only think of it as a “role” on rare occasions. Usually, it’s just -- Barney! Isn’t he made of awesome? Isn’t he legen -- wait for it -- dary?

Deb Morgan, “Dexter”. I may not always agree with the character’s choices, but I find her absolutely fascinating. Part of it is that the actress Jennifer Carpenter just knocks it out of the park, but a lot of what I love about Deb is her (generally profane) dialogue. Sharply, smartly written stuff. And her plotline gave me something to hold onto in a second season that was definitely not as good as the first, shedding quiet conundrums and internal struggles for overwhelming dread, cheap threats, and, well, stuff blowing up. A heavily edited version of “Dexter” may be coming to network TV to patch up the strike gap; if I do try watching it, it’ll probably only be to see how they handle Deb.

Bill McNeal, "Newsradio". Yeah, it's been 10 years. But I will never stop missing Phil Hartman.

The Not Missed:

Sylar, “Heroes”. Yes, Zachary Quinto’s hot, and yes, he made superpowered braineating serial killers fun for all of us, but no, they shouldn’t have brought him back for the second season. The overthetopness of him is just... there are no words. He chewed the scenery, spat it out, constructed new scenery from sheets of Laffy Taffy bolted together with Tic-Tacs, and chewed that too. Gah.

Dr. Gregory House, “House”. Now, I love “House”. Seriously. I adore that show and have since the start, all through the sublime and the ridiculous, through Cameron’s crush, and House’s temporary and impossible recovery, and even through Tritter, for heaven’s sake, and the hiring and the firing and the slugfest of new characters that was this entire fall season (Ridiculously Old Fraud, I think I’ll miss you most of all). Because it’s a fun and ridiculous show. But this season, House himself has been… boring. His demented ringmaster act could have worked, but for some reason they’ve junked it up with boob jokes nonstop (poor Cuddy, poor Michael Michelle, poor all of us), and I’m tired of it, and of him. I hate to say it, but I’m happier with reruns for now.

Judah Friedlander on “30 Rock”. I’m not a regular viewer, so I don’t know his character’s name, but anytime he shows up on screen in one of those trucker hats, I want to change the channel. And often, I do. I’m down with Liz Lemon, down with Kenneth the Page, totally and in all other ways down with Jack Donaghy, but this one guy just bugs the bejeezus out of me. I can’t explain it. Although I’m sure it’s probably somehow related to the trucker hats.

Maya, "Heroes". Because we tried to miss her all season, but she wouldn't go away.

So, that's the list. Cross your fingers for productive negotiations, and in the meantime, there's always Netflix.

And "American Gladiators". Because there's nothing like spandex-clad beefcake monsters lurching at each other with outsize Q-tips. Nothing.


Jael is tired of being stereotyped as just another novelist/poet/former English teacher/tour guide/"Jeopardy!" semifinalist/bellydancing editor-in-chief with an MFA who was once an overachieving oboe-playing alto newspaper editor valedictorian from Iowa. She was also captain of the football cheerleading squad. Follow me on Twitter: @jaelmchenry

more about jael mchenry


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trey askew
1.4.08 @ 9:45a

I wonder if this is what it will be like when I get REALLY old? All my friends quit coming around and the only way I want to remember them will be in pictures.

Definitely with you on Netflix! Or my new favorite, Red Box.

ken mohnkern
1.5.08 @ 2:55p

Uh, SPOILER ALERT on the Starbuck thing.

Trucker-hat Boy on 30 Rock is a little tiresome, but we only get him in small doses. Except in the episode where he thought he was gay, then he was awesome.

maigen thomas
1.6.08 @ 9:39p

I heart Peter Petrelli. I have to honestly, seriously restrain myself so I don't say "OMG, he is SO HOT" while watching with my husband. Because that is just not nice.

(but omg, he is SO HOT)

robert melos
1.6.08 @ 9:56p

I think because of the recent holiday season and reruns I haven't yet fully felt the loss of new entertainment. I am starting to long for new eposides of Brothers and Sisters.

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